Monday, April 14, 2014

Here's what we're not going to do...

Well, we're not going to win an Eq classes. Nor we will even get valid scores in Dressage until we get his wonkiness sorted out.

Bastian and I have been doing some more spring cleaning. He really felt so great last week after his hocks were done that I thought we had really nailed it. Unfortunately that did not last even one day. He was still uncomfortable and just not wanting to move out as much as he normally does. He was still reactive through his back, although he had not been at all reactive on Sunday. So we started by lunging and then I took his saddle back off, felt his back, less reactive-to no reaction so I re-saddled and hopped on for about 20 minutes, however he just felt stuck, especially on his right side. I feel a bit like I am on the verge of finding and hiring an animal psychic to communicate with him and tell me what his issues are. *sigh*

The next day he wasn't any better. I tried to lunge him on Wednesday and he was just wonky. He wasn't lame, but he wasn't right. Thursday and Friday he had off, and then finally on Saturday we took a really close look at his saddle. Emily, one of the saddle fitters from Hastilow came out and after some examination and discussion, added some flocking to the front of the saddle so that it was sitting more correctly on his back and we adjusted the gullet to a narrower version, his back has really changed shape over the past year!! Emily did new tracings of his back and took new measurements, I thought it was interesting that he changed an entire size over the course of a year with all of the more correct work we are now doing. So anyway, he had very little reaction in his back before I rode and there was no change after. Granted I only rode for ten minutes or less and I was trying to be overly conscious about not really sitting on his back, but he definitely seemed happier. She also brought me an awesome jump saddle to try and Bastian seemed to like that even more than his dressage saddle. He really would be so happy as an eventer! LOL.

Bastian also gets beaucoup points because we rode outside in the beautiful sunshine and the gale force winds. It was incredibly windy and although I was looking at everything and just waiting for a spook, Bastian could have cared less, he was mildly tense, but it was because I was tense, not because he was uncomfortable. So there you have it kids, pay attention to the flocking in your saddle and how your horse changes shape, it makes a huge difference. We're still pursuing a few other options in relation to his back discomfort so I need to give it a bit to make sure that we've solved the problem. Unfortunately, I had to take the Lake Erie show off the schedule, no way I'm going to a show with him being less than 100%. So our first show is looking like the WPDA/Grand Haven show in June and possibly the Grand Haven Schooling show in May.

So in the past three (almost four now!) weeks, I have ridden about four times, they haven't been long rides and they haven't accomplished anything more than confirming how Bastian felt on any given day. This is after Bastian and I parted ways, which has left me a little bit hesitant while riding-like I said, I'm looking at everything wondering if he's going to use it as an excuse to express himself rather than just have confidence in myself and in him. So I'm not 100% mentally back yet. Emily did a bit of video for me when I rode and while Bastian looks pretty good (especially considering that I'm not pushing him or asking for anything), he's moving and you can see that he feels comfortable and is willing to lift and use his back, I look fairly horrid. Part of it is three weeks of not riding regularly, we're just sloppy and out of sync, I've been doing exercises at home, but, they do not make up for time in the saddle as any equestrian knows. Part of it is my mental timidness, I'm hunching my shoulders and working my way slowly into the fetal position even though I know better than that. But it was not pleasant. My leg is swinging all over the place and getting in front of me, my hands don't stop moving, my shoulder's are rounded and hunched, my posting looks forced, I'm looking down (he does have cute ears-in my defense). I swear it didn't feel quite as bad as it looks, but I guess that's always the case. I need to have people video me or take pictures more often so I can see what I'm doing wrong and get it fixed. Provided that Bastian is up to it, I plan on making some serious progress in the next few weeks.

Bastian is also super happy to be naked. This weather has been great! (I'm ignoring the snow that is forecasted for tomorrow!)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Spring Cleaning

Spring has finally arrived. For Bastian and I, March came in like a lamb and has gone out like a lion. We've been making some tremendous progress towards mastering 2nd Level. He's getting so much stronger, balancing back more and lifting those magnificent shoulders of his. Our turn on the haunches is getting cleaner and his barely-trot-lengthenings are actually becoming lengenthings and dare it say it, (dare! dare!) mediums. He has been loving his Neue Schule Tranze Lozenge Bit (which we got from my amazing sponsor Hastilow Competition Saddlery!!!) If you haven't checked out the info and research that has been done by the Neue Schule Bit Company, I highly recommend it. I just ordered the new bits for my double- they make a Weymouth just for Thoroughbreds!! Woot!

However, March was not without its difficulties. They were all linked together and has reminded me of how Bastian communicates. As long as I listen he'll remember to be the loveable dragon I've know for the past 10 years, although he maybe needs to simmer down a bit since his method of communication can be a bit, well, painful.

On a particularly windy and dismal day, Bastian and I had a rough time. Every know and again he gets a bit looky and his looky-ness is generally related to him not feeling 100%. I make it a regular habit to check is back for soreness and like all good horsewomen, check his legs and just generally make sure he's well. So I didn't find anything amiss before I got on. However, for whatever reason he decided to be a complete asshat that night. Everything was going great then he spooked at the wheelbarrows (which have been in the same corner for the past six months that we have been riding in the indoor). He did his classic duck and spin move, which I've gotten fairly good at riding, except for this time. He went left, I went right, my foot got hung up in the stirrup for about fifteen feet as he bolted until my leather slid off the stirrup bar (always ride with those down kiddos!) So I can now officially cross "having been dragged by a horse" off of my list. So I get back on, things are going pretty well-I'm not gonna lie, I was giving the wheelbarrows at the other end of the arena a wide berth- and I felt him starting to get tense again, we cantered by X on a circle and he pulled the move again and I completely gave up on him. I'm as much to blame for the second time as he was. So long story short (too late!) we had a glitch in the matrix moment, he went left and went right again. As in right into the dirt. I haven't been dumped more than once in one ride/day since I rode a lovely school horse at Wilson named Snoe-she had a penchant for dumping riders who got ahead over jumps and that was pretty much my cardinal jumping sin. I got on a third time, cantered (or loped, I was keeping him sooooooooo slow) one more circle to say that we did it and then I got off. Aside from a few sweet bruises and having to replace my helmet, no harm done.

Tawny was scheduled to ride him the next day and from the text I got afterwards, he was a complete BUTT. :( The next two days, he won't let me catch him in the pasture. He walks away from me and makes me chase him down through the muck and the mud. That right there is Bastian-speak for "something hurts and I don't feel good." I found a little bit of discomfort right over his hips, but only before we rode, after we rode he was completely fine through his back. So we did the lunging to warm up thing so that until he got his muscles loosened up I wouldn't be on his back making anything worse. Tawny rode him again and he was just being a butt again, so the decision was made to just lunge him until I could get some maintenance done.

So Bastian got his teeth done, and the dentist said they definitely needed it so that could have been causing him some discomfort and caused him to pull his shenanigans. I had also already started making plans to get his hocks done before all this craziness started, so Cleveland Equine came out and injected those puppies this past Monday. Bastian has been on stall rest since then (he finally gets to go back outside tomorrow!). Today was his first day back to riding, just 15 minutes walk and trot only. So perhaps against better judgment (and yes, there is a huge flow chart that goes into whether or not I get on my horse's back each time I ride) I took his new hocks for a test drive tonight. And I was rewarded by an amazing ride on the Dragon that I know and love. There wasn't anything particularly fantastic about his quality of movement-I didn't push him at all, we were going for calm- but he was unbelievably well behaved.

I was expected some fire breathing and just a general feeling of him being higher than a kite having been trapped in a 10X10 for four days. He was super lazy....I had to push him to get a nice swingy hunter trot and as soon as I started to half halt to transition he was walking. He didn't look at anything (I was looking at stuff, waiting for him to find an excuse to spook). So there you have it, Bastian-speak for "all is right in my body now." I know to listen to my boy, but I guess I needed to refine my listening skills. The only times he is every bad is when he is uncomfortable. Granted, he needs to maybe give me a bit more of a chance to translate the Bastian to human, its not like he comes with subtitles. ;)

So here we are. The last bit of spring cleaning we need to do is to get new shoes for the B-man. I'm hoping I can make it into the Lake Erie College Prix de Villes show at the end of April so we can get started on earning our Second Level scores. I want another week to make sure we've addressed all of his issues and then I'll send my entry in. Unfortunately, since its a team competition, teams get the first priority. If we don't make it in, our first show will be the Grand Haven Schooling show in May. Did I mention that I'm anxious to go to a show? He just feels so much more amazing than last year, I can't wait to get some judges perspective on him.

The final piece of good news is that towards the beginning of the month (on a really good day) Tawny was riding Bastian and she got a successful flying change each direction with him. He's got a super solid counter canter and very few people have been able to get a flying change on him, including a BNT-who was awesome enough to not push the issue and say he just wasn't ready for it. Which he wasn't, he wasn't strong enough or straight enough in the canter. So this gives me hope for getting to 3rd level this year and earning my last two scores towards our Bronze medal. I never thought I would get there on Bastian and I am humbled and excited that we're doing this together piece by piece.

Fingers crossed we get into the Lake Erie show!!