Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Defining Moment

I have mentioned a few times about Annie's resistance to my left leg, and after seeing it creep up again in the dressage test on Saturday, I was a bit more invested to work on all the components of the resistance and start from square one.

Suzie says: "I would never do any of those terrible
things to you."
YAH RIGHT, Mare. She used to canter sideways down
the road every Spring.
Yesterday, I tacked up Annie and set out for the fairgrounds solo-style. She was realllly forward, jiggy, and at a few different points during the hack over to the grounds, she attempted to turn around and go home or refuse to turn down the road that led to the arena. I hadn't had any balky behavior from her before, so I was a bit taken aback and tapped her with the whip when she blatantly refused to head down the trail to the grounds. She kicked out and made her displeasure known, but still went.

The naughtiness was not appreciated, and I wondered just how good she was going to be with riding in the arena.

Her temperament was almost like we were still riding on Saturday - she was just not "all there" and didn't really feel like she was listening to me or respecting my cues. She kept popping into the trot and just not at all engaged.

I was nervous, considering we were all alone in the arena and it felt like my horse's back was hollow.

But, I took a deep breath, counted to ten, and came up with a plan.

Annie: "Letting me graze is a better plan."
(Sidenote, I have been teaching her to drag
a lunge line around behind her in preparation for
"stake grazing". She's done so well.)
We spent the next 15 minutes just walking. Every time she jigged forwards when I put my leg on, I half-halted, asked her to walk, and continued with whatever we were doing (be it bending, leg yielding, or circling). We used the entire arena and did a formulation of exercises from: bending her nose to the inside, bending her nose to the outside, walk/halt/walk transitions, circles, diagonals, riding off the track, and leg yielding.

She started to settle a bit, but as soon as we got to a familiar "sticky" spot we've had issues in in the past, that left leg resistance popped up with a vengeance. She bulged, plowed into my leg, and gnashed her teeth.

I had two options - pull her around the turn with my rein like I had been doing, or put on my big girl panties and get after her. The latter would determine if this truly was a training issue (which I had been telling myself it wasn't). Being uncertain what her reaction would be, I was nervous to pick a fight with a horse that wasn't 100% focused on me, but I rose to the occasion and gave her a kick to the ribs, followed up with a tap of the whip.

She reacted much like a toddler who got their toy taken away - jumping into canter, shaking her head, and humped up her back a few times. I don't really know if she actually bucked, but she certainly humped up like a dolphin head was sprouting from her ass.

Actual media.
I pulled her down to a walk, insisted she WALK, and repeated the exercise. At one point, because she was NOT happy with my new request, I had her in kind of a one rein stop but continued to ask her to move away and off of my left leg. It helped me have more control over her running forwards and extinguish the bucking she so badly wanted to finish.

Once we started to get somewhere and her tantrum subsided, we added other figures into the mix and ensured to revisit the portion of the arena we have had the most resistance in (ironically enough, it is right where the gate is.... coincidence?? I think not).

We remained in the walk for a very long time, looping and winding our way around the arena with her feeding off of my legs and only my legs. Serpentines, circles, diagonals, and squares... every figure imaginable was used to reinforce the message I was conveying and solidifying it.

I moved her into trot and she felt very forward - I kind of feel the trot she gave me is the trot I should be getting from her. It felt like she was moving fast, but it wasn't like her legs were flying all over the place. It felt... strong? If that makes any sense? I used a lot of half-halting and trot-walk-trot-halt-trot transitions which were all pretty decent save for the down transitions - those were kind of messy.

Annie, the dog on the leash.
Suzie, the free-ranging senior.

Despite this "new" trot she's giving me, it felt really nice. She was a bit retracted in her throatlatch and I probably had too much feel in my reins, but that trust will come back and I think she will relax more and let her poll out as we both understand things better and our "trust bank" fills back up.

I didn't intend to canter, but I ended up asking for canter and you guys... I didn't even realize I asked for canter on her bad lead first and.... SHE GOT IT. And she gave me a BEAUTIFUL canter. She broke twice and picked the lead back up, and even moved off my legs at a reasonable rate. I was really, really proud of her for that. We cantered, cantered, and cantered some more. I could have just kept cantering forever. It didn't feel like the ugly canter she typically has had on that lead. Hmm... I wonder if all the bending and transitions helped? Ya think? My initial thinking is that this whole resistance was affecting her lead... we will see if that plays out.

And then we moved on to her other lead and it was some of the best canter work I've had out of her. Who knew that when I stopped babying and making excuses for my 4 year old, we COULD canter a 20m circle without her falling in or out. Who knew that actually RIDING your goddamn horse could do that?

She did pick up the wrong lead going her good way (left), so I just looped back and we cantered the proper way for that lead (which works well for me since it re solidified that lead again).

I felt really, really pleased with her work, and despite the theatrics earlier on in the ride, I think it was a good wake-up call. Like I mentioned to a friend - it wasn't the ride I wanted to have, but it was the ride we needed to have.

And naps, we all need naps.
We cooled out in the arena and then I opened the gate from her back and we headed home. She was really sweaty, but a kind of sweaty that she was actually working and I felt kind of proud that we had done some good quality work.

She walked home on a loose rein, plugging her nose close to the ground and let me pluck her mane braids out one by one as she wandered down the road.

It was a defining moment in a way about how things that may have seemed like small issues really aren't small. And while it did scare me, I feel a bit more confident in my abilities and my trust in Annie is starting to develop. It can be easy to get caught up in feeling frustrated that your horse who was fine with trail riding solo one day has a complete nope moment months down the road, but it is what it is. As our relationship develops and evolves, I assume she will challenge other aspects of my leadership as well. We just have to chip away at them and not avoid them when they crop up - kind of like how I convinced myself the left leg thing was a "strength issue". Haha, no. Humbly, from me to you, it was 100% a training issue. And I am sure our next schooling session will still include a small battle re: the left leg.

Today, however, I decided both of us deserved a little bit of a break from the consistent schooling and go do something different. So, I headed out this morning and saddled up for a little toodle ride around the neighborhood with Best Pony Spud tagging along (mostly because he is fat). She started out a bit jiggy, but took approximately 2 minutes to settle into a long rein and let me fiddle with Spud, my phone, and whatever else I was doing.

Best ponies.
It was a quick ride - about 20 minutes - simply because the clouds opened up and absolutely poured on us. I decided to just turn her around and head home. She tried to turn back once or twice, but didn't refuse to go forwards when I told her to like yesterday. I actually didn't use the whip at all, which was nice.

Tomorrow we haul out to Barn C for her to get adjusted by a sports medicine therapist - the same one that Finn saw when I rode him - who uses both massage and chiropractic to achieve results. I am interested to see what she will find and her recommendations. From there, I anticipate Annie will get a few days off from her adjustments and then we will start again. The process is never-ending and there are always learning lessons to be had.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Help Me, I've Lost My Rider

For those suckered into the "clickbait" that is the title, I will preface by saying that no, I did not make an unscheduled exit off my pon-pon this past weekend.

So, with that out of the way, let me recount Annie's first foray into a "real" event. I have established that we have ridden at the TBC fairgrounds previously, but the atmosphere was pretty bland and dull. With the area's riding club putting on various events throughout the year, I really wanted to take Annie to a few as we progressed over the year and low and behold, I was able to make it to one on Saturday.

As seen on Instagram.
Me: "Uh... Annie, A is over there"
Annie: "Learn how to ride me properly then."
I knew I was going to be late to the event since I had to stop off at a local farm and pick up one of the roundbales they had stored for me over the winter. They are going to haying again this year soon and need all of the barn-stored rounds removed so they can re-stock with this years hay. It was a bit unfortunate the only time they were available to load the round was literally 30min before the Percentage Days was supposed to begin, but it is what it is.

Unfortunately, being "late" to things does not bode well with me. I was the last rider to arrive and although no one was remotely upset I was late, it left me in a bit of a shitty spot. Most of the riders had already warmed up and were standing around the dressage court - I could have opted to warm up in the fenced large arena across from the dressage arena or I could warm up on the grassy flat where everyone was standing (and where everyone had warmed up their horses).

I look calm on the outside, but inside I'm mentally checked out.
Mistake #1 was "warming up" on the grass and when Annie declined to meet my request to get off of my left leg (hold on, there is gonna be a theme here in the next few days), I didn't feel confident enough to push it and have her explode in the open. She felt really distant and I could feel her sucking back to the other horses whenever we turned away from them. Not necessarily her fault, but also made it difficult trying to warm up a greenie who wasn't really listening to begin with and just letting her do whatever the fuck she wanted.

I ended up toodling around quietly before joining the rest of the riders. And waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

I wish I was joking.

Mistake #2 was allowing one of the spectators to make me nervous and allow that nervousness to settle into the pit of my stomach and eat away at me while we waited. I know this person and I don't typically let other people's impressions bother me, but it was Annie's first time out and I didn't want to look stupid and I didn't want to have anything bad happen.

The amount of relaxation happening in this free-walk
is a direct correlation as to how I was feeling.
I was pretty happy that Annie stood with the line-up of other horses quietly, casually looking back to watch riders warm up for the second time. I ended up reading other people's dressage tests from her back and she only spooked once when someone handed me a piece of paper. Otherwise she was really good.

And we continued to wait.

It was a bit frustrating and I could feel my nerves just build up and up with each passing minute. Thankfully the horse beneath me stayed quiet, but I could feel we were on very different wave-lengths despite our cool outer demeanor.

I don't know if this event can be better managed, considering quite a few people did all of their tests in a row vs doing one and waiting and letting another rider go in. I realize a few people were not able to stay for the entire day and wait around, and I understand that, but it was a bit annoying to have someone else bring a young horse who would be experiencing that type of event for the first time and have them take over and get all of their tests out of the way because they didn't want the young horse standing around and losing it's marbles.

Uh... me too, bud.

We must've waited over an hour before I was able to warm up again and then quickly enter the dressage arena for our test. By this time, I was so nervous my legs were literally shaking in my stirrups. I haven't experienced that kind of anxiety in the saddle for a while and it was actually really frustrating. We got through our test, but Annie did NOT feel like the horse I had previously ridden. She went into the arena on her own, didn't spook at the judges booth, didn't bat an eye and did all the movements I asked of her. Except that left leg resistance was still there and I wasn't even riding my horse anymore.

^ (The above videos are of our first test. My videographer had to leave after that and it's probably a good thing we have no evidence of our second test lol. As a weird sidenote, I messaged my friend afterwards and said, "K... the videos don't look as bad as it FELT." So there's that.)

Mistake #3 was waiting too long to get after her for things and not just calling it a day after our first test.

As we waited some more for our second test, the people who had gotten all their tests out of the way started to leave. I was in the middle of reading someone's test when the group of horses beside me disappeared and Annie tried to follow them. I was having a difficult time trying to call out a more advanced test and wrangle my horse to stay forwards facing the arena, so I just hopped off and finished calling out the test for the rider.

I ended up waiting for almost another hour and after trying to explain to another competitor that I just wanted to do my second little walk/trot test so I could go home, they let me go back in the arena.

Video still from our first test.
"No thanks, k bai."
Our second test I got after her for the resistance and it went better, but she was AMPED. We lost our steering, we lost our brakes, we lost pretty much everything. She cantered part-way down center-line near the end.

I was pretty embarrassed and frustrated in myself, but the sit in Judge was really nice and said a lot of nice things about Annie. She told me next time to try a Training level test instead to keep Annie's mind a bit busier. I appreciated her commentary and thanked her for her time.

Before leaving I left Annie tied to the trailer with Spud, paid, collected my tests, and started to put my stuff away. And yet, somehow I managed to fucking forget my whip, gloves, and hoodie somewhere at the fairgrounds. Sigh.

A shame the rider can't get her shit together.
Still, she was a lot better than she could've been. She loaded and unloaded well, tacked up quietly, went in and out of the dressage arena, did all the movements in the test (and didn't jump out of the arena), and stood quietly almost all fricken day. What more could I want?

I wasn't necessarily unhappy with her, we just felt like we were not "there" for eachother. And as a rider, I really let Annie down. I let my unpreparedness and nervousness get the better of me and I remember thinking in my second test, "All I want to do is get off and go home." Which is a terrible attitude to have. I just didn't feel it, and clearly Annie didn't feel it either.

The Judge in the end told us our first test was much nicer than the second, and although the second had more resistance to my left leg in it, our first test was not as frantic and choppy. You may notice that we upped our score on our left turns in comparing the tests (test 1 the left turn at trot was a 6, and in the second test it was a 7). However, our transitions and general "relaxed" demeanour had vanished.

Our first test :)
I can't help but feel a wee bit of pride in this, despite
my shit riding.

A bit embarrassing to have a score under 60 in a
walk/trot test but ah well.
I ended up recounting how long of a day it was for Annie - we left the barn at 8:30am and didn't get home until 2:45pm. Granted, I had to drive out and pick up a roundbale at 9:30, but still. A very long day for both of us.

For next time, I already have a better game plan in mind:

#1 Obviously, arriving earlier before the event is going to be a large asset.

#2 Utilize the outdoor arena and if I need to, put on my big girl panties and ask a fucking friend to come hang out with me in the arena while I warm up! I don't need to be a hero riding around in the open, but I do need to give my horse a good experience. Using the buddy system is nothing to be ashamed of.

#3 Give Annie some "Chill" before we go there. She actually probably doesn't even need it, but it might take that extra edge off that makes me even more nervous and it also might provide the placebo effect I need to ride my goddamn horse.

#4 Be fair to myself. I am an amateur and I do this for fun. It isn't fair if I literally make myself sick at a FUN event to the point where I can't even ride properly.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Stamp of Approval & Mountain Trail Courses

Best Baby Bannie <3

Summer is the time of vacations and visits!! And since two of my friends [one local and one not] had never met Annie (aside from pictures and videos), the three of us  had tentatively arranged a horsey meet up during the time Alaina from Spotted Dressage would be up in our neck of the woods visiting family. The timing was pretty impeccable, considering I wanted to partake in this weekends Clear Rounds and Percentage Days, but also wanted to have a bit of a "trial run" of Annie at the grounds.

I wasn't too concerned, as I had ridden Annie there twice before, but it was so long ago that I was still uncertain how she'd react.

She was a bit hesitant to leave the barn - she stopped at the doorway and looked at me like, "K, I've worked reallll hard all week. Do I has to?" When she saw my response wasn't going to change, she reluctantly followed and quietly loaded into the trailer along with Spud.

The trailer ride was just fine - aside from the downpour of rain (ick!) that thankfully seemed to let up when I arrived at the community fairgrounds. Annie and Spud both unloaded quietly and while I got organized, Heidi (you may recall she owns a Morgan mare and a Andalusian mare) introduced herself to Annie.

Spoiler Alert: I rode Heidi's Andalusian mare
She was really well behaved, especially since the young stud colt Heidi had with her was busying himself with putting his mouth on almost everything and was making a bit of noise on the tie-post, lol! Spud seemed quite happy to be reunited with the stud colt, and throughout the ride him and Remmy alternated between mouthing at eachother through the divider and at one point I yelled out at Spud, who had a mouthful of Remmy's shoulder skin in his mouth.... Boys.

Annie tacked up fine and was picture perfect about mounting - we had wandered over to a mounting block and I kind of anticipated that she might move but she stood stock still and waited for me to nudge her to move. Small victories, people!

The remainder of the ride was spent just warming her up and playing around with her a bit - she spooked once when Remmy got his neck stuck under his leadrope and kind of hopped up trying to free himself. Aside from this, she paid none of the horses in and out of the ring any attention.

We do the trotting thing.
The three of us girls kind of brain-stormed about Annie's lead issue and after some helpful advice from Alaina, we got the lead! Essentially, I rode a spiralling circle by leg yielding inwards and counter-bending Annie to the outside and asking for canter when she yields and her shoulder is opened up.

I praised the living snot out of her and went back to attempt it again and after three or four failures, she got back to that "CANTER ALL THE TIME" place and I took her for a trot around to just work on something else and get our minds back in the wagon again. I applied a different tactic, altho with the same foundation, and she picked up her correct lead again. I  basically just leg yielded her in while counter bending to the outside. I praised her thoroughly, hopped off, and invited one of my friends to hop on and take her for a spin.

Had I been riding alone, that would have been the end of the ride, but I promised these two ladies a ride, and I ride they would get!

Heidi rode first and Alaina rode afterwards. Both offered some good insight into Annie, which I whole-heartedly agreed with in some aspects. Both Heidi and Alaina have started their horses from the ground up and were able to give me some good advice and ideas for our present training issues and any future issues. It was really enlightening, being able to talk candidly with the two of them and just talk about green horses and how they are kind of like the waves of the ocean - always changing and sculpting the surface below into something beautiful.

The love affair was real.
Annie was exhausted after the rides - she pretty much fell asleep as I chatted with Alaina. But the day was not done yet, as Heidi wanted to take her stud colt out to the Mountain Trail Course on the other side of the grounds and practice a few things. I was keen on taking Annie, since I don't think she has ever gone over bridges or anything like that.

Looking back, I probably should've hand-walked her through things first, but she responded to almost every question with a game face. She balked at the bridges tho, and Heidi had to lead us over them and after we had gone over a few times on our own, I dismounted to school the teeter-totter. The video makes it look like I'm afraid she is going to leap off or something, but I was literally trying to not pee my pants, because several seconds before Heidi started taking video, Annie felt the bridge move and FROZE solid and refused to move at all. I was already giggling before the camera was switched on.

All in all? A really, really good day. I was able to ride my green horse in and out of the arena, ask new questions, have new riders enjoy her, and made some progress along the way into making her a more broke and stable partner. What more could I want?

One of the biggest take-aways was that pesky resistance to left leg and the strength issues that lie within counter bending going clock-wise. So things I have noticed previously, but I have some good exercises to help us strengthen and work on these things. One of the other take-aways that I hadn't noticed was that she is ready for me to up the ante - and it doesn't necessarily mean she is ready for walk-canter transitions or anything, but she is ready for me to expect more. She is ready to carry herself more, ready to take more feel in the reins, ready to be a bit more challenged.

While speaking candidly with Heidi and Alaina, I talked about how I wanted this entire process to be fun. And I think a lot of people who train young horses, esp amateurs, lose sight of that sometimes. I mean, I can see why, since this whole Bringing Up Baby thing is a non-linear journey. I can appreciate that, and while I still obsess over the little things, I have to remind myself that these things won't matter in 4 months time. Kind of like the damned trailer loading thing - I wrote several posts about how down-trodden I was and how I felt like such a failure and it didn't really do much for Annie or me, yanno?

So this whole canter thing isn't necessarily a road block - it's a stepping stone. We may not be able to make the leap to that stone yet, but we are inching our way there slowly but surely. I refuse to push my mare for sake of competition and risk wrecking a beautiful thing we have going - a partnership and friendship.

Cantering from the haterz like

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Progression of Things

Earlier this week, I re-added trailer loading into our regime. We hadn't needed to trailer anywhere recently and since I was feeling more confident with her loading abilities, I didn't really practice much the last month or so.

But, since we had big plans for later in the weekend and this weekend, I wanted to ensure that after a lengthy hiatus from the Death Box, Annie would still be receptive to getting in.

Remember when the whole loading thing seemed like
it would never happen?
Seems like a life-time ago.
Our first load session was on Monday, which I had previously blogged about, and it went just fine. Almost so well that you would never know she had a violent tantrum in it just a mere few months ago. On Tuesday, I received a phone call from a former employer and was stuck on the phone for a lot longer than I had anticipated. The horses were quiet in the trailer and waited until I had finished my phone call (I had debated unloading them, but had pretty spotty service so I didn't really want to move). Regardless, it was good practice for Annie to sit quiet in the trailer.

She unloaded like a champ and I tied her to the trailer along with Spud. I have been missing driving him, but during a drive before we went on vacation, the tire showed obvious signs of significant wear and it was no longer safe to use. The actual tire is pretty much shredded - after two years of carting over rocky ground, it comes as no surprise.

Unfortunately, we have no stores in town that carry things like bike tires, so I have to wait to pick a pair of them up this weekend as I had forgotten to buy some when we were on the island visiting my parents.

Back to Annie - I mounted up in the arena and let her wander around for a few laps before putting her to work. After the last two rides having a bit more theatrics (a randomly placed buck), I figured the arena would be a safe space vs in the open meadow we had schooled in the previous day.

"I'd rather be eating than carrying your fat ass around, Lady."
- Annie, most likely.
I needn't worry tho, as there were no shenanigans to be had.

We worked on quite a few different things and I applied a lot of the suggestions readers had left on my previous post (thank you!). None of the suggestions really seemed to strike an immediate "aha" moment in Annie with the whole cantering business, but we applied them and made use of them throughout our school. The one thing I noticed we should be practicing more are riding squares and applying more outside leg on her bad side - I have already made previous note about how she is difficult to counter bend in that direction as well.

She worked quite well and I had some of the best walk/trot work I have ever had out of her. She is still very stiff to counterbend left, but we worked on that as well. These things will come in due time - and thankfully we have lots of that.

I didn't want to work her too much in the ring, as we had had two days in a row already of pretty "intense" schooling. I like to give my horses mental breaks as well as get them outside of the arena and just do different things every once and a while.

She is starting to fill out!
We did manage to get the correct lead on our problem side, weirdly enough, I had dropped my reins and rode her on a bit of a square and she picked it up. She kind of hops into it, which I assume is just a strength thing since she doesn't do it on the other side. Pony got lots of praise and hugs for a job well done and then I did something stupid - I tried to replicate it again.

Annnnd. We didn't get it.

For those curious, it was an approximate
6k ride in 1:09min.
Instead, I had a horse that bounced into a canter each time my outside leg came on and she was just like, "CANTER IS THE ANSWER FOR ALL THE THINGS". I paid the bouncing into canters no mind and focused on something else - riding "snowman circles" (thanks, Emma!) in trot and walk to get her to forget about cantering.

She forgot pretty quickly, and we ended on just trotting around with a bit of stretchy trot thrown in for good measure.

And then I asked a "new" question, wherein I opened the riding gate from her back and untied Spud from the trailer and we went for a little hack around the grounds. She was good and seemed happy to be back out "on the trail". She balked at the large hill (we normally ride it coming from the other direction and usually go UP the big hill), but I made short work of convincing her and she went willingly.

How to Confuse a Greenie?
Ride the usual loop backwards.
She stood quiet to be untacked and I let her graze in the long grass before heading home where she unloaded really well.

I took a moment to reflect on things during our little trail ride, and the progress she has achieved in such a short time is astounding. She is still quite weak all over, and I am noticing she is a bit body sore (Oh my god, so am I, Mare. So am I.) from doing all kinds of "new" things and working her body in ways she never has before. It's the natural progression of things and although I feel like I still handle her with kid gloves, she rises to the occasion for me each and every time.

So yes, we are on the Struggle Bus, but who isn't?

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Illusive Right Lead

Since returning from vacation, I've lunged Annie a few times and ridden a few times. Most of last week was spent stringing up electric fencing so we could turn the horses out in the back paddock (finally!).

We still trailer!
And now since that has been completed, I have been able to put a few rides onto the mare and at first, I felt kind of hopeless in a sense, because she reverted back to #drunkdolphin status. The good news is that with each ride I put on her, it feels like she is starting to get back to where she was before I left. 

The trail riding has gotten progressively better - she hasn't jigged at all and moseys quietly along which is really nice to see. During a short trail ride around the fairgrounds after a school, she followed quietly behind AJ (typically she tries to wrestle herself ahead of whoever the lead horse is). We even cantered down a stretch of trail, which was a lot of fun!

I have slowly been introducing the neck stretcher into our lunging regime, and Annie is not quite sure what to make of it. Her first introduction commenced A LOT of chomping and worried eyes - so we will just continue to plug away at it and see how it goes. We had a bit of a frustrating lunging school where she wouldn't pick up her right lead and ended up swinging her haunches to the outside and just halting whenever I asked. I managed to get after her and have her canter on the wrong lead since she started to get pissy with me asking her to canter a million times. The lunge probably didn't set us up for the best ride, but it was still pretty decent despite some minor hiccups.


Even while riding, the right lead is still painfully elusive and it sometimes is really good on the lunge and sometimes (like today) it completely disappears. I have been playing around with different approaches to see what works, and I haven't been able to find a concrete solution yet.

Despite this, we completed our entire school this afternoon in an unfenced area and it was really lovely (aside from when Annie got pissy when I put my outside leg on during the canter and bucked). The bucks themselves just felt like sassiness as I was manipulating her and hopefully they will fizzle out as she learns to use her body WITH me vs against me.

But still, we are plugging away at a lot of things, including the fly spray and random little things like standing quietly in the arena for 20 minutes while mom talks to friends.

The mule is tired.

She feels better, but I think this right lead issue is going to be our biggest hurdle. From what I have been told, it isn't uncommon for greenies to have this issue. Anyone else have experience with this? Helpful tips/ ideas? I am booked into a clinic next month so if we haven't figured it out by then, hopefully we can get some professional help. Before the short riding break, we had more success getting the lead as she got stronger, but I worry that I am ruining her or causing more harm than good by "giving up" on that lead and going back to other schooling? I just didn't see the point in attempting and re-attempting the lead when we weren't getting anywhere, even with the little tricks I've been taught.

Oh, greenies.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Questioning of Sanity

The Boy and I are back from visting my parents on the Island - we had a wonderful trip, spent wayyy too much money, and are happy to be back home. The horses were well-behaved during my absence and are none worse for wear.

The three amigos.
The day before our trip I did some work with Annie, despite the fact I really did not have time to be messing around with the horses and still had a bunch of things to pack. But, such is life and I did some in-hand stuff (which included walking over a tarp) before deciding to clamber on bareback to toodle the neighborhood. Because why not go bareback on your Baby Horse for the first time literally hours before your vacation?

This does not amuse me.
I was pretty happy with her behaviour, as she hadn't been ridden in 3 days or so - she stood at the mounting block quietly and didn't move off until I told her to, and not a single jig or fast-step was seen. She meandered quietly on a buckle rein, like an old plod-along pony.

So many smiles
So fucking narrow.
 The bareback ride itself was SO FUN- I had a hard time balancing because its like riding a fucking pencil. Annie also wasn't so sure about me wrapping my legs around her and tentatively sped up once or twice when the pressure got too great. So I mostly worked on my balance while still wrapping my legs around her and increasing the pressure little by little. She seemed to understand by the end of it that I was trying to hang on vs telling her to go faster.

I celebrated by sending about a million snap-chats to friends during my ride and ended with a walk over the tarp a few times. We ended up stopping completely on the tarp and I dismounted from there.

When we got back yesterday morning, I was already itching to ride so I called up N and we arranged to meet up for a quick ride around the neighborhood. Being sleep-deprived from only getting 4hrs of sleep the night before and being stiff and sore from being stuck in a vehicle for 16 hours, I wasn't the best rider I could be but oh well.

''You literally JUST got back. You couldn't, like,
give me a treat first?'' - Annie, probably.

Annie was good to be tacked up aside from her weird snortyness to me tossing a saddle pad on. She's done it before, so I usually just desensitize her with it as I do it and am under the hopes and belief it will just get better with time. She doesn't react violently to it, but snorts and will move away. Other than that, when I went to mount she tried to tip her haunches from the mounting block and she got a smack for that. She stood quietly after.

The ride itself was good - much better than some prolonged absence rides I've had on Suzie lol - it took her a bit to get settled into a slow walk and we had about 5 minutes of jiggy behaviour before she listened. I wasn't really surprised she was a bit more uppity than usual - she had been off for 10 days at this point (with literally no training being done during that time... in hand included) so I cut her some slack and rode the horse I had.

She did her weird ''I'm gonna go into heat now'' thing with AJ again and other than trying to stop when he stopped and following him on her own, she was good. I had to tap her with the whip at one point because she wanted to stay stopped beside him.

''I have many feelings''
When we parted ways, she was good. A bit more theatrical than usual, but she didn't really do anything bad or dangerous - just trotted a bit and tried to turn around. She was good after a few steps tho and we even trotted a bit on the road home.

So all in all it was a win - I was curious to see how she would do with being left to her own devices for 10 days and then pulled back out to be a riding horse.

The next week or so will be used to re-instill some manners and little things but I don't think it'll take any time at all to get back to that Happy Place and then pick up where we left off. Hopefully I'll have some time to actually school in the arena soon, it has been almost two weeks since we did any form of ring-work! And sometimes I get anxious that I haven't been in the arena as much as I hoped I would've (and because we still strugglebus hard with the canter), but then I think that all this trail riding and road riding is just as important for her. Plus, if she can keep her beans in her helmet for a toodle ride around the road, the ring stuff will come just as easily (right?.... RIGHT!?).

 #whenyoupanicaboutstupidshit #isthisliterallywhatyouareworriedabout

Thursday, June 1, 2017

May Recap/ June Goals

May Recap
I swear we wear the same thing every
  • Continue to work on trailer loading, slowly but steadily. No pressure, no deadlines. I feel like she will still need some work in this area, especially with the unloading part as she sometimes backs out fast but otherwise I feel pretty confident in this area now!

  • Chiropractic session to see if it helps her right lead stickiness. Chiropractic session is done for this month! That right lead is still a bit evasive, but we are working on it! We will continue with adjustments to make sure things are moving properly like they should be.
  • Continue to up her fitness with hacking out, ring work, and lunging. A lot of the issues we are having undersaddle are (understandably so) from lack of fitness. Don't forget that even hacking on the roads and on trails adds in muscle! Her baby muscles need that, too! Towards the end of this month we've put on more trail riding miles vs ring work, and it's been really delightful. We also started to incorporate trotting on the trails and she was really good about it. No more lunging this month, but will start more lunging in the neck-stretcher a friend lent us.

  • Start to develop rhythm at the trot. We've started to get a rhythm! Obviously, keeping a rhythm is still necessary, lol.
  • Encourage her head to come up more vs curling and retracting and add in some stretching at the walk and trot. We've incorporated "stretchy trot" into almost all of our rides this month! Score.
  • Work on suppleness laterally as well as practicing leg yields, TOH, and TOF. We've started to do leg yielding at the trot and doing TOH and TOF away from the fences.
  • Take her on her first trail ride into the great wilderness of BC ;) I will say this is a partial success. Riding buddy and I tried to go down a different trail but part of it was flooded and it was quite deep so we opted to not go down it. We went for a short trail ride around a trail that surrounds the riding arena.

  • Sell the dressage saddle and trial out the new one (and hopefully buy?!) Nope. I know what I want, now it's a matter of saving up and selling mine first.
  • Continue to work on ground stuff - fly spray, ground exercises, touching ears/nose, lowering poll, etc. Yes! We've been working a lot on this kind of stuff. I got an old tarp earlier this month and will be using it in some exercises later on.
  • IF she is loading, aim to hit up the Anthony clinic for a lesson or two towards the end of the month. This was a no-go. Just didn't have the spare $$ to go into it, since the BF and I are headed to the island to visit my parents.

Spud's version of a little red dress lol

  • Log in 2-3 more distance drives over varied terrain. I'd say this is a partial success. I didn't drive him as long as I would've liked, but we got a few drives in!

  • Start to incorporate more Dressage-aimed drives. Work on flexion and suppleness, especially at at the walk. Was only able to make one drive this month a Dressage drive. Bleh.
  • Buy a new driving whip because mine has grown legs. Will be buying when we go to the island and visit some tack stores.

  • Try out a straight bar bit to combat his weird chomping habit. Didn't have a chance to try it out.
  • Clip him so he doesn't resemble a yak. Need new clippers. The old ones I have just don't cut it anymore, esp since they are dog-clippers.

June Goals

Here's to hoping for more adventures to be had!
  • Continue to work on walk, trot, canter (both leads), backing up, leg yielding, TOH, TOF, etc. 
  • Focus on transitions and don't "dump her" into them. Be present during the ride.
  • Incorporate some desensitization, especially with the tarp and continue with fly-spraying.
  • Lunging with the neck-stretcher; light contact that she can work with herself.
  • A "real" trail ride - including crossing water and all that fancy stuff.
  • Aim to bring Annie out to the Percentage Days mid-June purely for exposure.
  • Attempt to incorporate poles into training where possible. (This means the BF will need to make some, lol).

And here's to more Granny Visits!
  • Clip him if possible (pending new clippers, of course).
  • Put in a few Dressage-type drives and continue to up his fitness.
  • Log in a few longer distance drives - think 10k and higher. He has been ponied 5-6k where he has mostly been trotting so he's ready for it.
  • Work with poles if possible (backing through chutes, etc).