09.07.20: Poop and Pink Polka Dots

My lesson from yesterday was late, and I was glad in the end because it had cooled off quite comfortably. Not that it was warm anyway, but still, every little bit helped.
I headed down to fetch Storm from the pasture and found him to be quite dirty and covered with manure polka dots. As we climbed the hill out of the grass to the gate he kept wanting to stop and swing his head around to brush the flies off his shoulder. I told him that if he hadn't slept in the poop he wouldn't be attracting the flies. I don't think it made much sense to him.
I knew I would need to go over some things with Kirsten before getting started since Storm and I had some problems over the past couple weeks. I headed into the arena and explained to Kirsten what we'd been through over the past few weeks. I told her about my concerns with the dry spots, and she recommended another layer of padding for the saddle. I asked Jim to head up and grab the wedge pad that we had, and I pulled the saddle off and added that to the top of the other pads. I redid the saddle and got myself organized to get started.
I hopped up on the fence and asked him to bring the saddle, which he did very politely. We started off, and he was still giving me a bit of trouble in the same area that he was before. Kirsten set up a smaller rectangle within the arena for us to work on making straight lines and staying balanced. She worked with me to begin using the reins more for feedback rather than control (definitely a challenge for me! Dang hands...) and use my weight shift to help direct him in the correct direction and balance left to right.
It took a while but eventually we were making a nice rectangle all the way around rather than only on the fence line. It took me a while to feel his shifts and which way I needed to move to counter balance that. Slowly we worked out the left to right balance challenges, and Kirsten kept adding elements to the exercise. She kept developing us so that it continued to refine the balance. The eventual outcome is that every time Storm wants to take reins out of my hands, I let it out very slowly, and at the same time, ask him to step up with his hindquarters. The result is that he should be shortening his neck to counter balance bringing his hindquarters under, so the pressure should be released off of the reins. The challenge is that getting him to step up with his hindquarters is really challenging and takes a lot of leg and stomach muscles. Kirsten advised that it is much easier to use a dressage whip and tickle their leg leg a bit to help ask them to step up.
We only rode for about 45 minutes since we spent a bit of time adjusting the saddle before I climbed up. That was just as well since I was having trouble maintaining my legs to ask him to step up with his hind legs.
Sunday the weather was gorgeous again, and I got myself organized to ride again. Storm was no cleaner, really, and I scrubbed him good with the curry trying to get some of the dirt out of his coat. He's still shedding quite a bit, I really need to spend a long time currying until I can't curry anymore. I finally gave up on trying to get all the dirt and hair off, and saddled up.
I ended up following Nancy down into the arena, though by the time I got there she was already wrapping up her ride. She's been taking it easy since her horse is still recovering from a lot of abscesses. I got everything ready and climbed aboard and found Storm to be a bit distracted. With Nancy in the arena, and Jim McDonald working a horse in the round pen, and his truck down by the round pen so he didn't have to carry the saddle all the way down, there was a lot more to pay attention to than there had been the day before. It took me a bit to get Storm focused and really start working.
We had problems again on that back side, but I tried to focus and work through them. We have moments of clarity where things work, and then times where he gets squirrly and I have trouble getting him back together until we move on into another part of the arena.
After a while, Anne came down and her daughter came along to watch. She was telling me about finding her horse's original breeding and racing papers, discovering he was bred by a man that owns a restaurant up north of here a bit that is known for having all sorts of racing stuff. It was really interesting to learn of her horse's past, so often when you purchase a horse there is little history that is known, so to be able to find their past and talk to someone about it is really neat.
Anne and I rode around for a bit, Storm spooked once, but it was only a bit of a twitch, which I was pleased with. I kept right on riding, and he kept on moving. We rode on for a while, and Anne finally headed off to ride around the pastures for a while. Storm and I ended up riding for almost two hours. He spooked once more, but it was more of one of those moving spooks, and finally I was able to get him to reconnect and get him re-focused.
Before Anne headed out, I asked her daughter, Katherine, to run up and get me my dressage whip so that my legs didn't have to work so hard. It really made a big difference. Storm really offered more when I used it in conjunction with my legs. He seemed to be making some good changes and finally I decided to call it quits for the day.
I took him up to the barn, and untacked him to inspect the sweat patterns on his back. There were some dry spots, but definitely not to the magnitude that they had been. I think I am going to have to adjust that third pad just a bit to see how it affects the patterns. Storm had a noticeably more pleasant attitude since I added that pad than he had before. It will be interesting to see how it develops over time and what changes.
He was pretty sweaty, so I decided to out and out give him a bath. I've never really given him a full proper bath with shampoo and conditioner. Jim helped me get everything ready and between the two of us we got him sudsed up good. We scrubbed all the manure polka dots good, and the various green spots from grass. His tail got dunked really good to get the dirt out of it, and we scrubbed him down really well. When he was soaked thoroughly we found it amusing that he has pink spots on his neck and down his chest. Apparently his normal dark skin has pink spots on it in some places, which don't show through when the hair is dry. We scrubbed him down good and then hosed off all the suds and I put liberal amounts of conditioner in his mane and tail before giving him one last rinse.
We scraped the water off of him and then I took him down to the arena to roll. He was jonsing for it on the way around the barn and down the hill. He didn't get ten steps into the arena before he was in the sand rolling. He flipped himself three times back and forth while grunting and groaning happily the entire time. He finally stood up again and shook his head a bit before I took him back out of the arena and headed up to the pasture. J met me with his fly mask, and we brushed his face off enough to get the mask back on without too much sand underneath and turned him out. He hung out drinking water and licking the salt block for a while before he finally headed off to the grass again.

I should also add that Jim received an email from Parelli that he passed his Level 1 with Storm! We submitted the video after I got back from Florida, and he did really well! I'm so very proud of him!

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09.07.25: In the Valley