Thursday, 19 January 2012

Bit by bit - the key to Amelie's mouth

Well that's all my horses back in work properly now. Amelie is further ahead as she had been kept ticking over. Garth and Tara are working gently until they get their fitness levels back up. It is great turning them out onto the hill fields that I have here everyday, as it means that their fitness levels don't drop back to nothing if they do get a holiday. Walking up and down the slopes for a few hours every day keeps up a pretty good basic fitness level even if the horses aren't in full work.
Thankfully last weekend the wind finally died down here for a bit and we enjoyed a couple of beautiful still, frosty days. Luckily it has also been dry so it isn't particularly icy, therefore some of riders from the yard took advantage of this and got out for a couple of good hacks in the sunshine.

Some of the horses head out on a beautiful frosty day.
Some of the girls had lessons with trainer David Harland here on Saturday so I took the opportunity to join in one lesson with Amelie who was ready for a gentle session. She worked around the other two horses and then David put some poles out for us while the other two gave their horses a breather. Ams was feeling pretty fresh so we did a bit of slow trotting into poles then some small jumps just to remind her to stay steady into them and not get too excited and rush. She finished up working in a relaxed frame and settled well to the job in hand.

Finding the key
I am still finding it frustrating though, that I don't yet have the key to her mouth - she can still be incredibly fussy and resistant at times and I am not sure why. I am going to go down the route of trying some new things until I find a combination that she finds more acceptable. So with that in mind I have a Micklem bridle coming. I have used one of these before on another horse with great results, unfortunately the one I had was too small to fit any of my other horses so Amelie has her own shiny new one on the way - I knew my Christmas money would come in handy. I have also hired a couple of bits to try including the intriguing Peewee bit.

One of those lightbulb moments
I had a bit of a lightbulb moment on her the other day when I wondered if it was pressure on the sides of her face she is objecting too, so I took off her noseband. The bridle she has on at the moment is a very good one but it does have a thick padded noseband which means when the bit is used the cheekpieces must put pressure on this band and therefore on her teeth. I am starting to think that perhaps she hates the pressure of both the noseband and the bit pressing against the sides of her face against her teeth. When I took the noseband off there was a pretty instant 60-70% change for the better in her - until she got her tongue over the bit and I stopped. The Micklem is cleverly designed with a drop noseband system but no other pressure on the sides of the face and the Peewee bit is supposed to sit off the sides of the face as well. So here's hoping that I am on the right track theory wise.

The cleverly designed Micklem Multibridle
After lots of research it seems like a combination that's worth trying. The other thing in favour of the Peewee is that it has a very thin mouthpiece and Ams has quite a fleshy tongue so that should suit her too.
I have her in a comfort Myler at the moment and although it is the best bit I have tried so far, it is certainly far from perfect for her.

A pee wee - the bit sits lower in the mouth and sits off the sides of the face

I should add that I have also tried her in a hackamore and there was no discernible difference which again leads me to think that she is objecting to pressure against the sides of her teeth. I have also had her teeth done, back checked and saddle checked and fitted. I am pretty certain that this is not a pain thing because interestingly if you put draw reins on her, not to haul her head down, but to show her how to go long and low you can easily ride her incredibly lightly, just with one finger on the buckle end of them and she happily goes in a lovely, low swinging trot. There is no fighting, tension or arguing with them - which I would expect there to be if she was in pain - in fact I would expect quite a violent reaction - just the opposite of what she gives.

Anyone else been there and got this t-shirt?
If anyone else has been through this with a horse of theirs I would love to hear if you found the perfect solution and what it was.

Last night I headed off for a lesson at Balcormo with my good friend - show jumper and trainer Sandra Low Mitchell, she is helping me get Amelie to take her time jumping so that she learns to make a good shape rather than rush and flatten out. She does this by reminding me that I have to stay as still and quiet as I can and under no circumstances must I give her any signals to jump - just to keep her ticking into the fence in a good rhythm. I discussed what I was going to try with Amelie in detail and Sandra agrees that this seems a good combination of bridle and bit to try as finding something that the mare is happier with is the key to progress now.

Ams working at home - this is the frame she starts in - I try to do at least 15 minutes in a long very low frame once she has relaxed.
Must keep up the New Year diet!
Two notes to self though on looking at this picture above - it's time to haul all the jumps in under cover and have a painting session. May as well get it done before spring because there are much more exciting things to be doing once the warm weather is here. Secondly I MUST keep up with the New Year's diet so I don't look so much of a wee fat puddock on a horse!

Looking down towards our farm at the weekend.

Omagh and grey boy Garth, snoozing in the winter sunshine with ShirexTB Reuben (black) and ex racer Jerry.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Freestyle pairs dressage!...

Very, very windy here today, local wind speeds of over 100mph were recorded. We were incredibly lucky in that the only damage was some old roof tiles blowing off a shed.  Needless to say we didn't turn the horses out but I let them have a play in pairs in the school later on once the wind had died down a bit. Here's some pics I took of them enjoying some freestyle pairs dressage! Fingers crossed that the weather in Jan and Feb is calmer so that I can crack on getting them back to fill fitness for spring.
Amelie and Tara enjoying a canter around

Enjoying a trot around.
Amelie showing how nicely she moves
Tara, my mare by Jazz, wearing half the arena surface!
Next out were the boys,  Omagh (chestnut) and Garth
Garth getting woolly but looking happy during his holiday
Garth stretches out
Hi handsome.
My ginger giant, Omagh.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Here's to 2012....

So that's the end of 2011 and on we go into 2012, albeit with a very hoarse voice after a great night of New Year's Eve, village karaoke. I have decided to give my horses an easy time over the next month as the weather here has been incredibly windy and wet and it's been frustratingly difficult to ride them consistently. Plus sadly, my local show centre has stopped running indoor BS jumping and cancelled all their winter shows. As they have also completely closed their indoor small arena as well, it means that their winter dressage league, which I was looking forward to doing, has an outdoor warm-up - not very tempting on wet, cold, winter nights.

Over the next couple of months that leaves only a handful of AP jumping shows on within an hour away from here, so it seems like a good idea to give the horses an easy time over January with a view to competing again in early spring.

Garth my grey and Jerry, enjoying some time off.

It is also getting far too expensive for a hobby show jumper, in terms of diesel costs, to drive for over two hours to get to Rowallan or Ingliston to compete, as they are right over on the west of Scotland.
I queried my local BS representative about the fact that there seem to be lots of intro shows on near us at the moment but a lack of AP one and she told that intro shows are changing in April to 'Amateur' ones, which will hold classes up to 1.15m instead of stopping at 1m. I hope this is the case as it will give me much more opportunity to get out jumping locally without spending £80-£100 an outing, in fuel.

On the home front some of my livery clients are going to come and spend a day helping me use my spare time to make some more cross country jumps for our top field. Our hay shed collapsed last winter under the weight of snow and we salvaged some big round poles which will be perfect for jumps. The horses all enjoy bobbing over them so it will be fun to have some new ones to play with.

There's a rat in ma muck heap what I'm a gonna do?...
Coming down our drive one dark night over Christmas I was startled to see a massive rat running across the drive out of the muck heap. EEEEK. Now I don't mind mice but rats don't feature in my top ten of the world's creatures I want to get within 10ft of. I went back out to feed the horses and gave my three farm cats, Rockstar, Bob the Builder and Smokey (guess which two the kids named) a good talking too, pointing them in the general direction of the muck heap and explaining that eating Kitty Kat is all well and good but they had a job to do. Three pairs of yellow eyes watched me solemnly. They were definitely taking it all in.

They are actually looking pretty porky for farm cats in the middle of winter - in fact they look like well fed, doze in front of the Aga cats, not sleek mean mousing machines. I discovered that, not only were they getting their tea from me at night but that they were also turning sad, pleading eyes on some of my livery clients who were feeding them too. So I'm afraid extra snacks are off the menu until they get down to work and catch those rats!

Rockstar one of our farmcats, in slimmer days!.
Happy New Year to you all - hope it's a lucky one for everyone.