Monday, May 28, 2018

Anthony Lothian Clinic: Day 2: Forward For Acceptance

Apologies for the long delay between the two clinic recaps - catching up on several posts left me a little burnt out and typing up another long post just seemed a bit unbearable, haha. Never fear tho, my writing muse is back and I have more to write about!

Monday morning being a holiday, I was able to relax a bit at home before heading out to grab the horse trailer, hitch up, and load the mare. Annie was nibbling at the hay and looked a bit annoyed I was there, haha. I can't say I blame her, because I felt pretty sore from the previous day's ride.

Trot poles!
She loaded up just fine, traveled and unloaded quietly. She's starting to finally understand that trailering isn't a hugely stressful situation and slowly but surely is also beginning to nibble hay while loaded up. She stood quietly at the trailer while I wandered over to check out the lesson that was going on and to see if Anthony was running behind. Thankfully, he was on time so after watching the lesson for a few minutes, I wandered back to the trailer to get Annie tacked up.

I warmed up in the patch of grass by the Dressage arena and Annie felt very resistant in the bridle - her steps were kind of jerky and stompy vs being a bit floatier. I worked her at the walk and trot, alternating between pushing her shoulder in and out like I had done in the previous lesson. It worked well and I was able to get her to relax down a bit more. She likes to start out tense like that, especially when we aren't in an arena.

I did attempt to sit on her a bit and she floundered against me, making her back rigid and hollow. After a few strides, she settled a bit but alternated between relaxing slightly and hollowing herself. I did realize that perhaps it was a bit too early to sit the trot, so I went back to rising once I got some OK sitting work from her.

More trot poles!
Anthony called me in and we started off trotting around the entire perimeter of the ring. Anthony explained that we were going to work on forward work vs collecting like we had the day before. His reasoning was that the work the day prior had most likely made Annie sore (which it did) so he wanted to work on extending her body vs contracting it.

The idea behind the lesson wasn't about asking her to be on the bit - it was about pushing her into steady contact and asking her to move in front of the leg and staying in that pace until I gave another cue.

She's adorable. <3
We found that she was less willing to move out to the right and if I posted on the wrong diagonal, she was able to move out a bit more. It was confusing to her tho, because pushing her for a bigger trot often caused her to bound into a rolling canter. Anthony directed me just to bring her back and start over - don't make any big changes and don't over-correct her for trying to figure out what I was asking.

It made me shockingly aware as to how little I practice "lengthening" or moving out. Typically, I am working hard to slow Annie down, which in a way, has consumed a lot of my schooling time. Annie snaked her head up as I closed my legs around her and attempted to protest a handful of times before complying and moving out readily.

Practicing our forward response.
I would start asking at the start of the poles and would need a
response by the end of the poles.
It was a very messy lesson, as whenever I closed my leg and asked her to move out, our steering would suffer with the speed. The one thing we have continuously found with the lessons was as I push her forwards, she would strike off and drift to the left. This is exactly where a lot of our canter lead issues come from - pushing her forward into the canter causes a left drift which in turn causes a wrong lead (right lead issues hellloooo).

The trot to the left was more stiff than to the right, especially during the "extension". For the first few laps when we were establishing forward, Anthony kept asking for more. It was interesting because it felt like we were flying at the trot, and Anthony called out that Annie was probably only trotting about 75% of her athletic ability. Which, is kind of cool? She didn't really know how to use herself tho, which is understandable. A lot of the under-powered trot came from lack of education - mare found it easier to canter than extend her legs out. Which, me too, horse... me too.

A nice balanced canter. You will note she is stretching her
hind end quite hard - those little pivots are working :) 
We finished the lesson with some trot poles and jumping - it felt much better than the previous month's lesson. The forward work really helped, as it made Annie more honest to my leg and made her carry herself vs me squeezing the life out of her every stride.

Some of the main points of the lesson:

  • When working on collection/slow, it's important to work on extension/fast work to stretch the horse out a bit.
  • Don't avoid things that are difficult (ie. going fast ruins our steering). Work on the pieces and start to put them together - but don't avoid them.
  • Straight lines to the jumps, practice obedience and ensure you turn in enough time. You don't want to have to over-correct when you are coming up to a jump, especially when the jumps get higher.
  • Practice all kinds of different figures - loops, circles, etc.
  • Pick a spot in the arena to ask her to move forward (in this case we chose jump standards and poles), and once you pass it, the horse should have already responded.
  • Don't change things - when you head to the trot poles, just steer. Don't push, don't pull, don't do anything but steer. That's all you need to do!
Good little bean.
Overall, a really good lesson that was difficult but it brought up some really good points. Lots of things I need to work on and lots of things I need to start incorporating into my rides. The jumping felt so much better, just having Annie be more forward and feel committed to the jump vs me continuously asking her to be committed. 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Anthony Lothian Clinic: Day 1: When No One Is There to Take Photos

I'm pretty sure it's just the way of the worlds that when there is no one there to capture media, the ride is almost always amazing or The Best You've Ever Had.

Suffice to say, there is no riding media from my lesson on Sunday.

Which means, according to the logic of the world - it was one of the best lessons I've had on the mare.

Of course, it didn't start out perfectly - she wasn't 100% willing to play and made me work for things. Which, is fine. The end result tho, was very much worth it!

Obligatory trailer selfie of Bannie, haha.
Note the windswept mane: it was a verrry windy day!
Let's rewind tho.

The ride out there was great - Annie loaded up just fine and was happy to munch her hay while I checked in with Anthony and the other riders in the ring. He was running on time (which is unusual, lol), so I wandered back after watching for a bit to tack up and get ready.

Typically, the Anthony lessons are very intense and demand a lot of the horse, so I didn't want to do too much warm up. I ended up only making a lap around the Dressage arena before Anthony called me in - the lesson before mine had ended a few minutes early.

We started out at the walk, wherein Anthony pointed out a few things - such as the fact that when I ask Annie to move off my leg, she moves her head/neck first before her feet. He noted I should be making a conscious effort to ask her to move her feet before she swings her head/neck. He instructed me to make random turns and during that time, think about moving her front left foot an inch to the left, ensuring that her head/neck followed instead of leading. The same with her right front - asking her to move her feet and keeping her head/neck straight and following the legs vs leading with her head.

Unrelated photo from a night-time ride.
My steering can sometimes be faulty on Annie, and Anthony pointed out that having her lead with her neck area was only causing the issue to compound instead of fixing it. Which, made a lot of sense. Just turning the neck makes it verrry easy to motorcycle the turns, and any rider knows that horses can still move the opposite direction even if their neck is pointed the other way. (Ask me how I know, lol).

We moved into the trot with the pivot exercise - asking her to move her front legs to step in and out in regards to which rein we were on. It was found that she is naturally more disengaged to the right and had a harder time adjusting to the exercise this way. Still, we had success in it after a few repetitions.

This particular exercise was also helpful at the canter, where we found Annie was shorter strided in the hind end and had a much longer stride in her front legs. The pivoting allowed me to maneuver her and manually shorten her front (by pivoting out her front legs) and lengthen her hind (staying straight). It sounds like I was riding crooked, or riding a haunches in, but the amount of pivot I needed to achieve was so slight that I don't think it would be recognizable to the average rider. It is also important to note that once we pivoted a leg over, I would straighten her out again.

Anthony described the exercise as teaching her to take longer strides in the back while teaching her to be more careful and shorter in her front end.

Another unrelated photo - from our trail ride last week.
The rest of the lesson was spent primarily on a 20m circle and we worked on compressing the trot and canter striding. Anthony wanted me to concentrate on keeping her even in both the reins, steering appropriately, and also responding to various seat cues - slow and fast. We managed to get a super slow and collected canter, which Annie fumbled out of a few times and fell into the trot, but once she understood what I was asking, she was happy to comply.

One of my favorite things about Anthony is that he believes the rider shouldn't have to be doing a ton of work. Not that we shouldn't be athletic or capable, but having to nag the horse for every single stride or constantly pushing/adding leg isn't beneficial to him (especially because he rides jumpers). If he asks a horse for a bigger trot, he asks and the horse complies. There isn't a nagging leg aid that follows - the horse complies and we as riders carry on until we need to ask them a new aid. It's kind of funny in a way, because as riders we think "well duh", but to put it into practical use is hard. I'm guilty of nagging, or continuing to add leg or just DOING SOMETHING, but a lot of the times when the horse is doing what we are asking, we shouldn't have to be doing ANYTHING.

That's not to say our core isn't engaged and that we are stiff/incompetent in the saddle. We are still present, but we aren't sweating bullets trying to get the horse to stay trotting. And it's kind of interesting - how Anthony lessons differ from Karen lessons. Both help me achieve quality rides out of Annie, but both do it differently. And sometimes it kind of blows my mind trying to use all the tools in the toolbox, haha!

Yep, another trail ride photo, haha.
At the beginning of the ride, we had a few wrong leads and cross-firing, but Anthony assured me to just ride through it and ignore her protests/hijinks. If I asked her to canter and she cantered, ignore if it was a wrong lead or ugly and just keep going with it. Once she was over herself and was finally willing to comply, we had some of the most beautiful canter work I have ever sat on her. We spiralled in and out of the 20m circle, pivoting her front legs in and out, and even had some lovely canter-trot transitions which are undoubtedly our ugliest.

The trot work was nice as well - we worked on regular trot as well as slower trot. A few times she came over her back, lowered her head into more of a huntery position and swung through her hips. It felt very different from her usual dressage-y trot which is more uphill.

We also worked on the sitting trot, where Annie became tense and READY TO CANTER. Anthony stressed the importance of practicing this with her, asking her to be more relaxed and compliant when I sit on her. A few times she trotted out quite big, and Anthony protested me trying to slow her back down. We did get some nice sitting trot after we sorted out Annie's Feelings, which included the dropped poll and raised back.

As always, here are some of the major points of the weekend:

  • When you ask a horse for something and you get it - stop asking. The horse complied. It's important that with a young/green horse you understand that they may give you the wrong answer. Don't get upset or angry - just let them know they gave you the wrong answer, ask again, and move on.
  • The reason she falls out of your left rein is because you have your right rein shorter/tighter. Let it loose a bit and let her mouth be centered in your reins and take up both sides.
  • You should be smiling right now!! (In regards to one of our collected canters).
  • If your horse offers you athleticism, you take it. Learn to sit the trot she gives you - never punish when a horse gives you more.
  • Your canter leads aren't a lead problem, they are a steering problem. When you lose your steering, you lose your leads.
  • It's important to note that your aids mean something to her. If you ask her to trot out more, mean it and ask until she gives you what you ask for. Then, take the aid off.
  • She likes to get tense and restless on you - these are the things we need to practice. If you don't practice them, they'll never get better. (Sigh... Fiiiiine).
  • Her muscling is starting to change a lot, which is a testament to how you are riding her now. Take a picture of her condition this month and then again next month. You'll be surprised how much she'll change as you continue to ride her more correctly.
  • As a rider, all we need to do is steer and tell the horse when to stop and go. That's it. You shouldn't need to overcomplicate things. (This was when he asked me to canter and I kept trotting around waiting for the "perfect" moment to trot. He was confused by this and directed me: "Just canter. That's it. It's easy." I explained I didn't want her to get the wrong lead. To which he replied, "So? That's why we practice.")
  • We, as riders, like to make things more challenging than needed. Riding is actual very simple.
I'm sure there is more, but like always, I forget to write things down so I can actually remember them, haha. 

Repost of a show photo bc I have zero media...
One of the things I did find was that I didn't have to "yell" my leg aids at her anymore - with the canter transitions I am always a bit "harsher" when I ask for them vs when I ask for the trotting aid. It's almost like I ask hard because maybe it'll make her get the right lead or something, lol. I was able to experiment a bit and end up just shifting my outside leg back and little squeeze and boom, we had a canter on the correct lead. 

We did find there was some disrespect to my right leg, but we ended up figuring out the problem and addressing it the next day (which I'll talk about in my next post). 

Overall, it was a super lesson. She felt very willing, compliant, and easy to maneuver. The work we achieved was certainly some of the best I've ever had out of her and we ended after a very lovely right lead canter. As always, we have a ton of things to work on, but at the same time, it feels like we are starting to chip away at something tangible. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

TSC Pony Club Spring Show: Dressage and Hunters

Finally got media for this post - hooray!

This post is from May 5/6 weekend for those curious. It's super behind, but oh well.

Why don't I bend my elbows.
Anyways, following the few schooling sessions I managed to lay down the week of the show, I felt kind of iffy about the show itself. I mean, I know we can canter. I know we can trot. And I know we can walk. But the transitions just aren't the greatest, the tempo of the canter isn't "there", especially during circles.

But, the whole point of this was to go and to practice considering last year's stab at Training Level was completely and utterly awful. I had initially wanted to carry on with Walk/Trot before moving up to TL, but I felt confident in our leads and steering abilities altho I didn't feel like we'd lay down an amazing test.

Tense, resistant, but still doing the thing so I will say it's a win!
Saturday came around and I had some really awesome ride times thanks to the show organizer (who happens to be a friend and old Finn's mom!). I rolled out of bed and grabbed the trailer from the mother in-laws house, which I had hitched up the night before and made my way to the barn with a bucket of hot water. The weather had turned ugly the night before and with only freezing cold water, I didn't feel like bathing Annie and instead hot-toweled her.

We pulled up to the show grounds with well over an hour before our test and I unloaded Annie and tied her with hay before wandering to the office to grab my number. Annie surprised the crap out of me by standing by the trailer with a leg cocked as she ate her hay.

All I need is my hay bag. Thanks.
Is she finally growing up?!

No shuffling. No two-step. No neighing. No fiddling.

Just eating her hay, like a normal horse.

I was happy to see she was content, even as horses came and went from various trailers around us. I took the time to peel off my pajamas (life hack: I wear pajama pants and a hoodie over my show clothes so that when I get to the show I don't have to change. Score!) and took my time tacking up.

She pretty much coughed this entire circle... hence the gaping mouth.
Approximately 40 minutes before my test, I hopped on and Annie was super quiet. She stood and waited for me to ask her to walk off and was quite happy to meander the warm up arena on her own. She was resistant to turn off my aids, so we worked quite a bit at the walk. For nearly 10 minutes, we did all kinds of walking work and even attempted some shoulder-in. It wasn't great, but it helped push her off my aids and listening more, which is what the whole idea was.

She picked up the wrong lead on her right side three times in a row (her "new" bad side, haha) and I gave her a poke with my spurs and a growl when I asked again. She picked it up and was happy to oblige. She felt kind of lagging tho - behind the leg and it kind of felt like riding a dolphin. I chose to push her forwards and she resisted into my hands, but in the end felt decent enough.

Pony has opinions about forward in the dressage arena.
Her MO recently has been to lag behind my leg when I ask for more, and I didn't feel like a show was an appropriate place to give her a few jabs to wake up and get her shit together. I did have plans to school it later on, as I wanted to start addressing it so we wouldn't have these issues in the show ring.

I kept the warm up simple and did a few transitions to canter, to reaffirm the leads and she was happy to comply. I kept her walking as the time grew closer to my tests before noting a young rider had scratched her tests and offered to go in if they needed me to fill the time. It wasn't a huge time cut, as this particular rider was only one person ahead of me.

Her halts are pretty great tho. So, there's that.

We wandered over to the Dressage arena and made a lap around as the judge finished marking another rider's test. Annie spooked at the dressage hut, which was unusual and the first time she had ever done anything like that. Regardless, I urged her forwards and waited for the bell to ring before coaxing her into a trot and heading down centerline.

I didn't feel 100% ready to enter the ring - I really should have circled or something - but the anxious person in me was like "GO NOW THE BELL RANG." And so, I went.

I have been trying to get her to walk a step or two before bringing her to a halt, as I have had comments in the past about her trot-halt transitions as being "abrupt". I rode the test and while we didn't have any glaring issues (we got all our leads, etc), my circles weren't the greatest and Annie felt like she was wiggling all over the damn sandbox a bit. She was quite resistant in the bridle and protested me encouraging her to actually make a round circle, so a few circles were unfortunately shallow. She did amazing for the free walk and stretched down and felt even in her steps - there was forward there!

Still, we managed to pull a 61% with some change and I was pretty pleased at the end of the day when I saw the score. The Judge called me down to her booth and asked me to push Annie more, as she felt the tempo was too slow and her canter was too humpy vs going forward. I agreed with her and did tell her that our last show doing TL was a disaster, so I was happy. She urged me to "just go for it".

Check out that rocking coefficient!

Another rider went in for her test and I was right after, so I sat ring-side and waited. Which, in hind-sight may have been a silly decision. In hindsight, I think heading back to the warm up and drilling a bit more forward would have been helpful, but at the same time only having 4 minutes to suss out issues before our next test didn't seem like a wise choice.

I wandered around the dressage arena as they finished marking the rider's other test and when the bell rang, I went for it like the judge instructed. And, I just made Annie pissed. Altho, I was kind of proud of myself for not feeling nervous during the test at all!

Tight backed and resistant. Kind of our theme in the Dressage court.
Parts of the test felt decent, but other parts she felt argumentative, especially as I tried to spur her forwards in front of me. I should've went back to being conservative, but also wanted to give the judge what she requested. Our one canter circle was a disaster, as Annie coughed during 3/4 of it and ended up making the entire thing very... egg-shape-esque. Altho... we got all our leads soooo... success? Haha.

She definitely felt more pissier in this test than the previous one, which turned out to not be surprising when we scored near 57%. The Judge chastised the fact Annie's tail was snapping a bit during the canter and her Mare Faces. I nodded along, and did tell her that last year we left the ring, didn't get any of our leads and I went off course in two tests so this was a pretty big step up, lol. Still, a part of me was a bit annoyed for listening to the judges advice instead of just riding what I had. I don't disagree with her assessment, bc she is right - the mare needs to be more forward.

Weirdly enough, the free walk in Test 2 felt the same as Test 1,
so I'm a bit disappointed I only got a 6! 

Regardless, we scored two 2nd place ribbons (since only myself and another rider were in these tests). Dressage continued on Sunday, so I didn't get my ribbons on Saturday, as they weren't sure if there would be post-entries and couldn't place the classes until everything was done.

Overall, I'm pretty pleased with Annie. There are obviously some holes in the training that need addressing and as we continue with lessons and push forwards, we'll tick them off and get down to business. The mare, altho lacking forward, acted quiet at the trailer and practically fell asleep while we waited for our second test (maybe that's why we lacked forward, haha?). She feels like she is growing up and maturing - starting to get into this whole show horse thing that I'm setting her up for. And it feels nice she is starting to reciprocate instead of freaking out that we are "DOING SOMETHING WITH MANY OTHER FOUR LEGGEDS AROUND US."

Another random cough, but she looks cute... kind of.
I think the pollen is bothering her this year.
From there, I tied Annie back to the trailer and she munched quietly on her hay while the show had a lunch break and the hunter courses were set up. I had signed up for 3 18" cross-rail courses and 2 2' courses with the idea that if the three cross-rail courses went super well, I'd scratch my 2' courses. This show was about taking the pressure off and just going for fun and experience, which... spoiler: we achieved!

Doing the jompie thing - such a happy pone.
After a short lunch break, I re-tacked and popped into the Dressage arena where they had set up some practice jumps. I went over a few times before calling it quits and heading to the in gate to wait and learn my course.

All three courses went well - I didn't have much steering and felt myself weaving back and forth towards the lines, but for the most part Annie felt amicable in the ring. She steadily popped over the jumps without issue, except for our second round wherein at the last jump, Annie crawled randomly to a walk and literally walked over the last jump.

Uh, h'okay?

It was kind of funny, but also super random.

We headed back in for our last round and had a rail because she just didn't pick up her back leg, but otherwise it was also a good round. I chose to scratch my last two classes because she was doing so well. We received two 2nd place ribbons and one 6th for the classes, respectively.

It was a good outing, and I was happy that we went out and did the things without any kind of huge issues. It was a quiet, easy, stress-free day with no bucking, rearing, or leaving the arena (lol), so I call it a win!

The tension in the Dressage ring frustrates me, but I think the more relaxed I get in the ring, the more relaxed she will get. Since the show I've had some good schools and lessons to keep us on the right path - all we can do is continue to chip away at it all!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Spud Loses His Brakes and Annie Schools in the Front Yard

As promised, Annie was given a day off and instead, I turned my focus on torturing Spud. I had already bathed him the day before and was ready to clip him, but halfway through the clip my blades died. The timing couldn't have been more unfortunate, because now he looks like he has some kind of weird disease. I tried to do what I could before giving up and taking the dogs to the lake for the afternoon.

No media from that day, so enjoy some random photos
I haven't shared before.
The next day I came out and tacked Annie up to ride. I had driven by the arena beforehand and contractors were still busy working and most of their equipment was now parked in the meadow - which meant unless I wanted to trail ride, my only other option would be to school in the front paddock. A family of grizzlies had been spotted four houses down from the horses so you better believe I decided to stick close to the barn for that particular ride.

I first put her out on the lunge with a neck stretcher, as I hadn't used this tool in a long time and wanted to start re-introducing it to our regime. I'm not a huge lunging person, but figured it would be good to do something "different". She still wasn't a fan of the neck stretcher, but seemed much more willing to push into the stretchy elastic vs recoiling away from it. I was happy with how hard she tried to find the right answer and hopped up after a good 10 minutes in the neck stretcher.

We weren't able to canter, since the space in the front paddock is overgrown with trees and shrubs. Still, a good amount of walk, trot and lateral work was littered along the oblong 30m "arena" we had to work with. She did start out resistant, wanting to bulge her shoulder back towards the barn (where Spud made desperate and sad calls in our direction), but worked out of it easily and ended up being quite maneuverable in the tight space.

Is that a pig, or is that death?
I hopped off and collected Spud for a cool-out walk around the subdivision. A woman stopped us early on into our ride and cautioned me on riding alone (bears). I assured her we weren't going far and after a quick loop which took nearly 15 minutes, we were back at the barn. Annie was hosed off and put away with her mash while I took Spud to the back paddock to lunge.

I have tentatively put a goal of working him 3x a week - either driving or lunging. The little dude needs to lose some weight and get fit for the season, especially because I intend to show him at the end of August and in September for a CDE.

He was an asshole to start (typical), but eventually went back to his workmanlike tendencies.

Since Annie had worked the last 4 out of 5 days, I gave her another day off on Thursday and decided to take Spud out for the first drive of the year. I can't believe I'm literally saying that... I've neglected his driving education for far too long... darn baby horses taking up all my time!!

The drive started out super - we passed a neighbor who was falling and bucking up trees on his property. The chainsaw roared as we passed, and Spud could've cared less. We continued on the same trail I had taken Annie on a few days prior, as I wanted to see how far it actually went.

The bears had moved off towards the arena side of the subdivision, so I felt we were OK to go. I still carried bear spray, a bear banger, and a knife with me just in case. Although, anyone who knows bears knows not much will stop a momma bear with cubs - especially a grizzly.

Anyways, the drive had no bears to be seen and instead, only had one little asshole appaloosa who was losing his fucking mind.

Pictured: the calm before the storm.
Once we started down the trail, he had offered up a trot, so I took it.

That. Was. A. Mistake.

HUGE. Mistake.

I'm pretty sure the remainder of the ride was me saying "whoaaa" "steaddddy" "eaaaasy".

Sorry for the shaky filming - he was moving pretty good lol.
He did comply at some points, but for the most part was battling me and the reins. As we came to the end of the trail (which was a dead end), we head to pivot back down the trail to turn around as there wasn't enough room to make a loop. He protested, and let me know he was REALLY SURE we should be trotting. I half-halted, clucked and asked him to go "left" again. And, he threatened to rear. A few times. I told him to whoa and let his little pony brain lose some steam before asking him to go right. He went quietly and calmly and as soon as we were headed down the trail, he popped back into a trot again.

"Whoaaaa... Eeeeeasy Spud."

Ya, fat chance.

I finally got him to walk quietly on a loose rein once we turned up a dirt road to head home and was surprised to see my little lard-ass was moderately winded.

He may be fat, but he sure has stamina.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Back in the Saddle

*I am still waiting for media from the horse show I attended on May 5th. Unfortunately, it has made me insanely behind in posting so I'll play catch up now and revisit the show post later when I have media from the show photographer. Hopefully it won't be long!

Butze Rapids trail during low tide at one of the
many viewpoints along the way.
Following the horse show, I took a 5 day long vacation to visit the boyfriend, as he is working out of town. I packed up the trailer, tossed the dogs in the truck and headed out to camp at a local RV park in the town the Boy is working at. It was a nice little vacation - the dogs and I hiked every single day (sometimes twice in one day) and although the Boy was working during my time there, it was still nice to get away.

The doggos, atop a 4.5k climb of switchbacks in the rain.
The viewpoint wasn't great, due to the rain/fog. The climb back
down wasn't fun either, as most of the switchbacks were slippery due to the rain.
When I got back home I was ready to hit the saddle again and went out the next morning to school Annie at the arena. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to use the ring as it is still being renovated so settled for schooling in the open field instead. Annie hacked out alone, as I didn't know how... erm... forward she would be with an entire week off. I shouldn't have hesitated in bringing Spud tho, because she was foot perfect.

Once we got to the field, I started to work on the walk, as Annie felt a bit resistant to my aids. It didn't seem like disobedience, more like "Why are we doing ring stuff in this big open space, Mom?" and "Why aren't my friends here with us, Mom?" I just waited her out - doing serpentines, circles, leg yielding, etc - all over the big green space. She eventually settled into work mode once she realized we were doing The Work Thing.

The shiny horse-beast.
I ended up having a nice ride, altho I could feel like she wasn't 100% honest to my aids, esp turning. I didn't push her too long tho, as it was incredibly hot out and silly me had decided to ride during the hottest part of the day. We did some canter before coming back to the trot and ending on a good note with her moving off my leg. The little divets and unevenness in the ground made her have to pay a bit more attention, and she seemed a bit more careful as we went.

The canter went well - picked up both leads as I requested and was compliant towards the end in circling. I found as I raised my outside rein it helped turn her when she inclined to "nope" to my leg. Hilariously enough, this should have not been news to me, as it's something Karen has drilled into my head in pretty much alllll my lessons last year.

We ended on a good note - asking for her to stretch down and out at the trot and she did pretty well considering I had been neglecting to practice it much over the past few weeks.

The saddle pad makes me want to vomit, but
it's a perfect schooling pad so, meh.
Before leaving the fairgrounds tho, the little girl inside of me wanted to canter my pony down the trail which leads around the grounds. There is a downed tree 1/3 of the way around, so I opted to canter down the side with better footing and then just double back the way we came.

It was a freeing feeling- sitting quietly in the saddle with my reins draped as Annie cantered along without a care in the world. It was a bit funny to see her try and figure out cantering up and down a little incline - she did just fine going up but going down she kind of was like "Whoaaaa we are going fasssst" and stuttered a bit, haha.

I took her home, hosed her off, and gave her her mash before heading home and showering myself bc holy cow it was HOT.

The next evening with N and AJ.
The next day, N was home for the weekend and wanted to ride. Unfortunately, my Sunday was a bit packed so I ended up heading out to ride just shy of 9pm. Thankfully N is a patient and understanding friend and still offered to go with me! We just did the big loop around the subdivsion - the loop we are so often forced to march every single winter until the trails open up.

Annie was a pill to get on, as N had already wandered over on AJ and it DID NOT COMPUTE in Annie's little brain that her FRIEND WAS HERE OMG MOM. She had a minor brain meltdown over the fact she wasn't allowed to jig down the driveway like she had done earlier in the year (she hasn't done it in a while either). She slammed on the brakes to protest and after a good swat to the ass with my hand, she went forward and took a good several moments to settle down into a sedated walk.


We did get eaten alive tho.
The rest of the ride was non-eventful and the horses just moseyed as we caught up and chatted. Towards the end of the ride, both of us were getting attacked by mosquitoes and by the time we said goodbye and went our seperate ways, I couldn't take it anymore and trotted Annie home. She was great - didn't even look back to see AJ leave and put herself in a steady contact in my hand. I kind of had to laugh - she is inconsistent in the ring and in the meadow with her contact, but is happy to put herself into my hands down the asphalt road at 10pm at night. Figures.

Lastly, before a well deserved day off on Tuesday, I took Annie out to trail ride Monday mid-day. Initially, it was supposed to be a very quiet and short trail ride so I could test Ella out with the horses and being off-leash. I have been working very hard with her to make her reliable off leash and have wanted to take her out with the horses, but also know that being on top of a horse makes me unable to correct a dog from the ground if needed.

Before we headed out, I tested Annie out by walking Ella (who was leashed) from the saddle. Mare didn't care, so we set out. I had previously walked Ella with the horses lots, so this wasn't new for either of them.

The walk continued well enough, so I dropped Ella's short leash and let her drag it behind her. Should she run off and play the "catch me" game, the extra leash would serve as a good opportunity to contain her without having to touch her.

I wandered down a few different trails before stumbling upon one I had never been down before. I followed it for quite a while before deciding to turn back, as it spliced off in several different directions and since I was alone, I didn't want to get too far down the rabbit hole so to speak. Annie was the spookiest she has been in a long time and did a cat leap away from a stump that must've looked suspicious. She obliged to keep forward tho, so I forgave her for her small short-comings.

Some uncertainty about heading into the bush.
At one point, Ella got tangled on a tree branch and literally came out of the woods dragging it behind her. Annie didn't even bat an eye and stepped on it when I asked her to so it would break free of the leash.

Horses. Spook at rocks and stumps but don't spook at dogs dragging dead trees from their leashes?

The ride was a success - Annie had never been in this particular area and altho she was nervous/twitchy, she kept poised enough to listen to my aids and altho she spooked several times, she was still brave enough to keep going.

A large fallen tree along the side of the trail.

When we looped back around to the river - it
is quite high with all the ice melt from the mountains.
The icing on the proverbial cake was that the dogs also behaved themselves and I became more hopeful that having Ella (and Roxy) join me on riding adventures in the near future was not too far off. It'll take some work, as with distractions and such, Ella's recall will be put to the test more, but I think we'll get there soon enough.

When we arrived back at the barn, we encountered a pig, which nearly blew Annie's mind. It was hilarious and I ended up hopping off and bringing her closer to the poor little pig, who probably didn't actually have plans to murder my horse. Once we deemed the pig wasn't a mass murderer, I hand-walked the 20ft back to the barn and hosed Annie off. Like the last day I rode in the afternoon, I cursed myself for choosing such a silly time since it was the hottest time of day. Regardless, I promised the mare a day off for being such a good girl in our last three rides.

Friday, May 11, 2018

A Trail Ride in Photos

Following the schooling rides, as promised, I took Annie out on her first "real" solo trail ride of the year. Last year, while we did some trail riding around the area, I didn't necessarily take her out for any long-winded trail rides into the back country. I was determined to change that this year, especially because I believe the long hours on a trail (even moderately technical), helps shape horses to be more aware of their feet and body positioning. Plus, it's just very relaxing and exploring the wilderness is always fun.

Once again, I brought Spud along and had a mapped out route in mind - one that I haven't done in a few years, and only had a few questions (ie. water crossings). The other trails in the area unfortunately still have a large accumulation of water from the winter melt, and I didn't feel like attempting to cross a belly-deep pond and getting my feet soaking wet. Plus, I had wanted to get a few water crossings under our belts before attempting one that was quite deep and large.

Anyways, onto the trail:

Heading out on the asphalt - something we are well acquainted with.
Swerving off the well beaten path to a more... well beaten path -
the dirt variety. This particular road narrows towards the top
and spits you out at the highway.

The top of the aforementioned trail. You can see
little glimpses of the highway. It is imperative to approach slowly
and to always be aware of cars - they are traveling the highway at speeds of
100km/hr and on this side of the highway, it's hard to be seen at the road's edge.

After crossing the highway, we went down an old logging road for a few minutes before
branching off down this mucky road and across the little stream to another logging
road. She balked hard at it, and it didn't help Spud noped out of it as well... but
a good pony club kick and she snorted her way through it haha. Moving water is not
something we have tackled before.

Directly after crossing the stream, we are out on another logging road.
Up ahead is the community gun range - the horses are actually well
acclimatized to the sounds of gunshots since they can he heard over at the barn.

Instead of following the logging road further, we split off and went onto
a well used 4-wheeler trail that parallels the main highway, which you can see pictured above.

Following the large hill we went down and through a murky water crossing
(which only required a little clucking before she dove right in). The footing was
actually pretty perfect.

This water crossing took no convincing, haha. She marched
through it with gusto!

Spud was not pleased, and got his little belly wet!

Following the puddle.

A bit of a rocky path, but still decent.

A bit of a narrow path, but we made it!

A lil sneak peek of Spud who lagged behind for most of the ride!
Once we left the row of trees behind, the trail took us out
back up to the logging road - we just made our way back.

Blurry, but water running across the roadway.
Annie wasn't a fan of this footing, understandably.

Back out into the wider open, heading back towards the barn!

Just after the little building is the left hand turn to take us
back across the highway again.

The trail in it's entirety.
All in all, a good ride. 

And we even beat the rain!