Sunday, November 30, 2008


Not much to update. I gave him the day off today since it's raining and chilly and I felt more like making a quilt than driving in the rain. I LOVE LOVE LOVE having the CHOICE of whether or not I will ride on any given day. That is the most wonderful freedom of owning a horse. I can ride whenever and however I want. I don't have to ask anyone's permission. It's pretty sweet. And speaking of owning a horse, his PAPERS finally came back and I'm officially his owner! It says so right on his registration papers!

I did go out yesterday and lunge him. My back was/is still not so well so I opted for a lunging session instead of riding. I let him out in the turn-out first (sadly not much grass there, but he seemed to enjoy the sunshine) while I cleaned his stall. He's still scraping his left hock pretty bad. I can only assume it's on the stall floor. I've been trying to deepen his stall in the middle where it seems he lays down, but it doesn't seem to stick. That area isn't usually messy so I don't think the stall cleaner is taking too much bedding out of that area. I wonder if he digs there and moves the bedding around? I don't know what else it could be. I think about getting a stall matt sometimes, but the cost is pretty substantial and I just don't know if I can swing that. And I don't know if it's worth it for a skinned hock that doesn't seem to bother him. I keep putting ointment on it.

Anyway, back to the workout. He started out pretty fresh as always but when he quit that crap and started really working he was great! He's been responding extremely well to the verbal commands, especially TROT and CANTER. I had him going back and forth from trot to canter and back for a bit all the while he was in proper frame (in just a snaffle bridle, no side reins or anything) so I think our work under saddle is improving how he moves on the lunge, too. I think he needs to build some more strength at the canter so he has the power to go slower and his transitions under saddle to the lope can be really good or not good at all so working those without my dumb ass on top of him is better for him. He was "with me" so well that I cooled him out (he actually worked up a sweat in the 50 degree weather) by lunging him at the walk for a good while. That was really nice. He was relaxed and listening to me. Two other horses were being lunged at the same time and he was nice and relaxed even though the other two were bucking and tearing around. I spent years having the craziest horse in the ring (silly Arabs in shows full of kid-broke QH's) and it's really nice to now have the calmest one in the ring sometimes!

BTW - sometimes I feel like I write things that I've already written in other posts. I swear I'm not crazy, it's just that I free-write and I have excellent WPM so I can actually type almost as fast as I can think. So forgive me if I sound like a broken record, I really don't mean to! :)

Sadly my 5 day weekend is over and I have to go back to work tomorrow.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Dead Batteries, Murphy's Law, and Ouch

If you can't spend Thanksgiving with your family, spend it with your horse. I expected the barn to be a lonely place today on Thanksgiving, but there were a few fun people out. I discovered that the digital camera I got for Christmas last year does NOT have a video clip time limit like my last camera so tried an experiment today. It looked like I could do about 15 minutes. I set up the tripod in the corner of the stall so I could try to catch how I deal with him moving his butt into the corner and how naughty he has been with bridling lately. I did have to ask him to move over right after I turned the camera on, but when I got the saddle he moved to the corner. I had to put the saddle down and move him. When it was time for the bridle he (because my life is like Murphy's Law) dropped his head down and let me put it on without any fuss at all. Even held it still while I did the throat latch and straightened his forelock. It was a nice change.

Of course when I got home and uploaded the video to my computer I discovered that I only got about 5 minutes of film. I couldn't figure out why at first but then I tried the camera and it was blinking low battery so It must be that. It's the only thing I don't like about that camera is that it will not give you an indication of how much battery you have until it's almost gone.

Anyway. He was good. I lunged and then rode him. Most of his lope was really good, but he 's still requiring a lot of leg aids to stay upright. That's probably the most normal thing in the world, but because I spent so much time with the horse you couldn't touch with your legs I'm not used to even using those aids. I still think he's a bit of an eight-legged moose compared to every other horse I've ever ridden. I've never had a horse that would misstep as much as he does. Hopefully that will come with more and more hours in the saddle. He's gained some weight which I like. He wasn't necessarily underweight when I bought him, but because he's so TB his croup was pretty flat. It's filling out now. Even KAT noticed during our last lesson that he looks a little thicker. I've been keeping him blanketed so he's only fuzzy on his legs and his neck. It was about 50 degrees out so after I cooled him out I rode him out into the field. He's getting better at neck reining when he wants to be. I have less control of him one handed so if he doesn't just accept the cues I have to resort back to direct rein. I'm still in a snaffle with him, but KAT is going to introduce him to a shanked bit during his Christmas tune-up. When he seems to be amenable to the neck reining he does really well so I know he can do it.

So halfway through the ride my lower back started to hurt. I have a history with that so I'm not too worried about it but it got worse and now I'm in a fair amount of pain and am having some difficulty moving around, bending, etc. We'll see how it is, but I doubt I'll be able to ride tomorrow.

That video I took today isn't very interesting but now that I know I can take long clips with the camera I can start to record some riding to show you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"A Retrospective: Banee, Dino, Lark, and Sonny" or "Thankful"

When I was 13 I was extremely lucky. Though my family could not afford to have a horse and couldn't really even afford lessons, I was still lucky. A wonderful woman let me ride and show her horses in exchange for stall cleaning, lamb feeding, docking lamb tails, (eeew, I know) and various other chores around the farm. There were 11 horses on the place when I started riding there and sadly most of them have crossed the rainbow bridge. Most were lost because of age, some because of unfortunate circumstances. Of the four horses I came to know best, only one is still walking this earth. I will share a little about the four of them in this blog entry.

My first mount was Royal Blazer, an early 20's flea-bitten 14.2 (barely) Arab gelding. He was named Dino by his previous owner; in honor of Dean Martin. He was one of those horses that you want a barn full of if you do ANYTHING with kids . He was broke to death and bombproof. You could do anything to him/at him/around him/on him. I did my first few shows with him and he took good care of me. Our first class in our first show was Open English Equitation. There were 5 riders. We came in 5th. I will never forget that "Oh when the Yanks played the Stars and Stripes On Iwo Jima High" was playing during my pattern and I was so terrified to be showing. After I got the first class out of the way I realized it wasn't much different than riding at home: someone says walk, you walk. Someone says canter, you canter. Our next class was English Pleasure and we came in 1st. We also showed in the Costume Class that day and won 1st. He was a great horse. At the age of 24 he was humanely euthanized after a very seriously broken leg that had very little hope of recovery. Here are a few pics of him. Try not to judge my riding in any of these pictures, I've had a lot of good training in the last few years!

My next horse was Banee. Banee is a gorgeous pure white 14.2 7/8ths Arab mare. She came to the farm during my first few years of riding. I showed her the first summer after I stopped showing Dino, and then she was my last show horse from that farm. She is 29 (my age) and is still so beautiful in my eyes. She was a handful. She'd been highly trained in everything from barrels to dressage. She could collect any gait down to doing in nearly in place and would hand gallop with the slightest cue. She would jump anything you pointed her at. She has the softest nicker I've ever heard. You can see by the pictures that she didn't have the best conformation, but was extremely athletic. In the one picture I'm washing her rear because she ALWAYS got diarrea on the way to shows. You'd think she'd be fine on a 6 mile ride, but no. I learned after a while to at least wrap her (oddly short) tail so I just had to clean her butt and legs. I remember being mad someone took a picture of this, but now it's just another funny memory of Banee. I remember the day we discovered she'd been a game horse. We were supposed to jog around some jump standards (the kind that are just like poles), changing our diagonals. When it was my turn I asked her for a trot and she took off running and weaving her way through that pattern like she'd done it a million times. "I told you to TROT!" "I din't do ANYTHING! I didn't even steer that. That was all HER!" So many things she could do. She was a hoot at shows. Would act like a crazy horse. We had multiple judges ask us if she had been trained saddle-seat. Who knows. Sound like a perfect horse? Weeeeellll, she would refuse to walk when she was excited. Not so good for pleasure classes. She would rather trot in place than actually break down to a walk. She was so super sensitive that she gave me the bad habbit of riding with my legs stuck out to the sides. She took the slightest pressure as a cue to do something BIG. How many flying lead changes can a horse do in a straight line? How long is the line? Our last 4-H show we came away with Champion Sr. Showman, Champion Sr. English, Reserve Champion Sr. Western, and Reserve Champion Sr. Game Horse. We didn't HAVE an OVERALL highpoint for that show, but I got the first slot for the State Horse Show, so I was highpoint. We never got to show the State Show. It was an expensive trip and the show was after school started and I had to go off to college.

Oh, and YES, my hat IS on backwards in that one. It was right after Versatility class (also explains the kinky forelock) and I think my Dad put the hat on my head for me and I trusted he'd put in on the right way. I didn't realize until I took if off after the class (and this picture) that it was backwards. Nice outfit, too, huh? Who doesn't love metallic purple plaid? Shut up, my mom made that... well, my mom made it with gold lame piping and gold buttons, but I ripped it apart, took the piping out and made a different tie based off of what I saw in the Hobby Horse catalog. I was pretty well dressed considering most people at the show didn't have pants long enough to tuck into their boots..... Sorry, snarky tangent... THAT would be a funny blog entry: my bad show outfits of the 90's......

Next came Meadow Sweet Lark. Lark was probably 15 hands, I don't remember. She was a 3/4 arab, 1/4 Quarter Horse. I had to EARN the right to ride her. Both from my instructor AND from Lark. She was smart and didn't tolerate beginners. She was afraid of EVERYTHING.... at HOME. At shows she would fall asleep. At home: head straight up in the air, prancing sideways "OMG a HOSE!!! OMG my STALL!" OMG a TREE!" "Everything is going to EAT ME!!!!" At a show: head hanging, lip flopping, "Zzzzzzzzzz." "Go forward? Do I have to? can't I just yawwwwwn stay right here?" She was the most talented of the bunch. Sadly after one summer full of blue ribbons and tropies she had to be retired. On our first ride the next spring she was lame at the trot. It was like her back feet were taking tiny steps, not at all her usual gait. We called the vet and it was concluded that she must have slipped during the winter and pulled all the tendons in her croup. It's what happens when horses back feet go out from under them sideways. Ouch. She was sound for hacks around the farm and for ponying little kids, but no more showing. I finished my High School years with Banee.

I was given the chance to spend one more summer at the farm before I went off to grad school. In my dumber days I had attempted to show The Prodigal Son, an unmarked bay Arab gelding in showmanship. I thought he would do fine ... he did it fine at home, after all. He walked all over me at the show to the point of almost being dangerous and spent the rest of the day jogging in the trailer. Wasn't a good day. He is STILL (knock on wood) the only horse to ever really buck me the middle of the hay field and then take off for home...without me. Some girl leased him for a summer that next year and took him to one show. He did fine aside from cantering on the wrong lead the whole time. He was completely well behaved. So I decided to make him my summer project that year after he'd had a few years off. He ended up being a very good boy. Cari, my long time show partner came down for the show so we took both Banee and Sonny. The judge that day was "totally blind" or at least I have my mom in the background of the video saying so, so we didn't do very well ribbon wise, but I thought his behavior was a tremendous victory. We switched horses for the western classes and Cari ended up with 1st on him in "Bridle Path" Western Pleasure.

So there's my fab four from my younger days. None of them were perfect, none of them were "mine" but I am very thankful for all the lessons they taught me. I am thankful my dear Banee is still with us. She's fat and happy and is spoiled rotten.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Patterns? With HIM? NOW?

Had a pretty good lesson tonight. He hadn't been worked since Sunday so he was a bit fresh, but he lunged it out pretty quickly. He's coming into frame faster and faster now so I'm encouraged that he's "getting it." There was even a moment that KAT said "Wow! He is going to be cuuuuuute in Hunter Under Saddle!" Of course I thought to myself...but I wanted a western pleasure horse :( BUT I am certainly okay with doing HUS as our first goal and then moving on from there. I KNOW he can do the WP it'll just take him longer to get a lope down. His jog is getting better and better. Actually everything is SO much improved. He's still a little clumsy but I'm getting better at checking him and correcting him before he gets too tangled up in his moose legs.

We ended the lesson with a simple pattern that we've done's actually the ONLY pattern I've done on him so far. It's blatantly clear that he is NOT pattern-ready, which is expected. He may NEVER be an equitation horse...or he might be a fabulous one, either way he'll still be okay.

He was doing super well until I stopped him and had to wait for the other two riders to do their patterns he wouldn't frame up and was sticking his nose up in the air...

The pattern: Three cones. Start at A. Jog to B. Lope Right Lead in circle back to B. Jog to C. Stop. Back.

Our FIRST attempt tonight: Our path is in blue...note the "bonus" gait.

Our Second attempt:

Our last attempt:

And it was probably not that round in reality, but it went something like that.

Much improvement, certainly, but yeeesh. Times like this I REALLY miss my Banee. She could do anything when she wanted to. I didn't realize at the time how good she was at quick transitions. Sometimes she was TOO quick, but so much fun to ride. Imagine ME doing a series of two stride flying lead changes. That horse was such fun. And at 29 she's STILL fun. I rode her this summer and she was just as wonderful. Out of shape, of course, so we didn't do anything fancy, but when I asked her for a canter it was like riding a carousel horse. What a girl!

Maybe I'll write more about her tomorrow.

Back to my Jr. He spent lots of time with the lunge line clenched in his teeth so I couldn't try the suggestion/comment about feeding him more of it. He's got his jaw clenched so tight I couldn't get any more in there. Hopefully like his "OVER" verbal command he'll eventually get the "LET GO" verbal and I won't have to pinch his lip until he lets go. He's a REALLY smart horse...perhaps too smart. :)

Sunday, November 23, 2008


He was good today. I wish he wasn't so mouthy. He's started grabbing the lunge line and holding it in his mouth. The baby moose needs a pacifier or something. I don't know what magic trick to use, but what I've been doing is pinching his lower lip and saying "Let Go!" until he drops it. He won't let go if I pull on it. He's just such a baby. There was an article in H&R recently with some of the information of Parelli's Horsenalities. He definitely fit in the Left Brain Extrovert category. Mouthy, friendly, playful, curious, etc. Sometimes he makes me really miss Lark. But only sometimes. Lark had been trained to stand with her head low and her whole body perfectly still in cross-ties. You could do ANYTHING to/around her and she would hold not move. She was not so good at lots of other things, but at that she was fantastic.
I think I like riding my boy more than her, though. She was much further along in her training and much more elegantly coordinated, but I like the relaxed way Jr moves.She is a long story for another day, though.

Lunged for a bit (forgot my watch again) and still had to make him continue back to the right after a few attempts to switch back to left. His right lead used to be his better side but I don't think it is anymore. He did well, though, no real issues.

The ride was pretty good. I think he's getting better and better at getting into frame. He still has these moments where he sticks his face up and tries to be defiant about it, but he's down to one per ride. Two if he finds something he's more interested in than me, such as another horse. He actually starts nicely and it's after a while that he does this. I just fight him through it and drive him forward, releasing as soon as he drops at the poll. Our lope today was really good! He took off correctly to the left without swinging his butt out first and we kept in a circle at one end of the arena. He did get a little stupid after a bit and started refusing to bend and then tripped - always a good way to make me swallow my heart. Every once in a while he won't listen to my aids and nearly crashes us into a wall. Makes me nervous but he hasn't done it for a while and it was only like twice today. The lope time overall was really good, though. I had to move his shoulder up on the right lead several times, but he did what I asked. He's getting slower. I'm learning to keep my weight back. I was trained with a very forward seat. Whether or not that's what my instructor intended, it's certainly what I learned. I'm doing fairly well at keeping the right position at the walk and jog, but I still have a tendency to lean forward at the lope. It's the one gait KAT still reminds me to sit back and stretch up. I think he's clumsy. I don't know why he is. Is it me? I'll bet with his outgoing horsnality he'd be a pretty good jumper, but I'd worry about his coordination. And besides, I don't want to jump. I have no desire to jump again. At least not anytime soon.

I don't know how long I rode him but it was long enough for him to get long and low and still make some nice serpentines without dropping a shoulder every time. He had hay in his stall when I put him up so it was a mild fight to keep him in hand to switch his bridle to a halter.

I started thinking about some gripes about my boarding situation. Now, keep in mind I know no place will be perfect (until I win the lottery and build my own damn barn) and I think I'm at the best place for me right now, but here's my gripe list:

Lighting - There ONE compact fluorescent bulb in my stall. I can barely see anything below his legs while grooming/etc. There's also no light in the parking lot so when I leave at night it's kind of difficult to see which one is my car.

No Cross-ties - The "way of the barn" is a single tie on one side wall of the stall. So instead of taking him to a new space so he knows it's time to work, I have to go into his home and tie him up and invade his personal space. No wonder he's not always amenable to the idea.

Paint - The buildings are either wood, steel, or cement block (my barn) and nearly ALL of them need paint and a damn good power-washing. My stall is painted block, boards, and steel bars. It's ALL dirty and needs a coat of paint.

Doors - There are huge double sliding doors at either end of the barn. They are difficult to move, especially while leading a horse. There are no "people" doors.

Manure - When I muck my stall (they do it 6 days/week, but I do it on Saturdays and when it needs it) I have to use the little manure tubs. There are no carts for them. The tubs need to be emptied into the honey wagon which is either parked outside the big barn doors or if it's wet outside they leave it in the barn aisle. The tubs need to be lifted over the wagon edge and dumped into the wagon. Why can't I wheel a wheel barrow and dump it into a pile that then gets front-end-loadered into the wagon? Or have an earth ramp so the wagon can be parked in a way that allows the tubs to be dumped from the ground over the edge. I don't muck every time I go out, but since he's in so much and he tends to lay down a lot I hate it when he's covered in poo.

Stall Floor - I can't tell what the floor is. It doesn't seem to be cement, but it's rock hard and I can't seem to keep enough bedding in the middle to keep him from scraping the outside of his hocks. Can you wrap/pad a hock?

Arena footing - too many rocks. I worry about him getting an abscess because I didn't get all the little stones out of his feet.

Turn-out - I am a big fan of letting horses be horses and live outside. At this barn it's pretty much stalls 24/7 and they only have a limited number of all-weather turn-outs so I don't know when he was let out last. I AM lucky that KAT turns him out with the other school geldings, but I don't know when that last happened. All the big turn-outs are padlocked so they don't get ruined in wet weather. I let him out on Saturday for a few minutes and would've let him out today but someone was using the one turnout by my barn.

Tack storage - I have one rack in the tack room and it happens to be behind a chair. When I go get my saddle I have to maneuver around a rocking chair and ottoman. When someone is sitting in that chair it's even more difficult. That rack is my only option. I have a box outside my stall to keep the rest of my stuff in and a three hook rack. There's a bar on the door for saddle pads and his blanket when he's not wearing it.

Cost - I pay $425/month for full care. If/when he seems ready to be a lesson horse the board is reduced to 385, but I've NO idea when/if that'll happen. The other places I looked at were all under that.

Location - It's about a 30 minute drive from my place. There are lots of closer places that I didn't like as much.

The GOOD things:

The biggest thing is KAT. I've learned more from her in the last year than I think I've learned in the last 15. Se just makes sense to me and when she rides JR he improves SO much SO quickly. Her prices for private lessons and training rides are super affordable.

I also know he's taken care of. The rest of the boarders all look out for one another. He's fed and hayed and watered and someone is through the barn at LEAST twice a day so if anything was wrong I'd be informed.

The stalls are big and safe.

Show trailering - I know I will have lots of opportunities to go to shows in the summer. I won't be able to go to APHA shows, but I can go to shows and have KAT as my coach. There's no way I can afford a trailer and tow vehicle right now so this is the only way I can still show.

Now, after all that bad crap it sounds like a terrible place. It's not. I just wish there was a perfect world, you know, like if I could build my own facility and hire KAT as a private trainer. That would be super.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


I went out at mid-day and did my duty. I cleaned his stall and his buckets and let him out in the all-weather turn-out while I worked. There were no other horses out at all so he had no one to run with so he just nibbled on whatever grass he could find, which isn't much in Ohio in late November. Only a little dusting of snow on the ground. The temp was about 29 but the thermometer in the barn was at 32. I used a rake and pulled a ton of icky old cobwebs down from the rafters in his stall. I HATE spiders so that is not my favorite job. I figured today they were either dead or at least slow enough due to the temp. I watched Princess Skittles the barn kittie torture a mouse. She's kind of evil about that. No one else was at the barn and I hate riding when there's no one around to hear you fall, PLUS I realized half-way there that I didn't have my cell with me, also not the safest of situations So he got another day off. Spoiled brat. I wonder what he thinks about this weather. It's only his second winter north of Texas.

Tomorrow is supposed to be 49 degrees so hopefully there will be some more activity and he'll feel like working. I am almost done writing my final exam. I have a few more images I need to get off of my work computer on Monday morning and it'll be done. Then that final is Monday afternoon, one more final to give on Tuesday afternoon and I'm off for the long holiday weekend. Hopefully it warms up a little. Is it spring yet?

Thursday, November 20, 2008


I just love the end of the quarter when I get to sneak away from work and ride during the daylight!

His ground manners were not up to par today. He's been bobbing his head around when I try to bridle him. I'm not really sure what to do about that. I'm warming the bit up and everything! I think he's just telling me he's not interested in working. Should I just keep after him until he makes the realization that his fussing does not prevent work and hope he gets over it?

He lunged really well until KAT brought another horse into the ring and it was like he wanted to show off for her (or the filly she was riding) and he started fussing and stopping and backing away from me, but it really only lasted a moment. Then I made him walk and stop tight circles around me until he was listening and then got him back up to a normal circle at the jog. He was fine then.

The ride was pretty good. Just more of the same. I'm trying to be consistent and remember all the things from my lessons. I'm getting better at feeling what he's doing underneath me....I think. But it seems each lesson she tells me something new to do. I'm totally on board with the philosophy that you start at the basics and once you master those you move on, and then you move on, and then you move on. I just hate it when I feel like I'm starting to get it and then there's something new to try to figure out. Oh well. I know we've got a long way to go and there are many, many new steps ahead.

I'm loving my fleece-lined jeans and my Mountain Horse boots. I sure hate winter, but when you're dressed well it's not that bad. Sadly, though, it will get much, much colder in the next few months. :(

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I ran away from work early and got to the barn while the feeder was still watering the horses. I succeeded in getting him tacked and out the door before the feed/hay started. I knew I'd have a fight on my hand if there was grain in his feeder and I led him away.

I lunged him for almost 20 minutes. He did pretty well. Still working on both his abrupt stopping and his out of control take off, but he was quite obliging to my commands today. I even got him to stop IN LINE (not turning in) and to walk off again a bunch of times. I don't know if he'd ever been taught voice commands for lunging, but I've been using them. He does what I say sometimes, sometimes not so much. He almost always listens to whoa but I've been trying the gaits, too.

The ride was good. A little distracted at points because a few other horses came in and there was a horse making noise outside. Overall he did really well, though. Towards the end when there were two other horses working he was really stubborn about bending properly so I made him counter bend for a while. Then I made let him cool down at a walk and we practiced our neck-reining.

We walked long enough that he was totally cooled down. I kept him tied while I groomed him, put his blanket back on and put all my crap away. He was totally cool so I figured it would be safe to let him eat.

Now I have a headache that started just as I finished the ride. I'm planning to ride tomorrow, but I have plans on Friday so he'll get a day off.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Day 71...really? Yup. 71.

I got to the barn last night in the snow. I really hate snow. I moved AWAY from Minnesota. I wore my new fleece-lined-frumpy jeans and my new Mountain Horse paddock boots I bought last spring on clearance. I was only chilly when I first got to the barn, but after grooming and mucking I had to take my gloves and a layer off the top. I got chilled at one point during the lesson, but not bad. I think I'm going to make a weekend project out of making a liner for my helmet. I'm sure I've got some spare polar-fleece lying around.... And perhaps a reusable bit warmer....

Anywho. I took him out to lunge him as soon as there was some room in the arena. Only 4 little kids in a lesson and they were using 1/2 the arena. He did pretty well. He still stopped a few times but I made him continue. I'm still really uncoordinated with a lungeline. I know the principles of keeping the line free and how to let it out and bring it back in, but when he stops short and starts walking towards me it all goes to hell. If he just slows down I can send him right off, but when he fully stops, if I move him away too quickly he can come back over the loose line - that's how he ended up with it between both sets of legs and WTF do you do with THAT? But he has been moving off more calmly now, so that's good. I think he's figuring out that I actually mean it. Maybe I'M figuring out that I actually mean it. :)

When I finally asked him to stop and led him over to the mounting area he was still acting fresh, but I think it was because the other horses were coming into the arena and he was anxious to see them. He hasn't been turned out in a while because of the wet weather.

He mounted fine and moved off fine. I started him on flexing and lifting his shoulders...and realized very quickly that I had forgotten to switch my spurs to those boots. Boy did THAT make a difference! They're just little English POW spurs, but they work. He was still okay, I just had to work much harder to get him to respond. I've only ridden him without spurs one other time and it was the same way. Now that I'm much more stable with my legs we're going to get me into some western spurs. I have a big phobia of hurting a horse (mentally and physically) with spurs so I was not going to use them until I had my seat back and could use my legs effectively. I know the type of spurs I'll use are not very severe, but it makes me more confident to know I'm able to spur only when I mean to. No accidental bumping to confuse the horse.

Two of the lesson horses were having fits of terror on the lunge line. One was just zooming around and roaring. That one is one of Jr's turn-out buddies so he was very concerned about him and was picking up on his energy. I've found that if he can watch what's going on he's not upset, but when his back was to the horse he was very agitated. I stopped him and let him watch and he relaxed while I talked to him. I know he can't understand me, but I do believe in the effects of a soothing tone of voice. He doesn't do as well with silence. If I'm working alone he's more relaxed if I talk to him. When there's other people/horses around I don't need to.

Once he got over the two crazies on the far end of the arena he was fine. The lesson went pretty well, even without spurs.

I had planned on riding tonight, too, but I had a migraine this morning and went to the chiropractor for the first time in a year and a half and I'm REALLY sore. I've been using lots of muscles that forgot they existed since I've brought Jr. home and decided that I needed to have things put back where they were. He did a very weird stretch on my lower back and I'm really feeling weak there. He told me to ice it so I took that as a recommendation to relax it and not go make it work by riding. Tomorrow. I'll go back tomorrow. WITH my spurs.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Update - (Abridged)

I'm a bit behind on updates. I'll try to summarize...

His lunging trouble came back at my lesson last tuesday. Had to get KAT to help. But then instead of stopping he jerked both of us around trying to get away from the circle. Eventually he quit the pulling and just went around in a nice circle until I got dizzy and let him stop. The lesson was pretty good. He's doing a lot better with lots of things. He still gets very tense when another horse is directly behind him. I don't think he's going to DO anything, but he's visibly concerned about it and I can feel his back tense up. Hopefully he'll just learn to get used to it.

Friday afternoon I had a private lesson so my mom (in town for a few days) could get video of it. I wanted to see what we look like. I took him out to lunge him and he took off like a crazy horse and wouldn't slow down. Unfortunately we didn't get THAT part on tape. I think he'd not been out of his stall since Tuesday night so he was a little high strung. It's been so wet here that the horses have not been turned out. He galloped around me and I just held on and tried to get him to slow down a bit. He did eventually. It was a little nerve-wracking for me because he would not listen to my voice command to "whoa" and no amount of my 5'4" 140lbs could physically make a difference. I jerked him once (made me nervous to do so....what if he is thrown off balance and falls?) because it was getting to the point where he was pulling me so hard I though I might lose my balance and fall and THAT would be REALLY bad. I decided to give him a soft jerk in....he lost a little balance and missed a step but he slowed down and I was able to pull him closer to me so I had more control. Yipes. And boy do my arms and shoulders ache since then!

He was good for the lesson though, really listening to me for the most part. A little interested in the chestnut mare in the turn-out next door (Seems he has a thing for redheads..) but paid attention to me quite well overall.

My analysis of the video is that he takes a good long time before he gives in and drops his neck. He'll get *almost* there but doesn't really get THERE for about 30 minutes or so. That's what I thought, but I'm not the best judge yet on how framed he is. I'm still learning what he feels like when he's in frame and I need to spend less time watching his neck and more time feeling his stride. For my part, I didn't look too bad. My feet still get ahead of me but they are WAY better than the last video I have of me. My mom asked if my core was too wobbly...I don't know I guess. KAT has never mentioned it... I know I'm supposed to keep my seat IN the saddle and since his jog is still a little bouncy....or a LOT bouncy depending on how far into the ride we are....that's how I absorb the motion. My shoulders and arms are pretty still so I *think* I'm doing all right. I'll ask KAT about that next time I see her.

Went out yesterday in the rain. Talk about a bad day! He did NOT want to do anything. He refused to take the bit and I mean REFUSED. Very new behavior for him. He just would NOT open his mouth and kept raising his head higher. Took me multiple tries and disciplinary action for him to finally open his mouth. I moved his bit to my english bridle. He opens his mouth a lot so I decided to get a cavasson on him. KAT said she'd ridden him with one so I didn't worry about trying it. Since I had ridden him the day before I didn't start by lunging him. He mounted fine but as soon as we started moving he was snorting and agitated and even threw a pathetic little buck. I did NOT feel comforatble and when I'm not comfortable and confidant I am not helping the situation so I had Mom go get the lunge. I tried to ride him out of it but he was so wound up I didn't like being on him. I stopped him, put the line on and made him work and I mean WORK on the lunge. I made him listen to me and go at all three gaits. He did okay. I still didn't feel like getting on him after all that so I didn't. I hope that's okay. I know that letting him out of work for that type of behavior is not good so I hope making him work by lunging is just as good as getting back on and riding. He did try his stopping thing but I was able to make him go again and none of that Kentucky Derby crap he pulled on Friday. Do you think he gets too much feed/energy for the amount of work he does???

His blanket was filthy and still wet! I took it off him on Friday and it was wet from? Sweat? Water bucket? Pee? I don't THINK he went outside but maybe I'm wrong? Whatever the reason, it was STILL wet on Saturday even after hanging on his blanket bar for 24 hours. This is why I hate synthetic fabrics! I decided to take it and have it cleaned....I'm pretty sure I was robbed on the cleaning bill, but I paid for convenience. The damn thing weighs almost 8 lbs! Next time I'll bring a book and sit at the laundry-o-mat and do it myself for $5.00. First time mistake. I'll go pick it up today and hope it was worth it.

If I can figure out how to digitize my analog video I'll post some of it, but don't hold your breath.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Do these jeans make my butt look big? YES.

So the fleece lined jeans are quite comfortable and I'm sure they are nice and toasty, but holy cow are they the most unflattering things EVER! I'm not really surprised or anything, but don't expect me to wear those ANYWHERE but the barn. I had to order a pair because the ones they sent to the store were only a 32" inseam and I much prefer a 34". I realize I'm only 5' 4" but there is a time and a place for high-water pants and it's at a beach, not on a horse.

I exchanged the halter for the same kind in a different color. I went back and forth about what one to buy. I ended up with the same one with slightly larger-backed rivets, hopefully this is the "improvement" that Weaver spoke of in their email to me. If this one falls off I will NOT buy the same one again. I almost bought a brown and plaid one of a different kind but it seemed a little cheap with only two-ply nylon and a loosely woven plaid overlay. Instead of the "teal" I got the "sage" so no one will probably notice it's different, but it does look more handsome than his old "my little pony" colored one. I'm keeping it in my tackbox, though so he doesn't wear it in turnout. I think he spends half his turnout time rolling because the last one was really dirty. I'll leave his leather one there for turnout. Probably safer with leather in turnout anyway. I might take the leather one to the shoe repair shop in town and see if they can shorten the noseband for me. That'll make it fit nicely. Of course, if the repair would cost as much as a new halter of the same kind I'd probably just buy a new one. Not sure how much those things run.

Anyway I showered him with treats and hugs and kisses and led him around the arena, playing with setting him up. I was never good at that anyway and he just doesn't seem to want to stand with his back legs square. When I showed arabs we just left one back stretched out so it was okay. I'm not even going to attempt to try to train him for showmanship yet, though. Let's aim for HUS or Hunter Pleasure first. Though at the rate he's going he might just be ready for WP this summer, too! We'll just have to see. I'm not ready to set those kind of goals for us just yet!

I didn't actually feel like riding because of the weather. I was the only person in either of the two front barns and I don't really like riding when noone is around so I gave him the day off. He didn't want me to leave it seemed, but I think he just wanted to go out and not be left in the stall another day. We'll see if I can get out there tomorrow or not. Lesson on Tuesday.


I guess lifting all those tubs of heavy wet yuck from the ground up to the top of the honey-wagon use some muscles that have been dormant. I've got all kinds of pain in all kinds of weird asymmetrical places. Guess I won't do that again without help. Riding today is going to be a bit ouchie.

First I'm headed to Rods to exchange the broken halter and try on some new FLEECE LINED JEANS with my riding buddy! They sound awesome! I only really remember one day last winter that I was uncomfortably cold, but I ride a lot more than once a week now so I'm sure there'll be more days. Plus the lesson barn/arena were on the other side of the facility and were connected. Now the barn I'm in requires a 20' walk outside to get to the arena so the arena probably doesn't stay warm at all. I'll be trying for as many day rides as I can this winter. Luckily my class schedule requires me to teach only Tuesdays and Thursdays so I can ride three afternoons a week and spend the dark cold evenings working....getting paid a salary has it's perks!

Here's Jr volunteering to pose with his new stall nameplate. Gee I wish they'd let me repaint my stall..... kinda looks a little jank.

And here he is modeling his jacket and smiling for you!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Stinky stall.

I decided to strip the area of his stall that he usually pees in. He's fairly good about using only 1/4 of the stall for his litterbox, so I didn't feel the need to strip the whole thing. The bad area was pretty bad, though. I took it down to the packed ground and it was about 3" of wet compacted sawdust. I stopped counting after 6 bins out to the honey-wagon, but they weren't all the way full. I can lift a full bucket of poo, but apparently NOT wet sawdust so I had to keep them about 1/2 to 3/4 full. I took as much of that area out as I could. No use wasting the dry bedding. I put two full wagons of sawdust back into the stall. He still has sores on the edges of his hocks. I suppose that's from lying down. I tried to add lots of bedding in the area I've seen him lay down in.

We got tacked up and headed into the indoor. I tried to lunge him for a while and he was back to being uninterested in the idea. After several good revolutions to the left he started being a turkey and stopping and refusing to change directions. I'm not savvy enough with a line and whip to really establish dominance on the lunge I guess. Luckily I got him to get a little buck out so I sort of gave up. He mounted very quietly and he rode very well. I'm not sure how long I worked him. I forgot to look at my watch...again. I worked him long at the lope. One little stumble that made my heart stop but other than that he was good. Nice and slow mostly. I can tell I'm getting better at knowing what to do to keep him balanced and he's getting better at obeying my aids. My balance is getting better and better, too. We worked for a while on jog-halt-jog transitions. He got bored with that so we did tight 3 loop serpentines along the short way of the arena. They're hard for him because he's so tall, but it helps him have to learn to keep his feet under himself.

Just like Thursday he was ever so good. I didn't ride yesterday because I worked late and it was raining and I knew he'd be uncooperative and just want to stay in his stall. I don't blame him. All I wanted to do was put on my PJ's and watch a movie. I'm glad he was still really good today. Makes me optimistic!

The weather was about 46 degrees and damp. I was nice and toasty while I was cleaning his stall and riding, but when I was done and had to scrub water buckets I was pretty darn cold with wet hands. I put his rug on for the night. He rolled in his clean bedding before I got his blanket on, so maybe he won't roll poo all over his rug tonight...wishfull thinking I suppose.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Horse I Bought

I don't know what KAT did to him this week, but tonight Junior was once again the horse that I bought. He was so soft, supple, calm, relaxed, framed, attentive. There were something like 10 horses in that little arena and most of them were very little kids who don't work traffic very well so we had to be extra conscientious about what we were doing. I still needed to keep on him when he got passed by another horse, but he was totally listening to me! We had a few tiny little moments where I had to demand his head, but they were not bad. I also noticed that I had no trouble keeping him on the rail. I guess I haven't noticed how much better he's been at that until I was in a crowded ring with a bunch of kids whose legs barely passed the saddle on old school horses who cut ALL the corners.

There were lots of parents watching their kids and I heard some nice comments as I went by. I was so proud to be on that horse tonight. THIS is the horse that I was looking for and know I found. It's so nice to have him back!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Impromptu lesson.

I was able to get out to the barn tonight and sneak into a lesson. I hate going more than a week without a lesson but couldn't make my regular lesson (Tuesdays at 8pm) this week. I would've ridden anyway, but since there's really only one indoor arena to ride in I would've been in the ring with the lesson anyway. To travel safely I would've followed the gaits and directions of the lesson anyway...might as well be IN the lesson. Luckily KAT was willing.

He looked tired when I got there and I could tell he'd been sweating. It was in the low 70's today and he hasn't had his coat on since Friday so I knew he must've been worked. Yay! I LOVE it when KAT rides him. She's really really good with him, AND the exercise keeps him in check. She said he'd done well for her this week. I could tell he was nice and tired so I didn't bother to lunge him. He stood VERY quietly for me when I mounted. I praised him for that. I actually had to ask him more than once to walk on. He was very good in the lesson and KAT is helping me do better with keeping him in frame. It's hard for me to tell what his frame is really doing when I'm mounted so it's really beneficial to me to have KAT directing me. It seems I've been messing with his face in NOT the right way so we worked on that. I seem to have developed a rather bad habit of pulling him around just enough to annoy him but not really enough to get him to do what I am asking. So we worked on that tonight. I could tell he's been improving with the training rides he's gotten in the last week. I think I'll schedule a private lesson next week when my Mom is here so I can have it taped.

We loped circles on one lead only (large group lesson) so I picked his better lead. He was SO much slower than he's been I was kind of taken a back and confused. He did pretty well, though. I realized after I had finished that I wasn't very comfortable with the slower lope because a) it was so different from what he usually does and b) I was a little afraid he'd stumble since he seemed slow. KAT said he looked good, though, and he didn't stumble at all.

I spent the cool-down time with a draped rein. He was VERY good except when we passed KAT by the gate and he wanted to stop and get some love instead of moving forward. He's such a cuddler.

I should be able to ride him a lot more now that my show is open. The next sticky time for me isn't until February.

Here's a few of the new photos my friend took. He's AWESOME! My profile picture is one of his, too.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

My Moose

I'm trying to remember to just enjoy my dang horse and not be so hard on myself when things don't go perfectly. It's not that hard when it's just him and I and he's paying attention and relaxed and moving well. It's harder when he's being an 8-legged moose and paying more attention to everything else than he is to me.

Today was pretty good. Only a few moments of him being a brat, mostly involving lope-offs and his "whoa" was crap today. I don't know why, but he didn't want to stop when I asked him to. Had to resort to arm strength and loud verbals. I mean, come on, he's 16.2 and I'm 5'4"...I have NO physical power over him. Luckily he generally aims to please so he most always does what I ask him to, he just sometimes acts like a brat.

We've been working on his backing. When I first brought him home he would raise his head and shake it and I'd have to really pull him back. His next issue was when I'd ask him to stop backing and then ask him to move forward he'd continue to move backwards. Now we're doing really well. I can ask him to back and he almost always drops his head and I can let the reins go nice and slack or just give slight give/take pressure and he works off my legs and seat. Now I found that when I stop his backing, if I cue him forward with my heels further back on his body he'll go forward. Not sure if that's how it's supposed to be done but it works for him.

I worked him for a little over an hour. First lunging. I starting aiming him over a ground pole to see what he'd make of it. We'd done cavaletti/ground poles at the trot before so it wasn't like it would be anything new. He wasn't that conscious of it, though and stepped on it enough times to make me think it wasn't a wise thing to do. He kept stepping on it with his inside hind foot and the lope. I had to get after him only once because of him stopping, otherwise he was good. Loped around me with me leaning on the line for a good while.

Then I mounted and he was super good for that. He has a bad habit of walking off as soon as I get on...we're working on that. He's better about that after he's lunged or if he's been outside. Just energy I guess. He rode fairly well. Still wobbly a little at the lope, but he corrected himself when I asked him to, instead of ignoring my aids like he used to. I still think we have the most work to do at the lope. KAT will be working with him a few times this week and I know she'll work on that. I wish I could be around to watch her ride him. I don't have a lesson this week either, because of dress rehearsals so this'll be another non-routine week.

We finished with a walk around the big pasture, neck reining. He wasn't in the mood to jog on a loose rein in the arena today, though, even after a long workout. I was kind of surprised at that. His endurance is increasing I guess.

I won't get out until maybe Thursday or Friday.

I kept his coat off today, too. The weather has been just beautiful.

Oh, and please don't judge me on my grammatical errors. I am actually kind of a grammar/word usage nazi, but sometimes I write too fast and don't bother to read over my blog before I post. Like this one when instead of "don't" in the first sentence I left "doing." Sometimes I type faster than I can think.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Is there ANYTHING I won't worry about?

I got to the barn last night (Friday) after not being there since Tuesday for the ill-fated lesson. KAT was there and told me she rode him on Wenesday and he did well for her. She worked on his lunging and was easily able to "fix" the problem. Again, that's why I hire professionals.

When I tied him and started to take his jacket off he was really sweaty. His blanket was actually yucky and wet on the inside. I let him cool off for a bit and brushed out his tail. It looked like he'd either been rubbing his tail so perhaps he was uncomfortable. It did get up to 70 degrees yesterday afterall. Even though Tuesday night I was in full long underwear and several layers last night I was in a t-shirt and a light down vest. SO back to the title of this entry: now I'm worrying about his blanket. How do I know when to leave it on and when to take it off? I left it off because it was so wet and the temperature low for the night was going to be 20 degrees higher than what it had been. I don't want him to be uncomfortable and hot. And that syntetic blanket doesn't breath very well. I did some research about blankets before I bought one and I read that a cotton interior, though it grabs hair, is much more likely to breath and not hold in sweat,etc. Do you think I could FIND a cotton lined one? It seemed they were ALL lined with nylon calling it "coat smoothing nylon" and "won't hold hair" well, okay, but part of my job is working with textiles and nylon sucks for absorption, evaporation and airflow. But since that seeems like what everyone else uses I bought one anyway. I did buy a very inexpensive blanket, but not the MOST inexpensive one. I waited until Congress (and the last Saturday of Congress) to buy it so I could get the best deal. Maybe there's some uber expensive blanket out there that wicks away moisture but I probably can't afford it. Maybe someday I'll get really ambitious and get a pattern from and make my own just to my specifications. all of my spare time.... Or maybe I could make a cotton/spandex slinky to put under his blanket. that would smooth the hair, absorb moisture and be small enough in a washing machine that I could wash it at home. I could make two. One that is on him, and one to take home and wash. I could switch them out once a week.....right. In all of my spare time...

Again, back to worries: He'd never rubbed his tail before. The weather today is supposed to be really nice, tomorrow, too. I can't go out today because I have rehearsal all day and a show to go to tonight. Tomorrow I thought I'd go out and spend some time with him and check the weather and put his blanket back on. Is there a book or something on how to use rugs? Here is one (of the many) questions I have: I know from outdoor survival class that if you are out in cool weather and you get warm from activity and take off layers, you should put them back on as soon as you stop moving. Otherwise you'll cool off too fast and it'll be harder to warm yourself back up. Does the same principle apply to my horse and his blanket? If we're warm from a ride should I put his blanket back on right away? Or do I need to let him cool down and dry his sweat mark first? I just don't know. Do you know?

Anyway, he rode pretty well. He lunged the best he's ever lunged for me. He stopped twice while on his left lead ( his bad one) but I was able to send him forward again. I guess I needed to be more aggressive and send him right back on if he stops. He loped around at the end of the line which was really good for him, too. Usually he veers in and doesn't keep a consistent circle. This time I was holding the rubber stopper and he was just going and going. It was awesome. I should've made him go longer, but I didn't. He still had some energy to burn off when we rode. He was good though. Cranky about loping off on his right lead, though. I think he was tired, but I made him lope off anyway, just took a bit of convincing. We are getting better and better at our balance. He's still ADD when there are distractions. In the time we were riding another horse came and went and then another horse came in and was still there when we quit. I have horse envy of this particular girl. She's got a chestnut gelding who's super well trained. She rides all the time and works really hard on him so I know that's a big reason why he's so good. I've watched her ride english and western and have watched her drill her showmanship. The pair work so well together. Last night she was riding western and practicing transitions and spur stops. The horse has such a consistent way of going. While my horse is speeding up and slowing down and looking around and raising his head, her horse is just level headed. He hardly changed his frame at all. That's what I want. I wonder if we'll get there? Do I have what it takes? And in a larger sense: would that make me happy? I never thought I wanted a dead-headed horse because I thought that would be boring, but then I rode some and realized how much fun it is. How relaxing it is. I like my boy a lot. I think he CAN be the type of horse I want, I just hope I can get him there. We're a week away from our 2 month anniversary and I'm going to do a bit of a look back at that time. Hopefully I'll REALLY see how far we've come.