We had some really nice days, so Megan and I rode...and then the weather changed. It was mostly rain, a dusting of snow. More moisture in 24 hours than we have had all winter. So much for riding for the last few days.
I had pretty much just left Moon alone while he was healing up and have been focusing on Frosty, but there is a cutting clinic coming up at the end of the month and Megan asked if she could go. I thought Moon would be the horse for her to ride, as he is pretty good on cattle and she will be able to focus on listening to the instructor. I am taking Frosty. That could be real interesting for me as one of Frosty's big fears is c.a.t.t.l.e., Lord knows why, he grew up on a cattle ranch, but there is no more babying the big buckskin. He IS going to have to try to turn into the horse I think he is.
We started riding Moon again. So far, so good.
Sometimes I feel like I am repeating myself on here...same story...new year...
I have been working very hard at perfecting the Ed Wright method of riding a barrel horse. Which is very much like striking a 2-point position if you ride english.
Going to the gym is paying off, cause all I can say is hamstrings...hamstrings...hamstrings!
Oh sure, if your quads are out if shape, you'll feel the burn, but since I started working out and have strengthened up my hamstrings, I can tell you, my leg is a lot easier to keep steady.
The other thing Ed is adamant about is keeping your hands about mid-neck and jockeying from there (Hello lower back!). Sometimes I get to giggling because it reminds me a lot of that scene from The Black Stallion where Henry (Mickey Rourke) is on a bale of straw and demonstrating to Alex how to ride a race horse. (Unfortunately YouTube does not contain that particular clip...but I'm sure most of you are like me and know that movie by heart.)
Riding in a straight line like that is pretty easy. It's implementing the thought process of the turn that I really need to practice...practice...practice. Ed showed me how to gather, rate and turn without having to sit down and bring my hand back toward the saddle horn, as is such a common thing for us barrel racers to do. I didn't have much success accomplishing that AT his clinic (which was frustrating), but I did understand what he was saying and how he thinks the turn should be accomplished.
Now obviously, riding the clunky, poky Frosty makes practicing all that in slow motion pretty easy.
Oh yea...I'm practicing it on all of my horses. My goal is not to just make these changes to my riding on Moon, but on all of the horses. Ed's style really speeds up the turn times. I might get outrun in a horse race (the straight-aways), but I see no reason to lose a race due to a slow or bad turn.
Moon on the other hand is quick and likes to anticipate. I find myself dealing with the same shoulder and bending issues as what I noticed on Moon last spring. Going to the left he wants to over-bend his neck and push his shoulder to the outside. Going to the right, he gives me his nose, but pushes his shoulder into the turn.
The left is easily fixed by a small lift of the left hand and a slight tightening of the outside rein. If he insists on continuing to push that shoulder to the outside, I just bump his ribs with the outside foot and make him bring everything back in line.
The right is giving me a bit of difficulty. I realized that I when I was lifting and pushing the rein across Moon's neck to ask his shoulder to move over, that I was also lifting and squeezing my right shoulder in. When I do that, Moon just drops his shoulder out from under my hand and he leans into the turn. So I have been working on keeping my shoulder out and level and lifting from the ribcage. It's a smidgeon frustrating because really...it just feels awkward as hell to me. I actually practice it in the evenings when I am sitting in the house. Hopefully it won't take too long for the correct movement to become rote.
The hip thing balanced out quickly enough...I can actually walk and run on the treadmill without falling off. LOL. I have to think less about how my right foot lands and no big surprise...most of my hip pain is gone.
I am working my upper body to attain muscle balance...there is about a 10 lb difference between my left side and my right. Of course the left is the one that is over-built, which is what was causing me so many shoulder and neck problems. Yoga is helping with my balance and Zumba is kicking my ass, but if I ever get it, I guess that means I will have attained coordination between my upper and lower body...Right?
While this was the worst buying experience I have had on Ebay...as it took the seller an entire month to get me my item...
It finally arrived...
I bought a dressage saddle. It's a Campbell for those of you are interested. Not super high quality, but nice, soft leather and it is in almost new condition. From what I could find, when these saddles sold new, they cost around $1,000. I picked this one up for under $200, so I don't think I can get hurt on it.
I, of course, immediately ran outside with it and started plopping it on the backs of different horses. The horses were less than impressed with the sight of such a strange contraption and were quite spooked about the idea of allowing that on their back. There was much rolling of the eyes and snorting. LOL
Sadly...I have NO IDEA if it actually fits anyone. I am woefully at a loss. Even though this is supposed to be a med/wide tree, it looks awfully narrow in the gullet to my 'western' eye. (Here we go with that problem again...)
I thought about taking pictures, but I think the best option is to simply get with the gal I am hoping to take lessons from and have her come over and we can go through the herd and she can show and tell me what I need to know.
I probably should have started lessons and got some actual working knowledge of the new-to-me discipline before splurging on a saddle, but... (shrugs)
As far as the dressage...it's more about learning the principles and correct techniques than it is about training a specific horse. I would like to start taking lessons once a week and will probably ride one of the instructor's lesson horses to start with. I just really want to have my own tack, so that as I learn, I can practice at home between lessons. So whoever the saddle fits (hopefully more than one)...will become the practice 'dummy'. (evil giggle)
That is just the tip of the iceberg this year though...
One of the biggest things I have been working with on Frosty, since the conversation I had with my farrier a couple of months ago, has been to achieve some quickness in his front-end.
(Photo courtesy of Fantastyk Voyager from when I was at the Ed Wright clinic in New Mexico)
Once Bub started explaining everything about where Frosty was breaking in his loin, things become really clear and I went back to working on getting the big, lazy buckskin to m.o.v.e. those front-feet.
It's a lot of work...for both me and Frosty.
Frosty is made to and naturally inclined to power off of his hind-end...the way we want all of them to. I wasn't doing anything with his head or face to shut him down in the front, he just wasn't lifting or extending his shoulders. Part of it is laziness...part of it is residual from the IR.
Frosty's IR was pretty severe by the time I figured out what was going on and he had apparently been dealing with it for some time. Undoing the damage to his muscles has taken longer to accomplish than I thought it would...but I am kind of stumbling through the weeds here as it is the first time I have knowingly dealt with the problem.
The fact is...Frosty gets a whole lot more sore than anything I have ever dealt with before. In Frosty's case, when he gets sore...he gets stooo-pid!!...as in really radical, followed by being very dull and then he blows up.
He is getting better about the blowing up thing. He only bucked once last summer. I don't think it's because he is getting 'over' the bucking thing...I think it's because I can read him a lot better and when I feel him start to get tense and resistance...I get off and ground-work the begezzus out of him.
We are getting there though. I spend a lot of time working on just getting extension in the front-end, at the walk. One of the things Bub told me was to get that, I needed to move my feet back and apply either a rolling heel pressure or bump to the sides about where the back cinch lays. Applying a cue in that spot makes the horse lift up his ribcage, use his abdominal muscles and allows the front-end to extend. The best way to get the extension is to alternate-when the left front leg is coming up, roll heel or bump the right side, when the right front leg is coming up, roll heel or bump the left side.
It sounds ridiculously easy...but it's a lot of work. My legs are continually working with every stride and Frosty certainly is not used to using his abs or the full length of his back. When we first started, Frosty could barely hold that position for more than a few strides at a time. So I would have to let him drop, shuffle along 'til he caught his breath and then ask again. The poor horse was breaking a sweat and huffing and puffing and we never got out of a walk.
It's working though...we have graduated to some long-trotting and are actually getting some true extension and his knee is getting flatter. His lope is much more forward as well, but we have a lot of work to do before he really gets true and balanced there.
It's finally starting to show up in his frame as well...
(Yea, we're talking about you, goof-ball.)
He is looking less like a pregnant mare about to foal and more like a mare that just foaled and is starting to pull up. ;-)
Frosty never looks as belly-liscious in photos as what you can see in real life...but if you look at where his belly is bulging in the photo above (the bulge is at the same level as the blue step-stool), you can see that he still has some 'sag'.
The other notable change is that he has once again filled out over his croup and does not look as long-backed as he did before. His pelvis is starting to tip forward again and his shoulder is starting to lay back. He's not discernibly downhill anymore either. Huh!...funny how proper movement and muscling can fix a lot of purported conformation faults. ;-) (Yea, yea...that's my jab at the failing-fugly conformation 'experts'...Sorry, I doubt I will ever stop poking fun at their delusional critiques.)
Okay...so I have neglected to talk about the horses for some time now, and I apologize for that...but...
We have been on a holding pattern around here. Because of the unusually dry and mild winter we have had...
Moon is still in pretty decent shape... It has taken quite a bit of time and observation, but I can say with confidence that I now believe that ALL of the issues I was having with Moon were...
*The continued loin pain
*The repeated stopping and almost acting like he had to urinate
*The raised, flagging, wringing tail
*The off stride
*The uncomfortableness associated with hauling
*The gate issues at the last few barrel races
*The nasty attitude and excessive rage toward the other horses
I'm fairly confident that if Moon had not jammed his back, I would have been much quicker to just assume it was an ulcer issue and switched him to a better ulcer product than what I was using. Buuuttt...the way it all played out...
Yea...life sucks like that sometimes.
Once I realized what the problem was, I switched Moon's feed and ordered some U-Guard. He is much improved.
Things will be handled much differently this coming year. I have lots of changes in mind.
Okay...sooooo....Anyone interested in a new blog???
This is someone I know in real life, who just started a new blog. She is a pro-level barrel racer and an absolute hoot. So stop on by and help me give her a little encouragement to keep on with her blog. If some of the stories she has told on FB were any indication of what life was like on the rodeo road...it'll be an interesting and often hilarious read!
Sheez...Back after a flying trip. The hubs and I waffled back and forth about going to one of his MC functions and at the last minute decided to go. I am so glad we did. The guys get a lot more chances to see each other throughout the year than us girls do, so it's waaayyyyy fun when we do get the chance to flock together.
In the middle of a gaggle of sisters...
My hubby on the far left with some of his brothers...
I know one thing...I'm not used to partying the night away anymore. I'm exhausted and so glad to be home.
OMG...Okay...I have to share this with you guys...cause it is too stinking funny not to...
Today I got on the treadmill and proceeded to work myself up to a pretty strong walk (about 4.3mph).
And then I about fell off the treadmill.
Giggling with embarrassment, I righted myself and took off walking again.
I paid a bit more attention to where my feet were landing and noticed that I kept fading off to the right.
Squaring myself up...I kept on striding...
Next thing I know, I about fall off the treadmill again.
For the next 20 minutes I had to actually c.o.n.c.e.n.t.r.a.t.e!!! on walking in a straight line.
Seriously? Walking is just one foot in front of the other right?
So...while I am laughing at myself because I actually have to focus...The thought that Moon and I have the same problem pops into my head...
Wait a minute here.
Moon and I have the same problem?
Moon has the most annoying habit of fading off to the right when we are riding out in the open.
I keep fading off to the right on the treadmill?
It's my right hip that keeps causing me pain and has to be repeatedly adjusted.
I struggle with my horses leaning into the first barrel, or in Spooks case...the 2nd and 3rd barrels...which CdnCowgirl noticed in some videos this summer!
I think NOT!!!!!
This is an interesting development, but WOW! I might actually be able to make several training 'issues' disappear without having to do a single bit of training on anyone except myself. This 'get fit' thing is already paying off!
I'm not really a resolutions kinda person. Pretty much, if I decide I want to do something...I just go ahead and do it. For better or for worse, for good or for evil...
This year however...I and my hubby and I joined the local gym!
We have very different goals...
The hubs wants to lose weight.
I want to gain a bit and get my muscle mass built back up.
Last year was the first year I have rode and worked as hard as I did and didn't gain the muscle and tone I usually do. It was really depressing. The first wicked sign that I am not as young as I once was.
This fall when my back started spasming again, I had the chiropractor work me over and work me over. I doubled up on my MSM and even picked up some all natural pain relievers. That finally helped break the spasms. Finally the chiropractor was able to get my neck and back to stay in, but he told me...my back muscles are seriously imbalanced and that is what keeps yanking me out of alignment. He recommended I start doing some weight-lifting and yoga.
Then the holidays started with Thanksgiving, then the NFR, then Christmas...well...we all know how that time flies by...
So here we are in January, finally getting around to jumping on the treadmill.
I know my cardio is crap. My back muscles are imbalanced and my legs are sure not what they used to be. Do I really need to mention that I ain't exactly sporting six-pack abs?...Oh good...cause...yeaaa...that was never a reality, even when I was in primo condition.
I can't complain about everything though...I still got my 'guns' and weight isn't an issue.
I gotta confess...Ya'll know my addiction to sky-high heels right?
Well since my legs (and hamstrings) have gone as soft as marshmallows and I got a bit of that 'c'-word stuff going on back there...I haven't been terribly comfortable in skirts above the knees. Seriously...Sky-high heels NEED a little leg showing. I'm not talking 6-inch heels and 3-inch skirts...but ya know...it would be nice to be able to show a little bit of a well-toned thigh again.
Hey...just because I am in my forty's doesn't mean I don't like to turn it out once in awhile. ;-) LOL
I am excited about some of the classes that are available as well...Zumba dance? I've heard about it...haven't actually seen anyone do it yet...but I'm game. There are also Yoga classes, Pilates classes, Step classes, Aerobics classes and (squeals)...Kickboxing!!
Okay...so besides vanity...there is a more basic reasons for getting into better physical condition...my back for one...but ultimately I think my lack of strength last year really hindered my competitive riding ability. I need to get my leg strength and core strength back up to par so I feel like I can really ride in a balanced manner.
Wish me (us) luck...I'm pretty sure sometime in the next few weeks I will be on here whining about how sore I am. ;-)
(And Yes...I will be getting back to the horsie-posts immediately...I haven't abandoned the ponies...just been figuring out a few things in my head)
I took advantage of the clearance sales this year and build myself some new Holiday decorations... 70-75% off of the original price sure goes a long way toward recreating some of those super expensive pre-mades... I've had this boot decoration for countless years and it sorely needed updating... I even broke with my preference for the traditional look and splurged on some fancy, non-traditional colored flowers... (Sorry, didn't realize that picture was so blurry until I posted it.)
I couldn't resist the beautiful purple of these flowers... Oh well...A little break from tradition never hurts once and awhile. Megan loves purple, so it fits.
LOL...I ended up with more Christmas decorations hanging around after Christmas than I bothered to put up before. Finished them just in time to tear everything down and pack it up 'til next season. ;-)