Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Didn't Wanna

I've been having a pig of a time to be honest. Very slowly getting depressed again and just generally struggling with life. Massive shout out to the significant other who has been a rock and a safe place and everything I could have needed. So what's been happening? A lot of stuff. I had a really cool job working at the vets for three months as a large animal technician


That's a very cute sedated highland calf I had just debudded so it wouldn't grow horns. It's been amazing and a huge and exciting learning curve, working with an absolutely incredible group of people and as a result I'm heading to vet school at the end of feb. Whether this means I sell China I'm not sure yet.

China has been an absolute donkey at times. He's been rushing his fences something wicked and I would have used probably twenty different bits and five different bridle set ups, trying all sorts of things. The problem isn't in the bridle though it's in his head and not much was holding him when he decided to go. It was frustrating that for months I just couldn't get through to him. I've never felt so stuck with a horse before. 


Sweaty dripping mess cross country schooling.  I took him to feilding show and he was an absolute nightmare. Leaping and reeding and just basically unrideable. I was definitely that girl at the show that probably shouldn't be there. The whole thing was pretty heart breaking. And completely demoralising. The very next day he jumped at a local event and did a beautiful double clear in The eighty cm class and just two cheap rails in the 90cm class. I didn't warm him up over fences at all though because that' starts the wind up.

 Then I went to have a lessons and he was mad again. Thank goodness my trainer whose been injured has been feeling good again because she was like give him to me to ride. And in literally two rides reset him into the horse I thought he was. He relaxed and dropped the rushing and started to jump in some shape again. And basically all it came down to was that I needed to keep more contact and more connection to help him feel secure and not give him the room to start winding up. I'm
Softening too much at the base and panicking him by unbalancing him instead of keeping the contact and a smooth following hand. 

In the mean time I've been having lots of adventures with him to make him a more versatile little guy and to get him travelling. I'm hoping this helps when we go back to a show because maybe it will all unravel there again.



Still he's
Worth persevering with, he's super nice. When he's nice, though when he's horrible he's super awful. Lesson tomorrow I'll try get some video 


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

just all the things

It's been a hell of a month to be honest, this is gonna be a long post. I have plugged away at the plan and have had some really interesting outcomes. Firstly the treatment for ulcers led to a much more relaxed horse. Still a goon to ride but heaps happier in the yards and paddock. Less flinchy and angry. So that was positive.

Under saddle the disputes are on going. He's lovely to flat school, but as soon as jumps come out he's a monster. You know how as you go through life you sort of develop rules you live by that suit yourself. And you're happy with those guidelines and ethically they work for you? Well China man has managed to destroy all of them. We have been on a reboot strategy and it started with one of my super solid never to be broken rules. Don't jump in draw reins. 

It works. That's the pig of it. My trainer was like just try it because you're at a point of having nothing to lose. They are run up inside his martingale to prevent hooking a front leg and they are long. Just an outside boundary to help explain to him there's another way. He throws his head up and runs and as soon as he does that, mentally he's gone. And it's the same trick he pulled on the track. So basically he hits the draw reins when he throws his head and it's easier for him to just soften and not rush. I honestly both hated it and was terrified but it made a huge change in his ride ability and the. His jump improved because he was keeping his relaxation. It's nothing over two foot and it's only at home under trainer supervision (very strict!) and honestly if it works to create a new dialogue and makes it easier for him to get that there's an easier way then we will keep at it. I know it's probably a bit of a shortcut but it really made a huge difference. Instead of fighting me he's fighting himself more. 

That monstrous looking contraption is a mikmar combination bit. It goes against my other rules of using simple bits (preferably snaffles) until competing at higher levels that require more finesse. This is his current show bridle and he can't work it out. It spreads the contact to different parts of his face and to be honest the second rein which is on the rope is mostly very very lose. I jumped him in the 90cm at foxton in it and he was like a very different very rideable horse. Though I literally can't use any leg on him in front of a fence and just sit there quiet as a little mouse. But he stayed soft and rideable and that in itself was an absolute miracle on the back of the rounds we have been having. It's not forever, it's just for now to help reset him.

But then because all of the blog horses get injured he managed to get tangled in his rope the morning of a show and threw himself not once but twice. So now he's a very sore hip and stifle China missing all the lovely local shows. Oh horse. Mentally he takes a huge toll out of me. Though someone told me all the Chinese Dragon offspring should just be shot so at least he's better than that. He's coming  right with rest. It's just we were finally making great progress and then splut here we are. If I really pushed he probably would have been ok for this weekend but it's not worth it. I have time he's only six. It was definitely huge to have him so rideable at a show and have him turn up and play the game. Horses. 

It's still paradise on a warm Spring evening. 





Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Scrap the plan, the plan sucks.

Actually maybe the plan doesn't suck. But this weekend I've learnt a lot about my horse. I think. Parts of the plan are good. I have in my car ulcer treatments to start tomorrow, though horse is currently sans two shoes, which should be sorted tomorrow. I spoke to my vet and while he's missing the classic signs of ulcers ( which is picky eating, though China would need his head removed to stop him eating) we discussed the ramped up cribbing, the girthiness and the just unhappy angriness I'm getting from him. It could be another source of pain also so if a week of treatment doesn't help well try a few days on bute. 

My trainer was saying a lot of the horses coming to the arena are pretty Spring mad, and I know from the trouble with magnesium staggers at work that the grass is very low on mag. But he is getting plenty of this. I might try a toxin binder but there's already one in his feed and I don't like to throw on too much in the way of additives.

The riding part of the plan sucks. I have a new riding plan. China was a shambles at the XC open day. Luckily, I was late and my group went out without me which left me free to play on my own. He wouldn't have coped with the hurry up and wait of group work. He started running really hard at fences so we went back to the trot.

This helped him to settle and the Dutch gag have me a little control but not too much. My sister was there which was good and she was like huh this is terrible ( this is a massive oversimplification) and she could see that the trust was gone between as. We were all out of sync. She was just like I think you just need to jump until he settles and get to the bottom of him. Which was a great plan. We started trotting in. We could then canter I'm as long as we were heading away from the gate and would still charge the fence down in that direction. So we went round and round over various up to two foot fences. He was cute at the tiny bank because he couldn't figure out how to get down. 

Defensive grabby elbows! Yuk! And we jumped and jumped and jumped. He was certainly super brave and looked at nothing including the little trakhener. Eventually we got to the point where he had settled enough to drop to the trot of his own accord in front of the fences he was so relaxed. I made no effort to place him, just let him bumble over if the distance was bad. I even walked over some fences at the start when he was so diabolical. 

Yep that's how sweaty he got. And that foamy sweat on the neck and shoulder is normally stress. I would have cantered and jumped nearly solidly for more than twenty minutes and it worked. We started to feel less disconnected and more in sync. I started to trust more and he started to soften and not run and sort of break the cycle. I'm not super sure what's led to all this but I can see some very small jumping classes that I trot in our future until we are a team again. I just hope I can get him back to where we were. It's pretty humiliating to spend the whole day jumping tiny fences on a clearly unhappy horse while everyone else is cruising around over bigger stuff. Until I get these basics right this is my life. He's got to learn that there is a soft easy way and I have to show him that with out trying to be forceful and overly bossy because it gives him something to argue against and he likes that. I need to work around the problem. Had a good jump school on Monday. Starting to see a little glimmer of hope.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Post pity party: progress plan

Right so I've had a little time now to process things and calm down. Definitely ordered the thoughts a little and backed away from the failure cliff edge. I know in every horse/rider relationship the honeymoon period ends and the real work on forming a partnerships starts. I still believe it takes more than a year to form a true partnership.

It's spring and the grass is bolting from the ground, full of sugar and protein and virtually no magnesium which makes for savagely hot spooky horses that are slightly unreasonable. Thus the first prong of the attack is to axe his calories. I've cut the oil, the muscle and shine and halved his low GI. I'd put him on a sugar free beer pulp as well but I have a whole drum of the sugared version and I'm poor. He's also getting double the magnesium and salt.

Prong two is try different things until you find something that works better in terms of the bitting situation. If I have more control I will be more relaxed and then he will be more relaxed. He is definitely feeding off of my tension. Creating a fun fun fun tension spiral. I get tight, he runs, I fight, he runs more.

I used draw reins for my pole work tonight. I know they tend to polarise horse people but to me they are just a tool I use to set the outer limits. It really helped too.


I have a neat video of the improvement too but of course blogger and my phone remain at media logger heads. 

I wouldn't usually use a martingale with draw reins but I had a little jump afterwards minus the draws of course. Which was a horribly mixed bag. At one point he went to run out and we ended up hitting a wing stand. Which was good because he's not sure how I made the wing get him but he wasn't interested in running out after that. He did settle eventually and do some lovely jumps. I'll get there.

The plan going forward is to have a play at the XC open day this weekend and just jump what I'm comfortable with and can do relaxed and then hack for the early part of the week before maybe having a jumping lesson. 

Exciting stuff. So tomorrow I finish work late so I'll just have a play with some bits and make sure I have something that will work XC.

Prong three is to treat for ulcers seeing as he has been quite obsessive about wind sucking lately, and quite sensitive through his girth. Worth a try anyway. So between these three things I think we can get it sorted.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Just shoot me now

I'm not sure where I've fucked up here but I really have. Though to be fair we can now canter through the poles and then go back and then trot them. I'm nt sure how I've got from jumping 3 ft courses easily back to trotting poles. And the more poles I trot the more scared j am to jump. Bollocksy bollocksy bollocks. I give up. Until tomorrow anyway.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Head to head

When I first got Chinaman he was blown away by how straight forward and easy he was to teach. He ate up new information and so quickly and happily adapted to being a sport horse. Sure he was on the forehand and he fell out but he was so trainable and I knew these things would come. He was a little lean and it's hard to build muscle on a lean horse so it's taken me a long time to get him up to weight and remuscling but he's really making progress.

Not the best picture I have managed to hide the ribs quite well.

He got poorer with more work and I really struggled to get weight on and hold it. Now he's up to weight he's holding really well, and mostly it's due to feeding Dunstan muscle and shine which is an incredible product.

Definitely a little more booty and a lot more bloom in the coat. But now he's looking and feeling stronger, he's such a dick. He just knows every bloody thing and I have very nicely been training him and being slow and soft. The last few weeks I have been so stuck in a flatwork rut. Honestly, I have put schooling on a lot of young horses. I can ride a little and have never felt so much like I was getting no where. 

He's a massive faker. He's quick to drop at the poll but he's still tight in his back and base of his neck. When he softens his back, he feels so good underneath me. I can hardly stay with his trot it's so lofty. But I have to make sure I get him all the way relaxed.

See I've been practising for ages!

Connie was amazing to ride. So soft and adjustable. So well schooled! So I know I can produce a horse. So why am I so stuck with this one so easy, so trainable horse. I have to say I have left a gaping hole in his training, in seeking softness and relaxation, I have sort of failed on training the brakes. Which hasn't been such an issue because he was easy, but now he's testing me some it's reared its big ugly head. 

As a rider I will always reward the try. I don't mind if it's minuscule, but the smallest soften, sideways step or half halt will get a soften. Obviously as you go on you expect a little more and now I do ask a lot more of China. I want him to stay relaxed and soft at all three gaits, to respond to a half halt, travel straight in his body and start shifting more weight onto his hindquarters. It's fair for his level of training. If he Gets unbalanced that's ok, and I would rarely ride for more than twenty minutes. 

This week has been a debacle though. He's a lot weaker to the left which is understandable because he has an old SI. Injury on that side so it's harder for him to load the right hind. And all horses tend to be one sided. So the walk and trot work was pretty good and I thought I'd just work on the left canter and call it quits for the day because it was getting dark. 

Then I find that whenever I half halt, or steady him, or rebalance, or simply change pace within the gait, the reaction I got was a crossed jaw, head thrown up and him bolting with a locked neck. Awesome. Which is of course not ok. So we ended up having some head to heads, times where I circled him off the straights quite hard, and circled until he stepped under and unlocked his jaw, and also had to pull him to a halt a few times. I really really struggled not to lose it and I made sure to reward the try every time even if it was less than I wanted. It was so frustrating when I really felt like he was past this level of disobedience. Then of course it gets harder because he starts to get tired as well, but eventually he gave me two lovely soft circles and stayed soft and in the bridle down the long side without taking off and I called it a day. It was well dark by this time and he had gotten worked a lot harder than expected. 

The next day I knew I was going to have go back over it, but I started with the right canter after I warmed up because it's so much easier for him. He bucked his first ten transitions and was as bad as  the day before when I worked on his weaker rein. I really really hate it when I horse just absolutely blows through the bridle, at least try to steady. Even if you break to a trot try show some obedience.  So we had the same argument on a different tein with plenty of flailing and falling out the shoulder and rugged as half halts. Te pressure being lifted until I got the right response. Finally got him working and listening, staying soft in the circles and the long sides and coming back to me after a little lengthen. Picked up the left canter and he was really good so I was able to stay really soft on him and I called it a night. Again it was a long ride and we were both knackered. 

I messaged my trainer in absolute despair. And she was pretty encouraging.

And she's so right he does have to respect me. I've been really soft on him but he needs to come to the party a bit more and not throw his toys and run when it gets a bit hard or doesn't go his way. He just has to try. 

The third night I turned up to do battle and he was gorgeous. Stunning leg yields, beautifully over the back and cantered quietly and round on both reins with good response to the half halt at the end of the lengthen down the long side. So I did ten minutes max and then took him for a hack an have myself a good pep talk. I'm ok I still got this, I'm not going to ruin him.

Sunday, September 11, 2016


So I am struggling a little with the change to working 8-5 because I used to work 5-11 and then 2-5 with maybe some day work if something came up which left the middle of the day for ponies. Now harder to do ponies because I'm tired at the end of the day. Apparently naps are frowned upon and naps were a staple of my life. 

Anyway Wednesday I catch my horse to get a ride in before the coming polar blast and he's lame walking in. So I trot him to confirm and yea he's hella lame in the off hind. And then I felt like a jerk because I saw his shoe was twisted and the quarter clip embedded in his sole. Good one Bex. 

I took the shoe off with a hammer and chisel and then wrapped the foot. And even managed to get a farrier sorted for the next day to put the shoe back on. Not a lot of foot left though, so if he loses it again I'm a bit screwed. Then the weather deteriorated into icy winds, rain and hail and it was suddenly easy to give him a few days off. The weather was good all weekend though but I wanted to give him more time off so I rode one of my trainers horses.

He was very lazy but is a really lovely boy. It's taken over a year to undo the damage caused by earlier owners but he's become such a sweet forgiving horse as long as you don't mind using a lot of leg. 

Show next weekend I was wanting to go over to for a day so fingers crossed China is ok when I work him tomorrow night. Horses.