Friday, January 30, 2009

It's just lunge.

I've been SO busy with work and the weather has been such crap since Wednesday that I hadn't been out since Monday. I only had about 40 minutes at the barn today though. Not enough time to tack and ride since he HAD to be lunged first, but that's okay. I put some more ointment on his scrape which looks fine. He was mostly fine on the lunge. I had him in a snaffle bit for control. When he's been off for days he does tend to act up and I am a little nervous about that after Monday. It was a good wake up call about things like making sure to wear gloves and to keep the line from wrapping around you hand, feet, etc. I'm getting much more adept at managing the line than before, which, combined with his much improved behavior on the line, make lunging a much more useful experience. He has always been more hesitant to go to the right. I thought for a while it was because I would always start him left and it was just the act of changing that bothered him. Then I started to try to start to the left and he would start poorly and be better when we went to the right. His left lope is generally his tough lead, too. It's much better than those first few days when he would REFUSE to turn at the corner and practically run into the wall. That was VERY early, like the first week or two.

Because this is only his second winter I seem to think he is amused by snow. When I led him out of the arena I had to reach back for the gate and while he was stopped he stuck his nose into a snow pile and started to dig into it. I moved him out of the doorway for safety sake and led him towards a bigger pile. He did the same thing. I moved him over thinking I could walk him out onto the snow covered lawn, but there is a layer of ice just under the snow and I was afraid he'd slip or something. He pounded his foot into the icy layers for a bit and then turned and headed back into the barn. I feel like he thinks "Oooh what's this stuff? Oh yeah, snow......brr snow's cold! Where's my stall?"

I have to work all day tomorrow - yuck - but it's supposed to be 41 degrees on Sunday! Great day to thaw some buckets and hopefully get him outside. He REALLY needs some outside time!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Another new (old) video!

I've figured out that I can use my digital camera to record my analog tapes by setting the camera on the tripod and simply recording the TV! The quality is rather poor, but it's not all that bad. The latest is a video of a lesson in November. He was having really good moments at that time but consistency was poor and his speed was still too fast. I think it's easy to see here how little attention he was paying to me.


It's snowing so I'm shopping.

In preparation for showing this summer I am doing research on tack. As I've mentioned before, I need all new show tack, both for English and for Western. I've been pouring over catalogs and internet sites for both new and used tack, and spending time on Horse Tack Review. Here is where I'm at:

The saddle I will use most often is my western training saddle. Right now the saddle I use is doing all right. The new pad has REALLY helped with both my slippage and fit issues. It's not an expensive saddle. It's a Royal King training saddle that I bought used from Jr's last owner. It's in fine shape, I think it's comfortable and as long as it remains comfortable for him I'm satisfied with it. The "silver" is cheap and ugly but I could care less.

For showing, I will need a western show saddle, headstall, and reins. I am hoping to find a used set, preferably a Circle Y or better that has a contemporary look. I like the butterfly/California skirting and I don't like the super light oil. I'm planning on black for my show outfit so darker tack is fine with me. I prefer tack to disappear on a horse, not stand out. I don't mind blemishes on the seat and fenders as long as they are unseen in the arena. Matching tack is kind of important to me. Not necessarily exact match, but matching enough at show distance. I would like to find a complete set, but if I have to do it piecemeal that'll be okay. If I end up with a new wet, there are some lower end saddles on Ebay, such as the Showman which looks shockingly similar to THIS SADDLE from Schneiders, just a different keeper placement. I know different "brands" are often made by the same manufacturer. This is the same saddle Jr's last owner had for sale used. Don't know if she still has it or not. Schneiders also has THIS HEADSTALL for a good price and some reins that might pass for a match. Not sure how all this would go together, though. Schneiders is just a few hours away so I can go up and look at this stuff in person, too. I have not checked the local tack stores that have used saddles yet because I'm waiting for my tax return to come back before I start to purchase these things. No use looking now if it won't be there when I'm ready to buy. I'm also checking Craigslist here in Columbus and when I'm ready to buy I'll be putting a want-to-buy ad up. I really can't afford brand new fancy tack and I would rather spend any extra money on more training. My goal is decent, matching, contemporary (though some of those really vintage saddles appeal to me, too and I wonder if I would be laughed out of the arena for that? What do you think?) well fitting tack that enhances our overall look. Remember I'm a designer so creating an attractive visual team appearance is important to me and is something I am pretty good at. I can't WAIT to show you my design for my show shirt!!!! I'm combining Nudie Suit style with 1930's haute couture embellishment in a very contemporary styling. I know that sounds like a disaster, but just wait 'till you see it.

For English I am really struggling with what to do. This is really where I'd like some comments. The ONLY time I will be using English tack is a few pre-show lessons and then at the show. I will only be using it on the flat. NO JUMPING for this girl. I've survived my yucky "beginner set" so I can only go "up" from there. If you look at that picture, be prepared to laugh at many things, my pad, my leg position, Grace's tail braid, the dressage stirrup leathers....etc. Don't judge, it was a rough day - crazy horse hadn't been to a show before and was not happy to be there and I was a nervous mess, should've tried the pad on before bringing it as my only pad to the show....

I'm looking at some different price points, all in the lower end. I can't justify spending much more than what I'm looking at even though I am fully aware that there are much MUCH better saddles out there. One of my favorite saddles was a 1970's Passier dressage saddle that I used on Debon the pinto pony. It didn't look like the modern dressage saddles, it looked more like an all-purpose saddle. It was very comfortable. So I know there's a huge difference between super cheap and super nice. I know I'm not going to get 30-some years out of the saddles I'm looking at. My goal, again, is good looking, well fitting tack that helps me keep the correct position. Because I will only be using it for show, I feel like I can get away with slightly cheaper tack since I will only be using it about a half-dozen times a summer. I am looking at THIS SET from Schneiders but I can't find any reviews other than the one on the site and in their catalog. Again, I can go up to the store and try them out. The lowest option I'm looking at is THIS SADDLE and accessories. All together it would be less than $400, when you add the saddle to the cart the price drops to $224! I see mixed reviews about the saddle and it seems all the positive ones are from kids who probably have no real saddle experience. Most of the reviews say the same thing, stiff leather, color wears off, you get what you pay for, etc. I'm also looking at the Collegiate saddles. I sat in a Collegiate Convertible at Equusnow a while ago that was on consignment. I like the way it fit but they still wanted $795 for it used. It seemed to fit me well. There is actually a Connoisseur on Ebay for $400 and I've seen both the Connoisseur and Laureate for similar prices a few places if you dig deep enough. Collegiate fittings/bridle would run another $250 or so and that would make it around the same price as the Pinnacle set from Schneiders. Of course the reviews are mixed for the lower end Collegiates, just like the Kincades.

So what do YOU think? Is it okay to have more cheaply made tack (so long as it fits) if you're not using it often/extensively? Do any of you have experience with Kincade, Collegiate, or Pinnacle saddles? Know of more tack review sites?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Flight or Fight, Fail or Prevail.

I knew something like this would happen eventually, and this will not likely be the last event of it's kind. When one is involved with horses one must accept that accidents will happen. Today was not the worst incident I've dealt with in my 15+ years around horses, but it was a pivotal one in my young relationship with Jr and for my overanxious nature. See, I knew when I bought my own horse that the "exposure to error" would be greater than say, a once-a-week ride on a 20 year old school horse. I knew that my "chicken-shit re-rider" status would be tested and I would either fail or prevail. Would I get back on or would I cower in the corner and just be terrified? Luckily this incident was a good starting point for equine disaster. Nobody got seriously hurt and it happened on the ground in an empty arena so no major catastrophe.

This is what transpired or at least what happened in my head...

We are lunging to the right. The lesson before mine exits the arena and I am alone in the arena with Jr. He's a little miffed that the other horses left, including his stall neighbor Mighty and his buddy Max, but he maintains himself rather well. Much better than he used to in a similar situation. What happens next happens faster than the speed of light: he spooks at something (I think it was two of the boarders walking out of the darkness) out the arena door (towards the other barn) and bolts full tilt directly past me towards the opposite side of the arena. While yelling WHOA the panic in my head flashes the following all at the same time: dragging dragging don't let go don't let go if he runs with the lunge line he'll surely step on it and break his neck oh god oh god too fast too - TRIP FALL SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT He's hurt he's dead he's lame.... no... he's stopped at the gate towards his barn and is standing there looking like an Arab stallion in heat. KAT is jogging out of the barn (must've heard the ruckus) and he allows her to come in and catch him and gather up his line while I try to breath and stop shaking and - OUCH! Oh my KNEE! Oh, no. pull up pant leg and check knee. Knee is fine. Knee is fine? Really? oh but it hurts. One more reason to wear fleece lined jeans: padding!

We caught our breath and I was able to explain that he wasn't being naughty and that he just really REALLY spooked. I really hate how there's no light between the barns and the arena. People walk out of the darkness coming from the parking lot to the barns. He's been startled that way before, but not this bad. He scraped the front of his right forearm, I assume on the jump cup of the jump standard he ran into I think while I was still holding the line. No blood, just hair loss and a scrape. I took him back out to try to lunge him more. He was spooking and snorting and didn't want go to the end of the arena that it happened in. Of course because I worry about everything I'm having visions of him spooking in that end EVERY time and having to rehabilitate him or only ride on the other side. At this point I'm considering NOT riding him but I knew better. This is where it was pivotal for me. Do I ride him? Do I do something safer? I KNOW you're supposed to "get back on" after you fall, but remember, I'm overanxious and rather chicken-shit so the prospect of getting ON this 16 hand snorty monster is NOT looking like a sane idea. He didn't want to lunge. He didn't want to do anything. He didn't look like he was lame or anything so I made him keep going. I had to ask over and over and over again before he started going at a steady pace. He started to calm down by the time KAT was checking the other student's tack and helping them mount. I called over to her and asked if he looked okay and she said yes. I went ahead and put his bridle on and mounted and he was just fine. It was like it didn't happen. He was a little hesitant by the door the first pass, but I let him stand there for a second and then moved him on. He did prick his ears up EVERY time we went by the far door but he didn't shy or anything and we had a fairly decent lesson. His lope started out with two thumbs down but got better. He wasn't in the mood for loping so he might have been a little sore from his rodeo.

So the bottom line is: I got on. Even though all kinds of horrors were flashing through my mind, I got on and rode. I made sure he was calm first, I'm not an idiot. Luckily he's a pretty calm horse. He has his moments but he's much calmer than most of the other horses in my past.

KAT brought me some ointment for his scrape and I'll bring my tube next time I go. He didn't seem bothered but he was very thirsty. It was really dusty in the arena - can't really water it when it's 20 degrees and I was literally covered in arena from head to toe. I came home and looked in the mirror and my whole face was covered. Pretty. Glad I didn't need to stop at the grocery store!

So now I'm sitting here with ice on my knee wondering what lovely colors it will turn in the next few days while the snowstorm hits and I am too busy with work to go ride until Thursday at the earliest. Snow storm tomorrow, work Wednesday night. Hopefully he doesn't get too sore. I wish he hadn't done that, but I'm glad it turned out okay.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

New Video!

New Video!

I finally got my latest video uploaded to YouTube. He's doing even better than this video shows. This was after KAT had done 7 rides on him while I was out of state for the Holidays, but before I had gotten a chance to really work with her on how to handle him in the new shanked bit. Because of this (I have to blame it on something, right?) he is a bit behind the vertical and a little too arched. He's consistent in that position, though and he's currently really consistent in a better headset, flatter, more stretched out and down. As soon as I have proof to share I'll upload it.

Note how long his mane is and how much weight he's gained. Time sure flies.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Quick Lunge and Weight.

I decided just to lunge him today. Since I've been riding in a shank snaffle I have been lunging him just in his halter. His obedience and discipline have been improving steadily for a long time, now, but with the halter I have less control. I decided to lunge him in my regular snaffle, that way I can have more control and give a little "reminder" session.

This is how I set up the bridle: I remove the reins (I have them on snaps) and fit the nose band and throat latch. I always start him to the left so I run the snap end of the line into the left "D" of the bit, up the face, under the throat latch (this helps keep the line from getting in front of the bridle and into his eyes) up over the poll, under the opposite throat latch, and clip the line to the off-side "D". I lead him to the arena this way, and grab one of the barn whips as I enter the arena. With the line in this configuration I can give fairly equal pressure on both sides of the bit when I tug on the line. Instead of pulling his head IN to the circle as with a halter, it acts more like pulling on both reins. The only down-side to this is that in order to change directions, I must bring him in to the center and swap the line to the other side. He's good about the change and stands very nicely or starts sucking on the lunge line and being a brat. One of the two. He actually loped a few laps with the line in is teeth today. His choice. I usually make him let go before I send him off, but I wanted to see how long he'd hold on to it.

His obedience to voice commands has become very good. If he's REALLY hot when we start out I just let him canter around at whatever speed he prefers, as long as he's staying in an even circle and not acting too crazy. I buck in a stride is acceptable. I buck and a directional change or other nonsense is not tolerated and he is made to come down into a small circle until he gets his mind back to work. He will toss a buck every once in a while, but mostly he just canters. Once his initial burst of "yippee! I'm out of my stall!" has subsided he gets ready to work. To transition gaits up, I say "trot" and for canter I either say "canter" or just throw a kiss. If he's coming down transitions a tug on the line is helpful to reinforce the voice command, but is not always needed. I usually gauge how long to lunge by his willingness to come down to a trot and then his willingness to come down to a walk. If it takes several vocals and tugs to get him to trot I ask him back into a canter (once he's finally obeyed the command to trot) until he seems more relaxed. If he attempts to change direction or tries to stop without my command we keep going until he's doing everything I ask of him and his ears look pleasant. He'll also relax his neck when he's fully paying attention. Once he'll "walk on" without trying to stop I know he's warmed up, calmed down, listening, obeying, and ready to ride.

I don't think I'll be lunging him much during the months he has turn-out. I considered turning him out today but there was a good amount of ice between the barn and the turn-outs and I was afraid he'd slip. There were horses out in the next pasture and I know he would've tore back and forth down the fence trying to play with them. Still makes me feel very guilty that he doesn't get out in the winter. I think he's adapting to the routine, though.

About the weight: If I used the weight tape correctly, he weighs about 1075 lbs. Does that sound right for a 16 hand horse? If you look at my YouTube video of Junior's first days you can see his ribs when he lopes by. There are NO ribs showing now! I wish I would've taped him when he first came, just to get an estimate on the weight difference.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"Fun" with Saddles

The good news is that KAT liked my new pad and that it successfully kept my saddle from sliding back. I also learned to make sure the saddle is centered before I cinch because once it's tight there's no "weight shifting" to re-center it once you're in the saddle. That Tacky stuff works!

The pad seems to make the saddle fit better because it lifts it off of the wide part of his shoulder and up onto his pointy withers..... which leads me to the BAD news:

It looks like I need a new saddle. KAT could easily feel what I felt, that the tree was very tight against his back. We put her new Billy Cook saddle (FAIRLY certain it's FQH) on and there was a noticeable difference. Now, my saddle was much better with the pad, but we'll have to see what happens when that pad gets worn a bit and shapes itself to his back. I'm not going to rush out and buy a new saddle since it doesn't seem to be bothering him and the pad is helping, but I'll be keeping my eye out and when I shop for my new show saddle I'll be looking for one with full quarter horse bars.

While we were at it, I put my crappy old ugly black All-Purpose English saddle on him. The saddle fit fine, but the girth was SEVERAL inches away from even touching the bottom of the flap on the onside, while on the last hole on the off side. This just solidifies my decision to sell the saddle for whatever I can get for it. I'm not going to buy a new girth for this saddle. It would have to be black and then I'd have two black girths I don't need/can't use when I buy a new saddle. So I guess I'll put it back on Craigslist and see what I can get.

My ride was pretty good tonight. It was a busy arena again so he took a while to settle into the work but by the end of the ride we were jogging around on a draped rein with a flat neck, doing little figure eights with leg cues. Can't do that at the lope yet, still need lots of checking and shoulder aid.

I have a lesson tomorrow night, so that'll be nice. Wanna buy a saddle? :)

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Much to my surprise and delight, after 5 days without being ridden he was AWESOME today! I lunged him first and he was lunged yesterday, but I hadn't ridden him since our lesson last Monday. It was so nice to see that all the progress we did the weeks after Christmas has stuck. I started two handed with a shorter rein but really quickly he started stretching out and down spent most of the ride on a loose rein, even at the lope, even doing multiple simple lead changes. He got a little cranky while I was trying to get him to lope off in the middle of the arena on the lead of my choice, tossing his head jigging around. He quit eventually, of course, and did some more correct lope-offs. I worked on loping off from a walk on the lunge, too and he was picking it up really well. I also got a few decent pivot-on-the-haunches out of him, too.

I put his saddle on without the pad so I could check the fit. I've been reading more about proper saddle fit. We're using a saddle with semi-QH bars but now that he's gained so much weight and muscle I wonder if it still fits. I ran my hand under the saddle and I could feel exactly where the bars started and it was awful tight in there. I'm going to ask KAT if I can do the same with her full-QH saddle and see what that feels like. It took me a while to adjust the new pad to where it looked like it was fitting properly with the saddle. It's SO much thicker than my old fleece pad that the girth had to be looser. It didn't seem to bother him while lunging or riding, but I did have to tighten my girth after a while and could feel that I was drifting to a side. Kind of felt like the saddle was perched on his back instead of surrounding it. Didn't seem to bother him in the least, but I'll run this all by KAT and see what she suggests. I have a LOT of tack to buy if I'm going to show this summer so buying ANOTHER saddle just for daily riding doesn't thrill me, but I certainly don't want to ride in a saddle that's not good for the horse. I want some professional advice before I just go saddle swapping. Before I got this saddle KAT said she'd probably buy it from me if it didn't work for me, but she's since bought a new saddle so I doubt that offer still stands. We'll see what happens.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

This is why I didn't ride during the winter in Minnesota.

Brrr. It was about 24 degrees today but the wind chill had it down much further. Both of his buckets were frozen solid for the first time. I had no idea what to do. I mean, I'm not an idiot I know I can figure out how to get ice out of a bucket, but I'm also smart enough to know there's gotta be a method that works and lots of methods that don't. No one was around to ask. I think my method worked okay. I drained the water that I could outside. Then, while doing my other tasks, I set the buckets in the sink in the bathroom. There was a big sign over the sink that said DO NOT DUMP BUCKETS IN SINK.... Okay. Then I took them outside and flipped them over and the ice came right out. Nice. Hopefully the in-sink thawing is allowed...

The arena is really packed hard right now and with no one else there I didn't want to ride. I took him on the lunge line, took his coat off in the arena (next time I'll leave it in the heated office!). We're not supposed to free lunge (barn rules) but I was really tempted today. There was no one there. But I didn't. I walked him around and tried to get him to move a bit. He was very disrespectful overall. I'm sure he's bored and has cabin fever but he crossed the line too many times today. He's so smart and I now know the difference between when he doesn't know what I'm asking and when he is simply not doing what I'm asking. Today was a case of not doing what I asked. He seemed like he had energy but didn't know what to do with it and didn't want to just lunge it out. I might start taking showmanship lessons, not with a goal of showing, but with the hope that KAT can help me teach him better manners. I've never worked with a horse with such a strong desire to have his nose right in my face all the time. It's worse, of course, when he's really energetic. He also won't stand next to me if I'm leading him and we stop. He'll swing his butt out and face me. I just don't know what the steps are to fix that. After a while he started listening to me more and then finally decided to burn that energy and he ran around me, bucked a little and even squealed a few times. I didn't want him to get too sweaty since it's so cold so I made him jog for a while and then walk for a while. I made him stand in the arena with the line folded and draped over his neck and put his blanket on. It was so cold it sounded crispy like I remember jackets doing in super cold weather in MN.

He's been difficult to lift his front feet lately. He's fine on the back, practically picks them up for me, but his front ones are a different story. Could this mean something? I can't see anything about his hooves that is different...he does not move with any signs of lameness, and he was trimmed in December. He used to be fine with the fronts. Then for a bit I would have to work harder for the right front (the last one I do). Now I have to work really hard to get either front. Maybe this isn't good, but I've taken to sort of poking him with the hoof pick and saying "pick it up" and releasing the pressure when he lifts it. I tried other things first. If I lean into him to try to transfer his weight to the other side he leans hard against me. I tried squeezing his tendons but I have really small (and apparently weak) hands and that didn't have a response. Again, I know he knows I want his hoof, he's either choosing to not give it, or something is making it uncomfortable to lift. Considering he's not showing any lameness I'm more inclined to think he's just being a poop, just like his swinging his rear so I can't get to his on side to tack him up, and just like him grabbing the lunge line, etc. and refusing to let go.

He's still my good boy, though. He gives good kisses. Hopefully we get a ride in tomorrow and I can try out my fancy new pad! It was on back order for EVER. It's THIS ONE in black. It should eliminate both the slippage and high wither issues. We'll see.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Short Post about weather.

For those of you who have become bored reading my lengthy and unorganized rantings: I am sorry. I will be editing more and rambling less. Things with us are better and better each time we ride so I have less to bitch about. This is a good thing and I should celebrate that by giving meaningful updates instead of ramblings. (The ramblings don't help me much except in the way of venting, and I can do that off-line and still give YOU something to read.)

All I have to say today is that winter sucks. Coming from Minnesota, the winters in Central Ohio have not been terribly bad. In fact I often giggle at the weather guy when he uses terms like "arctic chill" for temps in the low 20's and "mother nature dumps 5 inches of snow"... that's not a dump, that's a sneeze. Besides, we stay below freezing for such short periods of time that even when we got the 20 inches of snow last spring it was GONE 4 days later. None of this deep horrible snow pack that we get in MN. (My reader, Ellie will know of what I speak) So all in all I have nothing to complain about, BUT when I have to drive 1/2 hour to the barn yucky roads become major roadblocks. No pun intended. My lesson tonight was canceled due to weather and it's supposed to be in the single digits the next two days and in the low 20's for the next week. Yuck. I have warm clothes that make riding quite tolerable - again, those Mountain Horse Ice Paddock Boots are AWESOME - but getting there isn't much fun. Plus I'm torn about what's best for him when it's that cold: to just stay in his stall and keep warm, or to get a ride or some lunging in. He doesn't have a fur coat so he doesn't sweat up easily so I don't have trouble cooling him out. But just in general: is it better for him to get exercise when it's in the teens? Or just let him have those days off?


Monday, January 12, 2009

Run Junior Run

Between busy with work and weather that didn't want to play nice, I hadn't been to the barn since my Thursday lesson. I decided to jump into the 7pm lesson (my old lesson time) even though I got there at 10 minutes to 7. KAT doesn't usually get the lessons started until a quarter after the hour anyway, depending on how long it takes to get everyones tack checked and mounted. I went out to lunge at about 7. He immediately took off galloping and bucking. Not as badly out of control as he did that one day on November. He tore around for a while and then did this very crazy rear-buck-lunge-thing that I deemed inappropriate so I made him stop and reminded him whose show this is. I sent him off the other direction and he continued to gallop with his tail upright. At that speed he wore himself out in no time and broke to a trot and then walked into me. I let him stop and gave him a pat and sent him off again as a reminder that I am the decider about when to stop. He was visibly worn out, though, so I led him over to the wall to mount and let him catch his breath. And to think I ALMOST considered jumping right on since it was so close to lesson time!

The lesson was pretty good. KAT even commented on how far he's come and at such a fast pace as of late. I think he's improved more in the past two weeks than he did in the first two months I had him. It's not any fault of his that it's taken time. I am an amateur with a rather limited education and it's certainly taken some time for me to redevelop my seat and balance and learn new sets of cues. I started learning some of that when I was riding at an Arab barn just outside of Minneapolis. I rode un-finished horses there so I began learning about training then. I didn't like that barn much, though. I liked the trainer and the facility and there were VERY nice horses there. I didn't like the rest of the riders. There was a group of young high-schoolers there who were very mean to me. I never knew why. I was older than they and I don't think I DID anything to encourage their behavior. I was friendly to them. I think it started because the bully-girl of the group had a favorite horse and this favorite horse was the horse I kept being put on for lessons. I think I only rode 3 horses there. The first was the typical little bay mare school horse, but then I went between two green 5 year old mares. I think it bugged the girl that I kept riding "her" horse. I even got to take her to her first show.......THAT was a disaster. The girls would fill my grooming box with corn and when I left my boots there once they filled those too. I don't even know where they GOT the corn. I don't think the horses were being fed corn. I would often find my saddles uncovered, too. That tack room didn't have a door and it was VERY dusty. Most of the boarders kept their tack in big wooden armoirs. I just had mine on a stand with an old blanket over them. I'd get to the barn and find corn and dusty saddles. I never did figure out what their problem was. I'm sure the fact that I'd been riding almost as long as some of them had been alive didn't make things better since I was learning a new style of riding. (coming from serious hunters to Arabian WP and Hunter Pleasure) Then I got a little experience when I worked with ponies for a few months.

My confidence is increasing all the time. I still get those moments right before I lope when I get a little nervous, but I just have to remind myself how much better he's been and then when he lopes off so quietly and softly I forget to be afraid and get to concentrate on helping him organize his body.

When I left I got the sweetest cuddle/kiss from him! I then had to wipe it off of my shoulder with a towel, but oh well: that's love!

I'm not sure if I'll get to him tomorrow. We're starting our club lessons again on Wednesday so I'll be back into weekly lessons and pretty soon I can try to do more morning rides. Though, riding at 7 or 8pm is nicer than the after school rush. We'll see.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Milestone After Two Days Off

Junior got two days off because the first two days of the first week of class were a bit hectic for me. Go figure. Yesterday it took F-O-R-E-V-E-R to get him to pay attention to me. I made the realization (after the ride, of course) that his ADD-ness when the arena is busy is probably at LEAST 50% because busy arenas make ME uptight. After having private lessons for years or riding in group lessons where the only horses in the arena are going the same way and staying on the rail, I am still trying to get used to maneuvering traffic. I know the "rules" but I still get really nervous when I'm not sure if someone is going to stay on the rail or cut in and make a circle. I start to worry about being in other people's way. I can't believe I didn't make the solid connection that of course if I'M tense, HE'S going to be tense. Duh. I KNOW this. He DOES get uppity when horses start to leave and he's suddenly left alone. If I keep him on task, on the rail, and collected he usually gets over it after a few moments, though. We have the least amount of problems if either A)We go in as a group and we leave as a group. Or B) We go in alone (or with a few horses) and we stay that way. He's most bothered by horses leaving and I'm most bothered by navigating multiple traffic patterns. After a while he (or I) finally started to relax and get down to business and had a decent ride.

Today I had a private lesson. I LOVE private lessons. It's what I'm used to. KAT is really good about giving equal attention during group lessons, but 30 minutes of constant instruction is better for me. We spent time fine-tuning driving him forward into the bit to make him use his hip and step deeper. I still have a hard time judging this from in the saddle so it's nice to have her there to tell me the moment he starts driving correctly. I can kind of feel it....I think.....

We also worked on lope and loping off from a halt. He had started to be a real pain about loping off before his 7 rides with KAT over Christmas. I can align his body correctly now and he doesn't fuss as much about starting the lope. I've actually been working the last few days on loping figure 8's. Bringing him down to a jog to take the other lead and as long as I get him down he takes the other lead really well. I've tried twice to get him to do a flying change but he doesn't seem to know what I'm asking quite yet. I'll keep doing simple changes. I'm just so glad he's making the simple change so well. He's really come a LONG way in 4 months. He hasn't had a scary stumble in a while now. A few little ones when he isn't paying attention to what he's doing, but he's actually been really well at the lope and that's when we were having the most problems.

Today is our 4 month anniversary. I really love being a horse owner. I think we've started to form a pretty decent bond. He's super friendly to everyone, but I'm past that now and into a different place with him. I sort of feel like he sticks his nose out for everyone who gets anywhere near him, but he gives me more than that. At least I'd like to think so. I can't wait to see where we'll be in another four months!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Wet and Rainy Sunday

Since I'd ridden him 5 days straight I decided to brave riding him without lunging first. I know KAT didn't lunge him, but um, she's the KAT. Since he's not being turned out I have been lunging him for about 10-15 minutes, depending on what he seems to need. I did turn him out yesterday for a bit and he wasn't at all rambunctious, he just tried to find some non-existent grass and walked around. So I figured I'd be safe and I was right. Just as we walked out of the barn two, horses were being turned out and were horsin' around and he was PISSED that I was leading him into the arena instead of towards the paddock. I wondered if I should lunge him anyway but it would mean taking him all the way back to his stall, taking his headstall off, putting his halter back on and getting the lunge line. I though I'd just give him a few minutes in the arena to settle down and he did so quite quickly. I mounted with loose reins and he didn't budge so consistency is paying off there. The ride was good. There were several other boarders there and they all commented on how well he's doing. We had a few little fits. Sometimes he just won't stop and hold still and insists on sticking his face above the bit and turning circles. Fun. Sometimes he stops softly and on a dime. I don't get it. We also tried to work on some rail turns on the haunches (I am DREADFUL at those even on finished show horses) and some were pretty good and some were REALLY bad. KAT said she did lots of those with him so I know it's my bad, not his.

First day of classes tomorrow and though I don't teach on Mondays I have office hours, three meetings, and I have to go to rehearsal in the evening. That means he gets the day off. I should be able to ride Tuesday and Wednesday and then I have a private lesson on Thursday.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Patterns? With HIM? Okay!

We had an average ride today. Some really akward moments, especially when asking him to lope off and at one spot on one of the long walls (this seems to be a "thing" for him at the same spot). We worked on getting him to drop his head and STAY there and after a while he was REALLY flat and relaxed. I took a video yesterday but am having issues with uploading it to imovie. The video showed that his head was behind the vertical so I tried to combat that today with giving one strong clear signal to lower his head and once he does to give him all the rein I can so he stretches forward and doesn't stay so arched. It was exagerated on the video, too because his mane is ridiculously sticky-uppie. Another month or so and it will be long enough to DO something about. I roached it last on September 18th and I could ALMOST get it into bands today, but not quite.

The best part of the ride was right at the end. I had him one-handed and I was working on neck-reining. He was responding REALLY well to my leg (KAT must've worked on that with him) so I thought I'd just try a simple pattern. There were some jumps set up and I used one as sort of a cone. I did a jogged circle to the right, and then a loped circle to the left. He was pretty awesome! Not show ready, of course, but he did what I asked him to do WHEN I asked him to do it. He was slow and relaxed. His frame was a little higher, but I think (am I wrong?) it's a little more acceptable for that in a Horsemanship class. It was such a simple manuever, one that I've done a zillion times on other horses, but considering all of our previous attempts at that kind of pattern work he was super. I did a jog right, jog left, lope left series, too and he was even better. I halted him and gave him TONS of pats, rubs, scratches and "good boy!"s. I was VERY proud of him. I tried to finish up by walking out, but he KNOWS when we're "done" and he starts to head towards the gate. He wasn't very warm so I took him outside and rode down the fenceline about a hundred yards. It was about 45 degrees but it was much cooler in the wind. Maybe I'll set up some cones tomorrow like the pattern we did in that lesson and see how it goes! As always, I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, January 1, 2009


  1. The state or quality of being resolute; firm determination about something equine.
  2. A resolving to do something related to the equine.
  3. A course of action about the equine determined or decided on.
In the spirit of the New Year, and our upcoming 4 month Anniversary, I've decided to write down my horsey goals in the form of EQUIlutions.

1. Do more groundwork when it's warmer to earn more respect while leading. He's not bad, but we could use some more personal space.

2. Increase Jr's winter wardrobe with some clearance blankets in the spring. Having only one blanket doesn't allow for much temperature adjustment and means I have to wait until spring to launder it again.....eeew.

3. Change his muley mane to a pleasure mane.

4. Get English and Western show tack.

5. Get black pants, chaps, and make a show shirt. Designing and sewing/dyeing a fully custom show outfit is completely within my skills and abilities, however, I don't think I SHOULD until we've proven ourselves in the show-ring. Until I feel like we have some "ring cred" we'll stick with a basic outfit in black and purple that look appropriate and not too flashy. A bay roan paint will stand out enough on his own, I'll let HIM catch the judges attention. I have boots, a hat, gloves, and a blanket from my old show days that I will use. This will save some money for tack, too.

7. Ride in one wtc HUS class and one wtc WP class. KAT takes students to shows all summer long so there'll be one or two I can go to. There's a multi-day show in town I think in May that will be good for us. A whole day on the grounds to acclimate before classes on day two.

I have some long-running goals of learning more about horse care, too, but It's hard for me to pin point actual goals. I will try to start taking courses at my College in Equine Science this year too, but scheduling is kind of tough.

Our ride yesterday was very good. With fewer horses in the arena and a better attitude he showed me his new tricks. Somehow in two weeks KAT turned my boy into a western pleasure horse! His jog is light and tiny but he's still driving from behind. His frame is better and he's spending more time with a lovely relaxed neck. I still feel weird about having his neck so low, having come from arched neck arabs and dressage horses, but KAT said his ears are still legally positioned in relation to his withers, so as long as he's comfortable that way we'll go with it.

I had to start him two-handed but I finished the ride at all three gaits one handed and that felt pretty cool! He had one decent stumble and I have NO idea how to fix that. I'm trying to be super conscious of my balance so I don't throw him off that way. I'm also going to use groundpoles more often to encourage him to pick up his feet. I lunged him over a pole and he stepped on it about 35% of the time. So graceful.

I stopped at Rod's yesterday and bought a new girth and a new pad. Not sure how I feel about the pad. Maybe I'm a bad horse owner, but I didn't want to buy the $130 one and the next thing down was about $40. I worry that this one won't give him enough wither clearance, but I'll try it today and see. They have a great return policy. I looked for a pad I can use for every day and then throw a show pad over for show. The pad is black and my show pad is black. My girth is black, too, so it'll look okay together for show. I think the boy will appreciate the new girth since it has neoprene behind the buckles and my old one was the old string-girth type.