Thursday, July 30, 2009

Impromptu Private Lesson

The other two riders scheduled for my lesson time did not show so I was able to get a nice private lesson instead. I like my group lessons and I never feel like KAT isn't giving me enough attention, but I go through these cycles of riding on my own a lot and I get to a point where I'm not sure what to do and during a group lesson isn't really a time to ask my dumb questions. For example, we've been working on halting and staying calmly in frame and awaiting the next instruction. I only started working on this with him just before the show on June 20th and we had a good 3 or 4 weeks without much work in between there so this is still a new lesson. When we halt he tends to pick his head right up (hollow out his back) and start looking around, even bringing his nose around to my feet. I pull him back towards center and release the pressure when he moves to center. I just keep messing with him until he stands correctly then I drop the reins. He's started to toss his head lately so we ended up spending a lot of the lesson on that. His halt was quicker in general today.

The other thing we worked on was our ever slacking lope. His speed continues to get better, his frame continues to get better, but he still needs a lot of management or he drops shoulders all over the place and veers in random directions. He's also tossing his head a the lope some and it's scary to me because he does it high enough to get a rein over his head if I'm one-handed. We're going to stay two-handed until he quits that so I can get my hands wide and drive him into the bit when he thinks he wants to toss.

I sometimes get nervous blogging about the types of training things I'm doing. I've been lucky enough not to be flamed or visited by trolls, but I'm sure there are people reading this who disagree with things I do or that KAT does. We were talking today about a rider at the barn who we think is in general too rough on her horses. I acknowledge that there is more than one way to to most anything. I know I'm going to make mistakes (and have) with Junior, but I feel there's a time and a place for rough handling and that's when it's either be rough with the horse, or the horse is going to keep doing something dangerous. Like when he was pinning his rear into the corner of his stall and refusing to move over and then pushed back against me when I walked behind him. That called for a little rough handling. When he reaches out to bite, that requires some rough handling. But in general I try for positive reinforcement and making the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard. Like when he doesn't respond when I ask him with my inside leg to go back to the wall I should stop him and make him sidepass or pivot so he learns that if he responds right away all he has to do is veer over and if he doesn't he'll have to work harder. I know it's all basic stuff, but I'm pretty new at this training thing.

KAT and I spent some time talking about how far he's come in 11 months. I'm so excited to see how he'll be in another 11 months! I really want to get another video to show you how he's moving now. SOOO different from the November video!

Sunday, July 26, 2009


First of all, I had planned to post a little video of today, but after over an hour and a half of editing my iMovie crashed and I lost the entire thing. Dangit.

I hadn't been to the barn since Thursday, somehow the days just flew by! The 4-H horses came back this morning but he's not yet been turned out with them. I felt very guilty that he hadn't been out since then and I intended to turn him out right away. He was eating his grain when I got there so I let him finish while I groomed him all over with our new rubber mit. Amazing how much hair came off. Poor pony is neglected! When I went to turn him out the big fields were still locked from the rainy days and there was a horse out in the mud lot. He was very ready to go and reared and jumped when the other horse ran up to the gate. I wasn't sure what to do with him and didn't think getting right on him would be a good idea. So instead we played a game in the aisle way. Now, of course, our aisle is uber-wide and has super high ceilings, so it's not a bad place to play games. I worked on ground-tieing while I did jumping jacks all around him, ran up to him, and made noises in his blind spots. He was pretty good, and got even better quickly. He lifted his head a lot but was mostly looking at me like "what on earth are you doing you crazy two-legged? " He's not really spooky, but if he's ever going to be a showmanship horse he needs to STAND when told, no matter what's going on around him. I tacked up and headed to the round pen. It was a little wet but not terrible. I took his bridle off and worked him a bit. He only bucked twice and only a little bit so I figured he was ready to ride.

We worked on loping a lot and we LOPED OVER A POLE!!!! TWICE!!!!! Even though the idea of loping over a pole gives me visions of going ass-over-teakettle, for some reason I just decided to go for it. Maybe my nerve is coming back. We had walked and jogged over it and I had lunged him successfully over a pole on Thursday. He went right over it and only nicked it with a back hoof the second time. That's when my bravery subsided and I called it good. I watched another rider during my last lesson have a fall. Her horse just sort of fell down (KAT said she was doing a counter canter) and then to it's side and the rider's foot got caught in the stirrup. The horse stood up but stayed where it was and KAT ran over and helped her get her foot out. She had a sore ankle but was not seriously injured. She and the horse were both fine and for some reason watching her fall (in a similar way that Jr. sometimes does) and then get up and be okay made me feel a little braver. Luckily I've never been injured in a riding accident. The worst accident I had (with Banee at the canter) we both walked away from with only small bruises. I can survive that. I HAVE survived that. Accidents are bound to happen and I don't pretend it's never going to happen, but I do need to not let the fear paralyze me from moving ahead with my riding. There was a time when I was nervous just to lope (even in a lesson with KAT supervising and instructing) at all and now I'm loping over poles alone in the arena. And though I know it'll be a good long while before I'm jumping again, these are very good strides for us. After all:

"Fear almost always arises - in horses, as well as in people - from concern about what might happen, and much more rarely from what is happening." - Mary Wanless, For the Good of the Horse

Just for fun, remember the old horse cartoon where the horse is saying to another horse "Hi! My name's Whoa-dammit!, what's yours?" As if it's the thing he hears most often and therefore thinks it's his name? Well, if Junior was in that cartoon his name would be "Don't eat that!" What would your horse's name be?

What a gorgeous day! Just look at those clouds!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Still Lonely

It's been a slow week horsey-wise. With the barn being empty and no lessons I've been concentrating on my job this week. I did spend 14 hours at the fair and the barn yesterday. I volunteered for the Jumping show and then the Versatility show. In between I spent a few hours at the barn with Junior. He's gotten crankier the longer the horses have been gone. He actually came to me in the field on Tuesday! He's been out all by himself, without even anyone in the adjoining field, and now it's been raining so he hasn't been out in a few days. I put his new halter on him, it's Average size, but he has a deceivingly small noggin and I had to punch a new hole in either side of the crown. I took him out and lunged him and though he needed to be smacked a few times for getting snippy he seemed to appreciate the attention. I worked on transitions on the line as well working on making his life miserable if he plays his switching game. I lunged him for about a half hour and then we cooled down by walking around the arena starting to mess with showmanship skills. It was very humid in the indoor in the rain and we were both soaked. He hasn't a clue how to pivot or set up and I haven't a clue how to teach him to do it so we just worked on keeping his head down and about the right distance from me (though he'd rather play with the line) and did stop and starts and backs. He can back okay and he usually trots with me if I ask him to. I think the biggest challenge with him will be keeping his mouth off of me and the line...and the judge. He just wants EVERYTHING in his mouth.

I have begun a closet re-organization project in my apartment. I have a spare room that keeps ending up with piles all over it instead of "a place for everything and everything in it's place." I bought two more bins and transfered all the stuff from this on really big bin into those and moved the big on into the OTHER closet where I've been keeping my horse stuff. I fit in both winter blankets, my show duffel with show-only stuff in it, and Junior's old ankle boots and whatever else I could find to throw in it. Then I emptied the two under-bed storage bins (that are only a good use of space if they FIT under your bed) and are giving them to a friend. So now that closet will be able to hold my saddles on their stands! Yay! Now the room can be more easily used as a guest room. There are still plenty of piles to sort through, but I got a great start on it.

This might be too personal, but I found a seller on ebay that sells my favorite bras. They have X's through the labels and I'm not sure exactly what that means, but for FOUR of them I paid what I would pay for one new at any retail store. These are the only bras I've found that hold my girls without a bounce when I'm riding, and at about $8 a piece including shipping it's the best deal ever. I HATE to feel my chest move when I'm riding and I'm sure if I can feel it move it must look super awesome. Yack.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Empty Barn

In my 26 stall barn, there are only 10 horses this week. The county fair began on Friday and so many of the boarders and school horses are gone to the fair to show in the 4-H shows. Though it's nice to have the place to myself, it's rather too quiet! Yesterday I was at the fair from 9am to 4pm. I volunteered to help out with the 4-H shows and was asked to help with the "Project Judging" yesterday and two shows on Thursday. We didn't do this "Project Judging" in Minnesota and I found it fascinating and strange. There is WAY more required for these Ohio kids than I ever had to do. My part of the judging was to ask each kid a serious of questions. The questions and answers were provided for me, I just had to go to the correct tab in the binder, based on which project book and year they were in the project. A few of the kids didn't know ANYTHING, like a few 2nd year girls who didn't know what a GAIT was! Even some of the older kids didn't answer their questions very well. But after looking through some of their books, I had LOTS more sympathy for the ones who didn't know. You would practically have to memorize the entire book to be able to get 10 questions right on the first try. I only had to grade for a few hours. The rest of the time I hung out in the barn with the kids and the Moms.

After the judging was over I went to the barn and put Junior out for about an hour while I cleaned his stall and buckets.

Today I went out and rode for a good while. We worked on 90 degree turns away from the rail at the jog and then did a LOT of work at the lope. He wasn't very slow today but he hasn't done much since our lesson on Thursday so I let him burn off some energy before asking him to come down. We did some lead changes and He did a few that were pretty nice, but mostly he will anticipate and change too soon or start to bounce up and down when I start to ask. I need to slow down with that I think, and have more of a plan. He is very willing to please, so I just need to make sure I'm clear about what I'm asking. There was just an article in my Horse & Rider about lead changes and Mugwump had a nice post about it, too. I'm not giving him any negative reinforcement but I don't want him to get a bad habit about getting anxious. I already have plenty of "anxious" for the both of us!

Ended the day with walking slowly with a good frame, stopping and keeping the frame, and walking on again. Overall he's doing really well and I know by next summer we'll have lots more finishing done.

Monday, July 13, 2009


A while ago Ellie from Ellie and Werther awarded me the Kreativ Blogger award. I honestly didn't know what that meant at the time, and then after my pre-vacation post I was granted the same award and another award!!! I am so tickled that you all passed the awards to me.

I don't know much about blogging. The woman who sold Junior to me told me about the Fugly blog and I started reading it and It's Really a Long Way Down. I used to journal daily through middle and high school and have boxes of journals in my parents attic. So right before I got Junior I started getting super anxious about bringing him home and started to just go ahead and write about my journey with Junior. I decided in the beginning to just do whatever I wanted with the blog, not attempting to gather a following or to win awards (didn't even know they exist!) just to vent about my experiences. It was so fun to start getting subscribers and comments and it is SO wonderful to find kindred spirits, especially when my barn mates are kids 9-18 and their parents and my horsiest friend lives 1000 miles away! So it is with much gratitude I tell you about my awards!

From Ellie and Werther and Welcome to Joshland:

The Kreativ Blogger Award

5 of my favorite things:

1. The smell of fresh-cut alfalfa.
2. Crisp cotton sheets.
3. The song of the Meadowlark.
4. Harvey Bags.
5. Catalogs.

5 Blogs to pass the award on to:

1. minutia - An extremely creative friend of mine.
2. Mugwump Cronicles Honest training tips mixed with edge-of-your-seat stories.
3. Tacky Tack of the Day What a fun way to be snarky about fugly tack!
4. Movie in a Bottle They haven't blogged in a while, but it's so much fun when they do!
5. Period Corsets A company blog that celebrates the beauty of corsets and foundations. I purchase from them regularly for my productions. They are a super-cool bunch of ladies!

From A Year with Horses, WV Girl at Heart, and Adventures with Super Sam:

The Honest Scrap Award!

5 Things about me:

1. I recently vowed to cook more and healthier.
2. I really wish I had more time to read blogs but with work and Junior I just don't.
3. One of the things on my "bucket list" is to be on horseback, far enough into the remaining wilderness of the US that we cannot see or hear anthing man-made.
4. I was on CBS news last spring in a story about how people were planning to use their stimulus checks. I put the money in my "pony account" I used to purchase Junior.
5. I appeared nude (in dim lighting) onstage in a production of the musical HAIR in 2000. An estimated 1,800 people saw the show. I was 21 at the time and I've never regretted it. It was liberating and beautiful.

5 Blogs to pass it on to:

1. Ellie and Werther - A "sister blog" to mine, she got Werther at the same time I got Junior!
2. Of Horses and Men - A gal with a heart of gold tells us about her horse, her dogs, and her boys.
3. Welcome to Joshland - An elementary school friend I reconnected with in the blogosphere. He is simply amazing.
4. Pony Girl Rides Again - Gorgeous pictures and a super cool cowgirl.
5. Saving Argus - A generous woman saves a forgotten horse. Beautiful story, beautiful photos. Bring a kleenex.

Trip to the Old Farm and Awards!

I have been showered with awards! I'm rather new to the blogosphere so I wasn't really sure what it meant at first when I saw them in the comments on my pre-trip post. I'm very flattered by the awards and my next entry will focus on the awards, the award proceduresand passing them on to others! Very exciting!

I got back late Saturday night from my trip back to Minnesota/Wisconsin. I went to the barn on Sunday in the early afternoon. Junior seemed glad to see me and met me at his stall door and I went in and scratched him all over. I think after 10 months I finally found his scratchy spot, right in the spot where his neck meets his shoulder, right in the middle, on both sides. I had him sticking his nose straight out and bobbing his head up and down. It was kind of adorable!

He needed a few reminders not to bite but perhaps he was just letting me know he noticed I was gone a while. We just rode in the outdoor (which was very wet from the night before) for about a half an hour and then trotted along the fenceline the long way back to the barn. He was really good considering the time off. I'm not sure how many lessons he was used in but Max's girl rode him twice and loved him but the second time she rode he wasn't as well behaved as the first time. She said he was like a big comfy couch and was very smooth. He fell to his knees (that makes fall #3) on one of the rides but she didn't get scared because he did it so smoothly. Shes a good rider, too so she has nice balance. She wasn't at the barn yesterday but I plan to talk to her about it and ask what they were doing when it happened. My two times were because he was distracted at the canter (looking at another horse instead of where he was going) and the other was when I asked him for a canter and he just took a weird step.

Anyway, he was good so I put him out in the field while I did his stall and buckets and some much needed tidying up around his stall front.

While I was in MN I was able to go visit the old farm. Banee looks so good for being 30 years old. She's in good weight and has a tail finally. She was always sadly lacking in a decent tail and we just don't put fake tails on Arabs. I got to ride her a little bit the first day. I was amazed at how small all the horses seem now that I'm used to my 16 hander. Even the arab gelding who I used to think was a giant seemed small! He's 15.2 but I used to think he was a monster! I didn't dress for riding so we just threw on a bareback pad and hacked around the arena for a bit. She has earned the spoiled life of a pasture pet and occasional lesson horse. She likes to be used and fussed over most of the time. She felt exactly the same as she always has but she was much easier to bring back to a walk than she was when I was showing her 10 years ago. My good friend Cari came out, too and took some pictures for me. It was wonderful to get to see Cari. We hadn't been to the farm together in probably 3 years! Banee wasn't the cleanest, but if you've ever had a white horse you know how hard it is to keep them white, especially when they enjoy a large pasture with a pond! Oh the Show Clean we went through when we were showing! If you go to the link of her name above you'll see how white she is in the last picture! She's in very good health other than a large melanoma in her left ear that started bleeding on the second day I went out. The bleeding stopped and she showed no signs of distress so I'm not worried. Her thyroid is a little larger than we'd like, but so far she's doing fine. I know we're on borrowed time with her. I've known her the longest (and closest) of any horse in my life and it will be a sad sad day when she leaves this earth. In the mean time I will and I try to enjoy her whenever I get to visit and be very thankful for all the lessons she taught me, even the ones I didn't learn well enough (ie patience!). The second day I also got on Debon for a bit. He hadn't been ridden yet this year and only a handfull of times since I worked on him steadily in 2006. He felt TINY but he was very well behaved and such a smart little guy. If he had been just a hand taller I would have considered buying him, but at 13.2 is a little small for my taste.

Have a great week!