Happy Holidays!

Hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season or hopefully getting to enjoy a day or 2 off from work.

Jiminy is always happy to wear whatever I toss in him

I had a great lesson last week and couldn’t figure out how to blog about it. Basically we focused on trying to fix my position as I have a bad habit of jamming my heels down too far and my trainer tells me this gets Nay Nay angry. So, most of my lesson I got to hear, “heals UP!” Which was very odd. But, I lifted my heels and Nay went slower. I also have a crazy tight leg (muscle memory all of these years later from riding Subi, the world’s BOUNCIEST slow big strided thoroughbred). So, jamming my heels down doesn’t help.

Nay Nay did NOT appreciate this. Subi elected NOT to participate and I wasn’t up for a second fight.

Other than that? I went out to ride yesterday, got on and immediately found my horse was lame. Hard to see at the walk until you look, noticeable at the trot. Some heat/swelling around his left hock. We came home, I gave him some bute and that evening (2ish hours later), swelling/heat gone, but he was still resting on his toe a lot.

This morning I was prepared to call the vet (I was ready for 8-12 months of stall rest and recuperation). But there was no heat/swelling again. I trotted him again and while he’s SLIGHTLY short here and there, he’s 1000% better than yesterday. He also tried to take off on me, rear, and buck while we were trotting so clearly he’s feeling fine. So instead of diagnostics since there’s nothing there (my horse was lame yesterday and is mostly fine today. Can you come look at him because I’m a worrywart?), he’s getting rest and we’re going with he strained something and can get a week or 2 off to start and if he hasn’t improved, we’ll do diagnostics. If he’s worse, a few days of stall rest. But he’s pretty ok right now and clearly not in pain. He’s also standing on that leg without issue.

So yeah. That’s where we’re at?

Weekend Happenings

I’m suffering a bit from the blahs right now. I’m not in the holiday spirits and lacking motivation about pretty much everything. Mostly I’m just in need of time off of work and am looking forward to 18 days off work (I’m including weekends) as I took the first week of January off in addition to our week closure between Xmas and New Year. Hopefully, that will help me relax and recharge.

I also was able to find Nay Nay’s winning race from 2014

I did have a fun weekend. On Saturday, I visited Northview Stallion Station with a friend for their open house (I’ll post about that tomorrow) but with the weather being gross (super windy and overcast), I just decided not to ride. Sunday I was feeling anti-social and decided on an afternoon ride to avoid barn company…

Subi napping and Nay Nay standing guard
My favorite boys

And everything looked good. I arrived to an empty barn and was 3/4 tacked up when I was joined by a fellow adult rider. And then another adult and her daughter, home from college. At that point, my quiet ride turned into a mini riding party. It was fine. Nay enjoys riding with Fiona and Houston, they’re his buddies at the barn, but my attempt to be anti-social was thwarted.

Thankfully despite my wishes to be anti-social, Nay was in a good mood and super relaxed. He offered me some nice trot work and a lovely canter. I’m still cantering solo inside, but he picked up both leads and forced me to push him around the ring. I’m enjoying the cluck, push, and squeeze to keep him going. After everyone else had warmed up, we took turns jumping. I was low energy so I didn’t plan to do much, but Nay was thrilled to pop over some fences and show off. We started off with trotting the 2 outside singles to the left then cantering the first one.

Next time around? We took on the inside single, cantered the outside single. Trotted the inside blue jump. Nay landed the lead but as I hadn’t jumped the crossrail this direction, I brought him back to the trot, planning to trot the other single. He had other plans and picked up the canter again once we were straight which is how we found ourselves cantering on the wrong lead to the outside single. We ended with the other outside single the other direction.

One course from this weekend

After that, I think I ended with something very simple, but I can’t remember and I have no video proof.

At this point, I let the daughter of my riding buddy hop on Nay for a few minutes just to see how he’d look/go with someone else. She’s a strong and competent rider who can ride anything and everything. Nay was less than impressed but a good boy. He was a bit quick at first at the trot but quieted down after a few laps. At the canter? She struggled with leads until I explained that he REALLY likes you to exaggerate your aids and bring your outside leg way back. Immediately? Canter on the correct lead. He was super quick to the right (he’s quicker to the right with me, but not quick) but if you play with your fingers, he’ll slow right down. To the left, he was much more manageable. She trotted him over a crossrail and hopped off. Definitely agreed he has springs over jumps.

It was good for him to have someone on his back and for me to watch him with someone else. He definitely prefers me and all my bad habits. And that’s OK. It’s also nice to see that he doesn’t miraculously go better with a better rider. But, he did ok too. I’m his person, but occasionally I might ask him to letter others hop on.

The goodest, goodest boy

Sunday marked Nay Nay’s 2 year anniversary. If you had asked me earlier this fall, I’d say we were a mess. But right now? We are in the middle of some of the best rides we’ve ever had.

The changes I wrote about last post are really paying off even though they’re not even a couple of weeks old. But Nay is a different horse. I can’t even describe it. He’s relaxed, happy, and just… zen?

First time on bareback! He didn’t care. I fell off the mounting block the first time I tried to get on…

After a good weekend of rides where I even had to grab a crop because I COULD NOT KEEP MY HORSE GOING (one reminder and that was done and over with), I sucked it up and texted my trainer last minute to see if she had an opening for a lunchtime lesson the next day.

Despite being colder, despite riding inside, despite being in a lesson (I tend to be nervous for lessons), I had the exact same horse I’ve had for the last several rides. My trainer was shocked at the difference. It’s been at least a month? since our last lesson? Nay was relaxed, stretching for the bit, and slow. And me? I warmed up walking around without stirrups so I could force myself to sit IN the saddle vs perch ON the saddle.

Post lesson goodness

I explained the bit change (I had to remind her which bit she switched me to) and she couldn’t argue with how relaxed he was. And after a nice time trotting around where we focused putting my leg back on and messing with my hands, we worked on the canter which was even better? I need to lean out a bit in the corners and such and apply a little outside leg to the right in the corners so we don’t get stuck, but he never tossed his head once and had “never looked more calm or relaxed, ever.”

Then we just chatted about Nay. Whatever changes I made I need to keep. I told her in addition to the bit, I just cut rice bran and the flax and am basically letting him eat as much alfalfa as he wants (she didn’t know if too much alfalfa was making him uncomfortable, but he’s eating more than he was before when he was super grouchy and my vet told me to load up on alfalfa for his ulcer history).

I ended up bring up the weight comments. Not directly the “you mentioned he looked thin” part, but that I was receiving mixed advice and losing my mind. She looked at him and said he looked great (which he does). And said that everyone’s opinion is based on discipline. In general, for a thoroughbred, he’s fat. For an eventer, he might even be considered overweight. For a hunter, people would probably try to get 300lbs on him (I said I doubt they’d manage and she agreed but said that wouldn’t stop anyone from trying). But that from a body conditioning scale, he’d have an excellent score. So I’m just going to leave it as he’s fine and I’m not trying to get him to be hunter obese.

Best ears. Standing by the one jump we didn’t jump!

After all that we did a little jumping. I have not done more than trotting some singles in months. Well, I cantered one fence off a circle, but other than that… But we just started by trotting a pattern of basically every fence in the indoor. So outside single around to inside single, inside line (trotting both fences), outside single, inside single (the other direction). Then we repeated this, skipping the last fence. The second time through the goal was the hold the canter any time possible, basically, canter if we landed the lead. The only time we cantered was the inside line. Final time? Trot the first jump then simple change and canter the rest, trotting into the line. I blew the turn for the outside single so I circled, but we did everything. All of our distances were long cantering in, but we had a steady pace which was the goal so we ended there.

My trainer was actually thrilled. Nay has a history of going long, especially when out of practice, so the long spots didn’t bother her. He didn’t care AT ALL and didn’t speed up on the landing. Just jumped and continued on. The point of the exercise was just to jump and not change anything. Not micromanage. Not ask him to lengthen or shorten to get a better distance but to hold a steady pace and not change anything. He did and going long didn’t bother him one bit (me? haha, but it was fine).

Seriously, who is this horse? He was so relaxed and happy. I just can’t!

Changing Various Variables

Something has been up with Nay Nay for the last couple of months but I just can’t quite identify what is off. Something is, but I don’t know what. Gut feeling?

Back in the summer we had lead issues, but he was still MY horse. I didn’t have issues with him and nothing felt off.

Then we sorted out the leads and I started worrying about his weight. And he started leaving feed behind. I started worrying more. Then I added back his western alfalfa and he stuffed his face with that and left more grain. I pretty much was at a loss.

Logic says change 1 variable at a time so that you know what works. But, WHY would I follow logic?

In one of my last lessons, my trainer mentioned that she suspected Nay might be in touch of pain as he would toss his head when we made tight(er) turns. He did NOT react with wide sweeping turns or on the straight sides of the arena. This got me thinking. I had done a bute test and had no change, but she suggested robaxin. I’m NOT against getting the vet involved and/or medication especially if it was muscular/medical/pain related, but SOMETHING was telling me to play around with some other things first. The head tossing started when we changed bits from the D-ring snaffle to the 3 ring elevator. The mouth piece stayed the same, but obviously the functionality of the bit was different.

So, last weekend, after Nay had YET MORE time off, I put him back in his snaffle and… he DID NOT TOSS HIS HEAD ONCE. In fact, he just seemed thrilled and happy head wise, if otherwise completely out of shape. He felt more relaxed than I felt in months.

Throughout the week, I made other changes. Last week I pulled him off is powder supplements because he just hasn’t been into them (platinum performance ::cue me crying::) and then when he still wasn’t cleaning his bucket, I cut the rice bran. He immediately seemed to start eating better without the extra fat. Hmm. Today? His demeanor just seemed… better? He still doesn’t eat a lot of hay overnight, BUT I keep telling myself he gets 10lbs of western alfalfa. How much do I expect him to eat on top of 10 lbs of alfalfa? The alfalfa is packed with protein and nutrients so everything he eats on top of that is good. Out in the field he eats when he wants. How much? Who knows. I rarely see him eat but here and there I see him at the feeder. And the hay disappears. The boys finish a bale in 2-3 days (out 12 hours/day). So they all do eat. Nay just likes to hang out, just like Subi.

Anyway, today’s ride? Nay was even better than last week. I had to grab a crop for the canter because someone was too relaxed, but I feel like I have my horse back. He’s not tossing his head. He feels relaxed. He’s using his hind end. And our rides just don’t feel… stressed? I DO feel a little “dragging” going on here and there so perhaps the elevator may make an occasional appearance, but I feel like all the head flinging was bit related vs pain. And now that we’re off rice bran? He feels even better.

So which variable is the cause of all this, no idea. But sometimes changes are what we need.