Monday, October 25, 2010

We’re back in the lesson routine…

A still from the video of the trainer taking her through some of the "bigger" jumps,
but seriously Lola is jumping it like it was a house instead of 2 foot.

So I updated the summer, by September we were getting back into a groove.

We have a very talented eventing trainer in the area, and I’ve been hoping to take a lesson to try her out for over a year and a half. So while Lola was still living at my parents (a little vacation after Santa Barbara before heading back to boarding) we were much closer to the trainer and we went out for a jumping lesson. I’ve done about as much as I’m comfortable doing on my own. Lots of poles, cavelettis, grids, and low cross rails courses. I’ve basically been trotting up to everything and then cantering though the grids so she learns to jump from the base and stay relaxed. So for our very first lesson Lola calmly trotted up to the cross rail, picked up her feet and landed trotting away. The trainer laughed that Lola didn’t seem very impressed. I told that had been my goal. Easy peasy.

So she pushed us to jump a little higher x’s and some oxers, she had us cantering away and mixing things up a bit with some cantering around the arena. Then she got on to try her out and we popped the fences up a little higher to see if we could wake her up. The great thing about this is that I can work up to where I’m comfortable, and then the trainer can push her a little farther. I like this idea A LOT!

For the second lesson I dragged my boyfriend out to video. I was really pleased with the lesson considering Lola and I are both out of shape after about a month off. There is plenty of room for improvement in my jumping, but I could at least pick out some things to be happy about. Then when the trainer got on I was pleased with Lola’s willingness to keep going even though she was tired and this was more physically and mentally than I had ever asked of her. At the end, I was beat, she was beat, but I think we both felt pretty stinking proud of ourselves.

We did some canter poles...

Then we started with the easy cross bar with a pole down to help her with distance.

Then that got bumped up to a vertical...

And finally we tried an oxer! YIKES!
1st attempt is a little wiggly

Second go is a little better.

That was about the end of my comfort level since my legs were screaming from all the canter over poles... You can see I'm getting tossed about like a rag doll in these last two. But in my defense, she's jumping it big, and she's still jumping it a little awkwardly. When I freeze the frame it shows how much she's clearing the rails by!

So we did a different sort of pushing the comfort level. We cantered while approaching the cross bar! She was great.

Now if I could just keep this up at home we'd be jumping courses at shows in no time. But sadly time has been scarce and money for lessons is almost non existent. So we're taking it slowly. We've jumped twice since then very successfully, but we also kept it to 18 inches! I figure I better not push my luck. We'll jump real jumps while the trainer watches. We'll jump little fun things to keep our minds and bodies fresh in the mean time.

Silver lining shines through the worst thunder cloud

Well, I’ve briefly updated Bear’s blog, but Lola’s post is a bit more complicated. While Bear had a summer sitting in pasture, Lola’s summer was a little more like a long hard day full of emotional turmoil and dinosaur fights (my favorite quote from Meet the Robinsons). :) Basically I had the best bad news ever.

Lola’s nervous choppy trot seemed to be turning into explosive canter departs on the lunge line, and a general inability to work productively due to what seemed to be nervous, anxious, and overall negative energy. Mix into this some of the most productive and impressive rides I’d ever gotten out of her. Total craps shoot every day. I mean she gave me the best relaxed and on the bit trot I had ever gotten from her while enormous tractors were mowing down the 5 foot weeds all around the edge of the arena. Seriously, what horse behaves that well! Then other days she was like a bottled up rocket. I was pulling my hair out trying to sort out what I thought was a training issue. And then the life-changing event took place.

One evening, about 5 minutes into lunging she bucked when asked to pick up the canter, and then just wanted to stop. She seemed dead set on not behaving, she was nervous and dripping in sweat. I didn’t have a clue what was happening. I tested her out at walk trot and canter thinking anything under the sun. Maybe she hurt herself. Maybe she’s being super naughty. Maybe she’s just plain gone crazy. She looked stiff and slow. She looked like each step was getting smaller until she was jogging like a western pleasure horse. So with the trot-canter test failed, I thought maybe I could walk her out of this. Nope. Still dripping sweat, still stiff, and also shaking uncontrollably. So after maybe 10 minutes of desperately trying to figure it out, I was slammed in the face with the reality that something was seriously wrong. She was still sweating and shaking, and once she stopped, she was stuck there, couldn't move. Anyway, one complete and total emotional breakdown, and one emergency vet visit later, I got the best bad news ever. Sounds like she has PSSM, and simply put, she can’t metabolism feed high in starches. Feeds like the corn, oats, and barley grain, and the oat hay I was feeding her over the summer. Or the feeds with high sugar content like all the spring grass she was eating while in pasture up until May. Basically, since I’ve had her, I’ve been feeding her stuff that would trigger symptoms. These symptoms can include muscle tightness, a stiff choppy stride, reluctance to canter, a nervous or uptight demeanor due to just plain being uncomfortable, and most severely, PSSM horses will tie up, which is what happened that night. So good news from the bad news, once diet is managed something like more than 75% of horse have no more symptoms, a noticeable change in gait, and no more episodes of tying up! That one night sucked, I’m not going to lie, but I count myself lucky to have figured out she needed a diet change.

So long story short, I have a whole new horse. Well, not exactly, I have my good version of Lola. I had glimpses of her all along. My trainer had commented back in May that she seemed to need a 45 minute warm up before she could really work and use her body, like she just couldn’t do it early in the ride. The first time she saw her after the summer she commented on how different she moved, and that her muscles even looked less tight and contracted. Amazing difference! Canter departs are no longer a source of anxiety for her. She’s got better quality gaits. She’s relaxed and happy to work. She’s the good Lola all the time now. Also have heard in the prognosis for diet change that it can take four to six months for the changes to be complete. After that, if the diet is working, its just plain working. So I don't think she'll have another tie-up episode, and she's moving loads better.

So that’s the major update. Lot’s more good stuff to follow!