Monday, June 29, 2015

Picking yourself up - 'cause you're a cowgirl, damnit!

I'm sure we all have heard about the exceptionally unfair card that has been dealt to our fellow blogger, Lauren from "She Moved to Texas". My thoughts and well wishes are with her in this difficult time and I urge anyone who can, to take a look at the Go Fund Me campaign put on by no-one other than dear Tracy. The account was created to assist Lauren in not only her daily life, but her horsey life too.


Now onto my less significant problems and musings...

I left off with kind of a downer post, mostly because I was feeling frustrated, stuck, and in a bit of a rut. You see, I am English through and through - Western riding was nothing more than sticking the saddle on and going for a trail ride in the bush. So trying to emulate any kind of real work in a Western saddle is difficult, simply because I don't know how.

At first I was pretty down and bummed about not knowing how to fix our problems, but then I realized that there is a reason instructors and clinicians exist. And instead of feeling sorry for myself and feeling like I was ruining my horse, I made a few inquiries to the local horse clubs and found out that a trainer I used to ride English under is coming up this week to teach. Without hesitating, I booked two lessons (I would've booked more but I am working and I figure two days of lessons after an 11hr work day would be enough).

And after booking those lessons, I rode my mare for two days in a row. I concentrated on being soft, quiet, and letting GO of the damn reins. I used my seat and legs and really tried hard to be the best mirror of a Western rider that I could. No, we didn't magically improve or complete a super difficult reining test. But the potential was there and the small changes that surfaced were pleasantly welcomed.

My first lesson is tomorrow and I'm nervous, excited, and a bit... unsure. I don't want to look stupid, but at the same time, lessons are about making progress.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Halp, I Need Lessons or Something.

A few things have got the wheels in my head turning. As the month of June is coming to a close I find myself starting to piece together next month's goals for Suzie and what we would like to accomplish. While I am well aware we have many things to work on, I am simply stuck on what goals are attainable within a month time-frame and what goals are even realistic anymore.

It isn't necessarily a bad thing. Some of the goals from last month are accomplished well in some rides, but in others, they are simply not up to par. Is it because Suzie's having a bad day? Because I'm having a bad day?


But it also has a lot to do with the fact that I don't know how to fix some things when they go wrong. Perhaps Suzie has learnt a new evasion tactic or has decided to be extra stiff and uncooperative. Do I continue to ask for bend, roundness, suppleness in the same way I normally do? Or do I implement a different tactic?

And then there comes the "mother" in me that prevents me from truly getting some quality work out of her. When she is going good and really bang on with my aids, I tend to shut down my riding and let her carry on quiet and willful. But once things fall apart I am already 10 steps behind in the sense that I "stopped riding" and am not there to back her up when she needs it most. And often, I find myself questioning if I am being to hard on her or am trying to get her to do something that is too difficult. She certainly is older and is not as flexible as she used to be, but am I asking her to do something she physically cannot do? Or am I not asking enough?

Make no mistake, I CAN ride my horse. I know how to make her walk, jog, and lope. I know how to get her to yield her haunches, forehand, and spin. I know how to correct problems that crop up. But am I asking her the wrong questions? And when Suzie poses a question, am I giving her the wrong answers?

I am an English-taught rider and this foray into Western is confusing. We are finally starting to piece together a nice jog, a quiet lope, and a decent stop but I can't seem to leave my reins alone! The next steps are where we need help, and I think we are finally at that stepping stone. Suzie knows what to do - she's been through this before, but I can't seem to get the success I'm yearning for. It's frustrating as hell, since I know what we should both look like. If we have a nice jog, Suzie is dumped on her forehand (see above photo) and if we have a nice lope, we have no bridle connection whatsoever.

There is a bit of a fog in my riding and another pair of eyes would help us figure out where we are, where we should be, and what we can do to fix it and make it better. Right now we are just looming around in purgatory with no real sense of direction and it is quite foreboding.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Trails and Schooling

I don't have anything really exciting to post about, or any media from the ride (shame on me), but figure I should share nonetheless. Finally, after what seemed like eons, I was able to ride my pony. But only after a mild heart-attack that she had tapeworm and then finding out it was just fly larva and eggs, I was glad to be going for a ride to clear my head. Clearly I needed it.

We tacked up Western and I slipped on the new spurs I bought back when we were at the driving clinic. By the time I mounted up the friend I was riding with was already at the barn. I swung up and Spud followed along quietly by Suzie's side, only after trying to plant his feet and giving me a dirty look. Sorry dude, you need exercise too.

We took a selfie a few nights ago after I
picked the paddocks. Classy.
 Since it was still quite warm out, we opted to go for a trail ride first and then finish up at the fairgrounds where the arena is. Once in the trail and off the road, I turned Spud loose and we wandered through many creeks and water crossings. For the most part he followed behind Suzie and AJ, stopping to grab mouthfuls of grass before galloping up behind AJ and startling him. It was kind of hilarious.

We picked up a trot on some of the softer spots, with Suzie in the lead and the rest of the crew following. I was pretty happy with Suz because whenever we have gone faster than a walk on trails with other horses she reverts to her drill teaming days and trying to get her to walk again is a feat in itself. Last year when I had Tally and a friend of mine wanted to canter on the trail, I tried to but Suz subsequently LOST HER SHIT and proceeded to gallop sideways and put her head in my lap. No mare, just no. Small victories, right? I felt good about the situation and wanted to start tackling the problem instead of hiding from it and it was a good move, I think.

The horses had no problems picking through some of the muck and mud and Spud gleefully trotted ahead once we started heading "home" towards the fairgrounds. Much to Suzie and AJ's disappointment, they were not allowed to trot ahead with the little pony. 

The fairgrounds had some people at it for a Horse Club Meeting which I missed (oops) but I did get a decent school in on Suzie. It wasn't anything super fantastic, to be honest. One of our more "meh" schoolings since I made one of the biggest mistakes I could ever make: I didn't warm her up in the arena properly.

Enjoy this awkward photo of Suzie when she got her
feet done on Friday.
She was a bit difficult to balance and kept speeding up coming out of the turns. I ended up getting some pretty bang on lope work out of her despite it not being perfect - it certainly has improved! Any kind of side-ways or lateral work sent her shooting forwards instead of softly moving away so I ditched the spurs, thinking I was confusing her or sending too many signals. She was about the same, perhaps a little less rushy and resistant. A few times she had some really fantastic jogging going on but would lose it coming out of the corner or even just on the straight aways.

I didn't do much in the way of getting after her for speeding up - it's a balance issue and other than setting her up to bend through the corners and "picking her up". Other than that, I let her speed up for a few strides and figure it out on her own. She hasn't been ridden for a week and a half and with an older horse, muscle memory is difficult to achieve. It certainly was not her fault in the least.

I ran through some mock Reining patterns and her adjustability in the lope is AWESOME. SO much better than when we first started out and although it takes some encouragement with my seat to really bring her down to a collected lope, she really tries and pulls it together for me.

And Spud playing coy with the farrier.
 After toodling around some more, we hacked home and Suzie decided to try and jig all the way home after seeing someone's dog and thinking it was a bear (?). She blew and snorted and carried on with her head up to the heavens so I ended up dismounting and having her walk with her head down. Once she seemed more settled I remounted and she was pretty level headed again. Mares.

Once at home, I rode her in the back pasture just practicing yielding her haunches and fore-quarters since we got into a ginormous argument back at the fairgrounds when I was trying to get her to move over so I could close the gate. She obliged and we ended it there though I realized how important our usual warm up is and that "just trail riding" isn't a true warm up for her. Getting her attuned to the aids is important, not just warming up her body/muscles.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Driving Clinic: Day 3

Day three was probably the least interesting day for me as a driver, but the most interesting day for Spud as a driving horse. The idea of the lesson was to bring other ponies/minis into the arena and have them drive around/with us since this is something Spud has never done before.

The Clinician asked me, "Has he been driven with other horses before?"
I replied, "Yes, riding horses."
The Clinician smiled and said, "But not driven horses?"

Spud loves his new friend.
 I didn't think it would be exciting for Spud, mostly because he's been driven dozens of times with other horses being ridden before. Boy, was I in for a shock when I saw Spud's reaction to the one mini, Jerry (first he was a bit shocked, and secondly he was inquisitive and curious of the mini pulling that "clanky metal thing"). Apparently driving horses can still be afraid of carts on other horses. How naive of me to think any less.

It was a great test considering, as I didn't even think to expose Spud to other driving horses because... well... he is a driving horse himself. Who knew a mini pulling a cart would be afraid/spooky of other minis pulling carts?

It's laughable now, really.

"Mom, there is a rather large thing behind us!"
Spud had to stop and look because Cotton was SO much bigger than poor Jerry.

We spent a large amount of time getting used to Jerry and his cart, but before long the Clinician asked another driver to join us in the ring. Cotton and his driver entered the arena and Spud subsequently lost a bit of his noodle - not in a bad way, but he was sure lookie-loo about it. The rest of the lesson finished off without a hitch, save for a portion where Spud became pretty oversaturated with knowledge and a bit balky to the aids when Jerry and his driver stopped leading us around the ring. His resistance wasn't malicious, but it was more, "I'm DONE." and we had to respect that and listen.

At one point, we were passing left shoulder to left shoulder (with Cotton and his driver on the outside rail and Spud and I on the inside) and Spud went super sticky on me and faced the rail, resisting to turn right. I clucked him up and he resisted harder and threw in a rear - to protest I'm sure. So Clinician put us on a leadrope to get that little tantrum out of the way and once he was going freely, we ended the lesson. Both the Clinician and I felt that Spud was just done with it all and we should respect him - he is still very much a baby and he had three days of very hard, and trying tasks.

No media of the actual rear, much to Jamie's dismay.
Although he had cranky baby brains, he stood rock solid for me to unhitch and once we were packed up and ready to go, he loaded quietly. Suzie loaded like a champ as well (not that I expect any less from them) and it was good to see that her pastern was less swollen and I was confident that once at home she'd walk down the remainder of the swelling in no time.

The first portion of the 3 hour drive home was uneventful, save for one point when the BF and I decided to stop off at a Farmers Market in one of the "blink and you'll miss it" towns. We had a hotdog and some ice cream before continuing on our way. It was nice that both horses stood quiet and waited for us to continue.

About 76km from home I was driving along when all of a sudden I heard a very loud bang. I jerked the wheel slightly, as it had startled me, and immediately looked in my driver's side mirror to see chunks of black rubber rolling down the highway. I recognized this black rubber to be parts of a tire. Starting to slow down, I began to question myself, "Was that me?"

Wasn't nearly this dramatic, nor did the tire come off the trailer.
 My heart sank when I heard the looming "da-dum-da-dum" sound and my eyes caught sight of the rear driver's side tire on the horse trailer and saw it flapping around on it's rim. Panicking, I whipped out my cellphone (after putting on my hazards and parking) and called Jamie, who was farther up the road driving and did not see I had slowed down/stopped. He advised me to continue towards a pull out, 2-3km ahead as he was not able to turn around and come back since he was pulling a 28ft trailer and the shoulders on the side of the road were very small.

The next 2km were the longest of my life.

After pulling into the wrong side-road and having to use someone's driveway to turn around, I pulled up and parked the trailer alongside Jamie's truck/trailer where he was waiting. Although we were nowhere close to home (50min away), we were only 18 minutes away from the next town. (As a sidenote, the town we were close to is where I do a majority of my showing and for some reference, is where Tally's (the black Warmblood mare) owner lives.) Jamie dug into the horse trailer for the spare and unfortunately, the spare was also flat with a fresh nail sticking out of it.

I told him to smile for the photo - trust me, this was a forced smile.

With no spare and a flat, chewed up tire, we were going nowhere with the horses. I made a few calls and no one was really able to come help us - which is unfortunate. Panicking, I made a call to one of my 4-H leaders who was back in Kitimat (50min away) and explained the situation. Without hesitation she said her husband would be on his way with a spare from their trailer and would meet us soon and to sit tight.

Knowing it'd be a while before her husband showed up, we unloaded the horses and I groomed them meticulously while Jamie pulled off the flat. We waited... and found out Suzie and Spud like pizza pretzels...and then we waited... and waited some more. The horses looked at us like, "So.... what the hell is happening?" They were great about standing around and being loved on, though. And once my old 4-H leader's hubby showed up, we swapped the tire over and were able to continue on our merry way. I am glad that it happened when it did and that we were not stranded out further, because that could have been all kinds of disastrous. The three hour drive in itself took us almost six hours (and that's just unloading the horses at the barn).

Spud wanted Jamie to share.
 Not only did I learn in the clinic, but I also learned to always check the spare. We had looked at it and we knew it was there, we just didn't check. It certainly is a situation I do not care to repeat, although I am glad that no one was hurt and we were able to make it the rest of the way home without any more hiccups.

 Sidenote: both horses settled back home fine and neither are worse for wear. Suzie's swelling has completely diminished (I trail rode her yesterday) and both have a pedicure appointment tonight after work.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Driving Clinic: Day 2

I woke up later than usual on Day 2 of the clinic, although I am certain that could be attributed to the fact that our neighbor's pony gelding would not stop whinnying and neighing. All. Night. Long. I felt so groggy and run-down while I fed both Suz-mare and Spud. Since I was running behind and had assumed my lesson was at 11am as per the Facebook Message I had got from the clinic organizer, I was a bit flustered. But when I saw our overnight neighbor getting her mini ready around the same time I was ready to pull Spud out, I asked, "What time are you riding at?" (I should've said 'driving', but I do not has driving-clinic-esque). She replied, "Eleven."


I wandered over to the Driving Arena where the clinic organizer was driving her Welsh pony and I asked as she was exiting the arena what time I was sheduled in. "Just like yesterday, three." I nodded and went back to the camper and re-checked my phone... Odd. I was told eleven.  It didn't matter much to me though, so we rolled with it.

Another Day 3 photo.
 The clinic atmosphere was very different than what I am normally used to. There were only 4-5 of us in the clinic (one woman was driving two of her horses separately) and the clinic ran from 11am - 4pm on all three days. I'm used to 7am - 7pm type clinics, but understand that Driving isn't a huge sport in my area either. In addition, everyone was super laid back and just chill... I remember waiting outside the gate to be called in for my lesson and the clinician said, "Wow! You are all ready to go!" Erm... yes? I'm used to English clinics where, if you aren't ready, you are wasting the clinicians time and you should just go home. It was nice that they were so laid-back and accepting of me and Spud, though. I got all kinds of nice compliments on us, which was so inviting.

Since I had time to kill I went to see the horses and when I got to Suzie I realized... whatthefuck. Her hind leg (white one) was puffy and swollen around the pastern area. I immediately went to inspect and saw that she had an injury which looked to be consistent with rope burn - y'know, the rope she BROKE the other day while tied to the trailer? Mostly it was skin that was peeled back and it wasn't too malicious looking, thankfully. I brought her out for a hand-walk, cold-hose and a dose of Previcoxx. I wasn't too concerned it would make her lame, as I knew with movement, it would help the swelling to go down.

Taken last-night after a betadine scrub.
Not swollen anymore!

After hand-walking a bit I put her back in her stall and the BF and I headed into town and stopped by a Biking store where I bought some shin guards that actually fit me and a breathable shirt. Next stop was at the local Feed Store where I loaded up on minerals and grain, bought a 100gallon water tub, western spurs, a new lunge line (since Suzie broke mine) and fly spray.We got back to the Grounds in enough time for me to tack Spud up, get him hitched and warm up for our lesson.

Ty photobombing.
Spud says, "I'm ready to go, lady!"
 I got Spud ready closer to the arena, as per the clinicians instructions (aka: not tying to the trailer and hitching!) with Jamie standing close to him just to make sure he wouldn't walk off. Ialso stressed that Spud needs to learn to STAND for being put to the cart so that I can literally hitch him in the middle of the street if I wanted to. She also said the same goes for when I get into the cart - he needs to learn to just stand and stand for however long I want.

Cones exercise
 He was good for the hitching and I popped into the arena where the clinician had set out a bunch of cones. We worked a lot on bend, balance, and rhythm. Her exercise was simple; make a half circle around the cones and make one of the circles wide and large and the other smaller and more tight. Basically, the clinician wanted us to work on our steering, as well as Spud getting a feel for his own balance. A few times he popped into a trot because he was unbalanced and more than once he completely halted. The exercise really made him think and confused him at the same time - he is just a baby still and has a lot of learning to do, after all. He would stop when he got frustrated and would have this, "I don't really know what you want" attitude. It didn't seem malicious, nor threatening. Just... uncertainty.

Clinician had me work through his stop-go-stop-go issues by encouraging him to be forwards and PUSHING him when I felt him slowing down. I was concentrating too much on the turning and making one bigger and one smaller than focusing on his forwardness. We made a pass through the slalom course twice without a single stop which was great. I really supported him with my vocal cues ("Tuuuurrrnnnn" and "Walk-on") as well as praise for a job well done.

Working the cones on Day 2.
 After all the hard work of turning, listening to half halts, and balancing himself Clinician had me trot him around the arena twice in each direction to just let his brain ease a bit. We finished the day on that note since Spud soaked it up like a sponge and was really behaving well. I rode him out of the arena and unhitched near the camper and horse trailer, where he stood like a champ (BF wasn't even near us!).

 Once he was put away in his luxurious stall BF and I went biking for the next two hours. I ended up doing pretty good, but fell on some shale and got a good slice on my hand where the shale cut right through my gloves!! And I also got some good scrapes up my outer thigh (it is now bruising quite nicely). I was pretty surprised that a rock would cause so much agony! Ow!

Angry looking clouds.
 When we returned to camp I left my riding shirt on and pulled Suzie out and got her ready to ride, just as it started to rain and the skies began to darken ominously. I wasn't planning on doing any intense schooling given the fact she was injured, but I did want her to move around and get that leg moving instead of standing in a stall (this is why I hate stalled horses, they don't get to move much). BF joined us later on and took some photos, which was nice of him. Overall it wasn't our best school, but it wasn't our worst. I could tell she was sensitive and we cut the ride short and spent a lot of time walking while the thunder and lightning clapped in the distance.

This is my, "OMG we are riding in a storm" face.

Even though she was a bit sore, she was good.

While being put to bed for the night, I gave her another dose of Previcoxx and tucked her in with some hay. BF had already started packing up around the trailer since the wind was threatening to rip off the awning and carry our fold up chairs with it.

I collapsed into bed, thankful for a trailer with a furnace.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Driving Clinic: Day 1

Friday morning came quickly and both myself and Jamie looked forwards to camping out for three days with the dogs and horses. The venue, the local fairgrounds, was just over three hours away and my first lesson was at three in the afternoon. I wanted to make sure both horses were settled in, stalls were set up, and I had a chance to fit and evaluate my new harness.

Wait. What did she just say?

Yep. I ordered and received my new Comfy Fit harness for Spud! The dealer I went through was super awesome, friendly, and accommodating. When I placed the order I knew it would be cutting it close to when we had to leave, and it arrived just in time (Friday morning, in fact!).

The horses loaded into the trailer quietly and hauled like a dream - I seriously cannot imagine owning a difficult to load/haul horse! In the same manner they had loaded, they off-loaded like Champs and surveyed their surroundings with moot interest. A pony and another mini were already grazing nearby, set up on a tether system.

It was actually kind of weird being at these particular fairgrounds and being pretty much the only people there. Last time I was at the grounds, I was with Tally for the BVX show and the fairgrounds then were hopping with several horse show activities, merchants, farmers, and singers. This time, it was only myself, the boyfriend and another lady participating in the clinic who were camping out at the grounds. We set up in the Draft Horse barn which was closer to the Driving Arena, plus had super ginormous and comfy stalls for the horses (and like a paddock for Spud).

After setting up and just getting the horse's settled in (not that they really needed it), I decided to try tethering Suzie up to the horse trailer from a lunge line like the other lady had done since there was an excess of grass to be ate.

Spud was quiet while I rigged him up and made changes to the harness. Unfortunately, I made a rather large boo-boo in tying him to the trailer while hitching (although he was bridled as well at the time). In Driving, this is a huge no-no, apparently. I made my second boo-boo in hand walking him (whilst pulling the cart) to the arena. It was explained to me afterwards, which I was thankful for, and it was done in such a caring and professional manner that I didn't feel like such a nimrod. The clinician also helped me with the breeching and re-fitting the harness to him, which was super helpful.

Photo is from Day 3, we didn't get any Spud-media from Day 1 or 2.
A majority of the lesson was spent at the walk while the clinician watched how I handled Spud and how Spud interacted within the harness/ cart. First thing I was dinged for was to sit BACK in the cart and have my back against the back-rest. Secondly, the clinician taught me about foot positioning and how it effects the cart when we go around turns - which was interesting to learn. The clinician was surprised Spud was only trained for 60 days and was behaving so well in the clinic, as most greenie driving horses take anywhere from 90-180 days to be decently broke.

She had a lot of nice things to say about him and gave me some wonderful pointers on working on his bend, thoroughness and having him reach down into the contact. It took him about 10 minutes to get used to the new harness but after slamming the brakes a few times because of it "feeling weird", he leveled out quietly.

At one point during the lesson I looked over to see Suzie, wandering away with a piece of the lunge line attached to her halter.... sigh. Thankfully Jamie went, caught her, and tied her back up to the trailer. No more tethering for her.

Once Spud was unhitched and put away in his stall I tacked up Suzie and ventured to the rodeo arena. I wanted to see what she'd offer up, considering she can get quite animated and hot when we are at new places and the environment is a bit... electric (ie. shows). I honestly needn't worry because she was ace and if anything, was a bit too slow off my aids and almost ignored (if that is the right word??) some of them. Not in a bad way, but my nit-picking to have her round her corners a bit more was not heeded as well as my cue for canter was, if that makes sense? The easier stuff she didn't have a hard time with, but the more athletically demanding things she did.

I cooled her out and hopped off, checking her legs as I went. I raised a brow when I got to her hind left (white sock) leg and it seemed a little warm, but passed it off as some minor swelling from the trailer ride, standing around, and being in a stall for a better part of the day.

The first trail that almost killed me. 
The horses were put up for the night and fed and the boyfriend and I ventured out into the wilderness for some downhill biking - my first foray into the wild world of downhill biking. I came out unscathed, thankfully, but fell a few times and looked like a total dork dressed to the nines in protective gear.

We got back to camp and tried to watch War Horse together but I ended up falling asleep right away and was woken throughout the night by the other camper's very loud, very obnoxious pony screaming and neighing.

The Week That Was

I've been a bad blogger, yet again. I honestly don't know how you guys find the time to work, ride, and blog because I just never have enough time in the day! Granted, I know a lot of my readers board their horses so that takes off a considerable amount of work in itself (lucky!).

To recap the previous week it should be noted that it was chock full of horsey-fun - I pretty much rode or drove every single day and enjoyed my horses (hence the lack of media and radio silence).

Mare was on point for our Monday mid-day ride.
With things getting busier at the lot, my nephews and sister moving away, and a horse clinic on the weekend, it was a very fast-paced, action packed week. I didn't really mind it though, since the weather stayed semi-decent and we managed to still get a lot done.

Monday was jam-packed with pony-ness (is that a word?). I rode Suzie in the front pasture for about 20-30 minutes or so. I noticed her lope was coming together much better and she seemed to have better balance, but she was also very hot to trot. Any kind of leg aid sent her into a "OMG LETS GO" mindset and although she was hot, she was still quite rideable. I finished up with a quick lope on the right lead when my sister, nephews, and mom showed up for a pony ride.

Shiny mare and her little minion.
He loves his pony.
 I quickly hauled Suzie's western saddle off and popped the little tyke saddle on in it's place. Calder climbed aboard with gusto and we walked down to the river where my nephew showed off some of his skills (ie. riding with no hands, reaching up for a branch, clucking at Suzie to go faster, etc). It was super cute and I wish they were sticking around so he could ride more, but I understand the reason for the move (jobs). The pony ride ended with Calder in tears because he had to say "bye bye" to 'his' pony.

Roxy helped me drive the 4-wheeler over to the lot.
Tuesday/Wednesday were collectively spent at the lot where we busted our butts for the better part of the day. We moved quite a bit of logs and fell more trees - it will never not be super cool to watch a tree come crashing down!

Later that afternoon we got the human trailer all outfitted and ready when Jamie could hear a distinctive buzzing sound coming from the wall by the fridge in the trailer. Upon closer inspection it was found there were BEES in the wall. They had somehow managed to get in one of the vents that filters air from the trailer to the outside and had started to build themselves a nice little colony in the wall. Unfortunately, we do not have exterminators in the area or any way of getting them (and us!) out safely so we had to make a very hard decision and poison them.... I still feel awful about it, considering bees are declining at a rapid rate around the world and we just killed a bunch for living in the trailer walls. Other than condemning the trailer (which we wouldn't do), there were no options. Sorry, bees.

On Wednesday night we picked up the horse trailer from my old coach since we were borrowing it for the Driving Clinic on Friday/ Saturday/ Sunday. I spent my evening packing for our trip in lieu of riding, which sucked but was necessary.

Excuse me, would you like to talk about our savior, Seabiscuit?
Thursday came around and my help wasn't required at the lot so I decided to hitch up the trailer and bring Spud into town to surprise my Nephews and Grandma [she lives down the street from them]. I hitched him up in a church parking lot just down the street from my G-mas house and drove Spud across the cross-walk to see my nephews (who were both napping). I took my Mom, who had never met Spud previously, for a jaunt around and then stopped in at my G-mas.

Spud was all "Alright, ladies, settle down."
 Grandma was so very, very excited and whooped and hollered a few times with sheer joy as Spud jogged quietly beneath us. He was a complete pleasure to handle and even when my nephews went along for a ride he was so well behaved and took things like a champ. I had a few vehicles slow down and stare at us like Spud was some kind of novelty, while a few waved and gave me the "thumbs up".

Spud-man loaded quietly back into the trailer and Suzie was quite happy to see him again. After feeding them and checking their water tank I scooped manure and then finished packing the last items into the trailer before our clinic.

I apologize for the word vomit/ texty post and promise that a clinic re-cap is to follow!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Help Me, My Legs are on Fire

Their matching game was on point lastnight.

We rode over to the Fairgrounds lastnight for a schooling ride and as per my last post, I geared up in English tack to really work on suppleness and thoroughness. I felt like she needed that extra support I could give her with the snaffle and in truth, it did help quite a bit.

I tacked Spud up in his new saddle pad (which is way too big for him still) and ponied him off Suz. When we got to the grounds I turned him loose in the arena where he promptly rolled... with the saddle on. I literally shook my head and rolled my eyes at him. Bad boy.

Sorry, no media of the actual ride!
 The schooling itself went quite well - her muscles tire a lot earlier than a more fit horse's would (obv), but she put in a good effort for me. We did a lot of hip work, bend, and leg yields in various spots around the arena. I just wanted to "break up" her body and loosen it up all around. She wasn't stiff, but she certainly was having a harder time. I found I was able to get her bent around and maneuvering her hips much easier with my spurs on (duh). We are definetly wiggly during the shoulder fore and haunches in exercises we've been doing, but I don't mind it so long as she is trying.

After the lateral and suppling work we spent a lot of time on 20m circles, coming across the diagonal, transitions, and a wee bit of lengthening and a really awful stretchy trot. It is difficult because her trot is more of a fast jog and I don't want to ruin her jog, so I don't really push her out into that "English-forward" mindset. Still, she did considerably well and I know this will all transition over to the Western riding.

The canter was probably the most difficult for her - and me - but I can feel a good canter there. I kept my legs on to support her, reminded myself to sit up and engage my core and help her out with bending and keeping herself steady. It was SO HARD. My legs were literally screaming. It'll get there, but we have a long way to go still. She doesn't have a lot of balance and she constantly needs the leg support to keep her steady and stable. I had to use a lot of inside leg with a bit of outside and a bunch of half halts to try and get her to not only sloooooowwwww down, but to also bend. I'm thinking I'll lunge her once or twice a week to develop the canter a bit more without the extra weight/instability of a rider.

I ended the schooling with a walk on a loose rein, followed by chasing (at a walk) Spud around where he would buck every time he went into a canter and then I allowed Suz to stretch out by cantering down the trail towards home with Spud bucking and snorting at our heels.

Tonight will be lunging night for both of them. More for Spud than Suzie, but I just want to try and get Ms. Mare to stretch a bit more and find her pace at the canter.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

When Lunging Turns Into Clipping

I had plans - big plans. I was going to lunge Spud in the back pasture and possibly even ground drive him a bit (mostly because my legs are still killing me from my bareback ride). I even wore a comfy sundress and cowboy boots, planning to just take it easy and work the little gaffer. But like all big plans, I ended up taking a very different route.

You see, I've been constantly bothered by Spud's lack of shedding and after staring at his wispy hairs for the last couple of weeks I couldn't take it any longer. I brought out the dog clippers and said to myself, "I'll just see if it'll work. I bet it won't even go through or even cut anything properly."

I was wrong. So very wrong.

Partially clipped shoulder/back on the left and
hairy beast belly and haunches on the right.
Showing off some color changes after being clipped.
 The clippers, although they struggled slightly, actually did a decent job. No, it isn't perfect, but it doesn't need to be. The extra Winter fluff needed to come off and that's just what they did. I was quite pleased with the results, despite having to kneel down and crane my neck in awkward positions to get the angles I needed. Of course during the hour and a half I was shaving him down, the wind picked up and I received a chestful of little pin-needle hairs.

And surprisingly, Spud couldn't care less about the clippers. I knew he didn't mind them based off my previous clipping (when I clipped his face/muzzle) but I wasn't certain how he'd like being clipped by his haunches, legs, under his belly, etc. He stood quiet, calm, and even cocked a leg at one point and blew a big sigh!

This little mini is starting to come out of his shell! I've never seen him cock a leg!

After I was finished clipping him I ended up torturing him further with braiding and fussing with his tail, etc. He was actually content to be fussed over and I think he actually enjoyed it. 

The little forelock braid gets me every time.

The best conformation photo I could get.
But look, he's standing untied and not running away!
I just confirmed the order of our harness; it should be here within a week! And I also just put a deposit down for the driving clinic next weekend. Big things are coming for this little guy. He just doesn't know it yet.

Also, Suzie says Hi.

Monday, June 1, 2015

May Re-Cap/ June Goals

May went by at super speed and it felt like I barely had time to hold on and it was already bucking beneath me and taking off like a rodeo bronc. Suffice to say, I barely got anything done during the month (riding/driving-wise, that is). I'm not too pleased that I hardly rode my mare and am hoping to make up for it with the dawn of a new month.

Work should be slowing down and in turn, perhaps there may be more pony time in my future.

May Recap- Suzie

  • Work more on suppleness - utilize exercises such as leg yielding, counter-bending, haunches in, shoulder in, etc. Utilize the walk to really warm her up and get her going. Obviously keep in mind her abilities and non-abilities while she is rehabbing. This was quite successful - the more time I spent on suppling the better she was to ride. Go figure.
  • Spins - start to piece together more of a spin within her limitations. No. We didn't work on spins this month.
  • Halts - get better halts. Right now she likes to step forward one more liiiiiittttllleeee step when I ask her to stop. We worked on this, although not as much as I wanted to, but they are getting better!
  • Control of the haunches. This kind of ties into the suppleness exercise, but start to get control of her hind end and placing it where needed. We worked on it, but still have a hard time. Will have to work harder next month.
  • Go on an outing if possible. Nope.
  • Carrot stretches, belly lifts, and try and book a massage appointment for Suzie.We did the stretches, but no chiro appointment yet (chiro never got back to me).

June Goals - Suzie
  • Work to get her back into shape - suppleness, bend, trail riding, etc.
  •  Piece together more spins.
  • Get better control of the haunches.
  • Get better down transitions - continue to work on the halt.
  • Piece together her lope a bit more. 

May Recap - Spud 

  • Buy a new, better fitting harness. Sent in the last measurements on Friday evening! It should be here soon, yayayayay!
  • Start to shed the pounds: continue to pony him to build up fitness (as well as instill some "ponying manners").  We worked on this quite a bit - he came for some trail rides and whatnot. I also bought him a grazing muzzle too (for when they go on pasture).
  • Plug away at working on his fear of fly spray and ground manners. He's still nervous, but better. We'll keep plugging away.
  • Drive him in the arena at the Fairgrounds if the footing is decent enough or the meadow. Instill the morals of connection, straightness and rhythm.  Nope.
  • Work on his lunging manners. He's actually been pretty good with the lunging, although I didn't work on it as much as I could've.
  • Make sure when working on driving, in-hand, etc to QUIT while I am ahead. Don't ask for more when "more" isn't there. He's been fantastic this month! I've also stopped 'nagging' and expecting perfection.... ALSOOOO I booked a clinic for us in June!

June Goals - Spud

  • Attend a Driving Clinic and get some good instruction, have a good time, and hopefully Spud can show off what he's capable of!
  •  Drive him in the Fairgrounds arena or meadow.
  •  Work on cantering in harness.
  •  Work on turning (thru cones if possible).

Back at It

After I got my little whine-fest out of the way, I bucked up and went out to ride my mare. At first I wasn't sure if I'd have enough time - as we were going out to dinner with friends -  but deciding to forgo the saddle to save time seemed to be the better option.

I will preface to say that I haven't ridden bareback in a long while and although the ride consisted mostly of walk, jog, and a wee bit of discombobulated lope, I am beyond sore today! I remember driving home and feeling a darting pain creeping through my leg and groin area. I hoped I would make it home before the excruciating pain followed, but surprisingly, it never came.

Focusing on the ride, it was a decent school but it also discouraged me a bit. Not that Suzie did anything wrong, as that is quite the opposite. Instead, I found we were settled back to Square One in terms of her suppleness and bend. Totally not her fault - she's been out of work for about two weeks. Muscle memory disappears so quick on older horses and takes twice as long to get; it's an unfortunate part of having an older horse, but also it reminds me to slow down and take things at a liberal pace.

She did everything I asked and I was quite pleased, although we do have a ton of things to work on. I plan on throwing the English bridle back on her to assist in getting some decent flexion and bend through the corners. It is very difficult for me to support her through a turn when she is wearing the curb - I feel like I am using too much rein in that regard.

We attempted to do some of the hip exercises which did not go well, but once she strengthens up a bit more we will revisit them. Practicing the spins went well, although we didn't really focus much on it considering she hasn't been schooled since early in May. We mainly focused on steadiness, rhythm and bend. It was more than enough to concentrate on, especially being bareback!