Saturday, September 1, 2012

Q: The beginning to now

I’m going to do two posts on the improvements and accomplishments both Q and Griffin have made over the time I’ve had them. I didn’t realize how far they’d both come until I started looking through day-1 goal posts for the two of them. Recollecting on how far we’ve come really makes me realize how big of a difference I’m making for both of them (and how much they have helped me to grow as a horse person).

Q’s first post is here.

(I’ll address improvements/accomplishments in the order I first discussed things back in May.)

That weight? Definitely gone! Her cresty neck that I hated/was worried about has diminished to nearly nothing! She got to the point around the date of her first race where I was concerned she’d dropped too much weight. She wasn’t down too far, but it was enough that I believed should supplement her with more feed to prevent any issues excessive issues from occurring. I think she’s holding well where she is now, the week off after her 30 definitely helped a lot! I definitely see the value of rest.

May 29, 2012
August 31, 2012

May 20, 2012
Sept. 1, 2012; taken  in worse lighting, but  she's just so noticeably TRIM compared to the beginning! Very noticeable here that her cresty neck is gone-gone-gone!

She is still very forward on the trail and I absolutely love that about her. She’s not typically one to pull the bit out of my hands in her attempt to take off, but she can be at times (a recent development I'm owing in part to her increased fitness/energy). For the most part, she’s just very alert and eager to anything I want/need/ask for. Such a good girl!

Her alertness fluctuated in the beginning with her heat cycles it seemed, but since the cremello mare was moved to another pasture those fluctuations in her behavior have completely ended. Sure, she has her moments of crazy, but overall she is a VERY level-headed girl. We are learning the words “log” and “rock” as those are things that most often frighten her on the trail. Contrasting objects especially. She’s slowing beginning to associate me drawling out those words as we approach such objects to mean she doesn’t have to give such a wide berth. Her thing now-a-days is to break gait/speed when she’s really uncertain while giving “the eye” to the offending object. Whenever she can move by things without incident I praise her. The more miles this little girl gets, the better she’s becoming. Things on the trail that caused her a lot of grief before are now given careful consideration as she moves by them. Additionally, she has had to conquer her fear of black bears; I am thankful she is so attune to these large carnivores so I can see them, too, but I'm also really happy that their presence doesn't incur this "MUST RUN HOME NOW" response as strongly. She still stops and tries to whirl, but its not this frantic life-or-death thing now. Time is everything in this matter, but I’m thankful she puts concepts together quickly.

Her gaits are still such a joy for me to ride. Her trot and canter have really developed more in our time together. Trotting can be a variety of speeds; her fast, extended trot is still hard to get her to do on a consistent basis, but I’m confident with time and practice we will develop it more. Her canter is probably my most favorite as she can slow it down to this easy rocking wonder, or speed it up into an extended, ground-eating beast. Such a joy to ride!

I’ve definitely fallen away (shame on me) from keeping her fresh and familiar with her acute responsiveness that the cowboy had trained her to do. Side passing is something she’s capable of, but she is confused about it now because it isn’t something I’ve asked for or worked on with her. Backing up is the same. Stopping… She still does that well. Not as acutely as she did at the beginning, but she’s not one to run out from under you. She just pushes the envelope a little more. Honestly I think part of this is because, unlike the cowboy, I’m not some burly man who can use brute force to get her into a stop; I don't exactly "man-handle" my horses. Additionally, I have little in the way of knowledge on training cow horses that receive many lessons on how to stop, go, and turn on a dime.

Jumping. Oh, jumping. Q is wonderful at this. Absolutely brilliant. Ari and I have been equally swamped with our schedules for the past month and Q hasn’t had much jump work as a result. I’ve done a little here and there, but nothing in excess. She learned to use her hind end a lot better and is very eager to try anything though. I’m hoping throughout September to get back into it all. My schedule is really calming down. Hopefully I can find the time to build some cavalettis and the like from the wood pile. Cinder blocks (that are crumbling away) are getting old. Finally found time to build some giant cavalettis which are already a huge improvement on jumping practice! I would love to have standards, but we don't have the tools needed to drill holes necessary to build them. So giant cavalettis it is! The medium height for the three is 19", 22", and 29" (didn't plan them they just happened like that and I'm not gonna push my luck trying to gain perfection right now as we aren't competing and really only want to do this for fun and cross-fitness). We have 5 log jumps in the woods now, too. She easily gets over "the big log" now; it's nothing compared to the 29". We're both having a TON of fun with these little jumps! (Second video is where she gets her distance way off and I squeal as a result.)

29" jump
22" jump
22" jump

Standing while being mounted is still an issue. Its directly related to the proximity of her friends and whether or not she can see them. And, honestly, she’s better being mounted from the off-side. The likelihood that she will stand still is greater if you mount on her right. Odd, but whatever. I don’t discriminate about what side I mount from. I swap back and forth dependent upon what kind of terrain I’m on or whether my saddle is slightly crooked to one side or the other.

Her ground manners are WONDERFUL now. Sure, she still has her moments, but they are few and far between. No dancing, no squealing when left alone, no prancing, snorting, rude behaviors. She’s realized (I think) that she’s in a good home. She can rely on me. I’m not going to go off and do something absolutely unpredictable. She trusts me so much more now that we have had time together. And she melts my heart every time she nickers at me when she sees me (this only occurs when we are away from home, but I'll take it!).

Her feet are improving. As noted in the very beginning, the horn of her hoof was weak and crumbly, but its slowly getting better. Looking at the hooves of Griffin and the other horses on the farm encourages me that their diet and lifestyles are such that she will develop the same with time. Issues I had with picking up her feet are GONE now. She’s an angel about it. Both of my horses are and it thrills me. My journey with learning to trim on them is slow, as I’m hesitant to try any radical changes. But with maintenance trims (scheduled for next week) every few weeks, her feet are getting to where they need to be. And using her as a judge of my work, she (& Griffin) always lick and chew when I finish each foot. Additionally, I've noticed that the cracks in her hinds (very small) that were the only cause for concern in the beginning are growing out. They were never awful, but I have monitored them closely and they are definitely growing out as she grows new hoof in her new home. You can tell when I got her by where the crack has grown out to and due to the event lines (nothing major like Griffin's were though!).

Forgive the ipod photos; but it was all I had the other night!

: : : : :

She and I have come a long way in a few months together. Definitely off to a good start.

Goals for the future? I'm sure many will arise as time goes on, but things that come to mind right now are:

  • improving her endurance fitness
  • completing 50s
  • improving her (and my) jumping prowess 
  • potentially having her compete in jumping (Ari will ride)
  • improving upon our mounting while standing
  • perfecting her 8-10 mph trot
  • getting her feet in a better place
  • working on responsiveness under saddle to regain and improve what we've "lost" (side-passing, backing, other maneuvers where she moves off my leg in a nice way)
  • improving upon her fear of bears and other wildlife that moves while on the trail

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