Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Dressage Work in Progress


      Klein and I have had some enlightening dressage lessons in the past couple months.  In just a few lessons Klein and I have brought our energy up and our scores down.  We have also finally, FINALLY cemented lengthenings into Klein's arsenal.  She is even to the point now where she'll just do them for funsies during trot sets.  I actually need to get her some bell boots because for lengthenings I am now hearing her kick herself she is coming so far under herself to push.  What did we do?  We fixed ME.  We had to adjust my posting a bit and get some exaggerated movement from Klein to get the point across where the light bulb went off that it is that big movement that we want.
       Before, Klein had them but we weren't showing enough difference.  Normally at some point in our warm up I will put her on a loose rein and have her give me as BIG of a trot as she can (Lainey taught me this).  This way she gets what it feels like and knows she is perfectly capable of it.  Sometimes you have to show them they CAN and then it clicks.  Being a fitness professional prior to my current career taught me that sometimes you just have to show people they can do something.  Once they know that they actually do have the ability to do it, they have the confidence and/or understanding to continue it.  I think horses are the same.
       Now there is a very distinct feel to these lengthenings.  This is also how I know she's doing them on trot sets for fun, she shifts into a completely different gear and there is a very different feel, and I'll hear her kick herself.  I feel like I talk about lengthenings a lot on here, but it has been something that has been a struggle for us, but we finally consistently and correctly have them.

Exhibit A.  The pic is not the clearest but, she is completely off the ground in this pic.

       I've also moved her into her loose ring french link snaffle for dressage.  She is going so well in it I forget that's even what she's in.  I have went back and forth between her Boucher and this but this will be staying until further notice.  We have competed in several shows with it now and she's been great.  My instructor fixed my hands as well.  My hands were creeping back on me for no good reason.  Not anymore.

       Our energy and engagement.  We can get in the 20's at Novice and Training but doing the Prelim dressage test requires your energy to come up to a new level, and we just weren't bringing it up to the appropriate level.  After one show where we got a 37 and some comments about lack of energy my instructor said "show me what canter you rode in that test" since she wasn't there and I had no video.  I showed her the canter I rode, which I thought was fine, but my instructor was instantly like "Oh, yeah, ok, I see why you got that comment."  She had me bring Klein up to what felt like a bit too fast for a dressage canter but she said, no THIS is what you need to be feeling.  Ok, problem solved.  The problem was, I didn't have that person on the ground to tell me "yeah you think that feels correct, but its not" and then get us into the canter we needed to be in and confirm, for me, that it was THAT feeling in THAT canter that we need to be in on that Prelim test. 

Bring up the energy, promote more engagement, and here she is stepping into her hoof print.
      Two weeks from that lesson we did another Prelim CT and Training CT.  Klein scored a 29.00 on her Prelim dressage test and a 29.05 on her Training dressage test.  While this is unrecognized, and everyone knows you aren't judged as hard as a recognized show, this was at a very legit dressage facility.  I felt like Klein was judged atleast up to DQ standards, and to get that score with them, I was happy with that.  That show was also in the pouring rain.  We warmed up in their indoor until 2 mins before our ride time.  So not only did she improve her score, she did it in a down pour.  Thankfully the weather cleared up and it was a gorgeous afternoon and the grass footing was fine to jump on.


Here she is scoring a 29.40 at a recognized event at Novice.


We also improved our lateral work.  We got her really pushing through her leg yields.  Prelim A has leg yields in it and you ride the entire test sitting except for the lengthenings which can be sitting or posting.  I wasn't using my seat as much as I could to help her push through her leg yields.  She now has a bounce to them that wasn't there before. 

 This is her tougher side, though I recently found that if I just put my leg on a couple inches further back on that side she responds better.

Stretching down on a hack.  We've improved our stretching down and forward for the free walk as well.  If we're just out for a lazy hack I'll go out in my dressage saddle and throw some dressage moves in along the way.  This is a good way for me to throw something in that may be a challenge for her and then immediately she can go back into chill mode before overthinking it.  I kind of sneak things in on her sometimes if she is struggling with something.

      Lately we have been working on second level movements.  One thing I love is that both of my mares teach me things that help me teach them.  Moch teaches me things that I can use with Klein, and Klein teaches me things that I can use with Moch.  Something Mochs made me more aware of is the connection on the outside rein with a half halt.  Mochs has helped me refine it a bit and when Klein and I were working on Canter-Walk-Canters the other evening that refined half halt had Klein feeling like a accordion that is being compressed.  She compressed and lifted her back with very little contact.  It like she was hovering, it was an awesome feeling.
      We have really made some improvements these past couple months.  I'm proud of Klein and excited to continue this progress.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Radio Silence


       Ok, radio silence is over.  That was the longest break I've ever taken from this blog but there were some things I needed to get done and with The Other Half still out of the country for work, I'm still taking care of our little farm by myself.  I had to reorganize some priorities to get done what I needed to get done.  However, if you follow me on Instagram (jumpingpercheron) and The Jumping Percheron Facebook page, you would see at no time was riding not a priority.  I continued to post on those because they take seconds to post vs writing out entire posts.
       One of these things I had to focus on and be done with already was, my B.S.  Guess what?  I did it, and my degree was conferred TODAY.  I already have two Associate's degrees and have been working on my B.S. in Forensics for a while now.  It has taken me a couple deployments, multiple moves across the country, various TDYs ranging from weeks to months long, mandatory courses required for my job, and every other thing that life brings but, I did it.  I was just tired of being so close and when we got up here I made a goal that before we leave NJ (which will be a year from this December) I will finish it.  Not only did I finish it, but I'll be in my Master's program for forensic investigation way before we leave here.  My Master's I can take as long as I want on, it won't have the pressure that the B.S. had, for various reasons.
       A recap on what has been going on the past 2.5 months:  Klein made significant dressage improvements after a couple enlightening lessons, Klein did a couple more Prelim CTs and did great, after getting Mochs sound barefoot I decided to shoe her in the front anyway for a couple reasons, I got Mochs going the best she ever has by committing to putting more time into her and getting her out more, Mochs went to a dressage show and got 60%+ on both her tests that day, two weeks after that I took her to a CT and she won her division, we had a few shows for August but Klein kicked the living hell out of Mochs and she is currently finishing up the last two weeks of a six week period of rest, Wes continues to look amazing and be his usual happy gelding self.  Oh yeah, and after much demand, Manny got his own Instagram (the_manny_lion).




Tuesday, May 30, 2017

10 Year Anniversary!

The sand bar at Dog Beach on Hickam in Hawaii.

In a world where people change horses like they change their underwear, Klein and I have made it to a big milestone today.

Ten years ago today I picked my two year old filly up at the quarantine station in Honolulu.  I had bought her sight unseen off the internet.  No PPE (come on, she was two and barely halter broke), no video, none of that.  I laughed it off when people at the barn laughed at me and told me I was crazy.  I know that's not the smartest thing in the world to do, and I know this sounds a little odd but, when I saw her picture online, I just knew I had to have her.  I had no intention of purchasing a horse while I was stationed in Hawaii.  I had plenty of horses to ride while I was there and intended on purchasing my next one when I returned stateside in a few years.  I also had just said good-bye to Wesson and was still upset about that too, because while I promised him I would see him again, I had no idea when that day would be, which was eight years later.

I don't even know why I was looking at horses online in the first place.  I was window shopping with no intent of buying.  One night on PMUrescue.org, I came across the most beautiful black filly with a big white star.

The infamous PMUrescue.org picture.  The first picture I ever saw of her that was the end all be all for me.

I just knew that was her.  I had to have her, I had no idea what the process was to ship to Hawaii, but I didn't care, I would figure it out.  So, that's what I did.

I called about her the next morning and found out she was on a ranch in Canada with only one month left until she was shipped to slaughter.  I told them let me think about it and figure out shipping and I'd call them back.  A couple days later I called and told them to take her name off the slaughter bound list because she's coming to Hawaii.

It actually took me two months to get her.  I officially bought her in March and she didn't arrive in Hawaii until May.  There were only certain times the trucks were coming into California to the place I had bought her through.  Though I did eventually speak directly with the owner of Westbank Percherons, where she was physically located in Alberta, it was another farm in California that controlled all the adoptions.  So, the way the process was, I had to wait a bit for her to get to California.  I decided to give her about 10 days in California after the long trip from Canada.  Afterall, she was two and had never been off the farm in Canada.  I wanted her to have a break before an overseas trip.

The people at the farm told me "you're going to have to treat her like a wild cow" because she wasn't interested in people whatsoever when she arrived.  Can you blame her?  I said that was fine, I wanted a blank slate and I wasn't concerned.  They had to herd her onto the trailer to go to the Port of Oakland, where she shipped out of.

She went on a Matson Navigation ship.  You can fly them, and you can put them on the ship.  I would have flown her, but at that time Pacific Airlift was only flying them once a month and the ship was going back and forth every two weeks.  Now, when I say a ship, I mean a SHIP.  We are talking about an 800ft long freighter.  The horses have no idea they are on a ship.  They are in a big container that essentially a barn on the ship and an attendant rides with them to feed/clean/medicate/etc...  Even as a two year old that had never been off her farm until a few weeks prior, she arrived in excellent condition.  The company did an outstanding job.  It took about three days for them to get from Oakland into the Port of Honolulu.  All their ships have GPS tracking and you can track them on their website, so for three LONG days I watched the little ship icon travel across the map.

She came into the port late at night and I couldn't sleep the rest of the night after getting the call that she was in port and would be ready to be picked up from quarantine in the morning.  I had a friend from the barn I was riding at on stand by with his trailer to go pick her up, so I called him and told him it would be the next morning.

I pulled into the quarantine station and saw the most beautiful, steel grey horse I've ever seen in my life and thought "OMG I hope THAT'S my horse."  It definitely was.  She was being impatient and was tired of standing around, she even managed to kick some table over.  So I filled out all the necessary paperwork to receive her and we headed out.  The guys there said she was nervous with things on her right side and to approach her from the left.  I walked up to her and put my hand on the left side of her neck and said "It's ok now, you're home."  She looked me right in the eye and I untied her and led her out.

The whole "you have to treat her like a wild cow" thing went right out the window.  She walked right on the trailer.  She hopped right up and walked to the front of it like she had done it a million times.  When we got to the barn I put her in the round pen because it was in a central location in the barn and that way she could watch all the activity and get her bearings. 

 
Klein's first full day in Hawaii.

People kept walking up and gasping and saying "Whose horse IS THAT?"  I laughed and said "Oh, that's my internet horse!"  No one was laughing at me anymore about buying a horse sight unseen.  Someone even offered me $25,000 for her after I started her over fences when she was four and they saw a couple pictures of her.  Not for sale, not then, not ever.

First play time in the arena since getting off the ship.  You can see the lack of connection and certainty in her eye, yet she still showed interest in me.

From there, the rest is history.  I started her and have done all her training.  She's traveled half way around the world with me.  The hours spent seeing half of the world through her ears are something that will be with me forever.  We've ridden on the beaches of Hawaii, Florida, and New Jersey.  We've lived in paradise, we've lived in the desert, we've lived in the pressure cooker that is the South, now we live near the arctic circle up north, and we will live somewhere new yet again in about a year and a half.

Four year old Klein.

She has taught me more about life than anything.  She has made me a better human.  She continues to teach me new things all the time about life, and riding.  I don't know where I'd be without her.  I firmly believe that she kept me out of trouble during my early years in the military.  She kept me away from typical stupid, young Airmen stuff.  She has been with me at every base, and she will be there in my retirement ceremony when I retire from the military.  She has been there through some crazy times and I have even had to put her in hiding at one point.  People like to make fun of me for how much I love her, but I always tell them that if they don't have something in their life that brings them as much happiness as she does, then they're missing out.

We have spent hours on beaches around the country, we have done crowd control under the Honolulu International pattern with 747s coming in over our heads, we have ridden hours on trails all over the country, we have went to shows around the country, we've evented, we've won recognized horse trials and were 3rd in Area X one year.  We've been CT year end champs at Training level.  I can take her anywhere new by myself and not have a shred of doubt that she'll be anything less than a model citizen.  She is the most independent horse I've ever seen.  I can do anything with her and take her anywhere.  We have done more together in just 10 years than a lot of people alone, and people with their horses, will do in their lifetime.

Exploring the canyons on Oahu.  This was connected to the barn we boarded at!

Hawaiian cows.

One of the beaches in Laie on Oahu.

More Laie.


Her second time on the beach in Laie.  Yeah, I know, I was an idiot and didn't have a helmet on.  I don't go to the beach like that anymore!

More trails in the Hawaiian canyons.

Happy reunion after my first deployment.  She stayed at a private place across from Turtle Beach on the North Shore of Oahu. Rough life.

Eventing in Arizona.

Eventing in New Mexico, this was part of our xc course.  You galloped straight up this hill.  This place is actually why I laughed when people told me I better be wary of Plantation's terrain.  Ha.  Go event in Santa Fe if you want to see a course with terrain, and at altitude.  Klein had ZERO problem coming in under the optimum time on this at Novice.

She was actually second in the Novice at that recognized HT in Santa Fe, and first in New Event Horse that weekend.

Schooling Training in the desert.

Monsoon season in our desert town.

Her first win at a recognized HT at Novice.

More desert eventing.

Riding in White Sands National Monument.

White Sands is close to, if not at the top of my list for favorite places we have ridden.

Coming in at 2am in Georgia with Brook Ledge.

Snacking before dressage.

First time schooling at 3'9".

Dressage lesson with Eugene Abello.

Eventing in Florida.

Beach gallop in Florida.

Wedding day!

Beach riding in New Jersey.

My princess just last week right before rocking the hell out of her Training and Prelim stadium rounds at a CT.

Laying down a 29.40 in the dressage ring last weekend.

For our 10 year anniversary, I decided to get my second tattoo of her today.  I got our logo.  Our logo is her as a pegasus, because she is my personal pegasus whether we are flying down the beach bareback or flying over jumps.  The heart is in the logo because she is my Heart Horse.  Of course the tail is docked too.


I will never be able to repay her for everything she has done for me.  I can only continue to treat her like the princess she is, and hope through that she knows just how special she is.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Update on the Mochaloosa


First, yes, she's not an App, she's a POA, but I still call her my little Mochaloosa.  Same same, only in a smaller package.  Mochs has been going well lately.  So well that I cantered her for the first time under saddle last week for the first time since this whole thing started.  She felt great, she got both leads and the head toss she used to have in the upward transition was non-existent.  I was really happy to see that we didn't have to iron that out again.

 

 
In case you are wondering, that is just a stretchy standing wrap around her hindquarters.  It is tied to her girth, it is not connected to her mouth in any way.

Here is some video of her on the lunge line recently:

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While she continues to feel and move great, she is still having random off steps here and there when she isn't in her boots.  I have my farrier in mind if I decided to try some shoes.  Our vet said she is so low grade and intermittently lame that regular shoes may just do the trick.  If not, corrective shoes will.  I do think the second injection of Osphos has helped her again too.

These off steps will be once or twice every couple weeks and it will always be when she's out in the pasture.  She has yet to be off in her Renegade boots.  So, for now, while I continue to bring her fitness level back and get some muscle going on, I think we're fine.  If I want to aim her at any shows, front shoes is most likely where we will be headed.  Only time will tell and we'll just keep doing what we're doing now and see how it goes!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

XC Schooling...in a Boucher


I have a had a few people here and there over the years ask me why I have Klein in a low port Kimberwicke for jumping.  My answer has always been she has always been comfortable in it and has given me no reason to suspect otherwise.  I tried a variety of bits with her when she was young and the low port Kimberwicke is something she just seemed settled in to me over a lot of other things I tried.  There were some bits that she just didn't seem to ever get comfortable in and would be a little fussy in the bridle. Some of them she just outright wouldn't listen to also.  No one has ever said much about it after I explained it and they usually have said if that's what she goes well in, why fix what's not broken?

Recently though, my jumping instructor suggested I try taking the curb chain off of it just as an experiment.  She does kind of keep her nose tucked in a bit in it but she still gets out and moves.  So we wanted to see if maybe we could get her nose out in front of her a bit more without the curb chain and get her to pull me to the jumps just a little more.  It definitely made an immediate difference.  She seemed a bit more uphill in her canter as well.

I always said I would never gallop her or jump her in her french link Boucher because we normally use that for dressage and I did not want her to figure out she could really get strong in it if she wanted to.  Jumping and galloping in it could potentially show her that.  However, she has been in her loose ring french link lately for dressage and going very nicely in it.  So, I decided what's the worst that could happen if I DID try her in her Boucher for a jump school?  She is light years ahead in training now than where she was when we first started using the Kimberwicke like.....probably 8 years ago!  She is very responsive to half halts and seat aids these days.  Also, if she really seemed to not listen or not like it for some reason, we can go back to the Kimberwicke.

I went for it and schooled her at 3'3" one evening last week and aside from a few very tiny differences, I really couldn't tell it was the Boucher in her mouth.  She went great!!  We had xc schooling planned for that Friday, which is why I only jumped her a little bit that evening, I just wanted to try a couple fences quickly with it.  She had my curiosity piqued now and I just had to see how it would be for xc.

She was AWESOME.  I'm keeping it.  It definitely lets her pull me to the fences a bit more and she was just having a blast to begin with.  I could feel her seeking the fences and locking on a little more pronounced than usual.  She was out there full on hunting jumps.  She realized she had a bit more freedom and just enjoyed it, didn't grab it and try to take off.  She never tries to pull any tricks on me when we are out there so I didn't expect anything crazy with a different bit.  I'm totally ok with her being able to pull me a little bit more, I think it actually maybe let her confidence come through even a little bit more like she has a bit more freedom to make decisions with that extra freedom, if that makes sense? 

Photo evidence.  There it is.

Here is some video from that xc school:

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And one of my favorites from that day:

This is a very happy Klein mare doing what she very much enjoys.

We head to another course this weekend for another xc school, and I'm super excited to go out in the Boucher again.  The Boucher is staying.  We are officially putting the Kimberwicke down and backing away.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Jersey Fresh 2017

CCI 3* victory gallop.

Last week I spent a couple days at Jersey Fresh with some friends.  I took the day off Friday to go watch the second day of dressage and walk the CCI3* xc course.

I didn't go for xc day because, as I am sure you all saw on EN and other sites that were giving updates, the weather was disgusting.  It was a pouring, cold rain all day.  I also had a lot of homework to do so that gave me a chance to work on it and get some things done.



 It took us an hour and twenty five minutes to walk the xc course.  We didn't stop for pictures at every fence either. 

The significantly improved island.

Pretty serious angled brushes.

 This jump was some kind of memorial.  It had baseballs on it and a sign that said "sign and baseball and take a piece of gum."  Still not sure what the full story is, but we all signed a baseball.

The Jail House.


It was a great weekend, and most importantly, despite some falls on xc, all horses and riders were ok at the end of the day.

One cool vendor that was set up was a NJ based company called "Delicious Horse Treats."  It was basically a buffet of all natural horse treats where you pay for a certain size bucket and then fill it with whatever you wanted.  The treats are actually made in Germany.

$15 for as much as you can pack in this bucket.

The guys working there were very nice and insisted we even try the treats ourselves because they are all natural.  We did try some, and they weren't bad.  They could honestly pass for some kind of bran cereal if you put some milk on them.

The guys also made sure that your bucket was PACKED and that you got every penny's worth of the treats.  So if anyone in the area is looking for a cool vendor for a show/clinc, their site isn't complete but it has their contact info:  http://www.delicioushorsetreats.com/

So far, every single thing I put in the bucket, my three have loved.



There wasn't a ton of entries this year but the usual top riders were there, i.e. Philip, Buck, Boyd, Lauren, Jennie, etc...  I was really happy to see Dom Schramm and his Bolytair B take 3rd in the CCI 3*.

Dom and Boly over the triple bar.

It was a great weekend, and it just made me look forward to the upcoming events there this summer.  We always have a great time at the horse park and this year will be the same!