Sunday, May 14, 2017

Highs and Lows

This weekend has felt a bit bipolar in both my personal and my horse life. I shipped the Vegetable off with my dad yesterday since I'll be traveling this upcoming week so it's been quiet and weird at home without him. I've also started packing and am still doing my best to deal with the stress of this not completely positive last minute trip which will now, most likely, be Tuesday-Friday.

With Mother's Day today I'm sad to not be seeing my mom (other plans, travel, etc.) and since I'll never be a mom to small humans would like to celebrate with my four legged kids. However, with Veggie gone it already feels weird and then I had a scare with Katai yesterday.

So I've mentioned previously that Katai has had some shortness in her right shoulder. It's been off and on and she's always held tension there and she does a really good impression of the Zanyeta stomp when I take up contact if she's tense. Most of the time though she's even and if she's even on the contact and working without tension she's perfect on various footing. However, if there's even a small amount of tension or if we're asking her to take more contact on the right rein she'll have a slight hitch to her gait.

Jane and I did a full lesson where Jane had me work through a few different exercises including counter bending her and changing the bend a lot and she was perfectly even for almost the entire ride. It started cropping up now that Jane's helping me get more even contact on both reins. There's no heat, no swelling, no "off-ness" to any part of her leg or shoulder but she starts to move that way when there's any tension. You can probably see it in the trotting GIF I shared in my last post. When I originally created it I was paying more attention to how active her hind legs were but when I saw how noticeable it is there I thought about pulling it. However, it's an accurate representation of where we are right now.

I want to assure you that I'm not neglecting getting a vet to look at her, if this doesn't resolve itself soon or if it changes, or starts to be more prevalent I'll of course call out the vet and do whatever they think is needed. I have the funds set aside to do it so it's not a big deal but after extensively looking at it Jane and I both feel that it's more of a "rein lameness" than anything else.

With that being said I took her over to the other barn yesterday with just a lunge line and rope halter. This barn is a PERFECT desensitization opportunity. The women who owns it has a pet potbelly pig right up against the arena along with two mini ponies in the next pen over. She's also got three, large rambunctious dogs, a rambunctious kid, multiple other horses, and jumps and standards all over in and near the arena. Basically a whole lot of things that Katai has no familiarity with.

When I got Katai there, while I was incredibly impressed at how well she was handling it, as you can imagine there was A LOT of tension. I just asked for a bit of lunging with lots of changes of direction but she was clearly uneven and this is the first time that I've lunged her where it was noticeable without side reins. I didn't do much and then took her back to our barn. Groomed her, left her, and spent the rest of the evening freaking out. Everything from retirement, to shoulder x-rays, to minor muscle tension, to calling the chiro ran through my head for about 5 hours.

I finally talked myself off the ledge and decided to have Jane look at her this morning prior to heading back over to the other arena for a ride. If Jane thought that anything was wrong I'd call off the ride and figure out with her what to do. If not, I'd go ahead and ride.

I got there and saw that Jane was videotaping her (AMAZING) young horse who was having a trainer ride outside. I watched (with my jaw hanging open) for a few minutes and let her know that I'd like to have her watch the pony trot on a lunge. She agreed but also told me that she still didn't think Katai was off. Apparently she'd been running around and Jane has already diagnosed that tension is what's causing the unevenness and she already knew that Katai was tense when I was at the neighbors.

I got Katai out (honestly all ready to prove her wrong and send us into emergency lame horse crisis mode) and brought her into the arena and started trotting her on the lunge and couldn't find even a speck of lameness. None, zilch, and I was LOOKING for it. I was so ready for her to be off that I changed directions with her a few times and even had her canter just to try to prompt it but still nothing. Then Jane showed up, also pronounced her completely sound (probably feeling like I'm some sort of hypochondriac) and reminded me how that tension would have caused her to be off just as we've talked about in the past.

I was SOOO relieved and tacked the pony up to head over to the other barn. I crossed my fingers that I'd make it out alive but I also had so much hope that she'd be good after all of our recent practice.

Long story short it went SO well! I was able to get some video which I've posted below! I pretty much just cut out mounting (and a bit of the end after I dismounted since I was trying to get a melted peppermint out of a wrapper and even I lost patience watching it) although I wish it had been in frame.

This arena belongs to the women on the right with the exceptionally tall horse and her mounting block reflects that. I had to slowly lower myself onto my pony's back since the top of the mounting block was higher than the bottom of my saddle flap #ponyproblems.

As you can see in the video she still is tight in that shoulder at points, however, for her first ride in a new space I feel like she did well and it wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. She'll get four days off next week while I'm out of town so I'm curious to see if that changes anything. If it really is just her holding tension it shouldn't but I'm curious. We really did ride for just about 10 minutes since my boy doesn't do well with quick temperature changes and this was the first 80 degree day we've had. Even with this I had a headache but much more and I would have ended up with an all day migraine. I'm planning to ride over there again next weekend so I'll work more then. Also, yeah I know that I mirrored our test and went right instead of left. I started off without room to go left when I started and since it was more about being able to cue for things at specific points I just went with it.

Finally, once I got back today I finally got to see Jane ride. Normally our schedules don't align so while I've known she's an accomplished rider I haven't quite known what to expect. Some people are better teachers than riders but I was blown away today watching Jane ride. She's not a young women and her horse is in her 20s and a true definition of a school master (at one point the mare decided to try to take over and do a canter pirouette :) and Jane rides like this.

Alois Podhajsky

and reminded me of this book
It was amazing to watch, like watching a true master. The amount of core strength and how invisible her aids are were just outstanding to me. I've seen some amazing riders but never expected to find that in my instructor and because she hasn't shown much, there aren't many scores out there for her so I just had no idea really. It totally impressed and blew me away and while I've clearly always had so much respect and trust in Jane seeing her ride herself just brought it to the next level.

We also rescheduled my Tuesday lesson to Monday so I'll have more to share soon!


  1. Hmm I wonder if shoulder stretches would help? It reminds me of Carmen- when she's tense she throws her haunches in. I rode a horse that would be rein lame. if you rode him correctly from behind no lameness at all but if you fell on his forehand he would immediately start gimping.

    1. That's a great point Teresa! I've been doing them occasionally but maybe I should do more. Jane also wants me to start lunging her over ground poles a few times when I'm lunging so I'm hoping that will help as well. Of course Jane's also help me change myself (probably the biggest part) and adding additional under saddle exercises as well so I'm sure we'll get this sorted soon :)


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