Thursday, January 31, 2013

From Meh to Yay

Yesterday was meh.  The day started out pretty well.  Dawn and I had a nice ride in the early morning -  after her upset the day before, she was mellow and relaxed.  We did some very nice trot work, and also some canter - she's having difficulty holding the right lead and tends to want to come back to trot.  I suspect her left hind may be developing some arthritis - she'll be 16 this summer so that wouldn't be surprising.

But my rides in the afternoon yesterday weren't the greatest.  Red was anxious and bracing, and fussing about transitions from walk to trot.  He may have been a bit sore since he'd had a day off - he probably should do something almost every day, even if only some vigorous walking, because of his arthritis.  We ended up working for a while, and he did some good work but our connection was lacking.  Pie was a bit sluggish and his lack of bend was back.  We worked for a while at trot and canter, but the softness and connection wasn't really there.

All of this, of course, was because I wasn't riding well.  I was distracted - this happens to me sometimes when there's a lot of activity in the ring.  So I expect I wasn't mentally present the whole time to my horses, and they could feel the gaps in my direction and leadership.  And I was looking down at my horses' heads, particularly with Red, and the result of this was the energy was going down.  I was also pushing and shoving at Red, which made him even more resistant - there was even some head shaking.  Red's fussing and Pie's slowness and lack of bend were both caused by my bad riding.

I told them both they were very good horses for putting up with me.  As Scarlett said, tomorrow is another day.  Meh . . .

Today was much better.  It was beastly cold - the high was about 18F with wind chills hovering around zero all day.  I went in the late morning to check on Dawn, and sure enough there she was huddled by the gate.  I brought her in and she seemed very happy in her stall the rest of the day, even though she was alone in our end of the barn.  Pie and Red were perfectly happy outside.

My objective today was to be there - to be present for my horses.  All three horses got good groomings, and Dawn and Pie got the day off - one of my hips is sore from yesterday, because of all that bad riding and pushing I had done.

Red and I ended up having an excellent ride today.  It was very cold in the arena - about 22F.   I made sure to do a thorough 15-minute walk warm up, including some lateral work.  He was very with me, even when he startle/scooted when an outside door opened making a horrible scraping sound.  I worked on keeping my eyes up, posture open, and not pushing.  I asked for trot by bringing up the energy only, making sure he was soft but not keeping a tight contact - no leg aids or pushing with my seat.  I got a few steps of canter before he trotted, but I just brought him right back to walk and we tried again.  No problem - beautiful transitions and no bracing or resistance.  His trot work was very good - he was a bit stiff but worked out of it.  I didn't push him, but let him trot with the degree of forward he was comfortable with.  As he warmed up, his trot got better and better.  We did a number of quick walk/trot/walk/trot transitions - quick because we only spent a few strides in each gait - and he was great.  Also, after his trot loosened up, his walk was bigger and with more swing than it's had in a while.

I told him what a wonderful horse he was and put him away.  Meh to yay!  (Oh, and there were 58 rides in January - not too bad for our part of the world in January.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Getting to Good

Dawn and I had a challenging work session today, but we made it through to good.  It was a good example to me of how important patience, persistence and having a clear, specific objective in mind makes a difference to getting to good.

I brought her in from the pasture - wading through the mud - and as I started out towards her - holding onto the fence to keep from falling in the mud - she headed for the water tank to take a drink.  I always take her for a drink before I bring her in, and I guess today she decided to take care of that part herself.

We went inside, I rinsed her legs off - she was muddy to the knees and hocks - and we groomed and saddled up.  I led her into the arena - all the doors were open due to the very warm weather - and we discovered that a horse in a paddock next to the barn, and visible from the arena, was running, bucking and sliding like a maniac, with his owner chasing him around and trying to catch him - this was a horse who had just come off stall rest after surgery for a fractured splint bone and wasn't supposed to be running like that.  Dawn finds other horses being upset, or acting crazed, very disturbing.  So she started to have a meltdown.  She did stay aware of me - she didn't mow me down, or rear, or bolt - all things she used to do in the past - but was circling me, very upset, blowing and with huge eyes.

We did a strategic retreat.  I put her in her stall to chill and eat hay for a while while I did some chores.  She called to me with her anxious whinney from time to time, but kept eating hay.  A while later, we returned to the ring - she was still worried and upset - and we did some lungeing.   She was still worried and not very happy about having to lunge.  My objective was simple and very specific - I wanted her to to do canter departures from trot nicely on my voice command, and canter nicely until I asked her to stop, on both leads, without bucking or kicking out.  I wasn't interested in her running in circles or tiring her out  - I just wanted to get the connection back. Easier said than done . . .

It took a while to get there.  Dawn is a very emotional horse - a diva if you will - she's incredibly responsive and cares a lot about whether she's connected to you, but she can be very reactive.  I've learned that horse express their emotions - anger, frustration, fear, anxiety and pain - through their bodies - there's a direct and immediate connection - it's not at all a case of "my horse is out to get me" at all - horses don't plan or scheme - but rather "I'm upset/worried/scared/anxious about x, so I'm acting up by throwing my body around".

Dealing with Dawn's tendency to get emotional under stress has been a big challenge for me - she can be plenty scary/big when she's upset - it's important to keep myself safe, and her moves can be big, but if I can be patient, quiet and calm but also persistent, we get to good.

Today it took a while to get there - there was a lot of bucking and kicking out towards me - I made sure the circles were large enough to ensure my safety - she was expressing her anxiety at the upset she'd experienced and her frustration with me, and she kept stopping and turning in to express her uncertainty.  But I just quietly kept asking for what I wanted and ignoring the rest.  And before too long, we had nice quiet canter departures on my voice command in each direction.  You could almost hear her sigh and let go of the anxiety.  I had her canter only a few strides after a good, quiet departure, then asked her to stop, which she was glad to do.

And we were at good.  I mounted up, and we had a good short walk/trot ride with lots of really nice forward and relaxation - there was lots of loose rein trotting where she was stretching down.  The security of feeling better again, and sure of our connection again, seemed to make a big difference to her.

Dawn has been a real challenge for me, but I'm very fortunate to have her - she's make a huge difference to my horsemanship.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Fourth Blog Anniversary, and Nose Rests Are a Good Sign

It's hard to believe that today is the fourth anniversary of when I started this blog.  Lots of posts since then, and a huge number of changes in my horse life and riding.  The death of my old horse Noble, retiring several horses to Tennessee, learning to work with Dawn, and finding two new horses - Pie and Red - and dealing with various medical and training issues - a lot has happened.  My very bad fall in June of 2011, and having to deal with that and really change how I rode, was a real turning point, leading to some big changes and improvements in me that my horses have benefitted from.  I'm riding every chance I get, and have set up my life to make that possible.  Riding, and improving my riding and what I have to offer to my horses, is a real priority now.  I'm almost 60, and although I won't be able to ride forever, I intend to ride every time I can between now and whenever that is - every ride is precious.

* * * * * *
Back to regular horse news - it was a wonderful three-horse day - any day I can ride and have fun with my horses is a good day.  And today it was like I was at a private barn, all my own - all three rides I had the arena to myself, and was the only person to ride in it by the time I was done - the arena is dragged twice a day.

Dawn and I had an excellent ride this morning.  Before the ride, she did a lot of nose resting while I was grooming.  She would press her nose into my chest while I stroked her face and neck.  It was a very good sign - she was feeling connected with me - my connection with her comes and goes although she always tries hard in our rides.  I love it when she does nose resting - you can't ask her to do it, she has to offer it to you - I always feel honored by her wanting that closeness.  Our ride couldn't have been better - she was very forward but responsive in all three gaits and bending well.  Her softness was very good, although she did fuss with her head from time to time - there may be some new dental issues brewing.

Red has been working very well, and today was no exception.  We did a thorough 15-minute walk warm up, then moved to trot.  He fusses a bit on the first upwards transition, so we worked on reducing his anxiety and bracing with some circles, only going to trot when he was relaxed.  We did almost 20 minutes of trotting today and most of it was very good - lots of impulsion.  There were a few moments where he was stiff, but he was willing to work.  We also did some canter on both leads, and ended up with some very nice walk/trot/walk transitions and some relaxed rein trotting.

Pie has been doing really good work.  Yesterday, we did a session with a lot of forward trot work.  The weather outside yesterday was very strange - rain, sleet and snow.  At one point yesterday, it started to heavily sleet - it sounding in the indoor as if it were hailing.  Pie was considerably alarmed, so I dismounted and stood with him for a few minutes, reassuring him until he relaxed and we went back to work.  Some snow had also blown in under one of the arena doors, and at first he was a bit concerned about that, but we just kept working closer to the worry spot and soon he was fine.

Today Pie and I had an even better ride - lots of forward trot with good impulsion and bend, and a substantial amount of canter work.  The arena doors were open, since it was unusually warm today, and Pie was nervous at one end but we just kept on working and he settled very well.  His bending and softness at the canter continue to improve, and we ended with some very nice repeated trot/canter/trot work on both leads - his transitions continue to improve.

All three horses were told many times how good they were, both verbally and with stroking.  Every one is tucked back in stalls and we're all feeling happy about things.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pie Says He's Fixed My Right Bend

Pie continued to work with me yesteday on fixing my right bend, and I expect he was pretty satisfied with the progress I made - he must have been mighty frustrated/annoyed with me.  The ride before that he worked with me on my right bend at walk and trot.  My job, he told me, was to keep my eyes up - way up - which meant my chin and head were up and my posture much improved with my shoulders and legs open and not blocking.  No blocking/pushing with leg or pulling/fussing with my hands.  We were to ride to where I was looking, with forward, and in corners and bends, all I was supposed to do was subtly "ride to the outside" as I described in my last post.

We did this work again yesterday, starting in walk and trot.  Pie's gaits were very forward and he had great impulsion since his front end wasn't blocked.  Then the true test - canter.  Right lead canter has been a real struggle for us - lots of falling in, inversion of head and neck and wrong bend by Pie, and lots of fussing, pushing and pulling by me.  Very ugly.

Yesterday our canter work was just about perfect - on both leads - the right lead was just as wonderful as the left lead.  Pie was forward but not rushing, maintained perfect bend in both directions, including on circles and deep into the corners, and was able to offer quite a bit of softness on a very nice soft contact.  We did a fair number of wonderful canter laps in both directions, then I stopped him, got off and put him away, even though we'd only worked for about 20 minutes.

You could just about see him saying "I told you so. . ."  Now, if we ever start having trouble with our bend again, I'll know where the problem is - me - funny how that's usually the case if I'm having an issue with one of my horses . . .

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Repeat: I Will Not Look at My Horse's Head . . .

It was still very cold today, with a wind chill of -10F this morning and a high temperature in the teens.  I didn't ride Dawn today, but did bring her in at around 10 a.m. - she was warm under her fleece and blanket, but was hunkered down with her butt to the wind and looked pretty miserable.  She seemed happy to be in, and stayed in for the rest of the day.  We did do a bit of lungeing so she could stretch her legs.

Pie and I have been having trouble with our bend, or lack thereof.  I've met some long-necked and long-bodied horses that were like noodles - very bendy, or even over bendy.  Pie, who is quite long in the neck and back, is actually quite stiff and reluctant to bend.  He's also a horse who can brace and lean, resulting in blocked movement if I use too much leg or hand.  Our small circle work has made a big difference, but he still tends to fall in when tracking right at the trot or canter.  A large part of this is me - my right bend requires a lot more thought and effort on my part than bending left.

In thinking about Pie's movement, my conclusion is that I've been blocking the free movement of his front end, and therefore his ability to engage, lift and bend.  Compensating for this with my hands just makes things worse. One of my biggest riding faults, and one that tends to drive the energy down and therefore block free movement by the horse, is looking down.  I've been know to even look at the ground, and pretty regularly have my horse's ears in my sights.  All of this results in poor posture - it reinforces my tendency to slump and having my chin down puts the weight of my head more on the horse's forehand.  It has lots of other effects, too - it means I lose my focus on where I want to go, and have closed shoulders which adversely affects my hand position.  And the more things aren't quite right, the more I stare at his head, and the more I fuss with my hands because I can see that his head and neck position are messed up - he often inverts his neck, or alternately falls behind the bit, both of which put him on the forehand, and he tends to try to place his shoulder to the inside and head to the outside.  This can't be fixed with hands, but has to come from the whole horse.

In addition, since Pie is built slightly downhill, all this extra "loading" of focus and body weight on his front end makes it all that much harder for him to carry himself properly.  No wonder the poor guy can't bend.  Dawn used to have a similar problem tracking right, since she's also a bit downhill and my riding faults were affecting her too.  She's a little more bendable than Pie, which helps, and I've been working with her on some things (really working on me) that have helped her a lot.  It's about time I used these same tools to fix me when riding Pie - remember that "ride all your horses the same" challenge?  This is a good example of that.

So today Pie and I had an excellent ride, because I kept my focus on riding correctly, the way I've been riding Dawn (more on Red in a minute).  This involves a couple of things.  The most important one is to keep my chin up and my eyes focussed where I am going and fairly high up - I look at the place where the walls meet the arena ceiling - this seems too high but it's a necessary overcompensation for my bad posture - the result is that I'm actually close to straight.  And I requested forward from Pie at all times - instead of pushing for more forward I used a secondary cue using a dressage whip - while giving him an opportunity to move unblocked by me.  He was really carrying himself well and I could feel him using his hind end to push instead of pulling from the front end.  As a result, his trot had a lot more elevation and impulsion.

I also didn't shim my saddle - I've been doing this to compensate for Pie's downhill build.  Pie's actually filled out quite a bit since I got the saddle, and it now fits him through the shoulders and withers, where before it was slightly too wide in front.  This also required me to sit up and straight, and I found he didn't feel downhill at all - fancy that!  And I changed Pie's bit back to the raised Rockin' S snaffle (it's the one at the bottom of the linked page) that we used at the clinic last June - he did a lot of mouthing for a bit but settle to it well - he softens very nicely in it without going behind the vertical and doesn't tend to brace against it.  It meant my contact could be live, but very soft.

Then, in addition to keeping my focus up and out (with all the good postural results), hands connected but soft, and making sure we had forward at every step - this meant I had good quality gaits and a good "feel" between me and Pie - I worked on our bending by "carrying" myself to the outside while keeping my focus up and around the turn.  This involves mentally, and very minimally physically, going to the outside myself and using the connection/feel with the horse to ask him to go with me.  This involves thinking my hands and shoulders to the outside, while keeping my body bent around the corner, and thinking stepping over and to the outside with my own legs.  This is mostly a mental/feel thing, with the only physical movement being a very slight movement of my hands to the outside and a slight weighting of the outside stirrup - if it's working the horse goes with me so there's no physical disconnect between me and the horse - I move mentally to the outside and the horse goes right with me.

Worked like a charm, even to the right.  Pie seemed pretty happy about the whole thing, perhaps because he could move better and I wasn't pushing and pulling on him and making him crabby.

Red and I also had a very good ride.  He's a horse who came to me with excessive bendiness - he was like a noodle with no connection between the head and neck and the rest of the horse, possibly due to excessive lateral flexion work.  It took Heather and me quite a while to get him connected from back to front again, and that's now working very well.  Red also has the advantage of being built fairly uphill, and is naturally very forward, so my posture and focus defects didn't affect him as badly as they did Pie.  But he moves even better than usual if I apply my Dawn and Pie corrections of my riding to my rides with him.

Now that I'm offering Red the opportunity to canter after our walk warm up, all his balkiness/fussiness has disappeared completely, and all of a sudden he's a lot less interested in having to canter first now that he knows he can.  Sometimes breaking a pattern of resistance can be best done by sidestepping it rather than forcing it.  I expect pretty soon initial walk/trot transitions will be no problem at all - it's no longer a source of worry for him.  We did a good amount of trotting today - he had moments of stiffness but by the end his trot was very engaged and forward (some of that could have been my not looking at his head . . .).  We did some canter work - a little on the right lead, which is hard for him, and a bit more on the left lead, as well as some canter/trot/canter transitions.  It's so much fun to be be able to really ride him again!

Another really fine day with horses - mostly because I worked on me - my horses say they're glad of that!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Back in the Saddle

The temperature made it up to 18F today, with some wind, but it seemed like a big improvement over the last several days.  I was able to ride all three horses - the temperature in the indoor was about 22F in the morning when Dawn and I were working, and made it up to around 26F in the afternoon when I rode Pie and Red.

All three horses had a day off due to the cold yesterday, and Dawn had spent most of the day in her stall yesterday, at her request - she did manage to get out today, as well as the boys.  Despite the cold and day off, all three horses were very, very good.

I lunged Dawn for a bit before I rode, but she was responsive and well-behaved from the beginning.  Her canter work on the lunge was very good, with no bucking or squealing and only the slightest bit of head tossing.  She told me she didn't really need the lungeing by asking to turn in, so we stopped pretty quickly.  We had a very nice ride, mostly at trot, and she was quite relaxed and stretching down, although very forward.  We did only a little canter to keep the excitement to a minimum - Dawn's a horse who tends to rev up at the higher gaits rather than settle.  I told her what a good girl she was and turned her back out.

Pie was up first in the afternoon.  He started out quite forward, and did some nice trot work and then we did a fair amount of cantering - he sustains the canter well now on both leads, although our bending to the right is still an issue that we need to work on.  After that we did some more trot work, including some very nice tight serpentines.

Red was really excellent.  He stood perfectly on a loose rein for mounting - this is something we work on every day and it's really starting to gel.  He was very forward at the walk and warmed up well.  We then went immediately to left lead canter - there was no balking or resistance and we moved right to trot work after that.  He started out a bit stiff at trot to start, but warmed up and started moving much better. We mixed up the trot and canter work, and ended with a lap of right lead canter, and a bit of more collected trot work.  He was just wonderful - very soft and relaxed, and got much praise from me.

Tomorrow it's supposed to be about as cold, and then we're warming up into the 20sF, with 30s and even 40s coming next week.  Looking forward to that!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Even Colder

The temperature today made it up to about 8F (-13C) with a wind chill of -5F (-21 C) - the low last night was -4F (-20 C).  I kept my three horses in for a bit this morning, and then put all three out - Dawn was double blanketed.  Within two hours, Dawn was at the gate, hunkered down, and glad to come back into the barn even if it meant being by herself.  I checked on the boys a couple of times during the day, and both times Pie gave me the "I'm outta here" treatment - the first time he was at the water trough drinking and sucking his tongue, with Red keeping watch from the hill.  Pie looked at me for a moment, then turned and sashayed off - at this point the wind chill was about -10F (-23C).  The second time Red was on the hay bale, and Pie was playing a vigorous game of bite-face with another gelding - he looked at me but had no interest in coming in.  Apparently those boys don't get cold too easily - but that makes some sense as they're both from cold climates - Pie was born in Montana and lived north of Minneapolis, and Red is from Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

It was pretty darn cold when I got to the barn, and the arena wasn't much warmer than 20F (-7C).  I did some grooming and walked Dawn a bit, then called it a day.  No one seemed to mind - even Red wasn't demanding to come out of his stall - I expect all that wind and cold is tiring.  Tomorrow things are supposed to be slightly warmer, and we'll be riding again . . .

Monday, January 21, 2013

Riding in the Cold

Today was cold - the high was about 10F (-12C), with wind chills as low as -13F (-25C).  I kept my horses in for the day, except for brief paddock expeditions for Pie and Red - Dawn, who gets cold easily, was happy to stay in, although she nickered at me every time I came into the barn.  Dawn and I had two very nice short lungeing sessions during the day - she did all three gaits very nicely, and there was no scooting or bucking.  It was good that she got to stretch her legs, and she seemed happy about it.

After the boys had been out in adjacent paddocks for a while, I brought them back in.  As I was leading them together through the arena, they were distracted by the guy watering the arena with a hose and sprayer, and then someone suddenly opened the big overhead door.  Both boys bolted, but being the good horses they are and respectful of my space, they went past me and pivoted around so they were facing me.  We just went on, although Red was worried enough - he really wanted to head to his stall - that we had to make a few turns and circles together before we left the arena.  I was really pleased with both boys - I don't mind if they spook, but it's great that they kept track of where I was and didn't mow me down.

By the time I got to the barn in the afternoon, the temperature was falling and it was about 20F (-7C) in the indoor.  Since Red and Pie hadn't been turned out, I wanted to give them both a chance to stretch their legs, so we rode.  Red had been very fussed about the change of routine - he's big on a regular routine, even more than my other horses - but we saddled up and off we went.  He was bursting with energy, but managed to stand still for mounting - he was practically quivering - and off we went.  He was so forward at the walk that we cut our usual warm up time to 10 minutes from 15, and off we went on left lead canter.  He was very, very good.  There was no head-shaking or bucking, but just wonderful, forward, energetic canter.  We did that for a while, and then did a fair amount of trot work, mixed in with more cantering.  He couldn't have been better - he was still jazzed up by the time we were done, but that was enough for his leg for today.  He has come so far - it's a delight.

Pie and I also had a very nice session - lots of good trot and canter, with good softness and bend.  Even though the roof was buzzing from the wind and the doors banging, he was good as gold.  We didn't work long, probably about 25 minutes - I was getting cold - but that was good enough to stretch his legs for the day.

Tomorrow's supposed to be even colder - the low tonight is expected to be -4F (-20C) with a high of 6F (-14C) tomorrow, with gusty winds and wind chills as low as -24F (-31C).  I'll be keeping my horses in again tomorrow - the boys may make a brief expedition to the paddocks during stall cleaning, but if it's too cold, I'll just tie them in the arena or put them on cross ties.  It may even be too cold to ride in the indoor, but we'll see . . .

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Better Than Wonderful

That's how I feel today - better than wonderful.  I had a really fine day with my horses - I wasn't sure it would turn out that way due to the weather - winter is coming (Game of Thrones reference) but not quite as bad yet as it's going to get.  Today the high made it up to 22F (about -5C), but with the wind chill it never got much above -4F (or -15C).  Dawn, who is very sensitive to the cold, was double-blanketed for turnout.  I have a dress fleece cooler that works well as a blanket liner, and she was wearing that under her heavy Rambo turnout with the full neck.  At 7 a.m., she was fine, eating from the hay bale.  At 9:30 a.m. she was hunkered down with her butt to the wind and eyes slitted almost shut.  The boys were blanketed too, and seemed to be coping pretty well.

I brought her into the heated barn to unthaw - she spent about an hour in her stall unblanketed eating hay, while I was doing other chores, until she told me she was ready to go back out by nickering at me.

Everyone was happy to come in at bring in this afternoon.  Tomorrow's highs are supposed to be about 8F (or -13C), with big winds making the wind chills in the -15F (or -26C) range all day.  Tuesday's not supposed to be much better.  I'll likely be keeping my horses in both days, perhaps putting them into paddocks close up to the barn while stalls are being cleaned.  We'll do some hand walking and perhaps a bit of lungeing - it may be too cold in the (unheated) arena to ride.

Today in the indoor it was about 23F (or -5C) when I worked with my horses this afternoon.  Dawn and I had a 15-minute lungeing session so she could stretch her legs - the ground outside is rock hard and the horses really aren't able to move around much.  She was wonderful, despite the cold arena - she trotted and cantered very well, with only one buck on her first canter departure.  She seemed pretty happy to have a chance to move, and was responsive and forward.  Tomorrow if I lunge her, we'll probably put on her fleece.

Red and I then had an outstanding work session.  He'd had two days off, but stood like a statue for mounting on a loose rein despite his energy level, which was high.  We did our usual 15 minutes of vigorous walk warm up, then went directly to left lead canter.  He cantered willingly and well - there was plenty of forward, but he was soft and responsive, and then we kept working in trot.  His soundness improved as we worked.  We even did one full lap in right lead canter - this has been hard for him due to the stress it puts on the left hind - but he felt engaged and lifting, which was very good as his right lead canter has always (even when he was sound) felt a bit flat - not today.  He also coped very well with the only other horse leaving the arena in the middle of our work - in the past he would have been very upset by this.  He's certainly come a long way, and is a reliable and willing partner.

Pie also had had two days off, and came out and went right to work.  We did a fair bit of good trot work, and then did a number of sets of canter work on both leads.  He was forward and sustaining the canter well, and bending well into the corners, and we got some excellent softness on both leads at points in our work.  He also did some really excellent leg yield work at the trot, althernating directions in and out of cones. At the end of our work, he followed me around the arena as I collected cones and put them away.

A good day indeed . . .

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Taking Things For Granted, and Listening to the Horse

Sometimes I wonder about how easily I take things for granted with my horses.  I think, sometimes, if things haven't been difficult or challenging first, it's easy just to assume things.  All three of my horses stand still for mounting, and stop and stand as needed for as long as I need, and ground tie.  All three horses are great for hoof picking, the farrier and the vet, and take worming paste and medicines as needed by mouth.  All three lead well and move out of my space easily, even when worried (although Red will sneak up and grab a nip if given the opportunity - eyes in the back of my head are a plus). None of this happens by chance, or without intention.  Dawn used to be terrible for mounting - she'd move off once one foot was in the saddle - but she stands now, even when she's ready to blow - this presents its own set of issues as I need to read her mood from something else.  Pie came to me standing for mounting - his default condition is to stand still - but Red took some time to get there.

Red, when I got him, didn't lead, didn't load and would push through pressure on the bit or halter.  You couldn't handle his feet - he would kick and strike - and he was very difficult for both the farrier and the vet, and a nervous wreck most of the time.  If you were leading him in a situation that worried him, he would bolt, spook and run right over you. Now, even when he's worried, he's able to listen and wait, and his ground manners are very good.  It took a lot of time and work to get to where we are today, and I should never take things for granted - he's come so far due to his willingness to trust and learn.

All three horses are a delight to handle on a daily basis, and reliable in almost all (I won't say all for any horse) situations.  Dawn I still won't take on the trail - she's got a short fuse and explosive reactions as well as extreme acrobatics - but there's a lot we can do without that to expand our horizons.  Pie is more and more reliable in lots of situations - even if he snorts and looks, he's bidable and willing to try.  Red has huge heart and try, and although he hasn't been on the trail yet with me, I think he'll be pretty darn good when we get there - he's one of those horses that will go through fire for you if he trusts you, I think.

* * * * * * *
And sometimes I wonder why I'm slow to listen to my horses.

Pie probably had Lyme even before he had EPM, and I was slow to pick up that his soreness, reluctance to move and crabbiness weren't his personality or a training issue to be solved, they were a disease that could be treated.  I wonder how many sore, unhappy horses are in similar circumstances due to muscle issues, unsoundness, dental problems or poor saddle fit, with people who won't listen to them.

Red, in the year and a half or so we've been together, has been trying to tell me that he needs to canter to warm up.  He has always walked out well for warm up, but as soon as you ask for trot, he fusses and sometimes balks.  This makes no sense, as he is a very forward and energetic horse.  I finally figured out that, due to some underlying hock arthritis, he feels more comfortable cantering before he trots - it helps him stretch out and warm up before trot, which is more difficult for him.  Now, when I ask for canter, he just floats into it and after a while, is happy as can be to trot and do as many transitions as I'd like - how easy that is and how slow I was to listen to him and do what he needed instead of what I thought was "required".

* * * * * *
It's amazing what our horses put up with - I expect they think we're pretty slow on the uptake . . .

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

And Birds Poop on Your Head . . .

In my post about the challenges that can be presented by indoor arenas, there was one I omitted . . .

I rode all three horses today, and we had some fun.  It was cold and very windy, so the arena roof was buzzing and the doors were banging.  Dawn was feeling feisty, so we did a bit of pre-ride lungeing - there was some fast trotting and some cantering with bucking before she settled down to good transitions and a nice steady canter on both leads.  After that we had a very good ride.

I rode both Pie and Red in the afternoon.  Pie had a day off yesterday - by the time I got to him I was just too tired from the end of my virus/cold thing.  So today he was very forward, and his gaits were really good - we had some fun following another horse around the arena - it's something he enjoys doing.  This horse was very fresh, and was really moving out at both canter and trot, so Pie got a good workout although we only rode for about a half hour.

Red was up next.  He's always wanted to canter on the left lead rather than trot in our early trot work - I think it has something to do with his left hock.  So today I tried an experiment and, after our 15 minutes of walk warm up, we immediately went to left lead canter - he does beautiful walk/canter transitions.  He seemed a little surprised, but off we went and cantered for a bit before he was ready to settle to trot. His trot seemed better as a result - this may be a good warm-up routine for him.  We did a fair amount of trot work, and a little bit of right lead canter.

And here's a new challenge to riding in the indoor . . .  At one point we were trotting down the long side when Red suddenly started violently shaking his head from side to side.  This was very odd, as it's not something he tends to do, even when he's fresh.  And then I saw it - a bird had just pooped on his face, right above his eye!  No wonder the poor guy was annoyed . . .

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ice Slides Off the Roof

It's wonderful having an indoor arena in the winter - it means I can ride almost every day despite the weather.  But indoor arenas can present their own challenges - doors opening and closing and horses and people coming and going, scary objects in the corners, lessons going on or too many people and horses in there at once, folks with poor arena manners who cut you off or almost (or maybe even actually) run into you.  And then, in our part of the country, there's snow or ice sliding off the roof . . .

So far this winter, we've had very little snow.  A number of years ago, I used to ride at a barn that had a very large indoor arena.  Snow sliding off the roof was a frequent event in the winter, and when the ring was full of horses, it would be like someone set a bomb off - horses spooking and careening everywhere.  Last winter was the first time I've ridden in an indoor in many years, and there wasn't much snow.  There hasn't been much snow this year either, but there was a little bit of snow and ice over the weekend.

This morning Dawn and I had a very nice ride, even though I'm still getting over a very bad cold that seems to be going on and on.  It was very cold again in the arena - 20sF - and Dawn was both very forward and very responsive, which made for an enjoyable ride.  At one point, we were rounding a corner at the trot - why do these things always tend to happen in corners? - when there was a sudden, loud slithering, scraping noise from directly above us as a sheet of ice let go - the sun must have been strong enough to partially melt it.  Dawn bolted, but I stayed with her and got her stopped after a step or two and we just kept right on working.  She was a bit worried in that corner for a bit but we just kept on working and she settled right back down, although she expressed a bit of continuing worry by being even more forward.  But all was well, and I was very proud of her for being able to keep right on working.  Good Dawn!

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Good Time is Had by All

It's been very cold - this morning at the barn it was 12F, but with the wind the windchill was 0F. When Dawn and I were working, the temperature inside the arena was 23F - pretty darn chilly.  Dawn has been working exceptionally well.  This morning, since it was so cold and she'd had a day off, I put her on the lunge, but only very briefly.  I had relaxed trot and transitions from the first lap in both directions.  I didn't even bother with canter on the lunge.  Our ride was excellent, including some very nice canter work and lateral work.

When I put her back out, the poor thing just stood by the gate - the ground is very chopped up and is frozen solid, so is very hard for the horses to walk on.  I went out and slowly led her down to the water trough, where she drank and drank.  When I left, she was still standing there, reluctant to move.  She's a horse who's very careful about footing, and where she puts her feet.

This afternoon when I was at the barn again to ride Red and Pie, Dawn was taking a nap in her stall.  I was able to go in and sit with her and stroke her face - I'm always amazed that horses will trust us enough to allow things like that.

Red and I have been having good work sessions.  Today, due to the cold (it was up to 38F in the arena but felt colder to me), he was quite stiff when we started our trot work, after our usual 15 minutes of vigorous walk warm up.  He did get better as we went, and worked willingly, but the cold is hard on the joints.  At the end of our work, we did one lap on left lead canter - his easier lead, as it spares the left hind.  He seemed to really enjoy it.  He often suggests that he would prefer to start out his faster work in canter, and perhaps tomorrow I'll take him up on it - warming up at the canter may be easier for him than trotting, at least at first.  We might also use canter on the turns and trot on the straightaways until his joints are moving more freely, we'll see.

In fact, today all three horses and I worked in canter for at least a bit - the first time in a long time.

Pie and I have also been having great sessions - he's very forward and engaged and has been really been doing some lovely trot and canter work.  He's also very interactive and sweet when I'm in his stall and grooming - a big change from the withdrawn, crabby, sore horse I had before his treatment for Lyme disease.

It may be the depths of winter, but we're still having a good time!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Red Deals with the Menacing Mini, Donkey of Doom and Panicking Pony

Tuesday, the day after the vet cleared him to start back to work, Red and I started real trot work again.  We've been walking under saddle for a long time, with occasional attempts at trot, but now we don't have to be so tentative about things.  He's terribly out of shape, so we're easing up on it by doing a few laps of trot, followed by walking for a bit, and then more trotting.  He still huffs and puffs - he's also a bit overweight although I think that will improve quickly.  We're still doing a long - 15 minutes at least - walk warm up to stretch things out, and our total trot work is still less than 5 minutes per ride.

After two days, he seems to be moving well and to be pretty enthusiastic about the whole thing - I expect he was quite bored with all the walking, as he's a pretty high energy horse.  It's great to be able to really ride him again.  He's a real blast to ride - incredibly responsive and forward and he carries himself beautifully - it's like riding on air.

Yesterday we had to deal with the Menacing Mini, the Donkey of Doom and the Panicking Pony.  When we entered the arena, there was a mini being looked at - he has an abscess.  This mini isn't in Red's herd - there is a mini in his herd but the other one is kept in a paddock as he's previously foundered.  So Red's eyes were bugging out at the unfamiliar mini, and his head was straight up in the air - he kept glancing at me as if to say "is it a dog? a wolf? a horse I don't know?"  And then, when the mini left, the donkey started doing that wheezy, raspy, almost bray that they sometimes do - the donkey shares a stall with the mini and worries when he's not there.  Red was clearly thinking that was just too much.  But he stayed with me, and very quickly started to calm right back down - I love how quickly he comes back to me now when he's worried about something.

As we were working, a pony came into the ring for lessons.  This pony has a tendency to race around and to have trouble settling down, particularly if the kid riding is nervous or tight.  The poor kid was wrestling with the pony, and both the kid and pony were getting more and more agitated.  Finally the kid was panicking, and so was the pony.  Since it looked like the pony was getting ready to bolt, I dismounted and held Red in the center of the ring - the instructor got on the pony and settled him down so I remounted.  Red was perfect for all of this, and our work session went really well.

He also seems to be enjoying having Surpass rubbed into his inside lower hock joints - I have to kneel down on one knee to do it in his stall while he's eating his hay after our ride.  I expect it may feel good right away - the spot I'm massaging does get warm as I'm doing it.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that our renewed work continues to go well.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Fun with Nicknames

My three riding horses are all registered - a first for me as our others aren't.  So my three horses come with registered names.  I used to think TB registered names were often yucky (Slick Sheik, anyone?  - that was the TB registered name of one of my daughters' first horses) until I encountered QH registered names.  My first QH was Walla Bars Bonanza - sort of weird, but related to his pedigree and not too bad.  His nickname was Noble - he came with that name and it suited him.

But how about these three registered names - Silent Dawn (TB; always makes me think of dead birds; the name has nothing to do with the names of her ancestors); JTS Speed Glo Cody (QH); and Driftin' to the Money (QH; double yuck).  At least both the QH names are related to their pedigrees, and Red was bred to be a money-winning barrel racing horse.

Dawn came to us with her nickname.  Again, it's not one I'd have picked but it's OK.   Pie could have been nicknamed Cody but I'm glad he was called after Jimmy Stewart's movie horse Pie (not the Pie from National Velvet) - he came to me with this name also and I like it and it really suits him.  A side note - I rarely change horse's names when they come to me since they almost always know their names - there have been two exceptions, the first being Lily - she came to us nicknamed Lulu, which was just plain awful - Lily is very close in sound so we changed it to that.

Red's nickname when he came to me was Drifter, and he's the second case of a name change.  I'm sure the name was intended to draw attention to his double Driftwood Ike breeding, but I always disliked it - for me it had overtones of shiftlessness.  He also came to me with some serious behavior issues which took some time to get sorted out.  But once they did, it seemed that a name change in celebration of his personality transplant was in order.  Red is a pretty common horse name, but it suits him and he seems to like it.

But in addition to their nicknames, all three have additions that I regularly use when I'm with them.  Dawn is always Dawnmare; Pie is always Pie Pie; and Red is always Redman.  Does this happen with you and your horses?  What are your horses' nicknames, and do they also have "secret" nicknames?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Nose Rest of Reconciliation

Dawn is feeling much happier.  When I rode her this morning, I lunged her first.  But we didn't need to lunge long - her demeanor was more relaxed, and I got good transitions pretty quickly.  And, although there was one muffled squeal on her first right lead canter departure - her harder lead - there was no bucking or kicking out.

And there was another sign of her better frame of mind.  When I took off the halter I'd been lungeing her in, to put on her bridle, she stopped me and rested her nose against my chest.  It was the "nose rest of reconciliation" - it was her way of expressing that we were connected again.  She rested her nose, I held her chin and stroked her face and neck.  We did this for quite a while.  When I bridled her and mounted up, we had a very nice ride - she was still very forward but was listening well and able to offer some softness.

Dawn is a very sensitive and emotional mare.  A few days ago, when she exploded, there was probably more going on for her than just the worry of another horse charging by nearby her.  My younger daughter, who's been home for the holidays had been visiting (although not riding) Dawn daily.  They're very deeply attached.  My daughter left Saturday for a trip and I expect Dawn is missing her.  And last Friday, Dawn's two closest mare friends, the ones whose stalls are next to and across from her, and who she hangs out with in turnout, left for the weekend.  Dawn was probably disturbed by that too.  One mare - the one she's closest to - came back yesterday - the other one is still at the trainer's.  When the other mare returned, and went to turnout, Dawn whinnied loudly to her and galloped up, and then proceeded to guard her from the other mares who were also interested in saying hello.

Dawn's feeling better now - her friend has come back, and she's decided I'll do, since my daughter isn't here.  That's one of the reasons I've always loved mares - their loyalty and fierce pride can make them hard to deal with at times but it's also a source of joy.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Good Day with Good News on Red

My morning started out with a good work session with Dawn.  This time, I lunged before I rode.  There were a few squeals and bucks at the canter on the lunge, but things were much quieter than yesterday.  I'll lunge again tomorrow before riding, but expect that will be the last day I need to.  After lungeing, Dawn and I had a nice walk/trot ride despite having to work around the guy watering the arena.

The vet came to see Red in the afternoon.  This was a vet I've never used before - they're a regular vet practice but also a referral clinic with a particular expertise in lameness evaluations and surgery.  I liked the vet - she was very quiet and thorough - my older daughter also likes her which was a strong recommendation.  She did a very careful examination of his whole body, not just of the left hind which was the leg we were concerned about.  She noted that his back was very strong. I lunged Red and he looked better than he has since his injury last June - just the slightest short striding on the left hind - it's just like when you make an appointment with the vet or doctor - things seem to always be getting better at that point.  The vet hoof tested - she said his feet were excellent, with large, properly flexible frogs, and did flexions of the joints on all four legs, to guage his reactivity and also make sure we weren't overlooking something - he had a slight reaction to both the left and right hock flexions and also the right front lower flexions - coffin and pastern joints.  But the change in his gait was slight, and even after the flexions he looked quite good.  I was very pleased with how patient Red was with all the fussing, poking and pulling, some of which must have been uncomfortable - he's come a long way and it was clear he was cooperating because it was important to me and he's now cooperative by default, instead of the other way around.

The vet also palpated every joint and structure in all four legs, not just the leg of main concern.  The only things she noted were some fluid on the inside of the lower hock joint on the left hind, and a muscular protuberance on the point of his left butt.  The first means that he has some hock arthritis going on and that the lower hock joint on the left hind is slightly irritated - I'm to massage Surpass cream into the insides of both lower hock joints daily for two weeks which should help bring down the inflammation.  The butt issue means he may have torn a muscle there - this is the same area where he had tightness and soreness that my chiropractor identified.  Both my chirorpractor and the new vet said he may have adhesions there and that the pressure point massage I've been doing should be very helpful.  As adhesions break, he may have a few days afterwards when he's a bit sorer.  She says he may need hock injections in the future, but not yet.  I liked her conservative approach, and the fact that she has training in alternative therapies - accupuncture - she approves of chiropractic and I heard her discussing the use of herbal as well as conventional therapies with another owner whose horse was being checked over.  She also liked that we kept him in full turnout during his recovery.

The best news is we're to keep on doing what we're doing, in addition to the Surpass and the massage.  I'm to ride him, and after a thorough - 15 minutes or so - walk warm up, we're to trot as much as he is fit enough for and comfortable with.  As long as he's not getting worse, or getting sorer during our work sessions, that's the plan.  I'm to use my judgement, and Red will tell me how much work is OK. We'll see where we are after two weeks, but I'm very hopeful, particularly seeing how well he was moving today.

And to finish off a very good day, I had an outstanding ride on Pie - he was forward, and soft, his bending to the right was much better, and his canter work was the best yet.

A good day with horses, indeed!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Wild Thang . . .

Dawn and I had an interesting work session this morning, that started out a bit too exciting and ended well.  Dawn had had three days off and it was cold, and the wind was blowing and the arena roof was buzzing and the doors were banging.  Ordinarily, if we had been riding by ourselves in the ring as we often do, that would have meant that she would have been very forward and taken a while to relax and be soft.  Today, though, was different, partly because with the hard frozen ground with no snow cover, none of the horses have been able to get their ya yas out in turnout.  And there were two other riders in the ring, who had set up jumps and were galloping around.

Dawn was on edge and making ugly faces at the other horses.  I mounted up - she stood perfectly as she always does - and started walking around while trying to stay out of the way of the gallopers.  As we rounded the corner, one of the other riders went over a jump fairly close to us.  Dawn squealed and launched herself vertically with a buck at the top.  I "rode air" for a second but by some miracle of physics came down in the saddle with my feet still in the stirrups.  Dawn's antics had caused the other horse to squirt away at speed.

I rarely lunge, but it was time for lungeing.  I use lungeing for several reasons, and in Dawn's case there were two - she needed to express her feelings and pent up energy (really one and the same) and I needed to get her mind connected to me again.  I was looking to get good upwards and downwards transitions on verbal cues, and cantering without scooting, bucking or kicking out.  I'm not looking for mindless movement at speed, although there was some of that until she'd burned off a little energy.  For a while there was head-high fast trotting, with cantering and explosive bucking thrown in, and snorting while standing still.  After a while we were able to do some transition work, and we kept doing that until she settled into it.  Then we added canter back in, and got more bucking.  More transition work, and then the canter work started to fall into place as well.  I just kept ignoring the stuff I didn't want and asking for what I did want.  She's so fit, and the arena was cold enough, that she only got warm and not sweaty.

Once we were there, I put her bridle back on and mounted up again.  By this time we were alone in the ring, which was helpful.  We walked around on a loose rein for a bit, did some walk circle work and then some trot work as well.  She was just fine again.  We didn't work for too long, as she'd had quite a workout on the lunge, and I wanted to reward her recovered good behavior and responsiveness.

Wild thang!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Happy Hoof Photos

My trimmer was out yesterday, and all three horses got trims.  All three horses were perfectly behaved, which is just what I expected.  A number of horses at our barn are sore footed right now, as the sandy, gravelly ground is frozen hard, with no snow cover.  The surface of the turnout pastures is also all chopped up, with frozen peaks and valleys, since there was rain and churned up mud right before the hard freeze set in.  Fortunately, my horses are having no problems and their feet are doing very well.  I think it's a combination of good nutrition - low sugar/starch feed - and regular exercise on a variety of surfaces.  Even Dawn, who has been sore-footed in the past (and is now on a supplement containing chromium to deal with suspected insulin resistance), is doing well.  All three horses needed no trimming of the sole at all - the abrasive surfaces they're on do that for us, and Dawn and Red needed fairly minimal hoof wall trimming (after 7 weeks), since their walls were wearing from abrasion, although Red needed a bit of work as well on his bars in several spots.  Pie grows an enormous amount of foot between trims, and since his hoof wall is very hard and thick, he did need some work, although my farrier said his feet were growing out very evenly and well.

Tonight I took some hoof photos - I had some camera difficulties so the photo set isn't complete, or quite properly posed, but they give some idea of how the hooves are doing.  None of this is a result of trimming - this is how their feet grow - all my trimmer does is remove excess hoof wall, and occasionally excessive bars as needed.  Things I'm particularly happy to see are even hairlines, good angles with straight growth, a balanced sole (more on this) and well-developed heels and frogs with good, broad, deep collateral grooves on either side of the frog - this tends to mean you also have good sole convexity.  I'm really pleased with how their hooves are doing - Dawn's hooves are still improving but are better with every month.

The camera was acting up most with Red's photos.  The hoof/pastern angle on this rear foot looks odd because he has the foot far forward.

Red solar:

My trimmer refers to Pie as "Mr. Perfect Feet" - here's a front Pie foot:

And a rear Pie foot - more about this foot below:

Pie solar shots - excuse the arena sand:

The photo just above is a solar shot of the same hind hoof that's just below - notice something interesting?  The solar view shows a perfectly symetrical foot.  But the heel view shows that the inner hoof wall (right) is fairly straight and the outer hoof wall (left) has a flare, and the heel isn't quite level - but this is the shape his hoof needs to be to load properly for the limb above it.  He's sound and happy, and the symetrical solar view shows that this foot is what he needs.

A Dawn front:

And rear:

Dawn solars - I think the apparent asymetry in the second shot is due to how I'm holding the foot.

Dawn has only been out of front shoes for a little over a year, and is doing really well.  Her heels and sole convexity are still improving, mainly I think due to our rocky, sandy turnout soil and her regular work.

Even when I don't ride, I seem to manage to find something interesting to do with the horses . . .

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Almost-not-posting Trot

One of the things I worked on at the clinic last summer was what I've come to call the almost-not-posting trot.  I'm a fan of posting trot in general - it's a great way to allow the horse to warm up, whether you're riding English or Western, and if you want to move at a trot that's more than a shuffle/jog, posting can be more comfortable.

But posting can cause its own set of issues.  Your seat is away from the horse, so you lose the connection there.  And there are lots of ways to post that create braces and blocks in your body and therefore interfere with your horse's motion and softness.  (Of course, a sitting trot where you're stiff or braced, and your back and hips don't move freely, can be pretty darn uncomfortable for you and the horse both.)

Posting often creates a lot of movement in your body, and is frequently done from a brace - in legs, hips  or back - and often involves muscular effort which creates its own bracing.  None of that helps your horse move or your connection with the horse.

The thing about almost-not-posting is that you can't do it if you're braced or blocking.  The main idea is to use the lift from the horse's hip to create a very slight rise in your hip - just barely there.   The closest analogy is posting the trot when riding bareback or with no stirrups, but often that's done with a lot of pinching or muscular effort - the almost-not-posting trot should be effortless.

If your heels are jammed down, creating bracing and tension in your legs, you won't be able to do the almost-not-posting trot.  If your knees or thighs are pinching, same thing.  If your back or hips are stiff and not moving well, or if you're carrying an artificial, "mannered", arch in your back (often seen, incorrectly, in hunter riding), or if you've got your butt tucked under and you're driving with your seat (frequently seen in dressage and Western riding), the almost-not-posting trot can't happen.  If you're pushing up from your feet, you're probably squeezing at the same time, which creates a brace on every rise. If your balance is off because you're looking down or your head and chin are dropped, not happening.  If your contact with your horse's mouth is braced, or your hands, leg and seat aren't independent, no way.

The almost-not-posting trot requires a neutral position, and relaxation and softness in your body.  This, by the way, is independent of what your horse is doing - the horse can be excited or trying to brace - the almost-not-posting trot can actually help the horse "come to you" in terms of softness and relaxation.  I've found that, when I can do it properly - it certainly isn't there yet for me all the time and I still have to think about it to get it - my connection with the horse becomes much more consistent, and I'm much more "in" rather than "on" the horse.

My almost-not-posting trot work grew directly out of letting go in my lower back, starting at the walk - I'd had a big defensive brace going on there for years due to some earlier back problems.  Feeling the horse's hips and barrel move at the walk, and following/allowing with seat, back and legs (no pushing and maintaining a neutral, soft position) is very close to the feeling of the almost-not-posting trot, and good practice for it.

When a horse trots, and we're posting, we often think of it as rising with the outside front leg.  Instead, think about how the horse's hind legs and hips are moving.  As the outside front leg moves forward, the hind leg on the same side is pushing and that hip is rising - that's the propulsion for the almost-not-posting trot.  Feel the horse's hips rising and falling at the walk, and allow yourself to move with it - even exaggerate the motion as a form of practice.  Then do the same thing at sitting trot, being particularly attentive to the alternating upwards push of the hind legs in turn.  (This - feeling the motion of the horse's hips - is also is the key to being able to post on the correct diagonal without having to look at the horse's shoulders.) Now, just allow one of the horse's hips to create some very minimal motion in your hips and lower back - just the slightest lift of your hip, and very, very slight rotation of your pelvis.  Your seat should only just slightly come out of the saddle - maybe as much as an inch but not much more - and then follow the horse's hip back down.   If someone's looking at you, they may have trouble even telling that you're posting - that's the almost-not-posting trot.

I've found it to be a very powerful way to ride the posting trot, and I'm working on making it the only way I post, so my connection can be more consistent.  A ways yet to go on that, but as always, my horses are working hard to teach me . . .