Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow, Trucks, and Milo

The weatherman was calling for a Winter Storm Advisory yesterday. It was expected that Western Washington would see upwards of six inches of snow to start at about 5 pm last night (right at commute time!). Well, still being out of a truck, I was dropped off at the barn and had the extreme fortune to have total arena access for the second day in a row! I put the Cowhorse Equipment saddle on Milo and headed into the arena. One lesson was just finishing up and I warmed up Milo much like I did the day before with symmetrical circles (now this is a touh on for Milo as he is stiff on the left side and also likes to bulge his shoulder out that way), straight lines, and counter arc bending. He warmed up nicely.

I moved him up into a trot and he was moving very nicely again. It took a while to get a couple of even trot circles (especially to the left) and as I worked on this I realized I was overaiding, or rather, helping him too much. See, at my lesson with Sarah, she had mentioned to quit crossing my outside rein hand over his neck. If he isnt responding to the rein pressure or my outside leg, I need to bump with my inside rein. I noticed last night that with this being his stiff side he doesnt want to bend to the inside, he would rather move straight but travel in a somewhat circle shaped pattern. So I would aid with my outside rein and outside leg, but then bring my outside rein over his neck then widely bring my inside rein out. It was all sorts of weird. But I was doing that to compensate for his lack of willingly bending his body to the left (he is also more resistant to counter arc this direction too, naturally). So once I realized I was doing that, I brought him back to a walk and really focused on driving him forward into the bridle with my legs, then supporting my inside leg with my outside rein and just giving an upright bump on the inside rein when needed. It was hard for Milo, but he held the correct position for about a half circle with light contact. Good Milo. I knew I couldnt expect much more then that from him.

But this brought on another realization. Not only was I automatically altering my aids to get by Milo's flaws, I also have lost a lot of my ability to ride in a saddle. I've mentioned this before when I suddenly have a saddle for use for a brief period of time, but it was really evident the past two rides. I've lost some of my lower leg strength, and how to stretch my weight down into my heels. Bareback, I just let them loosely hang to remind myself to sit deep and stay relaxed. In a saddle, my weight feels like its in my toes and that Im posting off of them. I also have a hard time keeping my stirrups which I believe is due to the lower leg weakness. But I must say, I am getting much better on staying upright and not leaning forward, which is improving with Milo tremendously - I think this is where his fantastic trotting is coming from now, his shoulders are freeing up and he can work over his back and hocks. Finally, my seat itself feels insecure in a saddle. This particular saddle is quite slippery and I have a hard time staying in place anyways due to my sliding. But I can also tell that Im not sitting deeply like I should be.

With this in mind, when I pushed Milo into the lope, I focused very much on distributing my weight evenly down into my heels and sitting deep and relaxed. This took a few laps to get my cadence with Milo but once I did he finally dropped his head and lifted his back. However, at the lope to the right, Milo still pinned his ears almost the entirety of the work. He leaped right into the lope nicely and after I found my seat he worked correctly, but he still was voicing his opinion (or maybe an objection?) to loping through his ears (not his tail, which is usually where the attitude shows). But once I got a bit of nice lope work we came down to the trot (which was a beautiful transition by the way and you want to know why? I consciously relaxed my lower back and simply blocked my seat's forward motion. It truly proved that our downward transitions are due to my stiff and bracing lower back) then finally the walk for a short breather.

Our lope to the left was far better then the other direction. No pinned ears, he stepped right into the lope balanced and collected, and even moved off my leg fantastically for our circles. The only thing that I can think of that needs work this direction is he has a tendancy to not only push his hip to the inside on our circles (when Im aiding at B not C) and drop his shoulder (not nearly as dramatically as to the right however). After a good workout I brought Milo back down and walked him out a bit.

All this ear vocalization is telling me something is up with his body. I know he is stiffer, but maybe he is sore too? I cant imagine his rib would be out again as its been months of proper saddle fitting and bareback riding, plus he is working over his back so well as before when the rib was out he would refuse to. Im thinking he may just be a bit body sore. Ive been working him consistently 4 or 5 days a week for the past two months and in these months I have asked him to use his body in a much harder and different way. Sure I give him the weekend off and occasionally a few days off during the week , but maybe his muscles really are just sore. Its really the only thing I can think of.

Well, Milo sure thinks I work him real hard.

I just liked this photo :) 01/11/11
Have you noticed though, that darned neck cover has rubbed off some of his mane?? Its made me really sad but I didnt want to braid it or band it underneath the cover for fear that that would make it easier to rub out. Maybe I should have? Suggestions?

So I have a lesson scheduled with Sarah tomorrow and Im quite excited for it, but Im also hoping she can give Milo a thorough once-over and verify if anything is sore, and possibly help me out with the areas that are tight and show me something I can do for it at home. I do still execute the cookie stretches to both sides and down, but Im thinking there is more I could/should be doing.

So post ride, I was picked up by Boyfriend's Father and taken to his house where Boyfriend's Brother (a diesel mechanic for the city) has been working on my truck and was now ready to send it home with me. He replaced numerous parts (not all that I can remember) including a new radiator, a new fuel sensor (which is the culprit behind my 6 m/gal fuel economy), a completely new tune up (sparks plugs, etc), and he also took off the exhaust, cut out one cat (? Not exactly sure what it is but its something involved with the exhaust) and replaced another, cleaning out all the mud and crud and carbon buildup that was in there greatly effecting the truck's ability to run.

So what was wrong with it? Numerous things, but mostly that it was so clogged up with crap from being old and not part of routine maintenance (not entirely my fault, but those who owned it the two years prior to my ownership). Now, it is almost entirely cleaned out, with some new essential parts, and they even kept one cat cut off so it sounds real mean when running. It actually scared me when I first turned the ignition from the unexpected sound that it made.

Can I just say that never have I ever enjoyed driving my truck home so much as I did last night? In the two years I have owned it it has never ran as well as it is right now. Granted, Boyfriend's Brother still wants me to bring it back to his this weekend so he can fully service the transmission and give it an oil change, it should be a secure vehicle for me for the next 6-8 months he estimated. Surely enough time for me to go get a loan for my dream truck.

So back to weather. Driving home, as soon as I got to the Seabeck Marina (still a few miles away from home) there was snow accumulation. Now I've mentioned before how Seabeck always seems to get the worst of the weather, well that still hold true. We had gotten snowfall Monday night which was still around. And now we got six more inches on top of that. So I carefully drove my truck home (I'll be damned if after its all fixed up that some stupid thing like snow is going to compromise my ability to drive the darned thing!) and arrived home to some slippery roads and a lot of fresh snow. Im just hoping this doesnt effect my lesson with Sarah tomorrow, or that would be three weeks in a row!

1 comment:

Rising Rainbow said...

It would seem if he's just a little body sore a gram of bute at least 20 minutes before your ride would ease that. If it doesn't, you know you have something else going on.