Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Happy Horse Progress Report

Writing this year has definitely been minimal in comparison with former years on this blog. I've been making a very big effort to live a little more richly and get away from technology this year and in that, I have had quite a bit of success!

Regardless, I do enjoy looking back on the chronicles of my adventures and horse training, so I will continue to write, though it will likely be without the frequency I originally did.


Both horses have been a part of my life for >3 years now and while training never truly ceases, the noteworthy parts of training that were once a daily conversation are now more of a weekly/monthly conversation. Now, it's more important to me to observe trends over periods of time than to note every individual daily happenstance. My partnership with each horse is ever-changing and constantly moving forward -- that's what matters most.

Still, I believe it is important to note these trending changes and the high points of them so I can continue to look back through this blog and remember them. I'm always astounded how far we've come when I take time to look back on my journey with both horses as chronicled through the blog. It's a great resource to keep me grounded and heading in the right direction with things which is awesome because that was the reason I began blogging!

In a snapshot --

Griffin came to me as a gangly youngster with nearly no learned skills, now (because of me! -- something that never ceases to amaze me) he is successfully under saddle, can travel successfully down the trail, is learning basic dressage concepts, and has beautiful form over fences.

Q entered my life with quite a mysterious background, but after a weekend trial I knew I had to try my hand with her to see what could unfold within the realm of endurance riding. Three years later she's got nearly 300 competitive completion miles and countless hours spent on trail and our relationship is stronger by the day.

Ups and downs have existed along the way, of course. And I know they will continue to, but I am really proud to say that by and large the journey has consisted with quite a few Ups this year. You see, my "live more, write less" lifestyle has been great for not only me, but the relationship I have with both horses.

I'm seeing each horse for what they are better than ever before and because I'm able to do that, training sessions (and all interactions, really) go so much more smoothly.

A big factor in this is that I've really truly been able to remove my emotion from situations with the horses that once caused me frustration and grief. The only times I can think of offhand when I lost my temper recently were when my safety was put at risk (Griffin uncharacteristically rearing up on me while we were doing work in hand from the ground -- the session ended very positively after he realized that was NOT allowed).

The biggest changes this year --

- Q's calmness on the ground is the new norm for her. She stands tied and calm for various periods of time with no issue and is cool and collected for all handling from the ground. When I introduced her to lateral work in hand the other night, she got a little frazzled, but settled quite quickly and had a great introductory session. It helped that I kept my cool during her momentary worry so she calmed quickly.

"Oh, what's that? Stand ground tied in the middle of nowhere by this bike that I've been following for 12 miles? Sure. No problem." -Q

- Trailering issues are a thing of the past now. Our new norm involves Q getting on the trailer immediately upon walking up to it and then I close the door. Of course, the time I go to actually film this, she backs off twice, and then she gets on and turns around to face backwards, a practice she rarely does anymore. (I would insert the laugh-crying emoji here if I could.) That's how filming works though, things never go as you plan! Regardless, you can see how she gets on without hesitation. In addition to the whole "if you're filming things won't go to plan" rule, I think Q knew we weren't actually going anywhere as the trailer was in it's parking spot and not in the "hooked up ready to leave" spot.

I'd say at least a third if not half the times I rode her this year involved a trailer ride, so she learned quickly that the trailer isn't the end of the world. It's such a welcome change!

- Q's strength and skill at distance riding has also continued to improve. While our competition season wasn't nearly what it was last year, she absolutely excelled at what we did. Her recoveries at check/holds were pretty outstanding. Her post-trot out pulse was pretty routinely 4 beats lower than her pre-trot out pulse.

I think I've found what kind of conditioning works well for this little mare. I'm going to be adding some more downhill work to the regiment, but beyond that, I'm really pleased with the way we're going about things. If I can get our gear tweaked we will definitely be moving up in distance next season.

- Stretching, leg handling, and trot outs are things in the "we really need to work on this" category. Already though, I'm seeing improvements in these areas. We've practiced each only a handful of times since I decided to begin focusing on them and Q is already much better about them.

Here's several shots of us trotting back an d forth in front of the camera followed by a faux trot out (in which she bobbles as she considers spooking at the camera on our return...we need to work on our straight lines, haha). What do you think of her movement?


- Griffin is absolutely leaps and bounds from where he once was. When compared to the beginning of his US work (March 2014), there is such a huge difference. Even the comparison of where he was last fall vs. this fall is very notable (October '14 - October '15).

March 2014
March 2014
November 2014
October 2014
October 2015
October 2015
October 2015 - amazing what a sunny day does in showing off how much his grey has lightened!

And of course there's the notable improvement in his jumping form and ability over time:

October 2014 first time at 18"

April 2015 2'
May 2015 18"
June 2015 22"
July 2015 3'
October 2015 3'

The quality of his gaits and his jumping ability has improved immensely. I can't speak highly enough of how pleased I am with this little horse. My only complaint is that he's still a bit rotund around the midsection! I'd like to slim him down just a hair.

Could still stand to slim up a bit.
Can't believe how light he has become despite knowing he'd be lighter every year.
He's still got a cute face, though I miss his blaze </3

Overall, he's more mature, stronger, more able of body and mind. The kid hasn't had a workout longer than ~ an hour for nearly the whole year. Our frequency of workouts is much higher than what Q does, but the intensity and length is much less. It's the perfect place for his mind and body -- as evidenced in the photos above!

To conclude --

I'm really pleased with the direction Q and Griffin are going. We've made a lot of progress in a lot of areas so far this year. Griffin's progress is more visible (and easier to capture via media) than Q's, but Q's progress is right in line with my goals for the future. Having a calm, happy horse is the most important thing and she's definitely much calmer and happier than she once was in her interactions with people.

Our winter promises to be successful as I have set multiple goals that are more than attainable. Setting the horses and myself up for success is the only way to go about things.

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