Conditioning, Ground Poles, and Heat

View from the top. 🙂

After Monday’s blow up, I thought it best to give G a positive ride before attempting anything remotely resembling a jump. I saddled her up Wednesday evening and set off for a nice, long conditioning ride. The equestrian center has a huge hayfield where I frequently school a couple of cross-country jumps, but it’s currently waist-high. It’s also full of holes. Not the best combination. We settled for a large, flat grassy area behind one of the barns and had a lovely ride. G felt strong and energetic and eager to work. We did a five-minute walking warm up, staying nice and loose before moving to seven minutes of trotting. We took a two minute walk break and then picked.up a canter for seven minutes.

This is where I must briefly digress into a discussion on G’s awesomeness. Most horses I’ve competed on are total psychos when it comes to cantering around in a grassy area with a rider in two point. Darling Moe (my TB gelding), for example, gets more and more excited and as a result, gets faster and faster until he’s having flashbacks of the track. G, on the other hand, picks a nice forward pace and sticks with it. I can settle into two point, give her a loose rein, and enjoy a nice ride. It’s pretty deluxe.

We cooled out after our canter work because the heat index was in the 100s. G had a nice hose down and a good roll. She cooled out nicely, so it seems she’s getting in better shape. Hooray!

I got up at the crack of dawn Thursday to ride before the sun heated things up too much. Anne met me at 7:30, and after a beautiful warmup, we got going on some trot poles. G walked over them in a very relaxed way, but fell apart at the trot. She was anxious and unhappy, but went over them a few times. She finally relaxed a little bit by the fifth or sixth time trotting. I’m taking this as a good sign. We still have a long way to go, though.

G’s had the weekend off since it’s been wretchedly hot. I’ll drag myself out of bed early a few times this week to beat the heat for sure; oh, summer. How I hate you.

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Notes on G’s Diet

For a Thoroughbred, G is a surprisingly easy keeper. I remember when I met G in January- I was amazed at how good she looked in the dead of an unusually harsh Oklahoma winter. She was shiny, energetic, and in excellent weight. For that matter, all of the horses at the equestrian center looked great, right down to the 27 year old Quarter Horse gelding with only a handful of teeth.

What voodoo magic are they getting fed? ADM Patriot 12% horse feed. (Well, the elderly QH and a little Arab eat ADM Patriot Senior.) This stuff is phenomenal. It’s formulated with added vitamins and minerals in the feed mix, so additional supplements aren’t necessary. It’s low starch, and as an added bonus, has a yeast supplement added to aid in digestion. Best part? It’s $13 a bag at my local feed store. 
Now, G and the program guys also eat hay, of course, mostly from round bales. Gina currently splits round bales with her lot-mate, a little Quarter Horse gelding named Whiskey. The program horses also go out to small pastures and get to spend time grazing. It’s an arrangement that works wonderfully. Gina is very healthy and her feed is packed with good things to help her get as fit as possible. The program horses are what’s really impressive, though- we have everything from a 10 year old Haflinger gelding to a 29 year old mule, and every last one of them looks great, moves well, and has a clean bill of health from the vet. And they’re all eating ADM Patriot. I can’t say enough good things about it.
*NOTE: I have received no compensation for this post from ADM. ADM doesn’t know I exist. I just really, really like their products! 

Misadventures in Jumping

It’s official: Gina hates stadium jumps. Her performance today left no doubt in my mind about her opinion of jumps constructed of poles. Since G had recently been going fairly well over cross-country obstacles (hay bales and barrels), I decided to try stadium jumping again today. The last time we attempted this, Gina had a conniption and ended up leaping four feet over an 18″ crossrail after refusing to even walk over ground poles. With some positive work in the field, it seemed like a good time to reintroduce regular jumps. I set up two small crossrails in a two-stride.

First, the positive: she put in some fantastic work during our warm-up. She was relaxed, happy, flexing and bending. I couldn’t be more pleased.
Once she saw the jumps and realized what my plan was, she went totally bonkers. She refused to trot over them. I asked nicely. She refused again. I popped her on the hindquarters with my bat. She launched herself into the air over the jump and promptly stopped when she realized another one was coming up. I flew off and she galloped away. Sigh. (Note: I have fallen off G more times in the last four months than I have fallen off Moe in the last four years.) Anne and I wrangled G in, I hopped back on, and put her to the tiny crossrail again. And that’s when the rearing started. It wasn’t big, scary Lone Ranger-style rearing, thank goodness. It was more of a “lift front legs off ground two feet repeatedly” rear, but it was terrible behavior nonetheless. We circled in tiny circles and I couldn’t get her to canter more than a stride before she stopped and started her rear/hop again. Jeez.
Seeing few other options, I took her back to our warm-up arena while Anne went to grab a longe line. That’s when things got weird. Gina totally chilled out, cantered around beautifully collected, and even managed a couple of flying lead changes. Like, instantly. She could still see the jumps, but once I stopped asking her to actually deal with them, she was fine. Anne set the crossrails down and I managed to get Gina to walk over the now-ground poles in both directions with little incident. Then I dismounted and longed her over both jumps set as crossrails. She was totally fine with this arrangement and even looked excited to go over the fences. So the problem appears to be having a rider on her back. Which is really inconvenient. 
After talking with Anne, I think we’re going to start G back at square one with jumping. Treat her like she doesn’t know how to jump at all. Get her over ground poles until she’s confident that I’m not going to ride her like a psycho or hurt her. Then add a crossrail. And another. And so on. I hope this will restore her faith in the ability of humans to not ride like idiots. 
What do people do to horses???