Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mouthy Mondays-Late Again

Hey guys,
I'm getting this cool story about endurance riding up, it says a lot about getting out and getting it done. I may be missing this week, I am a judge for the Oklahoma Press Association annual competition. We judge each others papers, which is really cool, I'm honored to have been asked to be a judge. Plus I'm learning tons reading all these columns.

I'm also drowning. I have so many articles to read, judge and comment on I'm a little freaked. And really short on time, so I'll be gone for a bit, at least until next week.

In the mean time I'll throw out a question. My daughters retired show mare, Loki, is getting ridden again, by me, after three years off.

She is extremely tight and ungiving on her left side. It's hugely obvious in her lateral work and during her spins.

I haven't been on the horse for at least five years, nobody has ridden her for three.

She's sound and willing to work, but really resistant through the neck, shoulders and ribs. This explains a bunch of the trouble my daughter was having with her during her last show season.

Now I'm planning on fixing her issues. What would you guys do to loosen her up? I have all the time in the world to tackle this.....

I have put her back in a ring snaffle, no other mechanical devices, no drop nose bands etc.

Whaddya think?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I achieved my goal, and finished in less time than last ride! I placed 9th... out of nine... but only 2 minutes after the 8th place finisher!

Summer is finally heating up here. And last weekend's ride was on the first real warm day we've had.

So even though I groaned when I realized I would have to wake up at 6am, I was happy we were scheduled to start an hour earlier than normal.It was a nice relaxing morning for me. I got to the barn by 7 and was on the road by 7:30. I actually arrived on time for once - no rushing!

I got signed up, tacked up and was actually waiting around for the ride to start. Unheard of! It was overcast and breezy, but you could feel the heat coming, so we were all anxious to get started.

I stood around with all the experienced endurance horses at the start line. They were all anxious to get going... Willow was more anxious to get as much grass in her stomach as possible. The time keeper finally said it was a go and we were all off quickly.

Willow and I stretched out in a nice trot, but we were quickly outdistanced by the others. That was OK, I had one person behind me; he had a young horse and wanted to teach her to not gallop like a mad thing at the start. Willow was too sensible to do something like that... that would be too much like work!

We maintained a good trot for about a mile and a half before we were passed by the rider behind us. But that didn't last long as I called him back from the wrong trail.

We continued on. All of a sudden, a pack came up from behind us. I was confused! These people had long outdistanced me! They had taken the wrong trail. Willow and I had a BFO (blinding flash of the obvious)... this meant we were in the lead!

We'd NEVER been in the lead before! Now she got excited! I asked if they (six of them) wanted to pass. But they said Willow was setting a good pace. This surprised me as Willow was 2-3 hands shorter than all of them. And she wasn't even doing her power trot!

Willow was determined to stay in the lead, even though I could feel that she wanted to slow to a walk. She realized that they would then pass her. So she started playing her passive-aggressive/ psychological games. She would suddenly swerve, with no warning to me or the horse behind her, from one side of the trail to the other; like a car in movie chase scene. She would spook at nothing, as if to say "ahhh! It's gonna eat us! Turn around and run away! I'll distract it while you escape! (hehe)". And turning to give the evil eye while dancing around and casting a voodoo hex.

OK, so the last was an exaggeration! BUT SHE WOULD IF SHE COULD!!!Finally, after a mile, I pulled her back and let them pass. I didn't want her to blow her wad, all at the beginning. I got off and walked for a bit, let her cool down. Then I got back on and we began motoring again.

Around mile 6, the rider with the young horse came up behind us. Luckily it was a mare, so Willow wasn't tempted to kick her head of. The ONLY gelding she tolerates seems to be her son. Interesting.

My riding partner had done lots of endurance rides in the past, competing at the Nationals last year, so I took the opportunity to learn. He set the pace, but very soon his young mare refused to pass Willow. She was quite happy being second. And that's how Will liked it!

It started to heat up. We got off and walked a mile or so, trying to get them to drink at the many puddles. I was just hoping Will wouldn't get down and roll like she had last year here. I brought extra shoes this year.We got back on and tried to finish the loop quicker to give us more time for the second one.

We ended up pulsing down in the same time as last ride - 2h 53m. But this time we had already done 15+ miles. I was satisfied.I ran Willow through her vet check - well actually she ran me! I practically had to sprint to keep up with her. The vet said she looked great. She had actually improved on a few of her scores and her slight limp from vet-in had gone away.

We wandered over to the trailer to get some food into Will. I had made up a bowl of soaked alfalfa cubes before I left. I added some ground flax and another 1/2 litre of water and pushed it in front of her. She slurped it up double time and then went over to her hay. I mixed her up a second bowl; 3/4 lbs Grow N' Win pellets, 1+ litre of water and a dose of electrolytes (safe to give her now that I got some water into her). This too disappeared in short order.

I scarfed down a sandwich, then started brushing her off. We were ready ahead of time at the end of our hold, so I let her have some more grass. She needed the water and electrolytes in it for the second loop - it was heating up.

I set out with my riding companion of the first loop.Neither horse was feeling really excited to be leaving camp. By five miles into the second loop, my legs were killing me from constantly urging her on. My companion had given up even any pretence of trying to pass me and set a quicker pace. The young, inexperienced mare wasn't prepared for this type of work and wasn't really feeling like moving very fast.

If I had been alone I could have probably completed faster, as Willow wouldn't have been constantly waiting for the mare behind her. We could have cantered more and made things interesting for her.

While I did cross the finish line before him, I had problems with my HRM and so we pulsed down 2 minutes after the young mare. Oh, well. I had still obtained my goal for the day and was very satisfied with Willow's performance.Willow once again raced me up and down for the trot-out and got great marks for the day. Actually prompting the vet and the scribe to say that this was the best they've ever seen her at a finish, even though she did complete it faster.

Awesome!My goal for the next ride is to keep her in shape over summer and at the August Spruce Woods ride, to complete it another 15 minutes faster. ... now I just need to get hubby to stay home and watch the other animals for the weekend!



Robyn said...

Have you considered having a chiropractor look at Loki? It made all the difference in the world in my Appy, Cochise, when he didn't want to bend...

OneDandyHorse said...

Great Mouthy Monday, as usual! I will add your blog to my long list of blogs I visit daily... Here is my blog address, I was the "author" of the Toothy Tuesday of last week!


HorseOfCourse said...

Wow, Gotlandsruss over in Canada? How cool!
My daughter's first pony was a cross Shetland-Gotlandsruss, so I have a soft spot for them!

Mugs, I believe we have much of the same tools in the toolbox, but this is something I love to share and discuss!

I will share some stolen goods.
I have had very good use of an exercise called "giravolta" lately, an exercise I learnt from Trudi at lionhearthorses in France. (Isn't it marvellous to share like this?)
It is like a moving turn on the forehand, and you can read her explanation here http://tiny.cc/eDC8O.
(Maybe you do it already, but call it something different?)
She does it from the ground, I have done it from the saddle.
I use it in the warm up, when I pick up the reins and start with the first work in walk before moving on to trot work.
I find it a very effective supplying exercise. Even if my horse starts out a bit out of sorts, it helps every time.

One can go on to use a similar exercise in trot afterwards, working with serpentines but keeping the horse in a shoulder-in position in the loops to stretch some extra.

Another exercise I use is to combine leg yields with circles.
If you do a leg-yield for your left leg, you also place the circles to the left. It helps if the horse is bracing against the aids in the leg yield which they might do if stiff. As soon as that happens, you ride the horse into a circle, and use the circle to loosen the horse and get him round. Then out and continue with the leg yield again. New circle as soon as you feel resistance.

Justaplainsam said...

I would say chiropractor as well, with the things you listed off she could have a rib out of place.

Becky said...

You know what the best thing about this story is?

I think I just found my new favorite breed of horse (or pony--whatever).

I'm forever frustrated that I'm 5'9", because there's something about fat, stocky little thick-boned pony-horses that makes me happy. I still ride them, but not without looking a little stupid.

Gotlandruss? Willow is one of the most appealing little mares I've seen in awhile! You must be so proud. :)

mugwump said...

Everybody needs to go read Becky's blog (just click on Becky) and once you quit laughing, comment and tell her to pleeeeease keep writing. She's so funny.

kel said...

I agree that chiropractic might be in order or a massage therapist - now I know what you are thinking but trust me, I have had more results with the massage than with chiropractic care. First off they are not near as sore after the massage as they are after chiro. The lady I use for massage uses the masterson method http://www.mastersonmethod.com/ And it is cheaper than chiro! She goes over him about once a month. He loves it and is always so relaxed when she is done.

He has been having trouble with his hips (and he has big ones) and flexing to the left. He is so much more loose and fluid after she works on him it is amazing.

I also flex him (I am almost afraid to say this) with treats before I saddle him. I make him reach back deep to his flank to get a treat. Both sides a couple of times. You can hear him snap, crackle and pop when he reaches.

I would also think that maybe starting her on some suuplement like Absorbine Flex might help. I love the old trained horses and they deserve to be pampered and well taken care of. I guess that I can identify with them, as I am on my way to getting old and hope someone takes good care of me when I get stiff and sore!


Becky said...

WOW. I feel kind of honored, Mugs! :) I finished off one of the posts I'd been hoarding, and I'll try do better about posting more frequently in the future.

I'd do more now, but the baby has acquired a recent fascination with my dog's butt. He crawls around after him (my dog's a saint) with a little ominous finger extended, and keeps trying to dig inside. :( It's a full time job.

rockymouse said...

I'm also interested in hearing about suppling a really stiff horse. Son's gelding is super stiff, especially to the right. I'd love to get a chiro or an equine massage person out to see him but I live 200 miles from anyone who does that work. What do you do for a chronically stiff horse when you don't have access to a chiro?

Becky said...

I know that a lot of people aren't a fan of hand-feeding (and I am RAPIDLY becoming a convert myself), but my first mare was so stiff she could barely bend her neck. Carrot exercises got her to the point where she could at least look behind her. If you're not experienced enough to be able to stretch them while riding (I'd probably get the horse so confused it'd buck me off), it's a nice fall-back.

This site does a much better job of explaining them than I ever could:

Carrot Stretches

Word of caution: I tried this with my thoroughbred only once--- he got so frustrated at me witholding the carrot to make him stretch that he lunged to get it, almost got my fingers, and earned himself a near-beating. Some horses are just better off stiff than mean and nippy.

Anonymous said...

great story - it almost makes you forget how much work goes into getting fit and ready for those rides.

For Loki - what size sircle can she work comfortable - 20m, 30m, 40m or larger?
Had similar prob with an OTTB - stiff on one side, no chiro issues that were found.

As we worked in a paddock, found the size of circle that she could bend comfortable/correctly on and would work on making part of the circle smaller then allowing her to strech comfortable out on the oher side - so the circle became a bit egg shaped. As she was incredible confused with the idea of lateral work did some turn on the forhand work from the ground, lots of work getting her to stretch out as "long and low" as she could. It took a while but we did get her pretty even - she was never as comfortable/flexible on one side as the other, but no reason could be found

Glenatron said...

I'm in agreement about seeing a chiro - if a horse has good feet and good teeth it's not something that I would expect to be routinely necessary but if they've been out of work or worked badly or anything that might have caused them to get a bit physically jammed up a chiro treatment can really just free up all those places where the horse is physically stuck and give you more of a clean slate.

The problem I have is that it's amazingly hard to find a good chiro because they always seem very competent and knowledgeable and it's hard to differentiate the good from the bad. I guess that's the same with any of the professions around horses and in all cases it makes life hard for us as owners.

Oh, wait, you're Colorado. The guy who came out to us, Dr Dave Siemens, is based there. I have no idea if he's near to you but he's good enough that people ship him over here to the UK on a regular basis.

Jayke said...

Glad to see we Canadians are being well represented on Mouthy Mondays, first OneDandy (visit her blog, it's great, honest writing), now this!

Yesterday I was going through some of your early Mort stories (from before I started following) and he reminds me so much of my first horse Justice! Honest, but scared, with only about three speeds. I'm going to go through the rest of them this afternoon I think, I'm loving the progression you guys went through.

rockymouse said...

Thanks for the advice on carrot stretches. I'm a non-treat-feeder, and the gelding's eyes got real big when I offered him baby carrots to each side, between his knees and up high. The up high was hard for him, so I lowered it a good deal for him to reach.
I also tried a bit of massage - my equine massage book got in from Amazon. He sighed a couple times and peed real big afterward, so maybe it did help. I could only do it for about 10 minutes, as it seemed to agitate him a bit. More practice and a growing sensitivity/familiarity needed on my part, methinks.
I'm willing to learn about this, but I still wish I could wave a wand and get a professional here.
(and a cook. and a maid. etc!)

kel said...

Becky said...

Word of caution: I tried this with my thoroughbred only once--- he got so frustrated at me witholding the carrot to make him stretch that he lunged to get it, almost got my fingers, and earned himself a near-beating. Some horses are just better off stiff than mean and nippy.

I had this happen with the treats too. Then it occured to me that lungeing for the treat wasn't going to do him any good anyway. So I started out at a place where he could flex and reach with a little bet of stretching and slowly increased it daily. Even today the first stretch isn't as far back as the last one. Just like you touching your toes, you have to work at it a little harder each time.

ps: This stretching was recommended to me by the chiropractor.

GreatGotlands said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GreatGotlands said...

Thanks all for the comments on Willow! She is a fun little pony. Unfortunately, her owner/ breeder is thinking of selling her, and I have no plans to buy her (I have an upcoming Gotland cross filly). It is cool to think back on how we changed local opinions on how well she would do. Many local endurance riders are surprised and impressed by how well she did.

Funny you should post this question with Willow's entry, Mugwump! Willow is also stiff on one side. She has a hip that keeps going out every few years. So she is stiff on the opposite shoulder as well. I have a great Chiro that comes out for her. He also gave me some exercises. They are mostly ground exercises. The first is to stand at the ribs, arm over the back, facing forward. Gently stoke the lead rope to pull the head around towards you, just ask till get what they can do, then hold until they soften. Do this a few times, on both sides. No carrots needed - safer on fingers. You are asking for only a very slight tip of the chin; you want the bend in the neck and a bit in the poll. In the beginning the horse will likely just circle, keep your arm over the back and circle with her until she plants her feet and gives you her neck and head. She'll eventually figure it out, or get tired of circling.
Second exercise; Kinda like a Parelli thing (but don't say that to my old cowboy chiro or he'll die laughing!). Circle her in 3 tight little circles, you want to see front inside planted and backs crossing over and a good bend to the body. Then without pause, and standing right at the head to prevent forward motion, make her cross over to the other way (turn on HQ), just a step or two.
Third; lots of backing.

These exercises are more for working her bad hip, but the first two would work for suppling.

I also do lots of serpentines in the arena, along the long walls. I don't release from bend until I feel a give to the neck. Even if we are going to run into the wall! As she gets more supple I add some random small circles in the corners.

Cowgirl Rae said...

Last summer I rode my husbands horse at a Buck Brannaman clinic....This horse was RIGID and inflexible to the right. Buck had us doing hundreds of tiny serpentines down the arena, it would take maybe 10 minutes to get to the other end.
Sitting up on your crotch, leaning slightly forward over the horses shoulders seat very light, shorten your reins so that you can pull the horses nose in a deep bend, wait until the hind steps across then immediately go the other way.
No jerking, always asking for the light feel first in your hand, inside leg at the girth barely asking for the bend , and outside leg back some asking only slightly for impulsion.

It literally took us about 10 minutes to go down the arena, then we would walk out maybe 10 strides.... really walk out, then tiny serpentines again.
Our goal was large serpentines off the inside leg and super light feel same side rein. Or no rein, the advanced horses heads just flopped to the inside on the request of the leg.

I can tell you from july to now I have made a million tiny serpentines, we also use sagebrush, trees and boulders as go around exercises. Probably 1/2 of the time she will now bend around an obstacle with very light or even the slack of a draped rein. keeping that at a lope is our next challenge.

The horse has gone from stick straight, bracing and rigid to maybe 30% stiff. A dramatic improvement. I have only used a iron ring snaffle. I have of late occasionally used a small twisted wire snaffle as this horse is supple enough now to respect the additional force.

That and hundreds of spiraling in and out circles on that side, and trotting a circle or 10 on the bad side, then asking for a soft stop, move the hips 3 or 4 steps to the outside nose tipped to the inside, then immediately striking off into a strong trot..... hundreds of those.

She has learned to carry the arc and hold it to be prepared to step into that strong trot from a standstill.

I have NEVER ridden such a stiff and bracing horse, she has been a challenges.

You can read the whole story of our clinic experience on my blog.

Artemis said...

When a horse is one-sided, I think of it this way - the back muscles on one side are strong and tight and on the other side are loose and weak. So if the horse bends to the right and not the left the muscles on the right are shorter and stronger and the muscles on the left are longer and weaker. To correct this I try to focus on riding exercises that ask the horse to shorten the long side of their back and lengthen/stretch the short side. So shoulder-in or -fore right, haunches-in right, leg yield off the right leg, etc. The caveat to this is that they need to be willingly bending, not you pulling them into the bend, or they are actually using the muscles on the opposite side of their spine to create the resistance you're pulling against. Use your aids lightly and playfully to get as much bend as your horse can do without stiffening. This may only be a very shallow bend at first. Over time the amount of bend the horse can offer will increase. I also take lots of breaks from the right-bend work, so the muscles don't get overtired and cramped.

From a dressage perspective...

HorseOfCourse said...

Artemis, a very good explanation of the crooked horse.

And as a result of the horse's crookedness, you have one hind leg which is used to carry (right) and one that is used to push (left).
The bending in the body/ribcage is a result of how the hind legs move, right?
If the horse is to bend to the left, the left hind leg has to step under the body and carry more weight.
If we can get the hind legs to work correctly, we will get the horse to bend through the body/ribcage, and the resistance in the neck will go too.

We have to increase the left hind leg's ability to step under and carry, and then we will get the bend also to the left.

If the horse is stiff, I prefer to start with lateral exercises in walk. You often get less bracing, and it is easier to get time to feel the hind legs and correct.

The horse also has to adjust to a different way of moving. Check this:
Fold your arms in font of your chest. Note which of the arms that is on top.
Now fold them again, but the other way round.
Feels weird, right?

I believe our horses get the same kind of feeling when we start to try and make a stiff horse more ambidextrous. They not only have to build strength, but they also have to get used to moving in a different way.

It might be necessary with a chiro if the problem persists, but sometimes you can solve things through riding too.

Artemis said...

HofC - definitely on the walk lateral work. My favourite exercise right now, usually after a bit of trot to get muscles warm, is very slight leg yield, two or three steps left, then two or three right. I don't care how steep it is, just that he change flexion smoothly and calmly without losing his tempo. I probably don't move over more than a foot or two each way, and just keep it all soft and playful, using mostly weight aids.

I can't touch my toes - never could - I'm fairly tall with tight hamstrings. If someone rigged up a pulley from my wrists to a ring on the ground and tried to pull me there in one day, at best I'd stiffen up to protect myself, and at worst I'd strain my back and hamstrings - and then I'd punch the trainer the next time he tried to use that rig. Be your horse's personal trainer; accept what he can do now, and encourage him to do a little better each time, and watch his form so he doesn't find a cheating way to do the exercise.

quietann said...

I don't think I am really qualified to tell someone with a lifetime of experience what to do with a non-bendy/asymmetrical horse, but... Jane Savoie (dressage person) explains very well that if a horse is inflexible to one direction, it may be over flexible in the other direction. For the inflexible side, she recommends walking 20 meter circles that turn into 6 meter circles and then go back to 20 meter circles, but *keeping the bend of a 6 meter circle*. For the other side -- actually ride them the slightest bit bent to the *outside*.

My mare is like this and I spend a huge amount of time at the walk, early in each ride, just bending her -- doing circles, riding shallow loops down the long side switching bend every 4 strides, turns on the forehand, spiral in/spiral out, etc.

RuckusButt said...

Re. Loki - perhaps we should refer you to your own post "suppling and snaffle bits"? ;-)

You being busy is a perfect time to go back and re-read older posts. I love them! A year later, I have new appreciation for those early posts.

Popping over to the "new" blogs now...

HorsesAndTurbos said...

Can't wait until tomorrow...

I'm A GrandMa!


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