Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Busy Day

Today I'm packing for a holiday to Australia as well as getting both my horses worked, and doing some farmwork, despite it being my weekend off. But you get some pictures ok.

As you can see it was a stunning day for tis time of year. And extremely mild.

This is Kims favourite shep called Rustle. Her name is Rustle because Mum picked her up on the side of the road in a snow storm so we tease her about being a sheep rustler.

First calf of the year, only 350 to go! This little ducky is a couple of weeks early and would be lucky to be as high as my knee.

This is me blatting off in the tractor to go feed the cows.

Connie waiting to be ridden. She is tied to our beloved Truckie. We had previously ridden Kate and Rascal and had an excellent ride around the roads, while Connie went up to road the other way and we had a ride over the hills on our run-off.

This little chap is a NZ native bird called a fantail. They fan their tails and are possibly the cutest birds ever. They would be a bit smaller than a sparrow. They often follow the horses because of the bugs the horses stir up as they walk. According to Maori legend if one flies into your house you will have a death in the family.

A better post to come on seeing your strides, a situation in which i should take my own advice more haha!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Preparing for a Show

I guess the first thing I do when preparing for a show is to write lists. I do a list of everything I will feed for me under different headings. Under RIDER I put down everything I will need. when I am sitting on my horse and when I am between classes. This includes the different types of spurs I will take. Then each horse that I am taking will have a heading under it's name. This is all the equipment that they will personally need while they are been ridden. Then I have the headings STABLING which has everything I need for the all of horses while they are in their yards. So haynets, 3xbandages and wraps, the different covers they will need, water and feed bins. The final heading is FEED and this is just the feed they need, grain, hay and supplements.

Then I have to pack it up. The process is simplified by having lots of bags and bins. I have three big bins from the warehouse that all my riding gear gets thrown in- bits, whips, spurs, girths, boots, bridles, breastplates, stud kit. The saddles go on the saddle racks and things like my showjacket and shirts stay in the truck year round anyway. I find the plastic bags that synthetic winter rugs come in are awesome for saddle blankets, bandages and wraps and show rugs. The actual rugs they will wear in their covers in their yards, (Which reminds me that I need to buy a set of woollen rugs) just go into the chest bins of the truck as do the sacks of feed and they hay either goes into a chest bin or is stacked againts the far wall if we have three or less horses on.

The warehouse bins with equipment go into the living quarters of the truck, and sleeping stuff and my bags of clothes go into the luton of the truck. I have to say having a truck has really simplified this process. When we had the car and float we would end up with gear scattered everywhere as we always seemed to need the one item underneath everything else. I still do forget things thats a given, but the bins and bags mean everything is there just to be picked up and taken to shows.

It is always helpful to be nice to people in case you need to borrow something off them haha!I also like to take lots of extras. I generally take most of my bits because you never know when you are going to need to change it and if you don't have it with you, then you have to buy it and thats always cost proibitive. also important, have your horses identification papers, there are fines involved. Also, you must have the markings page of your horses registration filled out before they will re-register it for the next year, so you only have one years grace. And finally, this year they are bringing in a numbering system so that at all times every horse on the ground has to be wearing this number that it will be assigned at each show. So now I have to buy three sets of number holders and numbers but nevermind eh. Both the numbers and the papers are probably the sort of things to stay in a cupboard in Truckie for most of the season anyway.

so basically I guess you could say my system involves taking every piece of riding equipment I have and storing it in the truck lol! Also take spares!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Conditioning for Shows.

Walk and Talk

Ooh I have questions to answer so look out, it's coming at you. The first one was basically how do I get my horses fit for shows so we can discuss this today. I don't really have a fitness regime. I have tried to implement them before but I just like to ride so they end up going by the wayside. Luckily for me, I actually enjoy all parts of horse riding, so I don't mind schooling, like I know some people do. In fact I really enjoy schooling, I find the progress very satisfying.

Now I guess I will use the horses I have to start the season with, as sort of examples for this. I wont mention Rascal because that's Kim's responsibility, but I imagine she will have a long slow build-up as she had so long off last year and she is quite stiff and unbalanced from being lame for so long. We can start with Kate. Now Kate being a TB, is naturally more fit than any of the others and her fitness will improve very quickly, compared to them. So this time of year with the ground being a bog, we tend to do lots of road work and track work around the farm. We also go over the paddocks because going over once doesn't do much damage really compared to going in circles. This is a great way to start your fitness regime, providing your horse is reliable enough to go out even though he is a bit fresh.

Ideally, as the weather improves and the ground conditions do, and when I get off my butt and get the truck back on the road I will travel to all weather surfaces. So basically I start with lots of hacking out, which is predominantly walking with some trotting and (rare) cantering. Already with the little work she has had, Kate is far more toned than she was when she arrived. Ok so anyway, I like to do lots of schooling, at least a couple of days a week. Because Showjumping tends to be more explosive but shortlived efforts it's important to create carrying power muscles, you need more strength than you do endurance. Schooling is one way to achieve this.

Your strategy going into the arena has to take into account the fitness of the horse. Kate who doesn't have the schooling I like is just getting started, so it's predominantly walk work to teach her what I mean and trot work to build strength. Lots of trot work, nice and round and soft is great for fitness, providing the horse is carrying itself and is forward. Once Kate understands what I'm asking for, I will increase the difficulty- add the canter, changes of pace within the gait, start added in more lateral work, shoulder-ins etc. So with her as she gets fitter the work she is asked to do Will naturally progress. It's fairly easy to tell when your horse isn't fit enough for what you are asking because it will feel awful. The quality of the work you do is important to build the correct muscles, and to get genuine fitness improvements. Collected work is very very taxing and it's important to ask for little bits at a time once you get to collection work. take lots of breaks and when the quality of the work you are getting starts to drop, it's usually time to stop. By quality, I mean you are losing some jump in your canter or your horse is needing more help to stay soft and engaged.

-As an aside- I would specifically mention hillwork but as everywhere I go around here has a hill, it's sort of a given. Hillwork though is powerfully good exercise. I like to trot up because that creates roundness and slow cantering is also really good. Then it's always nice to have a gallop. Galloping is important for cardiovascular fitness, but for a horse like Kate is probably only necessary once very couple of weeks. I also like to do laps when the grounds good. Find a big undulating paddock and do a couple walk, then some trot, and a few canter. The specific numbers of how many laps, depends on the horses fitness. It's quite nice to do this with a friend and have a bit of a walk and talk.

I don't tend to jump a lot. Horses that know how to jump don't need a lot of jumping. I feel like a horse has a finite number of jumps in them and you don't want to waste them. For the same reason I try, where possible, to walk down hills. That being said, once the ground improves I will probably jump Kate one a week coming into the season to get to know her because she is new. Generally, once the season starts unless an issue arises, I don't jump between shows.

Now if you consider Connie who reverts to the minimum of fitness with any work off the strategy will be somewhat different, especially as this year I want to get Connie eventing fit to see if I can get more out of her. By eventing fit I guess I mean I want her to be really hard and fit beyond what is needed. However, I also believe that horses should be slightly fitter than their job requires because we want them to enjoy their work and to find it easy. If they are struggling to do their jobs, you can create quitters.

So for Connie, I plan to do probably twice the hillwork I will do on Kate and she, once fit enough, will probably be galloped or fast cantered on hills once a week. The basics that I'm putting on Kate now, Connie already has, even this unfit I put leg on and move her body over and she softens into the bridle and lifts her back. So I will do more hacking/outside work to get her fitter before I start schooling her. Kates fitness will increase as the difficulty of her schooling increases, whereas Connies fitness will need to reach a certain point before we start schooling on her. Especially because Connie was starting on collection when she got turned out and this takes a lot out of her.

I may jump her once or twice before the season starts just to see what I have got. Still while we are out hacking I will ask her to be round when we do trot work to start developing these muscles. You can do an awful lot of schooling out hacking, with leg yields and changes of pace between gaits and lots of transitions etc. You don't neccessarily have to slack off, though it nice just to go out and have a nice loose relaxed walk.

I don't neccessarily target their fitness to a certain competition, I just aim to have them at a level where they are able to do twenty minutes of canter work really easily, as the season starts. Once they start competing they will get even fitter and I don't want to take too much out of them before it all kicks off. And we will be starting easy anyway, Connie will surely start back at 90cm and with Kate who knows, depends how brave I feel I guess.

I think it's also good to say here that I always try to ride the day before a show. Sometimes a hack, or a light schooling session, just something to take the edge off so they aren't bouncing around because they have just had a day off. Stops them being so spooky also. It's especially good I feel if you can do a light schooling session in the warm-up at the show, it just makes life easier to see what bothers them there (if anything) before you add in 10 other horses.

Monday, July 20, 2009

I'm sure you guys are getting thoroughly bored about reading about nothing. But, truly not a lot has been happening. If you want me to write a blog about anything specific please feel free to ask. Happily, we have had some beautiful days lately and I have managed to get some riding in. Also, luckily for me (but not for Kim) Rascal is still lame so both Connie and Kate have been getting worked.

I think for the first ride I just cruised around the farm on Kate and happened to find a loose cow that I had to gallop past or otherwise end up driving her all the way home. Silly Cow had crossed the drain. Kate does quite enjoy herself some galloping. no I lie that was the second ride, the first one Kim and I took Connie and Kate out around the farm and had a good ride. It's the first proper ride Kim has had on Connie and she said lots of nice things about her so I was pleased. I love how retentive Connie is. Obviously she isn't very fit or strong but you put leg on her and she just softens on the bit and really starts to swing that back. I love that. She is so far ahead of any of the other horses now that Fred is gone. Fred was actually really really well schooled if you could break through his bullshit.

So anyway, in a fit of desperation to bring Kate's schooling up to where I want it, I found a tiny piece of ground that wasn't sopping wet. It was in the quarry. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, it was flat rock with a layer of dirt on the top and was an oval maybe 20m by 30m. Anyway, as I was only planning to walk it wasn't a big deal. Holy cow, Kate was not convinced she wanted any part6 in this. she was so busy ogling other things. But eventually i got through to her and she figured out that soft means a nice release on the inside rein and an easing of the inside leg. She is pretty quick, she even gave me a lovely soft trot coming home from the quarry.

The next day Kim and I went on an epic adventure ride through the hills around our farm. It wouldn't really have been epic apart from the fact that Connie was a tool. I rode her and for future reference when I take her out on the hills I'm putting her in the frenchlink. She is mostly really good in the rubber straight bar but every so often she just blows through the bit. She also cracks me up because she seems so surprised when we climb a hill and suddenly there is a new horizon.

We started with a nice road ride and then in the first paddock there was a drain. admittedly not a pretty entrance but Connie is good with water. Or not such that it was. But we learned some things. I learned that when you use the crop Connie gets dog quick, but if you growl her with your voice she is more inclined to take part. What was funny is that after going down the bank she stepped through the water no issues, it was all a big put on on her behalf she wasn't remotely worried.

So we played in the creek for a bit and then we went walking up the creek for a bit when connie decided to bail. It would have been nice to have more stop at this point but I didn't. Stupid mare leaps up onto the bank (This was a lot harder than what we were doing- just meandering up the creek. Of course with all the rain the bank collapses under her hindlegs and she is laying down in front with her hindlegs hanging off of the bank. I swear I have never been in a situation like this before. It was really bizarre. she sort of lay there for a bit and then I urged her forward and she climbed out. She seemed fine after we checked her out but was careful to do a decent jump back over the creek.

Still after all those dramaz she set off back down the creek happy as and stopped to have an epic splash. Now I'm a chicken rider in the open now, and now my sister is the bold one it used to be the other way around, so we ended up going out of our way to cross a culvert over a dam- eep steep!, pas some pigs. One of them bit something and it cracked and Connies legs nearly collapsed but she was pretty good for never having seen a pig before. No about this time the yak like mare (Need to get my clipper blades sharpened) was starting to get a little tired. We went down this hill and there was this tiny little stream crossing the track- it was like a foot. She balked and I hit her. She should go forward right. Yea that didn't thrill her she leapt up onto the hill side, and kinda ran sideways along the hill before I could turn her back down the hill. Like doing a skate bowl but on a horse. Then when turned around she went straight across it like it wasn't there. She was, however, very good at doing gates for me even if at one point I got an insanely bad cramp in my shoulder and had to get off.

We had one climb left before we were able to descend down back towards home and Connie just roared up the first part (Yea i would have preferred the frenchlink here too, I thought she would be tired by now) She even passed Kate which is a big shock, Kate being bigger and fitter and faster. It didn't last though, I got really 20 strides max of the fast canter, 10 of the slow, 2 of the trot and when Kim stopped at the top to see where I was we were meandering our way very slowly to the top. So a hilarious ride, but rather bumpy. Connie seems fine after all her adventures though.

Last ride I have had I schooled Kate in the house paddock which was thankfully dry enough for walk/trot/little bit of canter (was a bit slippery) and
I was really impressed with how much she had retained from the quarry ride. She is really going to be quite quick to bring up to sped. We were just cruising around at the trot changing direction and so forth and she was keeping the softness nicely. Got strong on the straights but nothing that can't be fixed. So I was over the moon. I must say it's actually easier schooling older horses.

And today? Well today it's raining again :)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

An upcoming clinic

Chris Chugg on Vivant

This combination came to NZ, from Australia, to ride in the National Showjumping championships and the Horse of the Year Show. Vivant is an incredible horse and everyone was drooling over him. Anyway, Tielcey park is offering a clinic with Chris Chugg and after lots of hemming and hawing I decided to go in it. Unfortunately the time wasted meant that there was only places left on the friday. One in the 90cm-1m and the other in the 1m-1.10m. I went for the second group and I'll take Kate and tyhat may be a mistake as I have yet to jump her, but I figure if I can jump some big oxers before I go it wont matter that I haven't jumped her at all. It's not until the last weekend of August.

In other interesting news I rode her in the happy mouth three ring gag tonight, just to see how she would go in it. It's unlikely I will be able to show her in a snaffle and this was the next option because it will help with the way she bears down on the bit and leans. Anyway, she seemed much happier and quieter with the bit in the hapopy mouth (It was only on the snaffle ring). so thats nice. Once again the softer bit makes for an easier to hold horse. I have been to chicken to go softer because I thought I wouldn't hold her, even though I know softer is better lol. Anyway, she reaches for the contact in the happy mouth and so that is just excellent. Time to get to work, I only have 7 weeks until clinic time.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Honest Scrap Award.

A big thanks to Grey Horse Matters for giving me the honest scrap award.

And now I have to list 10 honest things about myself. Jeebers.

1. One of my favourite egg based meals I learned how to cook on a cartoon about cat chefs.

2. I have had a single riding lesson since January and I'm not really missing them. But then I'm not getting much riding done either.

3. Riding is my sanity; Currently, I'm going nuts with the want to jump things lol.

4. I have ridden my whole life, but it's only now at 24 that I'm starting to develop a real system that makes sense rather than just riding off of instinct. I think it's a good system.

5. I'm intrinsically a coward. Everyone else I know has travelled overseas, but I am too scared to go on a proper OE. I say it's because of the horses, but ultimately I'm too chicken.

6. I wish I had more self-esteem, and I can't figure out why it's not higher when I had an awesome up-bringing and have incredible friends etc etc.

7. I get incredibly frustrated when people assume I'm an idiot because I'm female. It happens alot when I deal with people coming in to help with various things on the farm.

8. Nearly there! I'm an easy person to get along with but a difficult person to get to know properly.

9. I'm really ambitious, every day the desire to jump big fences burns in me.

10. More than anything else, I enjoy the animal health aspects of working on the farm and that's why I'm considering going back to school to study Vet.

The rules are: Link back to the blog that gave you the award.
Post 10 honest things about you
Pass the award on to 10 other bloggers.

Ok so then I'm unlikely to get 10 other bloggers but we will see how I go:

Howies Weight Loss blog

Rehabbing An Urban Transplant

Now THATS a Trot

Retraining as an Adult Event Rider

Green Slobber on my Shirt

The Stablehand


Friday, July 3, 2009

Rare New Zealand Yak

Connie is a fair weather pony. She doesn't like it when it's cold. So every winter she gets insanely hairy. It's hard to believe she is 50% TB. Another ride just cruising around the farm. It's a great place to work on forward which she does struggle with she loves to fall behind the leg. At one point cantering up a hill I was like damn she is really taking me, awesome. But it turned out she was only running away, because she was all worked up and snorted when we pulled up. Silly pony.

I'm so pleased that this winter I have managed to hold her condition rather than her exploding into a massive butter ball of lard. She is the most economical horse ever in terms of converting food to fat. Three days off work and she goes on to at least one hole lower on her girth.

There is a stratergy with Connie this year to really see what we have. She was a good girl last season, she understands the job and now it's time to get into some real work. Firstly, I need to make her more forward and hotter. She is insanely laid back which is great for cruising around, but it means I'm always on her case to get her round the courses while maintaining a canter and I want her to hold it for herself.

The next is to get her jumping across more so we need to do lots of low wide oxers to teach her to stretch over the fences rather than pop up and down over them. Finally, I need to get her flat work really good. I'm talking strong adjustable soft canter, and starting to work on real collection. And perhaps in schooling we will jump some bigger fences and see what we have. She has free jumped over 1.20m no worries but so loses some of her impulsion under saddle. No doubt when she is super fit she is going to be a more difficult ride, but with work i shouldn't be too bad, providing she doesn't throw too many wobblies.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Marching in spot.

Soo much rain. It's decidedly average. Today I had my first ride in 10 days. I'm glad I'm not doing clinics this winter because no way would anything be fit enough with the weather we are having. Kim rode Kate and I rode Connie. Connie is such a pony. I loves her. I just cruise back up from the paddock, bareback with a halter and rope and she is totally sweet with it. I'm actually pretty proud because I have done all her training from the time she was born, and I didn't do a terrible job, though with her nature it wasn't that hard.

Rascal has been brewing the abcess from hell. Poor sausage has been sore for days, but just today she is not really weight bearing and has some swelling up her leg. The abcess itself is located on her inside heel bulb, so she is getting epsom salts soaks, and poultices, and antibiotics. She is in one of the house paddocks because it is the least muddy, though neither her or Kate are that happy about being seperated.

So basically, there is no news. I hope to soon do something worth blogging about. I need to cobble together a few informational posts at some stage. For all that my riding doesn't reflect it, I have managed to absorb a fair bit of knowledge and as soon as i learn to trust what I know and how i ride we will be golden again. Kate certainly helps. She likes me better then Kim. Kim made her really antsy. She is a hard horse. She is sort of spooky but it's hard to know how to best ride her spooks. If Connie is worred, pick up some more contact and wrap your legs on and go, while if you do that to Kate she gets more worried. I think she is a long rein past scary things kind of a girl.

So also, In better news, I have started to shift some weight. Kim is a real slave driver. I haven't lost much weight as such but I'm definitely changing where the weight is distributed. Which is great, my eneergy levels are greatly improved, though I have to say I'm horrified at how unfit I was. Jeebers.