Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Back from the Holidays

Got back to town late last evening. I went to the barn this afternoon and caught Jr right before a meal. Got him tied before the food guy came, though so I didn't have to wait to ride. KAT had ridden him that day already so I thought I'd just do an easy session. My neck is stiff from being WAY too brave and sledding down some hard, bumpy hills with my nephew on Sunday. He was very different. He was VERY grumpy and was not much fun to start out with. I was riding him in a different bridle with super long thick, stiff reins (he's into a broken-mouth shanked bit now) and the reins were clumsy in my hands. He was VERY distracted by the other horses (I assume that he was alone in the arena when he was in training) and was snorty and agitated. BUT if I made him halt he just stood and watched. I suppose it was a combo of taking him away from his feed and being in a busy arena for the first time in 2 weeks. He quit the crap eventually, but only after he threw a buck when I asked him to lope! I definitely saw a positive difference in him, though. He's jogging MUCH slower and his lope was slow and comfortable. He did try to speed up when he got distracted, but I was generally able to keep him in check. Of course I'm not as in tune with him as KAT is so I don't correct him as soon as I should, but that's just the way it is. I'm an amateur and I have to accept that. I WISH I was a professional. I still wonder what my life would be like if I had gone to school for horses instead. He had one BIG stumble the last time I loped him but he kept himself up. KAT was watching and said he hadn't stumbled at all while I was gone. Nice confirmation that the problem is ME. I'm sure it's my balance and that'll come with time. Not sure when we're starting my group lessons back up again, next week or the week after I think. I'm going to try to fit a private lesson in soon so I can have some one-on-one time with KAT while we work into the new bit.

His blanket was off when I got there, probably because KAT rode him and the temp was in the low 40's. I could see there was some we sweat marks on his blanket so I left it off. Hopefully he won't freeze or maybe KAT will put it on before she leaves for the night since she's the one who took it off? I'm sure he'll be fine.

I'm going out in the morning to hopefully have some alone time in the arena to try out his new buttons.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Christmas Post

He's been good the past few days...for the most part. I've been riding at odd times so he keeps having to experience a very busy arena and then ALL of the other horses leaving the arena at the same time. He doesn't do so well with that. He gets downright pissed and refuses to do just about anything for several minutes. Now, if we go out to the arena and we're the only ones there the whole time he's fine. It's just the act of leaving that upsets him so much. I've been giving him fewer treats while he's tied and that's helping a little with his mouthiness, but not much. He's not a biter necessarily, but he wants to put things in his mouth and he's really good at grabbing whatever I'm holding....like the reins (lovely tooth marks in those) the lunge line, the lunge WHIP, the measuring tape (he's is 16 hands, btw) the brush, anything. It's hard for me to be tough on him when he ALSO likes to rest his nose on me and breath and cuddle and that is SOOOO sweet so I let him but then he sometimes grabs my coat quickly. Not mean, it's like I've seen him do in turn-out with other horses when he grabs their halters like it's his favorite game.

I'm a little anxious to leave him for 2 weeks but I know he'll be fine. I showed the feeder how mangled his grain bin is getting and it sounded like they have a bunch in the shed. It wasn't new when he moved in and it's got a hole in the bottom that is getting bigger and bigger. I'm excited to see how his is after two weeks of KAT, though!

I won't be posting for the next two weeks, but I'll bee sure to update you when I get back!
Happy Christmas!

Monday, December 8, 2008

"Damn you kids! Get the hell off my lawn!" a story of feeling old.

First a catch-up: On Saturday we were treated to enough snow and just the right temperature to cause the roads to be crap. Crap enough for me to decide not to go to the barn... I know. Lame, but it's 30 minutes away when the roads are perfect and there's no traffic. There were accidents all over so traffic was super slow.
Sunday the weather was beautiful and the world was covered in pretty white snow....and the roads were cleared, though my whole parking lot and the little roads around it are STILL glare ice. Fun. Anyway, I thought about turning him out since the big paddocks were unlocked and the odds of another horse being in one of the other turn-outs was good (he'll run around like a wild brumby if another horse is across the fence) BUT I was too chicken. I KNOW that under that pretty snow the whole area around the CONCRETE waterer is solid ice and that could spell disaster for my clumsy little moose. I opted to lunge instead. Safer. Maybe not as fun for him, but safer. When I was tacking up there were to high school girls in the arena riding.

This is where our Story begins....

I took him in to lunge and the two girls were coming out and into the barn. I nearly finished lunging when they came back in. I went to mount and the two of them were cantering and jumping and laughing and yelling and playing follow-the-leader and being loud and fast. Jr. didn't really enjoy the commotion, but he needs desensitization so it was kind of a nice schooling session. I caught myself being REALLY mad at the girls. I thought they were riding too hard and too fast and not taking it seriously. They were difficult to maneuver around because they had the jumps up so I couldn't cross the arena and it was even hard to change directions and attempt to stay out of their way. I was even considering saying something to them...and then I had to laugh at myself. Though I don't think I was ever THAT hard on a horse, I was once brave like them. When they hit a pole they would laugh. I would've choked on my heart if I had taken one of those fences (the were tiny) and caught the bar with hooves I would have been terrified. Why? Because I'm old and a chicken-shit and I had no real reason to do say something and ruin their fun. They were polite enough to me, one of the girls even apologized and asked if they were spooking my horse, but I told them it was good experience for him. I had to admire that gusto that I no longer possess. I remember it. It made me a bit jealous. Once last spring when I was riding Rip in a lesson he started to lope faster and faster and I suddenly WANTED him to. Granted it was in a lesson and I was told to slow him down and was knocked out of my little wind-in-hair fantasy. Jr's a little clumsy, though so I worry about going too fast with him yet.

I remember reading an article in Horse Illustrated about being afraid to canter. I cannot imagine being afraid to canter AT ALL, but when I was working on the green ponies a few summers ago I was scared of cantering them. That was mostly because they were green and those little legs seem to move SO fast. I am more nervous at the canter and I admit sometimes when I'm schooling I'll only do one lap of canter each way, especially if the arena is busy, though that is getting better and better. I am fearful of tiring him out so that he becomes more clumsy, and I feel more at risk for a fall. I'm certain that most of this fear is because the ONLY decent riding fall I ever had was at the canter. It was fall of my senior year in high school. I had shown Lark that summer so Banee was a bit out of condition. I was doing a figure 8 and Banee was insisting on doing a flying change. Because she was out of condition I was trying to bring her back to a trot to change. She tripped and we both fell and slid across the arena. I still remember how fast it happened and how I was on my left side on the ground with her belly ON my left leg. She jerked herself up and stepped on my right foot in the process. I had a bruised foot and a bruised left calf (which STILL has a little dent in it) but neither of us were injured. So why does it terrify me to think of falling? Every time he even catches a step my heart skips a beat. It IS getting better, I'll admit. He hasn't actually fallen yet, but not a ride goes by that he doesn't trip at LEAST once. He nearly took a digger on the lunge tonight. He actually hurt himself a little I think. He hit a knee I think, and then stood back up, turned to me and sort of held one front leg up with his ears back like "Ow, mom." I walked to him and petted his face. KAT was teaching a lesson in the arena and she didn't say anything. He looked like he was standing on both legs so I told him to walk on. He took off at a trot and I called him back down to a walk so I could watch him. He looked fine to me but I walked him a minute or two until he looked totally normal both stride and attitude wise. He trotted and cantered after that and seemed just fine. I asked KAT to watch him and she said he looked fine. The lesson was good. KAT was complimentary on how well he's doing which is nice to hear after 2 weeks without a lesson! He is steadily, steadily improving and he's certainly grown on me. He gives super good cuddles!

Right when I got there, the cutest most polite 10 year old in the world came up to me and said "Excuse me, I'm sorry to take up your time, but would you please help me tack up my horse, I've never ridden him before and he's too big for me to put the tack on." OMG like I could say no! I had her get the tack and I haltered Norman for her. Norman is a ginormous (bigger than JR) palomino QH. He belonged to my college Equine program but I guess he can't stay sound enough for the type of riding they do (jumping and dressage) so he came to our barn to do wtc lessons on the flat. He always acts like he's going to bite, but I think he's one of those horses that has that lesson-horse demeanor because sometimes they get away with it. She was a little timid which is understandable when she barely came up to his chest and he's this big fuzzy yellow monster with teeth. The girl was just so adorable and sweet and I don't even LIKE kids. But I was happy to help her. She brightened my day a little with her questions and by the time I got his bridle on he had stopped showing his teeth. If Norman had been at the barn before I got Jr I would've asked for a lesson with him. I think he's the prettiest thing.

I'm going to TRY to get out to the barn every day this week since I'm leaving on Saturday for 2 weeks but with packing and sewing christmas presents and work I might not make it happen.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


I managed to get to the barn about 3:30pm and got him into the turnout for a few minutes while I cleaned his stall quickly. There were no other horses out so he had no ambition to run around. Plus the ground is frozen so I can't imagine if feels all that good to run on. He did kick up his heels for a second so I tried to encourage him to move around a bit. I try to discourage him from "playing" on the lunge and it's been a while since he's been free to move around so I wanted him to stretch out a bit. He disagreed. He wanted to eat what's left of the vegetation instead of playing, so I just let him. When I brought him back into the stall the feeder had his hay in and was working on the grain. Jr was NOT happy that I was tacking him while there was food to be eaten so it wasn't much fun for me. When I brought him past all the munching horses into the empty arena he did not improve his attitude. He ran around at top speed changing directions before I could correct him so I just let him go and eventually he wore himself out. Then he slowed down and started to pay attention so we worked on his transitions for a bit. I tried to get him to stand still while I walked away to get the mounting block, but he kept following me instead. I don't know if he's ever been taught to ground tie or not but he sure didn't act like it. I'd rather he follow me than walk AWAY, though.

I had a friend take some clips of us riding the other day and realized (with the absence of KAT telling me what to do like in my lesson video) I was letting him get away with his head too high too often. I could see that I wasn't correcting him. No wonder he gets confused "Do you WANT me to lower my head or not!?!?" So I made a vow with this ride to be more demanding. Still rewarding him with a loose rein when he is correct. This approach worked very well. I had to pay REALLY close attention to him, but he spent a LOT more time (on loose rein) in the proper frame with good balance at turns than he has been recently. He still had a few of those moments when I had a fight on my hands, but that'll ease with time and mileage.

I'm watching it snow right now which doesn't make me want to go outside, but I need to do some shopping for work and then I'll go out. I kinda like going shopping with horse clothing on. I remember once while shopping in Office Max I saw a mom and daughter in breeches and boots and I was so jealous that riding was just one more thing they did every day. I like the horsey lifestyle. I don't really like going shopping while covered in horse hair/dirt, though, so I washed my horse clothes last night. :)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Winter afternoons/evenings are tough.

This is my first winter at this barn, really at any barn since until this year I've been too much of a wuss to ride in the winter. I'm not a fan of being cold. I have poor circulation and little hands and feet (compared to the rest of me) and I get cold very easily. But the desire to ride my own horse (and some additions to my wardrobe) have managed to quell the aversion.

The most annoying thing I'm noticing about winter riding is the crowded arena. The horses don't really have turn-out in the winter so they're all a little fresh and everyone tries to lunge before they ride and everyone with yearlings brings them out to lunge, too. Yesterday there were 5 horses being lunged at the same time in the arena. I was squeezed into a tiny postage-stamp sized corner. I don't mind that totally because it's easier for me to keep him paying attention when he's close, but that size circle is not big enough for him to really burn off any energy. He wants to canter and he wants to trot out, but he has a hard time collecting his canter in a small circle. He's SO much better riding at the canter. He's slowed down SO much and he's relaxing his neck easily. He still has his moments, of course, but there are wonderful, wonderful strides and laps now. Tonight he kept loping nicely and then along the long wall (on right lead) he would veer into the middle and NOT respect my inside leg OR my outside rein and go back to the wall. I brought him down to a posting trot (still weird to post in a western saddle, but I'm over it) and made him go away from the wall and then towards the wall and away and towards, just to remind him that he needs to pay attention to my legs. My seat isn't perfect and I was probably leaning too far forward at those times so my leg was less effective maybe. He knows what he's supposed to do, he just has these little moments where it's like he flips me the bird and says "This sucks and I'm done." but if I keep after him he comes back to me. We actually had many many nice laps tonight both at a working trot and a western jog where his head and neck were stretched and relaxed and I could loosen my reins and reward him. I know he's getting it. It's so much fun when he does that. Gives me a chance to check MY position and sit up tall and stop watching his poll for a while.

I work tomorrow until 4 so I'll see if the weather/my mood are conducive to riding. I wouldn't get there until the evening lessons were on and its SOOOO busy during those times. I'm going out on Friday midday so I should probably have at least half the arena to myself. I'm going to work on lunging in the large circle and in the small circle too since that's what seems to be required during these busy winter months. It's tough having only one place to ride. At least in the summer the lessons are in the outdoor so the indoor is usually free. PLUS the horses are turned out during the summer so they need a lot less lunging. Luckily my teaching schedule for the rest of the year has my classes only on Tuesdays and Thursdays so I can ride some afternoons and avoid the after-school rush.

I keep putting ointment on his scraped hock. The stall cleaner didn't clean stalls until I was there this evening and we came back from riding to find a beautifully cleaned stall. Fresh shavings over the entire stall and his hay (which he had spread around) put into a neat pile for him in the corner. I don't usually get to see what the stall looks like when it's been done so it was nice to have confirmation that they do a nice job.

Question for those of you who board/have boarded: Do you tip/gift your barn staff during the Holidays? I wouldn't even know where to leave a tip...on the stall door? In the main office? What do you do?