Friday, April 24, 2015

Jumping Gymnastics

Gosh, this post took me all week to put together .. So much to say , so little time.  I had to get all the photos that help "make " the post  more interesting , off my phone and that was too much of a time intensive task that I just frankly didn't have time for until very late into the night . and well.. finally , here it is.. for what it's worth.

This past weekend, last weekend...we decided to get out of town for a quick trip to our friends place in the Bitteroot Valley.
(This is the same friend who started helping with some jumping lessons over Easter weekend )

The trip was for me to get two days of continued jumping lessons and the hubby was planning to do a practice session with a fellow horseback archer. Deciding to actually go was going to have to be a last minute decision  because of several potential Trip killers  that were pending.

The first ,and most important was that Otto had to NOT be showing any swelling or symptoms of the looming infection from his castration. ( I know, it seems like this has been going on FOREVER... because it has been..)
Based on my last conversation with my vet, we were pretty sure we would be hauling him in for surgery after his 3 week round of antibiotics. Last week  was the  first full  week Otto was completely off of them. All during that week,  I  was  waiting to see if he was going to swell up , indicating his infection didn't resolve,  which ultimately meant we weren't going to be going on any trips anywhere.

By last  Thursday there was no swelling. That was good. I decided however, if we were going to be gone ,  I was taking Otto with me regardless. I just knew if I left him home, and I was gone, his sheath area would explode. (how's that for Murphy's law reasoning?)

Besides, a 3 hour trailer ride for a 2 year old ??? why the hell not. He may as well get used to this long trailer ride business.  Afterall, he made it here from Missouri without incident.  It was time to see how he handled going to a new place as a 2 year old.

The second potential " trip-canceler" ( now I am making up words) was just finding someone to watch the horses at home and the cat. This is ALWAYS such a hassle.. seriously.. For those of you that board your horses, be thankful if for no other reason that you always have someone lined up to keep an eye on your horse ! We have to pay people to do that..and it's hard to find someone when you need them.  As for the dogs, we were taking them with.   (One of the may joys of having a fear aggressive German Shepherd is that you can't just leave her with most people because she won't let anyone in the house or let anyone else near her on her territory)  It further complicates matters for us.

As it turned out my neighbor happily agreed to feed the two remaining horses we were planning to leave home and my parents were willing to come by on Sunday to check the cat.  I  had no excuse not to go.  

Saturday morning, we managed to get ourselves, the horses and the dogs loaded up. Getting this crew packed up and out the door feels like an Act of Congress but we managed and we were on the road by 9 am for our 3 hour trek southward. We arrived in Missoula to take a quick bathroom stop for the dogs and we saw this!

I looked to see if there was an actual tour bus rig parked anywhere that housed said country music start, but if there was, it was well hidden and we had to get down the road.

My husband said, "what were you going to do if you found the tour bus anyways?"

Well duh.. I was going to go march over there ,  knock on the door and ask for a photo and a autograph!!! what else would a girl do???

That conversation morphed into other weird discussions about country music stars , that I will spare you from here ,  that kept me occupied and fully entertained for the hour remaining to reach our destination.

We arrived about 1:00 to our "home away from home"  . The plan was to grab some lunch and spend a few hours that afternoon riding and then off to a BBQ.

Once we arrived, the dogs quickly went about terrorizing the fenced-in Jack Russels, causing all kinds of rucus. They love being at this place because it's a ranch and they can run like wild children, ride in ranch trucks and 4 wheelers,  chase field mice and terrorize the neighborhood without running the risk of getting hit by a vehicle. I love it because I can be a bad dog mom and let them do all those things and no harm no foul.. (exept for one of the resident chickens  ( another story, keep reading)

I unloaded Brego and Tom went to unload Otto.

I gave T specific instructions to back Otto out of the trailer, and he ofcourse gladly obliged like the good hubby he is. I wanted him to back Otto out because he is getting too darn big and can't quite make the turn easily , atleast not without risking him bumping his head.   I thought we had backed Otto out before or I never would have suggested it because this was definitely NOT the time to get into a training opportunity. Well if we had back him out before,  Otto seemed to think this was all new  and awful and he wasn't the least bit interested in being a willing participant in this nonsense.

An hour and  half later, we FINALLY got Otto backed out of the trailer.

So, what took sooooo long???
 Well, the first thing I wanted to say was that I wasn't losing my marbles. Otto had in fact backed out of the trailer before when we took him to the vet the last time . Only during that time, I recalled that he did bang his nose. It wasn't a huge deal at the time. (which is why I probably totally forgot that detail)  He didn't scramble or get stuck or anything terrible and traumatizing.  He just kind of ran into the wall as he made the turn around. All I can figure is that he must have remembered it as not something he wanted to experience again.
Or maybe he figured out that the last time he tried this backing out thing, he came home missing parts of his anatomy:) !!

Anyways, once we started the process of asking him to back out, the wrong thing to have done at this point would have been to quit and just revert to turning him around. All it would have accomplished was teach him that all he has to do is resist and he gets what he wants.

He really really wanted to turn around and I have to tell you , I really really wanted to let him do just that.. to give in more  and be done with the whole damn thing because I knew time ticking..

But, I also knew if I gave in, it would mean more issues next time I asked him to back out.  I was having a huge internal struggle on this  but eventually I knew hanging in there, being persistant and PATIENT would make life easier for him long term.

** A note about training horses here.  FOLLOW THROUGH IS SO DAMN IMPORTANT and this was a good example.  When it comes to training horses , I don't typically want to give unsolicited advice but I will say that it never fails to amaze me how people create problems for their horse when they don't follow through on something. My point is if you start something, you better be prepared to finish it with a postive outcome . You may not always get the exact response your looking for but you need to make it successful for the horse, somehow, someway. Throw away your plans and  your watch and get on horse time. Be there to support your horse because in the end it's will pay back dividends.

We didn't really plan this unloading to be an issue and the tight time schedule certaintly didn't alot for it  ( We were planning to be riding by 3:00 , done by 5:00 and headed to  BBQ) but there we were and we had to follow it through or risk it being a bigger issue later.  The crazy thing is that Otto stepped down atleast 2 times with a hind foot right away, so he knew where the ground was.  He just  couldn't get it sorted out to back his front feet up. He has been backed multiple times in a halter on the level ground but  I suppose it's awkward and scary  for a young uncoordinated horse to manage their front feet while their back feet are at level lower.

 Otto never got to ugly about things. He just locked up.. mentally and physically because he just didn't think he could do what we wanted him to.

He stepped out 1 hind foot, then 2 hind feet , and then he would step  back in.. and this repeated itself multiple times .   He had to sort it out.  Eventually, he did . Timing of praise was huge so he knew when he did what was being asked.

long story short, I was glad it was over and we probably should have loaded him right back in and done it again right then and there but I just felt like he  didn't need any more stress for the day. He did what was asked and left it there.

We finally got saddled and riding by 4:00 .

Saturday evening Day 1
 Goal -Pick up with the trot poles, revisit the 3 fence bounce combination, (which we have spent the last two weeks practicing) and build to 4 fences.

* * The ultimate goal of  gymnastics, or aka grid work,  is to build in rhythm and balance. Bounce combinations help to develop an eye and my jumping position. The fences are kept small in order to keep it low stress so the rider and the horse. 

After staring with 4 trot poles to 3 crossrails, we went through effortlessly 3 times,  Brego  was like
"Yeah, I got this, just get out of my way and let me go" So we moved onto 4 fences .
Looking at the combination from the last fence. The approach was on the other end with 4 trot poles. This is the 4 fence set up. Baby tiny fences at this point because we are building confidence and cadence for both horse and rider.
Brego gets very bold and eager coming into the line over the trot poles. We worked alot on settling him in the approach without over using the inside rein as we approached.

coming in a little fast.. 

We focused on my hands ( have a bad habit of breaking my wrists) and asking him to land on the left lead as he lands from the last fence. This is easier said than done because I have to be looking left and putting just a little more weight in my left stirrup by the time we are going over the 2nd fence.  Brego much prefers his right lead on landing. We ended the session getting 3 really good landings into a left lead canter and transitioned into a relaxed walk on  a loose rein each time. Quiet is the goal.
Jump Brego Jump!

Day 2 
We built from the 4 fence to a 5 fence . Brego is a careful horse and when we came down the line and he saw the 5th fence, he hesitated as if to say..

"what?? I swear there was no fence here before, where did this come from?"

... but he jumped it with an little extra encouragement from my leg and after that first "WTH" moment he had , he was jumping through beautifully.


Then we removed the 4th fence and left a ground pole as a marker creating a 3 fence bounce to a one stride.  We left a ground pole where the 4th cross rail used to be as a marker to help the Brego with the striding.  X = a fence, I = a ground pole

I   I   I   I      X    X    X       I       X

So basically the Rhythm is this:

4 trot poles- jump- jump- jump- one canter stride (18 feet) , jump.
 Land on left lead. Canter away , come down to the walk.. Easy Peasy right??

 We don't always get the correct lead but that is all part of practicing.

That progressed into taking the 2nd cross rail down so now we had a fence, a ground pole, a fence, a ground pole and a fence.

I  I   I    I     X       I      X        I       X

4 trot poles , bounce, canter stride, jump, canter stride, jump...

It was really cool to feel him find a pace, and leave the ground at the exact time he is supposed to.
Eventually the big thing was that we built to a vertical as the final fence.

Here we come. 


I had an absolute blast and Brego is proving to be a pretty good little jumping pony.

Sunday afternoon came too quickly and it was time to load up and go home. One last adventure awaited us.

I was busy getting  everything packed up and thought the dogs were with T.  As I came out of the house, I heard alot of noise coming from the hen house. Someone was either laying the Golden Egg and was really excited,  or something was wrong.  I  saw  black feathers everywhere near the truck and chicken yard. Maybe another Racoon or Fox attack??


I looked up to see Xena exiting the chicken yard as I approached, her tail between her legs and high stepping it for the truck.

Oh no....

Indeed,  Xena  had found some entertainment.
I was a bit shocked a Xena to be honest because she had been to this place so many other times in the past and never paid any attention to the chickens. In fact, I think she was afraid of them.  Apparently , she got curious, or brave , or something.. because she indeed got one.

I ran over to find the victim and the hen was cowered in a corner, but alive.  I must have interrupted just in time but she looked pretty bad.. alot like this..

A little while later, we saw the rooster come out from some hiding place. So much for protecting his flock.. Coward..

It was a tiring weekend. It was about 7 pm by the time we rolled into our driveway.

When we unloaded the horses.. Otto backed out.. He was slow and unsure,  but he did it .. and it only took about 5 minutes!

Guess sticking it out the day before was worth the effort!

I hope to hit the trails a little with Brego this weekend and take a break from the arena. He has done well and hopefully I am good enough to keep him progressing!


irish horse said...

Your jumping looks like so much fun, and work! Glad that both you and Brego seem to have found a fun new adventure. Can you set up a nice jump set at home too? I agree it is better when someone is watching and helping you!

I think it is good that you dragged Otto along, a good learning experience, even if a little frustrating. I think it is hard with the little ones because they don't have the life experiences, and any little thing can set them back. But good job working him through it.

Jonna said...

@ Irish horse- it has been fun..and I really am enjoying it. As far as work, it is honestly less time and work than endurance for me. I have to haul everywhere to condition and it just requires a solid 3 hours or more time chunk to get anything accompished, Until I can figure out the time issue, like quit my job maybe?? haha) endurance will likely remain in the background for me at this point. I hated making that choice, but it's better than completely giving up riding all together.
Luckily, yes, I have a pretty decent set up at home, atleast enough to be able to practice with on basic stuff. I have a several jump standards and rails and slowly adding to the collection!
It was definitely a good learning opportunity for Otto. Its been a while since I had to deal with a "colt" so it's a matter o reminding myself that if I am going to attempt anything , and he is involved, plan accordingly!