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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

6/2/01 - 10/11/11
~ Forever the Marest of Them All ~

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Karma A Go-Go

First off, I want to thank everybody that expressed their concern for our horrible mess of a workout yesterday. We all have lapses of judgement, and we learn from the mistakes we make. Gogo was fine and happy today, and we had a pretty good ride, so it seems that I've been forgiven for confusing her and stressing her out.

And hah! Well it seems karma did in fact get the best of me today after yesterday's disaster. Gogo went out with the first shift of turnouts, and when Shannon went out to get the tractor to drag the ring, she discovered that Gogo had figured out how to REMOVE the paddock gate (a huge metal one) by lifting it off its hinges. Thankfully the gate was still secured, and she was still in there, but still. It took both of us to lift it and put it back on. I put her back out there, and when I went to go bring her inside, I found that she had taken it off AGAIN. BUT, she only actually got it off the top hinge, and had bent the bottom hinge. Shannon and I wrestled it off again, and tried to put it back on, but both of us jumping on the gate with our full weights wouldn't manage to push it back down all the way again. Oh Gogo.... removing gates is her very favorite thing to do. She takes her stall gate off at least once a day. I didn't expect her to do it to the paddock gate though... I didn't think she physically could!

I've been slightly remiss in blogging this week. It's been emotionally tumultuous for me to put it lightly. None of it is horse related, so I'll keep it out of this blog, but it's been pretty miserable and I've spent a lot of time around Gogo just being in general miserable but so happy I have her for company. Yesterday was sort of a culmination of emotions and unhappiness, I think. Today was a much better day, and I'm very thankful for that. I'm also happy to report that Gogo seems to have forgiven me and we had a very nice ride today after all. Something I always need to keep in mind with Gogo is that she does get tense, and she holds onto that tension, so THE most important thing to remember with her is that relaxation comes before ALL else. If she isn't relaxed, none of the work will be good. No, that's not quite the term.... the work might actually be very good (or a huge disaster, either one), but when it's good and there is still some tension, it becomes very fragile. And she is very prone to huge explosions. We decided today that she's just like an emotional teenager - wants to party all the time and do nothing else (jump, x-county), hates to do her homework (dressage), and is very prone to acting out and having tantrums when she doesn't understand things or feels she's been treated unreasonably (whether or not she actually HAS been is another story). But when she's good, she is SO GOOD. SO AMAZINGLY GOOD. And when she's bad, she is just AWFUL. There is never mediocre with this horse. And I LOVE IT. I wonder as she mentally matures more if she'll be a little more reasonable about her tantrums. I feel like probably not.

Last Sunday I attempted to get back into the regular swing of things with my jump day, but it had been so miserably cold that I didn't want to push it too hard. All the jumps has also been plowed into the area behind the barn by the snowplow guy, making it literally impossible to get them out, so I figured I'd settle on a cavalletti exercise I had been wanting to do as actual jumps.

It's a rollback exercise - I've actually done it before with actual jumps when she was younger, and it was way less of a success then than it was this time. What you do is approach the first pole at a canter (or trot), then roll back to the neck pole, switch leads over the next pole or immediately after, roll back to the next pole, switch leads and roll back to the next pole, then the next... etc. This was with five poles. She's been nailing those lead changes lately - yesssss, one of our monthly goals! - so I wanted to test out her ability to change leads in a tighter situation as opposed to changes on a gradual serpentine or a long straightaway. Well, the exercise was a resounding success at the trot, obviously, and at the canter she got a little fired up about her changes in a happy way. As usual, she got all her perfect changes from left to right, but she misfired with her hind end several times going right to left. Only Gogo can do a balanced 8-metre volte while cross-cantering, seriously. She got rather sweaty, and we spent a good long time cooling out... she needs to be clipped again! Overall I felt it was pretty good, but we'll revisit this one for sure.

Monday I was super awful stressed and unhappy, and I felt it was just unfair to get on her and ask her to do some dressage, so I got on her and went for a conditioning hack. It was a gorgeous, sunny day, and it was amazingly refreshing to just get off the property and do a good 40 minute hack. When the good weather comes a few of the clients have already expressed their desire to go out conditioning with me (yeaaa!!), but for now I'm stuck with paved roads in the local quiet neighborhoods. We unfortunately live in a very suburban area with no real open spaces nearby, but we have some awesome long, gradual hills that are going to be great for conditioning in the winter months. We walked and trotted up these hills, and she was so happy and cheerful, and so was I. Gogo therapy is really the best therapy. Horses have always been therapeutic in that way for me... and I really appreciate having a good snuggle with her. Nothing makes me feel better faster than that does.

Tuesday was another dressage lesson with Vicki. It was very interesting... she started off all right, then became increasingly tense and hot, which culminated in a huge explosion of a full on rear and 180-degree turn on her hindlegs in protest of whatever I was doing to upset her. That's the first rear she's done since she flipped on me last March... I thought we were cured of that stuff! After her blowup, we did some walk work to let off some steam and let her cool down, and after that she was just as cool as the proverbial cucumber, and Vicki said she had never seen her back that loose and swinging. We didn't do too many complicated things - some gradaual leg yields, some small lengthenings, some transitions (including some killer walk-canter-walks) - and that was about it, but she felt sooooooooooo good by the end. Mares...

And, well, you know about Wednesday. (Death.)

Today was another dressage lesson with Vicki, and considering how horrible yesterday was, today was a pretty great success. We started off with some walk work again, doing a lot of serpentines and loops, essentially preventing her from every being on a straight line during the entire warmup. At the trot, we started to do the same thing on a bigger scale, but it was creating tension in her and that was the last thing I wanted, so I backed off and just asked for transitions... lots and lots of transitions. And lo and behold, that worked. I think the key with her just really has to be relaxation, and I think the way to get there is to just take it slow and simple until she gets to where she needs to be. Vicki was talking about how she wanted to find ways to speed up my warmup so I can get onto the more important things, but I think that doing a really correct w/t/c is more important to me than trying to get through that as quickly as possible so we can move on to other things. I mean, I want to move on to other things, but the fastest way to do that is to just do simple, quiet things with her to get her to relax right off the bat. After I was totally done with her, Vicki adjusted my bridle and put the bit up one hole and told me to pick her back up and go see what difference that made, which was against my better judgement but I figured we'd give it a shot. We did a decent trot and walk, but I had already lost most of that fluidity. I told her I didn't want to do it either, but she insisted it would be fine. Gogo was certainly all right after I picked her back up, but she wasn't supple anymore, and I felt bad. Won't be doing that again.

I have a video! This is something I took while lunging Gogo (before the death and disaster happened) to try and capture her weird mouthy motions and head twitches on camera. Don't try this at home kids! You'll see a few things - first, she's CRAWLING along because she knows I'm not paying as much attention to her forward motion as I should be while I'm holding a camera; secondly, you'll first see her do something weird with her tongue and mouth, and then near the end of the video you'll see her twich her head in a small way. It's very odd.


Gogo has also changed stalls this week, which makes me an unhappy kid. She had the end stall, the only stall in the barn with two windows. It had a big high ceiling, was out from under the hay loft, and was walled off from the other horses - had a stall gate, but no bars or anything so she couldn't touch anyone. Now, she switched with a horse named Rico to a dark stall underneath the hay loft with no windows at all, a much lower ceiling, and the ability to chat with neighbors. She's been watching the horse across from her banging on his stall door with his teeth at feed time, and I actually saw her put her mouth on the stall door like she was going to do it too.... the first time in her life I've ever seen her put her mouth on ANYTHING. She's just not like that. She got a stern talking to about it too!

There's so much still I want to write about, but this is getting reeeeeeeeeeeeeeally long and it's 1:30 in the morning, so I really should go to sleep.

Gogo enjoying her early morning turnout and hay.


DressageInJeans said...

Relaxation is the key! You are so correct. Don't EVER sacrifice a warm up. I will leave you with a quote from a dressage book I am reading:

'Nothing is more important, more challenging, or more difficult, than cultivating correct basics.'
-Erik Herbermann

dp said...

We reversed the hinges on all of our gates when Tonka learned to take them off. Horses are strong.

Glad to hear that things are progressing smoothly again. Shocked to hear that Daun ever put Brego up for sale, but it does speak to the depth of despair we can sometimes feel about our relationships with these crazy animals.

Funder said...

I'm glad you're feeling better. I know exactly what you mean about how difficult a highstrung alpha mare is. But so rewarding too. I <3 my Dixie like you <3 your Gogo.

Andrea said...

Ah! DressageInJeans, best quote ever. I will remember that one always.

Horses are too strong dp. I really can't figure out how she did it... she puts her head under her stall gate, but she couldn't have done that with this outside gate. It's a mystery...

And oh yes Funder, I <3 my Gogo. She's a nutcase sometimes, but I absolutely adore her and am utterly devoted to her, no matter what's going on.

DressageInJeans said...

:) I thought you'd enjoy! I just got a flood of books, and I've taken to writing down the quotes/ideas I like so I don't forget them. When I read your post, it made me think of it.