What am I up to with Phantom, you ask?
|Not getting enough treats. Nope. Not acceptable.|
She has had most of the last 4 months off. Of course, there were the two months of me working nights that I didn't bother to try to ride. But before that, there were a couple of months where she had a cough. There's a good chance she has a bit of heaves starting, but I think it's somewhat seasonal, and her bad time is late summer/early fall. It could be somewhat allergy related also.
So I'm taking my time and plan to focus on fitness more so than schooling. I wear a Garmin running watch when I ride, and have downloaded interval training programs to it. We've had a whole 3 rides since the beginning of November, two of them this week. So I'm starting at the beginning.
This week's intervals are 5 repetitions of 2 minutes of trot and 2 minutes of walk, after 10 minutes of walk to warm up. Next week will be 3 minutes of trot/4 minutes of walk for 4 repetitions, then the next week will be 4 minutes of trot/3 minutes of walk x 4. From there I'll increase the minutes of trot each week, and start to add in some canter.
|Because I'm in a Coverall arena the GPS kicks in. Note the lack of circles. Remember - not schooling!|
That's the current plan. It will work if I can ride at least 3 times a week, and we still have a couple months of inconsistent weather to get through.
|Our invervals. Obviously not speedy!|
This is also contingent on her cough/breathing. She has coughed a couple of times during each of the last two rides, but we haven't cantered, and that is when she is usually worse.
I'm going to see how it goes. If she doesn't seem to coping very well with the gradual build up of work then I will have to break down and get her looked at and on some sort of medication.
Of course, the other thing that can stall fitness is soundness. Phantom does have some arthritis in her hocks, and generally gets them injected in April or May every year. By the end of February I can usually start to feel that she's starting to get a bit uncomfortable.
In winter, there is also the Pea factor. As in, the Princess and the Pea.
Phantom very much dislikes being uncomfortable. She quite happily expresses her opinion when she deems things unacceptable.
|Cashel Fly Mask - acceptable|
The first time that the Pea factor came into play, was a cold day in winter a couple of days before I was trailering out with a friend for a lesson with a dressage instructor who was new to me. I groomed, tacked up, and hopped on. Onto a horse who was not sound. Seemingly everywhere in her body.
I jumped down and threw her on the lunge line to see what was going on. And got to watch her do a huge trot and gallop around me with glee. The same horse who was crab walking very slowly when I was on her.
|Lunge line converter - not acceptable|
I tried again a couple of days later. Same thing - it was a cold day, she was fine when she walked in, I got on, and she felt horrible. My friend who is a vet tech watched her and said "I see it right front... right hind... now left front.".
After her reaction on the lunge line last time, I figured she's not really lame. She's just not comfortable about something. Our tack was all the same that we usually used. So let's look at her feet.
|This clip on a noseband? Not acceptable.|
I hopped off and grabbed a hoof pick. Now, because it was so cold, the snow and ice in her foot was frozen solid. When I was getting ready I admittedly hadn't gotten it all out because it was just too frozen. But this time I made sure to get the bottom of those hooves completely cleaned. Then I hopped back on.
And she felt great.
Yep, she had too much snow and ice on her feet. And could not be expected to be ridden in that condition.
So now I know that before I ride in winter I have to pick her feet out completely. I occasionally miss an ice pellet, and everytime I have to get off and find that spot, and she's completely fine afterwards. Princess and the Pea that she is.
|Le Tixerant Dressage Girth - best thing ever!|
This only applies under saddle mind you. If I just pop her in the arena for a play, there is absolutely no sign of lameness despite me not picking her feet out first.
On my last two rides, she wasn't quite right. On the first ride it was the right front, on the second, the left front. Not lame, just a bit up on that shoulder. I have a sneaking suspicion that I missed some snow from under the rim snow pads she has on. So I tried to pretend it wasn't there. She'll let me know if I'm wrong.
(Other Princess and the Pea moments include the time I cleaned her bridle and forgot to put the cheekpieces back onto the winter holes instead of the summer holes to accomodate the extra fluffitude. Two super tense rides later I figured it out. There was the first couple of rides in her new PS of Sweden bridle, that had a clip on the noseband. She went with her head tipped for the whole ride. She loves the Cashel fly masks, any other one I try she removes within 24 hours. I won't mention girths.)