I celebrated the first of longer days by spending a few hours at the barn yesterday afternoon. It's been a long while since I took a Sunday at the barn. I brought in all three horses and spent awhile grooming each of them. They're at varying stages of the shedding process: Q's hardly shedding at all; Stan has just begun the first wave of shedding; Griffin is through the first wave of shedding and is now retaining what he has left since the weather has swung back toward the "cold" spectrum of turbulent Appalachian spring weather.
StanStan is incredibly footsore following a ride last week, so he's sidelined until Dan can come out and put shoes on. Fifteen years of life spent in front shoes has created hooves that are much weaker in structure than his hinds. Time and consistent trimming on my part will get him to a better place (oh boy, how his feet have changed already), but we won't get there overnight! It's definitely a process. And as much as I would love to put him in boots during this shoulder-season between the months of heavier riding so that his feet could get a bit more stimulus to help them through the process of becoming stronger, I cannot. The current structure of his hooves will not accept a boot, and I absolutely and vehemently refuse to force-trim his feet to "fit".
In his 7+ months with me so far, Stan's toes are MUCH shorter than they were for most of his life and his heels are lower. The hoof is responding to the changes, but once again, it's a [slow-going] process! His toes need to come back a titch more and his heels most definitely need to come down lower than their current state. The caudal region of his front hooves has a lot of beefing up to do over the next many months. Shoes, and potentially pads, are what will make him comfy right now, so that's the route we will go. Dan and I nerd out pretty hard over hooves and all the manners of ways that exist to help build a better hoof for the individual horse. I'm confident the two of us will get Stan where he needs to be in a manner than keeps him the most comfortable along the way.
QQ looks great. Increasing the time I spend with her and expectations of her this past month has completely resolved her witchy behavior she'd developed during her rest/rehab period of zero expectations from the human. I'm really optimistic that by the time we're back on the endurance trail, she's going to be the partner I know she can be - one who trusts me more and dumps me in blind fear a lot less. I'm still in no great hurry to work her though, despite a solid 7 months elapsing between the presentation of lameness and the present day. More time off will only help her to heal. I think once her coat is fully shed out, we'll do more purposeful walking workouts. Until then, we shall enjoy a once a week lollygagging bareback meander around the barnyard.
GriffinGriffin has come through winter pretty damn well. We didn't work heavily and he has lost some of his muscling he had at the end of autumn, but by and large, he's looking pretty damn good. I can't describe how excited I am to get moving with more dressage and jumping lessons with him this year!
Yesterday, I enjoyed my first legitimate jumping workout with him in months - and my first with the new-to-us jumping saddle. Until now, we've been jumping in a Wintec AP which has led me to agree whole-heartedly with those in the camp of All Purpose = No Purpose. I could make due, certainly, with the AP, but it's really wonderful to have equipment that facilitates proper position for the task at hand. (An aside, I finally did the same with my skis this year and wow. Just wow. Using the most up-to-date technology for the sport makes all of the clinics I've had that discuss minute positional changes in your femur rotation, hip angle, or general body make so much more sense. When the equipment works with you instead of against you, it's so much easier to improve.) I felt more stable in my lower body positioning over jumps than I ever have: my leg was ON and didn't slip back, my heels were DOWN, my hips and resulting upper body had an easier time following the motion of the horse. I still have oodles of things to work on, but feeling more confident in the saddle definitely goes a long way to helping me toward achieving other positional goals.
My mom really wanted to get some time spent outside yesterday, so she came out to the barn while I was there. As I rode Griffin, she and Kenai hiked around the back pasture to get some exercise in on the beautiful day. Not one to miss an opportunity for media if I can help it, I handed her my DSLR to snap some shots of Griffin and I as she was able during her walk.
Grif was very up. His clip coupled with breezy 30ºF weather and getting to enjoy his most favorite activity - jumping - equaled a very sassy fellow. I was really grateful for the Myler combo bit, which packs much more punch than the French-link snaffle we've been enjoying for all of our dressage schooling. (I've also jumped in that bit, but I've learned that it's not a wise decision because Griffin gets way too excited and runs through it quite easily.)
The jumps are currently arranged in a very hodge-podge non-structured manner. I'm definitely changing them to something with more structure after the coming snow melts (next week). And I knew I should have modified them more yesterday, but lugging jumps around into a new setup is an event in itself. Yesterday was a Riding Day not a Solo Liz Jump Crew day, so we made due.
I trotted and then cantered Griffin around the field a bit to warm up. He was balanced, in front of my leg, and light in the bridle. It felt so nice to ride that horse again. We began our more structured work by trotting and cantering a series of 3 ground poles and then popping over a cross rail (none pictured). Then we slowly began working over first the panel jump and then the other two verticals (2'6").
Due to the current setup of the jumps, we botched distances like it was the prime objective of the day. I'm really rusty at this jumping thing after months off! And I am really ready for lessons to help me with my skill at seeing distances and developing exercises to help improve. However, I did learn from my mistakes and our efforts improved greatly. I ended on a really nice note, too.
It was really nice though, making the mistakes I made yesterday. Because you know what? Despite my errors, that little grey horse of mine jumped everything just as honest-as-could-be and saved my shit riding where necessary. He's such a doll. And he makes me realize that if I actually ride and pilot with purpose, he can do anything. He loves to work and jumping is his most favorite work. It's up to me now to learn how to be the best I can be so that he can fulfill his full potential. He's keeping up his end of the bargain and then some; I need to pick up the slack. And I will!