Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cadence and the Cross Country School: Part 2

Continued from part1...

We made it to the farm we were schooling at (an absolutely gorgeous facility with jumps ranging from 6 inch logs on the ground to banks that could hide a horse... not a word of a lie) 5 minutes early!  Quite a feat for the person that has a reputation for being a little late, a little disorganized, and a little too calm about it all.  I used the extra time to walk Cadence around, show her some of the fences, and then hop on her and hack her around a little to let her chill out.  She was tenser than I'd ever seen her before, but it didn't help that she was in heat, AND we'd been chased by a dog while hacking around the top end of one of the fields.  Not the best way to start the day.
As we warmed up, things didn't really improve.  She was tenser and jumpier than I'd ever seen her before, and was prancing/skitting around & a few times she felt dangerously close to going up in the air.  We managed to warm up relatively incident free, but she was still way nuttier than she's ever been before.  It turns out that this was just the start of things.  We followed the boys (Cadence's half brother via her sire who's the same age as her and is beyond awesome, and Cadence's half brother's half brother [they're out of the same dam] whom Cadence is in love with) over a little log, and while Cadence was good... she was a little on the nutty/forward side of things.  My coahc and I had decided to take things slow with her, and her behaviour in our warm up only enforced this decision, so while everyone went off to jump a wee tiny combination of 2 logs set on a bit of a curve, we waited so that we could jump them both individually first.
Once everyone was done, we headed over and attempted to start by trotting a circle in front of the fence.  Every time we got to the one portion of the circle, Cadence would get stuck, start backing up, refuse to move, try to spin around, ripping the reins out of my hand, pawing, or any other number of nasty dirty little tricks.  I'd push her through it, and we'd get going again.  Circle, push, stop, push, circle, repeat.  The cycle went on.  After a few minutes, my coach figured out that the issue wasn't just Cadence being an ass, and was in fact her attempting to go stand with her buddies.  Sure enough, when my coach relegated them to a different area, we had issues with a different part of our circle.  Keep in mind that all I was asking was that she trot a circle here.  Nothing spectacular, nothing extraordinary, nothing hard at all.
Anywho, I kept working away, convinced that Cadence would not "win the war" as my coach put it, and that instead she really would complete the very simple exercise laid out for her.  As her plans kept getting thwarted, and I kept on pushing her behaviour got worse and worse.  She started leaping into the air, and bounding forward.  I'd have to 'grab' the bit back from her, and work to settle her again... at which point she'd refuse to move.  At one point, when we were circling rather successfully at the trot, she grabbed the bit, leaped twice through the air, and leaped over the side of the jump.  That was the closest I came to being unseated- I lost both stirrups, had my reins ripped out of my hands, and barely managed to keep my butt in the tack.  We spent probably 45 minutes working in front of the jump, and moved on, largely for the sake of everyone else who had just been standing & waiting while my horse goofed off.  
While the other three jumped some fences back down near our warm up fence, Cadence and I practiced trotting toward and away from the group.  She had a few 'moments' but nothing terrible.  We even went and jumped our original log a few times with enthusiastic, but overall pretty good results.  Then, everyone came back and stood by us while we attempted to jump the log one final time.  The affect of the other horses was immediate, and we regressed within a matter of seconds.  The moment I'd turn Cadence onto the line of the jump she would literally go up in the air and leap towards the fence.  To call this behaviour dangerous would be an understatement.  So once again, we spent 45 minutes attempting to walk or trot a circle in front of the fence with similar but more dramatic results.  When she finally settled, in stead of jumping the jump we moved on. After a short walk into another field, we quietly walked down into their water hazard and back out again without so much as a glance at it.  Then, while everyone else jumped a little log and bank combo we waited.  Then they did some ditch work, and we waited some more.  Finally, after some more 'leaving and returning to the group' exercises, Cadence and I hopped over a little fence in between two trees without a fuss.  Then we headed into another field and jumped a little log on the ground and a thin slanted rail type fence on a circle.  We even cantered them!  Yay for calm well behaved mares.  Then we hopped down a bank a few times without an issue.  To finish we returned to the first jumps and jumped the warm up log a few times (she didn't even try to canter before hand) before heading to the bending 2 stride combination where all our troubles began.  Luckily, the mare calmly jumped through the line twice (oncebending right, and once bending left) before we called it a day.

To be continued...

Monday, May 7, 2012

Cadence and the Cross Country School: Part 1

It seems like posts that start with 'that moment when' have been popping up all over twitter and facebook recently.  Now in my own rather curmudgeonly state,  I tend to frown down upon these posters and their odd sentence structures.  However, as every other seen the light, hallelujah story must go... eventually the other shoe dropped for me too.

So now running in a completely different direction, let us move back to Sunday morning so I can regail you with a brief synopsis of Cadence and my x-country school.

Saturday evening, I drove the trailer out to the barn & loaded it up so that we could be ready to go as soon as possible Sunday morning.  The place we were going to school wasn't particularly far away, but the drive would be at least 1.5h with good traffic, so with our 11am start time in mind I figured a little extra preparation couldn't hurt.  This turned out to be a god send, because my pet-sitting duties went awry when the rooster made a mad bid for freedom and dived out under my leg.  45 minutes later, I was running considerably behind schedule and was thoroughly pleased that I'd taken the time to pack the trailer the night before.  After loading my Dad into the truck (I'll drive the trailer empty, but don't trust myself with horses inside just yet) we headed off to the barn to fetch The Mare.  Cadence seemed good, and keen, and without much fuss she hopped onto the trailer and we were off.

To be continued....

Friday, May 4, 2012

Where We're At

Since coming back from Rolex, I've been on The Mare twice, and both rides have been... interesting.  Monday was supposed to be a jump school, but Cadence was so wound up after our warm up I free lunged her before taking her for a (hypothetically speaking) relaxing hack in hand, and then switching tack and hopping back on her in our dressage saddle to complete our ride.  Not what I'd had in mind when I pictured our nice relaxing first ride back.  Then again, when do horses ever do what you expect them to?

Tuesday was spent hand walking, cold hosing, etc.

Wednesday's ride started out fantastically.  Cadence was supple, light, and relatively relaxed in her rhythm.  She was spooking in her 'scary corner' because the door in that corner had been opened, but overall she was fantastic.  Then we took a break, stretched, and when we picked back up I had a totally different horse.  She was stiff, didn't want to bend properly to the right, and was displaying what I refer to as 'false contact'.  Cadence is good at pretending, so technically she was bending when I asked her to, and technically she was carrying herself  but her "bend" felt like pulling a plastic knife from one side to the other.  She'd yield to the pressure, but bounce back to her stiff straight position immediately.  And in regards to her self carriage, she was stiff and locked.  So yeah, she wasn't putting any pressure on me, but she wasn't using herself properly either.  Anywho, I spent 40 minutes trying to get back to where we started, but instead of getting better we just got worse.  After my ride, I debated my options.  In the end I decided to give myself one more day.  If our ride today goes the same way as the last two, I'll call in the big guns and have someody else 'deal with her'.  However, my mare's never quite as nice after someone else has worked with her as she is after a good ride with me.  That sounds incredibly egotistical of me to say, but that's not how I mean it.  I'm making progressively less sense as we go on here...
Okay.  So when Cadence is going well, she's light, relaxed, carrying herself, and incredibly sensitive.  However, she's also an opinionated little mare and while I love her tenacity when its working for me... every now and again she decides to use her skills for evil rather than good.  Its important for her to remember that humans are not her minions, and that we're the herd leaders.  But if you are harsh with her & correct her strongly, sometimes she assents and sees the error in her ways but most of the time she just gets angry and defensive.  Thus, while its important to get her to see the light, you have to be tactful.  Hopefully I'm making a little more sense here.  

Yesterday when I rode, I tacked up with our dressage saddle and after a great w/t/c warm up we did our second mid-ride tack swap in one week.  Our dressage saddle was switched out for a close contact,our back on track dressage pad swapped for a pretty blue and grey one and my new sheepskin, and the dressage girth was traded for the new Stubben jumping girth with belly guard that I picked up at Rolex for $300 off the listed price.  A martingale & a pair of hind brushing boots were added, and we headed outside to do a little jumping.
I was informed yesterday that a few people would be heading out for an xc school this weekend, so I naturalyl jumped on  hte opportunity, even though Cadence isn't really ready for that.  Physically she'll be fine, but as of current we can't canter into a jump... so yesterday's ride was focused on calm and relaxed jumping.  We warmed up over an x-rail, then popped over a one stride before setting 2 jumps up on a circle, and attempting to work on our canter approaches.
We trotted both fences a few times before getting brave and cantering the smaller of the two.  Cadence cantered in beautifully, but about two strides out she grabbed the bit and hurled herself over the fence.  That's really the only way to describe it... she was coming in perfect then she lurched and jumbled herself over the little jump.  As we cantered away, she desparately tried to grab the bit again, tossed her head, shook her body, and was a general pain.  So I brought her back to trot, aimed her at the next jump, and continued on.  When she landed, I collected her canter, and cantered her up to the first fence again.  About 3 strides out, I asked her to trot.  She trotted, but managed to sneak in a canter stride before the jump again.   We repeated this process until she'd come back to trot and stay in the trot, land, and canter calmly away.  After doing this both directions, I let her canter up to one of the jumps and she did so beautifully, getting agood spot and everything!  I let her have a little bit of a gallop after this, which was probably a bad thing to do... but I was just so proud of her.  Man can she ever kick it into gear when she wants to.  We ended the ride with a 15 minute hack around the corn fields and through the forest to cool out.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Rolex Cross Country Pics

 Sharon White coming off the Walnut Table

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Because Life Just Sucks

In my last Cadence-related post, I mentioned that we jumped again.  All was well, and that weekend (on the Saturday) we had a jumping lesson that was fantastic. Kept it low, mostly cross rails with only a few verticals all of which were 2'9 or less just to keep it easy.  The Mare was fantastic, and it was an awesome feeling being able to ride a horse who could actually trot calmly around the ring.  She had Sunday off, and we were supposed to have a dressage lesson Monday, but we all decided that it'd probably be pushing a little too hard so we cancelled the lesson and I opted just to lunge.  Bad decision...
Cadence was fantastic overall, but at one point in time something spooked her and she did her typical leap-4-feet-in-the-air freak out... and she landed on some soft/slippery footing & took a tumble with both front legs out behind her.  Or directly underneath, depending on how you want to look at it.  She hopped up, and was a little dazed but fine overall.  I kept lunging her to ensure that she was sound (which she was) and after rubbing her whole front end down with linament, put her in her stall for the night.  The next day she was sound, but had some mysterious swelling at the top of her front right cannon.  No heat, no lameness, no apparent sensitivity.  Just more fill.  I left that evening after spending the whole day fussing over her, and entrusted my baby to the care of my coahc and BO.  She was lunged on Thursday and ridden Sat, and all appeared to be well.  But even now, there's still swelling.  Never any lameness, but it kind of feels like small comfort.
Ideally, I'd love to take her to the vet and have them ultrasound and x-ray the shit out of her legs so that I can stop being so paranoid, but I just don't have the money to be spending hundreds of dollars on what appears to be nothing.  Peace of mind is great, but is it really worth it?  There's just this niggling in the back of my mind thnat keeps saying 'what if'.  What if it is someithing serious?  What if the other vet missed something?  What if...