Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sad Day

Last evening a wonderful woman passed away. She was my first riding instructor and sort of a Grandmother figure for me. She was the most incredible mixture of grace and spitfire. When I met her on a spring day I was immediately enamored. She was like no one I had ever met. I was infatuated with her Boston accent, her tiny stature, and her eyes that twinkled like eyes only do in fairy tales. I came to her farm to learn to ride horses but I also learned to be brave and to do your own thing no matter what anyone else says. She opened her barn, her home, and her heart to me. We could not afford lessons, but she agreed to let me ride if I worked them off. I doubt she knew what she was getting herself into at the time. Probably thinking I was just another teenage girl who would clean a few stalls, ride a horse, decide it was too much work or that boys were more interesting and never come back. Instead I showed up with 4-H records (I was already showing my poultry) and got to work. It was slow, of course, at first because I didn't know HOW to do barn chores, but I caught on became more proactive, looking for projects to take on. Most of the time I was the only student. Sometimes her great-niece would come down from the Cities to ride or go to a horse show. That great-niece, Cari, and I hit it off immediately and are still good friends. Sometimes there would be other girls there, grand-daughters of friends, or distant relatives or Navy buddies, but most of the time it was just me. I soaked up everything she said like a sponge. I was fascinated by her stories of horses she knew, people she'd taught (including George Morris) while a student at "Margie Self's" school. That's Margaret Cabell Self of literary fame and founder of the New Canaan Mounted Troop. She told me about traveling around the country with her husband in the Navy, teaching lessons at the bases they lived on. I started riding Dino, then Lark, then Banee. Along the way I tried to work with some of the younger, less trained horses and she was happy to let me experiment but kept me out of too much danger. I was able to do a 4-H lease on her horses and take them to the county fair and the local show in June. They were just little local shows with dollar entry fees, but to me it was like showing at the Nationals. I treasured every ribbon, especially the hard fought ones. Cari and I would beg every year for lany to ride in the "Over-the-hill" class and kick butt. She would laugh and say "maybe next year." She generously gave me endless opportunities. I remember once (when I started to realize how expensive horse-keeping is) I said that I was sad I'd probably never have horses of my own. She looked at me and said, "Oh yes you will. Horses are a part of you. You'll have them." Of course, she was right. I'm sad that she was unable to share in my new horse ownership experience. She had been suffering from the effects of dementia for a few years. I think she would have liked Junior and I think he would have liked her. I can almost see her laughing because he would probably try to eat her hair.

My heart is heavy, but I am grateful for having been blessed with this woman in my life. I have many memories.

Thank you, Lany, for everything. Give Lark, Dino, Sonny, Red, Grey, and Ajax kisses from me.

This was in 1997 at my last 4-H horse show after winning the Senior Showmanship.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


I've always been a strange duck. Today this is exhibited by my enthusiastic pleasure at discovering that I have sunburn on my shoulders. I don't even care that it will hurt tomorrow and probably peel. I'm just so glad that I was in the sun long enough to create the sunburn. It was a very long winter and I? I am a summer girl. And I have lots of summer lotion on my shoulders.

My blouse is done, but I am not satisfied with it. It's fine. I think it's good enough for the level I'm showing but I had some difficulties with embellishments. The construction of the blouse went together very easily and the pattern fit with only one adjustment to the sleeve length. I did learn a lot by doing this one so the next one will be easier and more successful. The problem is within the Ultrasuede work and with the crystals. It just makes me feel like it looks a little more homemade than professionally made. Again, it's probably not noticeable to anyone but me and I'm not really worried about it. We'll see what it looks like in the ring.

I got the sunburn by sitting on a blanket on the grass for about an hour and a half oiling my English tack (finally) and my new curb strap. Junior and Max enjoyed the time on the grass.

Then I did a nice ride. I thought about riding English but he was so calm and sluggish that I knew English would be a lot of work on my part to keep him moving forward. He was very lazy since it was 86 degrees but he seemed to be in a good working mood and did everything I asked him reasonably well. His jog was nice and slow and I had to spend very little time keeping him in frame. He got strung out at the lope a bit at one point and took a bad step, but he was easy to correct and we didn't have any real fights, but a few times on his bad lead when I was trying to push him back to the rail he broke down and switched leads. I'll have to ask KAT how to make sure I'm using different cues for "pick up your shoulder and get back to the rail" and "lead change." Then we went for a nice walk around the farm with Max and his girl.

This is the most inconvenient week for a show to follow but here goes. Worst case scenario is that I won't get out there until Friday. That is unlikely, but still possible. BEST case scenario is that possibly Wednesday and Thursday during the day I could ride. KAT knows my plight and I know she'll ride him when she can.

I'm trying to mentally prepare this week since I can't do much physical prep. All of my material needs are in place, just need to be packed up and organized. Because I tend to get pretty bent out of shape at shows, I'm trying to find a mantra to recite if I start to get overanxious. Something about why this is fun and why this is something I love to do. I'm also trying to put a playlist on my iPod of songs that make me feel good that i can try to play between classes. Luckily KAT will be there and I know all my barn friends will help me if I need anything at the show.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Me: 1 - Fear: 0

I did just a quick 30 minute ride this afternoon. I had to take him out of the field and he was pleasant enough about it. He stood ground tied very well for grooming and tacking, and though initially he tried to follow me when I needed to walk away and into the tack room to help a newbie, he even stood still while I was out of sight.

It was warm in the indoor, but I knew he'd get all kinds of angry about being led past his pasture mates and then have to work in the outdoor while there was turned-out horses in plain sight. KAT did a quick ride on him yesterday schooling his left lead a lot and he did pretty well. We needed to canter both directions in multiple circles before he would really settle down to lope for me, but he did much better towards the end. Even did a really nice lead change. I think it was technically a simple change but it was super quick and smooth. I finished off loping his good lead one-handed.

The title of this post is such because: I loped without stirrups. Of course this is no big deal to most people, but it was a pretty big deal for us. I feel much more secure with stirrups at this stage of my re-riding. I've been walking and jogging without stirrups but today when he was loping nicely I halted, dropped my stirrups and asked him off into a lope (good lead, of course) and we did a bunch of circles and then halted again. I praised him lots for the good loping and went back to some regular jogging. Up until that ride the prospect of loping with out stirrups was terrifying to me. I was even surprised that when the thought crossed my mind I actually DID it instead of talking myself out of it. Now, cantering in an English saddle with no stirrups? Um, I think we'll wait for a bit on that one!

When we were done I untacked him and put him back out into the field. Zippy, who has been very mean to Junior for a while went up to him, kissed him and then spun around and kicked him in the chest/neck. I couldn't see exactly where she hit but I heard it and Junior stuck is face up and bobbed his head and reared for a second, turned his butt to her to chase her away and then went back to his grazing so it must not've hurt too much. Zippy has only front shoes, thankfully.

We load into the show a week from tonight!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Shoes and Such

Junior's been very good this week. We had a western lesson last night and other that having to start with 5 minutes of extended trot to get some of his fresh out, he worked very well. Posting in western tack is just the epitome of Wenglish! He spent some good time with a nice stretched neck on a loose rein at the walk and jog. The lope still needs work and hopefully KAT will get some time to work on that before the show. His stops were very quick and correct.

Today I went out at about 10:30 and met the farrier. Junior was obviously fresh so I jogged him up and down the aisle a few times, wishing I had enough time to lunge him first so he'd stand still. He trimmed the front and put shoes on. He said the back were fine. He complimented JR's feet and said it was like pounding nails through hardwood. So that's good. He said the thrush is all cleared up and that I should do absolutely NOTHING different with him. That made me feel better and that I should be less paranoid. The farrier is one of those great older horsemen with a firm but kind handshake and a very nifty whisk-broom mustache. Junior was very mouthy the whole time and I tried to keep him occupied with the end of the rope. Just when he was finished he reached down and bit me on the forearm. I have a nice little bruise/welt/broken blood vessel spot but it's not bad. Jerk.

I might go ride tonight, but tomorrow I can't. Perhaps Friday, and then not until after 5 on Saturday. Then I'm probably off (with KAT riding) Monday-Thursday of next week, then on Friday I'll spend the day getting ready for show, Saturday at the grounds, and Sunday is the show. Jeepers it's coming up fast!

My chaps are being delivered today, then I will return the suede ones and get my pants and belt on Friday/Saturday and then I just have to finish the blouse, which I will do on Sunday.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Let the Sunshine In!

Nope, didn't go to the show. Thought a lot about it, did many calculations and weighing, decided not to go.

Friday was beautiful. FINALLY. I got to the barn in the late afternoon to find a very happy pony covered in dried mud. He rode very well and I was much relieved to have that boy back after all that crabby last week. KAT had a new group of college student lessons start this week so I ended up helping a few of them get tacked up. I didn't have to help, but I AM a teacher so I don't mind teaching about horses. Besides, it's tough to walk by the stalls and see them struggling so much. We all know (unless you've been around horses since you could retain memories) how much information there is to absorb when everything from the terms to the smells, to the giant animal with hooves and teeth is brand new.

Today was wonderful. I put Junior out for a few hours while I chatted with people and watched some people ride. I cleaned the stall really well and helped Max's people give him a bath. Then I gave Junior a much needed bath. This was our second bath and not that he was "bad" the first one last fall, but I certainly have a better relationship with him than I did 6 months ago. He wasn't very appreciative of the cold water from the hose, but he listened to me and did as he was told. It made me so happy to get those socks white(ish) and get some of that winter grime out of his skin and mane. I love the fact that he lets me wash his face. My old white mare was only head shy when there was water involved and it was virtually impossible to get her forehead totally clean. It was really the only thing she had a problem with.

I put him away with his slightly damp mane combed down and Vetrolin Shined. I'm interested to see if it's a mohawk tomorrow, or if it stays down.

Before I went to the barn I went to Rods and got almost everything left on my show list. I got my hat re-shaped and the guy was SO nice, he gave me a new box to put it in. It seems he could tell the 15 year old box I had it in wasn't good enough. I will most likely be buying a new hat next year or two if I start showing showmanship and want a lighter hat for that, but I'm giving this old cheap hat one more year. I also picked up a black show blanket, reins, curb chain, and a scarf. The big hole right now is my chaps. I was dumb and waited too long to go get the Hobby Horse Ultrasuede chaps from Rods and now my size is out of stock. They are due back in stock on April 29th but is cutting it really close to the show on the 3rd, IF they actually come in on time! As a back-up plan I bought their zip-it easy suede chaps. They are certainly cheaper but do not fit as well and will stain my light suede seat. It's already stained a little, but I don't want to make it worse. The hobby horse in my size fit like a glove and are just SOOO nice. I've wanted them for years so I don't want to end up settling for suede, especially since they do not fit as well. On Monday I will call Hobby Horse and see if they have them in stock. They'll be more expensive than at Rods and I'll have to pay for shipping, so I'll have to think about that. Just one of those days you wish you could go back in time! Just for 5 minutes to order those damn chaps!!! OR to pick them up when I looked at them a few months ago. Idiot. I don't know what I was waiting for. They didn't get any cheaper and now they're not even there. So just the chaps and pants left. Pants weren't in the retail store and the warehouse is closed on the weekends so I just need to call on Monday and have them brought into the store for me. I'm ecstatic that Wrangler started making their Q-Baby jeans in totally black. AND I've dropped a size since fall!

It's supposed to rain most of the week again but be nice next weekend. Monday my order from Dover should show up.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


If I wanted this much rain I would have moved to Seattle.

It's been raining since Sunday night and it's got me and my horse cranky as hell. He's been pissy the last three days and it has made riding not so much fun. He doesn't frame nicely, he gets all wound up. He doesn't listen. He won't slow down. When I let him out on the grass on Sunday he didn't run around. Even when a black mare from the other barn was let into the adjacent pasture and ran the fence line screaming. All Junior did was raise his head, and then drop it again to continue eating. I could not believe he didn't come over to the fence and run with her. He's been ridden/lunged every day for almost two weeks. But he's still cranky. He's nippy and he's been fighting getting into frame and has been acting like his panties are in a bundle. I know it's because he hasn't been out (other than the two hours on Sunday) for almost a week. But what can I do about that? Not a damn thing. It has been raining non-stop and everything is a puddle. The indoor is fine, but the walk from the barn to the indoor is a mud pit, the turn-outs are ponds. It's the kind of wet that can cause injury, especially when the horse has enough trouble keeping his feet underneath him on good footing. I asked KAT about it after my short ride tonight and she agreed that it's because even though he's been ridden daily he hasn't had time to "play" but he didn't take the opportunities over the weekend, either lunging or in turn out.

I have to work tomorrow night so I asked KAT to ride him if she has the time. I doubt she will. She has a very hectic lesson schedule this quarter, I think she goes nearly all day long. Not sure if she has time for added training rides, but it was worth the asking. She said it would be better if he worked tomorrow than if he just sat in his stall. It is supposed to be sunny tomorrow through Saturday, but it'll take a day or two of sun and wind to dry the mud enough so I doubt he'll get turned out out tomorrow. Maybe Friday?

I will lunge him before riding on Friday, or I'll try to free lunge him in the round pen if it's dry enough. Luckily I'm not overly worried that this is a major setback. I'm relaxing into the fact that I KNOW he knows what he's supposed to do and I know he'll feel more like working when he gets a chance to be the social horse he is.

KAT mentioned that there's an open spot in the trailer for a show this weekend. I can't do that. I'm a planner. I need to plan. I have it planned that our first show will be May 3rd. We're not ready. I am not ready. My clothes aren't ready. I offered KAT to take him and show him since her mare is having lameness issues. I wonder how much that would cost me? To have her take him to a show? I wonder.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

101st Post.... oh so much rambling.

Here's a question for you all: How often do you trim your horse's feet? Jr is the first horse I've been responsible for hoof care so I'm learning. I keep JR barefoot and he was trimmed/shod August 17 (before I got him), September 17 (pulled the shoes because he was interfering behind) , December 12, and March 4th. He never looks like he needs a trim and seems to grow really evenly. I even had a few people look at his feet in January and February and no one thought they looked bad, BUT what does happen is that he starts to stumble a LOT. Now that he's generally more balanced in the way he carries himself he stumbles less, but when his feet get long he stumbles a lot. I see all kinds of things like "4-12 weeks" between trims. That seems like a rather vague measure. I also read that hooves grow very little in the winter and much more in the spring. Just the last week or so he's been stumbling a bit. Not terribly, but enough for me to notice. Could he possibly need to be trimmed again this soon? (Admittedly the 3 month intervals between his last three trims was longer than I should have done, but like I said, I'm learning and I had several people confirm that they did not LOOK like they needed a trim.) I want him in good form for the show on May 3rd and do not plan to shoe him unless KAT or the farrier think I need to. Should I schedule him for this week? Next week? Is there a rule of thumb? Is it possible to trim too soon?

I made a realization yesterday that made me pretty happy. Though I am not a trainer and will be the first to admit I haven't a clue..... I've become much more comfortable with training sessions on my own. When I first got Junior it was the first time that I had a horse to ride whenever and however I wanted and unless I scheduled a lesson, no one was going to tell me what to do. The effect this had on me was confusion....what do I DO? Do I just walk trot and canter around the arena like it's a pleasure class? I bought the book 101 Arena Exercises which I've still not gotten into. (I took it to the barn and now that I remembered that I could've read that while the boys grazed...dummy.) I guess I just started to find stuff I wanted to do better. It began with lungeing. He was such a turd at it and it made it really tough to burn energy efficiently that I started making him follow my voice commands... walk on, trot, canter, whoa, come in, etc. Now I "drill" stuff all the time. Trying to get him to halt immediately when I ask. Asking him to lope off then halt, then lope off again. Cantering on the rail, then cantering circles, then back to the rail. Those things make sense to me and I can totally see progress there. There are millions of things I need to work on, especially the one thing KAT told me to work on: figure-8 while doing a counter-bend both ways. I do work on that, but it seems more complicated than my little brain can handle. I do much better with it when KAT is telling me what to do the whole time.

I rode just a bit inside and outside today. Yesterday I decided to just lunge him because I was feeling like he'd worked for 7 days straight and deserved a little easier day. I also anticipate needing to lunge him at shows and we haven't done it for so long he might need to be reminded what it's about. Well, he forgot how. It was like he'd never heard voice commands before. I ended up spending a good half an hour working on WHOA. Reminded me of a horse cartoon where one horse says to the other: "Hi! What's your name? Mine's Whoadammit."

Friday, April 10, 2009

Going in Circles

I rode western tonight, curious to see how he'd be. He was totally fine. He still did that thing for a while where he would stick his face to the wall and sort of go sideways along the rail. I have referred to this before as him doing a "shoulder in" because sometimes he does that instead. It seems to me that he's either simply misbehaving or he's anticipating my asking for a lope. The latter seems odd since he has been doing so well at loping off lately, but I don't know what else it could be. I just keep correcting him until he gives it up and straightens out.

I ended the ride with lots of one-handed loping. He was the best he's ever been at that. I did a bunch of figure-8's with simple changes in between. I tried for a few flying ones but he wasn't having it. And again, that's fine for now. If I counter canter him going towards the right he'll go ahead and correct himself with some cueing, but doing it from right to left gets him all tangled in himself. He's rather one-sided. BUT that being said those circles were very encouraging. He was framed decently and was going nice and slowly and didn't need a ton of correction. The corrections he needed I was able to do one-handed. Unfortunately KAT was in the barn so I couldn't ask her how he looked, but I could tell it was as good or better than we've done so far.

This is why I should try not to freak about every little thing, but, then what would I have to write about? :)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Better English

I rode English tonight and he was much better than he had been. I did start him in my western bit and got him working WP for a bit and then when he was working well for me I asked him to extend his trot and started posting. It was a TON of work to get him to extend to a real working trot and NOT to transition into a lope. On the bright side of that, he was really easy to get him to lope off during the entire ride so perhaps my drills the last few days have made some good progress. I switched to my English bridle about 30 minutes in. He did a lot better than I expected. He kept his frame and I kept checking him by halting to see if he was carrying his weight correctly. He was for the most part. He actually does better halting than he does doing downward transitions. Just asking him to come down usually looks really messy. He sticks his nose up and bounces around. He doesn't do this every time so I suspect he does this when he gets strung out and isn't using his hips. He had a few moments at the canter that were less than pretty, but he never rushed and he only fought me for one short moment. He wasn't leaning on the bit like he has been and I was able to give him enough rein to stretch out. Most of the other horses were still passing us even when I thought we were really trotting out, but I'm going to claim that the were all at least .2 to a whole had bigger than Jr. :)

I'm feeling better about showing English after today, especially because doing a few English classes in the morning will help burn some of his energy before the western classes in the afternoon. I don't have to decide until that day anyway. I'll see how he does tomorrow. I can already feel that my legs are tired because I spent some time in two-point at the beginning. Not a lot of time since I haven't really done that in years but was reminded by a very trusted friend that I need to be doing that to help build my seat. I'll keep trying.

I'm going to start on my western blouse tomorrow and then spend the whole afternoon at the barn since there's no school!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Lesson... with Spurs!

My weekly lessons are now on Tuesdays.

He was better tonight than he has been for a while now. He was cranky in the stall (but he DID have vaccinations today) and kind of hot for the first few laps, but still better. It always helps to have eyes on the ground telling you what to do.

Before the lesson I stopped at Rods and finally bought western spurs. I got clover leaf rowels and I think I got the 1 3/4" shank (bottom of picture) but they seemed a lot more like the 2 1/8" when I tripped over them three times.... :) KAT said her clover leafs are enough to get his attention but that I could get the 9-point if I wanted to. I generally don't like to use spurs because I fear that I'll use them incorrectly but I was really surprised that I was able to use them when I wanted to and just use my leg/heel to cue when I wanted to. I only gave him one accidental jab and it wasn't hard. He was having one of his moments where he wanted to do a shoulder-in instead of walk straight along the wall and my attempts to straighten him were not working so I meant to give him a pop with both heels and felt the spurs slide off his sides. Oooops. Junior responded really well to the spurs, though. I was also pleasantly surprised that I could feel how much pressure I was using on the spur and that I could use the spur without torquing my heel up. With the POW spurs I normally use I have a hard time telling if I'm making contact with the spur or not. I've only had western spurs on one other time and they were those loooong shanks with a "humane" ball on the end. I was terrified when the trainer put them on me but I just had to tell that mare I was wearing them and she became much more responsive. When you grow up on psycho-sensitive Arabs you generally don't need spurs so I've only been using them the last year or so.

We're still wonky at the lope but it was better with KAT reminding me how to straighten him. The spur really helped keep him at the lope and I had much less leg fatigue not having to lift my ankle to make contact with the POW spurs. I still think I should be able to ask him to lope and that he should lope until I tell him to do something different. Not keep that spur into his side the whole time. Maybe this is on the road to cue-and-leave-alone just like we do with headset and other gaits, but I think it's kind of a western thing. Just one more of those things I will try to understand eventually.

Towards the end KAT came up and said "Do you trust me?" and though I was confused I said "Uh, yeah?" She took the reins from me and crossed them under his neck and then gave them back to me. She explained what that was going to do....but it still didn't make a ton of sense. Essentially it combines my action of neck reining with one hand with the direct reining he gets when I'm two handed. She said she does that every so often and gets really funny looks, and volunteer shouts from people in warm-up pens at shows, but that it works...somehow. I don't get it, but I DO trust her. It didn't work so hot when he'd over bend because I had no way to crank him back over. We jogged that way and did a few laps of lope which were not terribly successful, but it was his bad lead after all.

I'm am tired. I'm expounding a LOT of energy (mostly mental) at work right now so the extra effort for an hour's lesson is kind of tough.... Is it May yet?!?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

More on the transition.

My last post ended up focusing on the Western/English transition so I left out the rest of my long Saturday at the barn. It was Spring Clean-up Day and some of the lesson kids were there to help. I like to help so I showed up, too...armed with coffee and OJ. The kids were set the task of cleaning the lesson tack and I volunteered myself to help KAT clip all the lesson horses. Most of the horses just stayed gound tied and I was not really necessary but it gave me a chance to ask lots of questions. A few of the horses were mostly good and just required a little reminder to stand or to stop leaning away from the clippers. And then there was Scooter. Scooter is new and this was the first time he'd been clipped at this barn. He'd certainly been clipped in the past since KAT knows his pre-barn history, or at least most of it. The minute she started to clip him he went ape shit and pulled me across the barn. I brought him back and he went nuts again, knocking over a tack box (and my OJ :( and most of our tools) so KAT took him from me and reminded him how a gentleman behaves. He was clearly not afraid of the clippers he was just being a jerk and not having any manners. KAT ended up having to twitch him. I've never seen it done before and I had to ask what the desired outcome is supposed to be, which when put nicely is that it releases endorphines which calms the horse. Put it a not-so-nice way is that the twitch causes intense pain and the intense pain is what releases the endorpines. He was no worse for wear by the end of it and it seemed he just needed a reminder that he is not allowed to drag people around. It was very interesting to see how KAT handled each horse. She knew exactly how to deal with each lesson horse. Some she just dropped the rope and went to work, some got a chain over their nose, and two of the mares received private sessions in their stalls. I was told one of them, Lori, would have to "have a conversation" about the clippers which amounted to KAT spending 15-20 minutes convincing Lori that the clippers was not going to eat her and when I walked by again (went off to check on my own horse) Lori was standing ground-tied in her stall with her head relaxed and having her ears clipped, clearly no longer worried. That conversation has to happen each time it's clipping time, but it was relatively untraumatic. The biggest thing I got out of this day was added experience and another blessing to count. I don't think I could cope with a horse that needed to be twitched to clip, or twitched to do anything. Talk about a way to set my anxiety off! I am once again very thankful that Junior is not that poorly behaved.

It was still too wet to let Jr. out which I know is tough for him. I spent some extra time grooming him and I experimented with some mane pulling. It was much easier than I thought it would be, the hair came right out! I took out a ton of hair but it hardly made a difference. He did not mind the procedure at all and stood really well. I will keep doing bits at a time until it starts laying flatter. He's just got so much hair that it will help to get rid of some.

The ride was so-so. Started well again and then went to hell. He actually bucked. He wasn't completely serious about it, but it was a real buck. He was not taking the lope-off well from halt, walk, or trot. He did all kinds of evasive maneuvers including spinning, side passing, rushing, and of course the one buck. It took ages to get him to calmly lope off and when he started doing it correctly and loping slowly and evenly I praised him and moved on to something easier. He's still sticking his nose out at the halt but the back on the rail was better than Friday. I guess I would call him fussy. Didn't want to do some stuff even though I know he knows how. I don't know what to think of all of that. I feel like he got worse when I started doing the transition. Or I suppose I should say "I" got worse. I'll be the first to admit it's probably something I did/am doing that makes him act like this. I just don't know what that is.

I'm about "this close" to saying Western Only at this May show. There are more shows to test our English skills. I feel like I'm asking too much of him (and especially ME) for our first show only 8 months into our training. 8 months would be a long time if I were a pro, but I'm not. He's had maybe about 15-20 rides on him by KAT in that time and I find that we digress quickly after she's been riding him so I'm sure I've un-did a lot that was done in those rides.

On a happier note I played around with my sewing room today starting to make room to work on my show blouse. I did some stitching tests and laundered the fabric samples together and it came out great. I hope to cut it out next weekend and assemble it the next week. I need to design the yoke before I cut, though. THIS is the kind of stuff I'm good at.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Friday: Junior was a jerk to ride. He's been worse traveling left since I got him and now he's being really obstinate about bending left. I had to smack him with the reins three times because he was refusing to move that direction. I don't think he's having any pain issues, I think he was just pissed that he hadn't been turned out in a few days because of the rain and we were all alone in the arena. He took a while to slow back down to western jog which is frustrating because it took forever during my Thursday lesson to get him to speed up to a working trot. (KAT kept telling me to push him forward over and over again on and making the clucking noise as we passed.) His frame started out fine, but then he just dropped his front end and would'nt round his back. I had to start drilling halts because when I'd ask him to stop he'd stick his nose out and have to take several steps and then keep his nose in the air. Eventually he got his weight back to his hips and the stops came better. He's never been the best "on a dime" stopper but he does much better if I apply seat, bit and voice "ho" all at the same time. Just one of those alone doesn't work. It works the best if I use all three which might be a very bad thing in the show ring, but it's on our (long) list of things we need to work on. He's getting better at keeping his frame while halted. We were also having a lot of trouble backing straight on the rail. His pivots are getting better on the rail (not so much in the open...they turn into turns on the forehand really quickly) but when I was asking him to back he was swinging his hip AWAY from the rail which didn't even make sense. I was applying even pressure to start and then tried to correct him from the swing and he wouldn't obey my leg aids. The silver lining to the overall craptastic ride was that after a lot of fussing he was suddenly doing nice slow small circles both directions with nice quick halts and lope offs in between. I tried to praise him a lot and let him know that was good work.

The ride left me frustrated, though and wondering if the English/Western switch is too much for us this soon. KAT doesn't think so, but I wonder. Should I get one discipline down and then add the second? Should I work both simultaneously? The biggest difference (because I show a stock horse) is the speed. English gaits cover more ground and the frame is bit more rounded. The bit is different and having a shanked bit helps remind him to get into fram, but the aids are generally the same since most aids come from the legs/seat and not so much the bit. This, of course has been a hard transition to make since I was taught with an old-school forward seat and more of a dressage frame. I have reservations about the western pleasure "frame" but honestly it makes sense that when he works from his hips he's ready for quick stops and roll backs and other ranch work needs, and when his hips are working correctly his head drops. You an pull it down all you want but unless his body is correct his head doesn't matter. Why on earth we ride English/Hunter Under Saddle the same way is beyond me. I know I couldn't take a jump in this frame and that's sort of a primary part of English. BUT I am not going to change the world of stock horse showing. I'm also not going to have a 4-beat lope or tie my horse's head straight up the night before a show so he can't pick it up the next day. I'm just trying to enjoy my horse and try not to get laughed out of the arena. I'm not going to Congress, I'm not going to Paint Worlds, I'm just playing with my pony.

But because I'm so overanxious about everything I am looking at the next three weeks wondering if I should just put the English tack away and concentrate on getting him ready to do Western Pleasure and Horsemanship (depending on the pattern) for this first show. Argh. There is another show at the same place (which I like because it's right in town) on June 20th and it looks like I can make that show, too. Perhaps I should just do WP at the May show and plan to do both on June 20th? I'll have more time to train in May and June than I will in April..... hmmmm.

Anybody have some words of wisdom?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Riding the Storm out...Literally.

What happens when 1/2 way through your lesson a rain/thunder/lighting storm hits? Luckily for me Jr. only got tense and did one sort of mini-bolt that wasn't even a big deal and spent the rest of the time trotting along with his ears back. It was SOOOO loud that we couldn't even hear KAT. We just kept trotting (English lesson) and waited for it to pass. It was a bit chaotic, though because two horses were lunging and were NOT happy with the deafening noise, one rider called it quits, and one spend the rest of the lesson on the ground doing showmanship in the corner. So there was a lot of activity and Jr did fine with it. Once the rain stopped (it was a very small but strong cell) we continued on and he wasn't very good about keeping his left shoulder up at all. PLUS I handed my camera to one of the kids to get a little video which I will NOT be posting because my feet are WAY too far forward. I've nixed that problem for the most part in a western saddle, but it seems that is not the case with English. I am considering with the other stresses I have this month to just focus on Western for the May 3rd show, but I've got a few weeks to see how it goes. I'll put a few more training rides on him, too, right before the show.

Off to work.