Wednesday, November 28, 2018

That Time I Thought We Ruined a Children's Playground

The Thursday afternoon following my birthday held much promise in the weather department. So much so that I left work early and was able to put a ride in on Annie before having to pack for Quebec. Earlier in the week we had gotten an unfortunate phone call that the SO's grandmother had passed away after a short battle with health complications following a stroke. It wasn't necessarily a shock, as we knew her health had drastically declined over the period of a few short weeks. The SO had wanted to go both for the respect to his grandmother's memory, as well as the inevitable catching up with relatives he hadn't seen in a few years. Nevertheless, it took a few tense days to arrange everything - flights, place to stay, arrangements for the animals.

Despite the unfortunate circumstances surrounding our visit, it was lovely
to meet his extended family and wander the streets viewing amazing architecture. 
Despite things coming down to the wire, I managed to get everything squared away relatively quickly and managed to enjoy a quick, but brisk ride on Annie before leaving Saturday morning.

Of course, when I got there, Annie was sweating pretty good in her blanket. Immediately, I thought the worst and figured she was colicking, so I ripped the blanket off and threw a cooler on. She was sweating along her chest, had no temperature, was bright/ alert, and was happy to eat treats from my hand. Her gut sounded normal and after taking her for a little walk up and down the driveway, I started to piece the puzzle together.

Had a taken a mental second and wandered into the paddock to check Spud, I would have noted he too was sweaty.

Mostly photos of our trip to Quebec.
This was a beautiful church.
And the paddock featured many skid marks and dug up grass/mud from what could only be thundering hooves.

The temporary termination of rain and inclusion of warm temps had both horses feeling pretty damn spry, and the leftover hoofprints made me believe they were playing a pretty good game of tag...

With that sorted out, I felt much more comfortable to ride. Especially considering Annie was bone-dry by the time I was finished fretting.

We mostly kept at the walk - letting her stretch into the buckle before picking her back up again. She has understood the concept of stretching down into the reins, but as Anthony pointed out in one of our clinic rides, she needs to get more acquainted with the idea of stretching into my hand. I alternate between stretching on a free rein and gradually taking up a feel on her mouth. The idea is to get her even on both reins (the Anthony-ism of "fear which rein you cannot feel!" ran through my head) and to have her realize weight in my hands isn't a bad thing.

This house was super cool - and for sale!
Of course, it's taken some practice, simply because my t-rex arms don't give to her in the same way a longer armed rider would. The idea of "rowing a boat" has helped to move my upper arms with her.

Mostly though, we walked. 

There was a short stint we did some trot sets, as well as a few canter loops on the dirt road. She had picked up the opposite lead of what I was asking, so we turned back up the road to re-affirm what I had wanted.

Towards the end of the summer we were working on simple changes on diagonals and straight-aways and had a lot of good success, but every now and then she'd get confused. I'm sure my lack of fitness has something to do with it as well, so I made a mental note to be more aware of my seat pressure and body positioning when asking.

The old signs are so cool too.
Like the rides previous, Annie came to a tentative walk as we rounded the corner where the new playground is. This time there were no kids, so I thought "hey, what a good time to desensitize my mare." 

We got closer and I noted the playground's footing seemed to be some kind of rubber compound. The "fall friendly" kind of stuff. I didn't want to ride around the play-structures just in case Annie decided to spook or something, so got her close enough (which took some cajoling because DEATH IS IMMINENT) and let her relax a moment before dismounting and decided I'd hand-walk her through the structures. 

It went pretty well, as the only issue seemed to be the playground footing. It weirded Annie out a bit, as it gave considerably under her weight. Truth be told, I had heart palpitations when I saw just how much the ground gave under Annie and thought I had ruined the footing. We had initially eased our way onto it, because I knew the footing was rubberized and when her hoof first sunk down I immediately backed her off of it. My mind raced with, "I wonder how I'm going to explain that I was just desensitizing my horse?" and "Shit, this is gonna cost a pretty penny."

I had to set her down in the ditch to remount.
She was skeptical of the playground still.
"I got my eye on you" - Annie
And even as those thoughts raced through, the footing just sprang back into place. I guess it's just really spongy?

Needless to say, I won't be hand-walking much around the park for fear of ruining the footing somehow, but it was still a good experience for Annie and I. When the grass grows around the park, I do intend to hack her around it a few times for desensitization's sake. 

What can I say, I put my horses in weird situations. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Birthday Ride

Thankfully the miserable, wet weather subsided just in time for my birthday on Remembrance Day. I had given Annie a very light lunge a few days prior to that, just to shake our non-existent routine up a bit. The re-addition of the neck-stretcher seemed to confuse her at first, but she quickly relaxed into the contact and even offered some nice stretching despite the ground being quite wet and slippery.

In fine Annie fashion, she was quite at ease with the exercise - so much so that every time a "good girl" or "ye-ES" left my lips, she slammed herself back into a very quiet and... leisurely-like walk. I had half-expected a lap or two of mach 10 trotting... or at the very least some sassy head shaking.

Truth be told tho, Annie has never lunged or ridden out fresh as a porpoise surfing the waves. She can be giddy and quick, but it typically never amounts to much more than a slight head wag or glee-filled squeal.

About as excited as she got, lol.
I'm pretty glad she doesn't feel compelled to test her wings tho, because I don't know how talented my sticky-seat is anymore. We have had our share of several bucks, and mild rearing tantrums tho, so I can't say it is all peaches and roses... and for all of those occasions I have managed to keep my breeches firmly seated in the saddle. Of course the time I didn't double check my girth in my first clinic of the year, I fell off due to equipment malfunction vs misbehaviour. And when I broke my nose not even two weeks before that (oh yes, I broke my nose... one day I will blog about that), it had everything to do with ground conditions and nothing to do with the horse.

So for that, I am thankful.

Thankful for my (mostly) earth-bound horse, haha.

I started off my birthday weekend right - playing hooky from an afternoon at work and instead, heading out to catch a ride on my mare! The air was cool and mild, and despite an evening's worth of rain, the skies were clear and held a promise of sunshine throughout the weekend.

As we set out for a ride, Annie wandered out quite content and relaxed. We hadn't hacked out since Hallowe'en, which meant things that had (very mildly) changed (and some things that had been there for years...) were scary. One or two spooks and then she settled into the routine with ease.

It was a nice quick ride around the block, and I was able to throw in quite a few walk-trot-halt transitions. She feels weak, but willing, which I'll take any day of the week. A nice long, strung-out canter down the dirt road and I felt on top of the world, hah. Of course, that canter came to a screeching halt when the new playground they had just built came into view.

Several kids were out playing and at one point, I contemplated hopping off and leading her past. She stood and stared for a while before being urged to continue on. A large hunk of machinery (painted a very offensive red color to Annie's mare mind) gave her the heebie jeebies, but we stealthily passed it before it could reach out and grab us, haha.

Surveying her kingdom - in search of things that have changed.

Once we passed the threshold of the machine, Annie snorted loudly and blew out a long sigh. It's tough being a flight animal around inanimate objects.

Three days later it was my birthday, and N excitedly texted me that she was ready to ride.

I headed out to the barn and tacked up a very quiet mare before heading out. She has been pretty good about leaving the barn - once or twice she has reverted to trying to drag me down the driveway, but the addition of treats when I mount up and whenever we stop has mostly curbed that habit. It's a silly thing, I guess, but it works for us.

I hop up, feed a treat, adjust myself and turn on the Equisense. Ask her to walk out. Ask to halt, feed a treat and then we head out. Sometimes I ask her to stop again randomly along our route, and other times I let her reel the reins out of my hands until my fingers stop at the buckle.

This ride was a little more animated than the previous, as Annie was very happy to see AJ. I had brought Spud along to pony, since I hadn't gotten any kind of indication Annie would be bad. I was right, and she was a peach.

As evidenced, two peaches!
Unfortunately, the day was so nice that the subdivision was abuzz with activity. Early into our ride, we had to pass the super scary playground - on this particular day, one of the moms had sent a message out on the subdivisions facebook group that there would be a scheduled playdate. Right for when we wanted to ride, haha.

No biggie - I see it as an opportunity for desensitization anyways.

What I did not expect tho, was the absolute hoards of kids, dogs, strollers, parents, wagons, cars... oh my goodness. A young girl furiously biked up behind us with a wagon attached - it bounced and ricketed along the asphalt before she slowed and asked kindly, "Is it OK if I go past you?" I smiled, nodded, and watched as both horses surveyed the contraption with mild curiosity.

They were, however, much more interested in the playground. A few dogs came darting over, barking and carrying on. Their owners were quick to contain them tho, so no harm no foul. Several young children sprinted from the playground, shouting, "HorSES!!!"Their parents rounded them up before they could get to us, which I wholly appreciated.

Unrelated media. This is Annie running away from the gaggle of children, lol.
Annie was tense and nervous, her muscles flinching and her eyes wide. I just nudged her onwards and let her stop to look when she needed to. The bustling activity in what was once a very quiet part of the subdivision will take some time to get used to, I imagine.

From there, we wandered up the dirt road and Annie fell into pace quietly as we left the screaming kids behind. It did not last long tho, as two young girls on an ATV came absolutely fucking screeching down the road. I took to the wider bend of the road, ensuring that they would see me in time. They saw me, but they did not slow down.

The horses both flinched as water from potholes sprayed and the machine roared. I called out angrily, "Hey!" but neither seemed to look back.

For the most part, recreational vehicles are very respectful of us and I wasn't so sure where these young girls' manners were. I was glad they had gone past though, and carried on quietly before the soft roar of the ATV motor started back up the road....

This was taken literally a few minutes before she came
barreling up behind us...
This was after she had passed us the first time.
They had turned around and were headed back my way.

This time I KNEW they knew I was there. They had passed me a few lousy minutes before, they saw my horse's reactions and they KNEW I would be on the road.

A family of four had started to walk down the road as well, and I groaned inwardly as we closed the distance between one another. We had just passed eachother as the two girls on the quad squeezed in between the distance, cranked the ATV over to the side of the road /I/ was on, and proceeded to splash through the remaining puddles.

I fucking lost it.

"What the fuck?!" I called after them.

Annie fidgeted beneath me and shied, which I don't really blame her.

The one girl turned her head back and laughed, continuing to blast away.

The horses calmed in a matter of seconds, which I was grateful for. But I more or less was pissed because had it been a young child on a horse (or perhaps me on a younger/greener horse??) it may have not ended well.

A very dirty Annie to break up my wall-o-text-rage!
I work hard to desensitize my horses to noises, a variety of engines, and strive for positive interaction between myself and recreational drivers. I have only had a handful of instances that left a sour taste in my mouth, and this was one of them.

If you want to splash through the puddles, and I happen to be on that side of the road, why not give me 60 fucking seconds to move?

Horses, as trained as they are, are unpredictable and stupid. It was a cold, crisp Winter day and I was riding a young horse that hadn't been out in a while. It was the perfect recipe for a disaster.

And while I understand there are inherent dangers, there is no need to be a blatant jackass. There have been situations where I was trying to ride a very hyper and excited Suzie down the road and as I was trying to dismount (for safety), a car rocketed past me as she was fucking cantering sideways. Like... what?!

I have been known to purposely walk in the middle of the road, to discourage drivers from speeding past or weaving around us as we ride.

The instances are few and far between, but holy cow that made me mad.

Annie on auto-pilot.
I met up with Nicole not long after, and the first words out of my mouth were "Where did the fucking kids on the ATV go?"

We did attempt to find them, but a lot of the homes aren't build close to the road and I had no desire to wander up long, winding driveways. I posted a scathing message on the facebook group and most shared my worries... although no one seemed to know who the kids were... so maybe they weren't from the subdivision.

I managed to calm down and forget about the stupid kids and soon N and I settled into an easy flow of conversation. Annie was quite animated, as I mentioned before. She wasn't naughty, but certainly more hyped than usual. Her steps felt bolder, quicker, and stronger. Her head was set higher, her ears more attentive.

There was one part where she spooked hard at something and nearly tripped over her own feet. Once recovered, she seemed quite embarrassed. I told Nicole, "I thought for sure we were going down." Oh, mare. (as a sidenote, our equilab tracked the spook as a canter, haha).

Our whole red speck of canter, haha. You can see it on the lower
portion of the map.

It was a pleasant ride tho, and as we headed towards the dirt road to split off in our respective directions, N asked if I wanted to split up before the playground. I shrugged, declared it a good desensitizing experience and pursued onwards.

Of course, AJ was quite hesitant to walk past the playground, as he hadn't passed it yet haha. This in turn made Annie also unsure. "We passed this before, but my BFF says it might be dangerous soooo... I'll just wait thanks."

Both horses did eventually wander on by and much to Annie's displeasure, we turned around and walked passed it again to get home, hahaha!!! You would think with each pass, the kids would get used to us walking by but no... each time they ran frantically towards us, arms outstretched like zombies. The parents did a great job at containing them tho, and we didn't end up with any squished toes.

It was a great way to end the weekend and I was very happy I had the opportunity to ride, as most years it has already snowed and the roads can be quite iffy once ice forms, or I am working and unable to make it out before nightfall.

This year, I got lucky with a day off and good weather!

Monday, November 26, 2018

Addressing the Thought Process

The time for planned ring rides and schooling has more or less come to a close. Our final ring ride of the season was back in early October, and since then, we've more or less stuck to the wider, well-lit trails, or the paved subdivision.

It's not to say that we have completely eradicated schooling from our roster tho, because our ride three days ago featured many leg yields, stretchy trots, backing, and little canter sets.

That canter has come a long way... 
While the ring is a good place to hammer out various instructional scenarios, we make do with what we have as the daylight fades... quicker and quicker and the days are much more crisp and cool.  That being said, hacking twenty minutes both ways to the ring isn't really a high priority, especially since we managed to keep up with 2 ring schools per week for a better part of the year.

20 mins there... 20 mins back...

That's a lot of walking.

For now, I am happy to meander and educate when the necessity strikes me. Annie has lost a subsequent amount of fitness, and I feel pretty OK with it. She's done a lot this year - our Equilab tracker reads over 450km, which is wildly inaccurate for our year, considering I did not download the app until the end of March. Many clinics and shows were not accounted for, as well as the month long training Trainer K put on her.

It's been... a busy year.

I do spend time with the horses - I see them every single day and we've worked quietly on clicker training, showmanship, light lunging, hand-walking, ground tying, etc. We stay busy, even if it's just a few moments of the day.

Forward Annie, FORWARD :) 

The rides I've put on Annie have been mostly pleasant, and I'll start to break down those rides into more meatier posts, but in the interim I've been slowly learning to appreciate the time off. There was a time before this I'd panic and worry if she went unridden for several days. Nowadays, she seems much more mature and ready for those days off, whereas before it was almost imperative to keep the lessons short and consistent. As the months have changed, she has readily accepted being practically untouched for a week and then pulled out for a ride sans preparation of any kind.

It's been a good feeling, and makes me even more excited for next year. Reliability is a difficult thing to come by, and now that she understands the questions being asked and can produce an answer without needing micromanaging or urging from her rider (me), she's become much more pleasant to ride. The education she received is starting to become a "normal" thing that is "no big deal". It's become part of our regular routine and it makes me happy to see all the frustrating moments I spent drilling things into her is finally paying off.

Of course, I still revisit the concepts every now and again because... horses are horses, haha.

Just this past weekend we worked (unintentionally might I add!) on standing tied quietly. When Annie is particularly fresh, she fidgets. It's not leaning back on the tie-ring, gonna break my halter fidgeting... it's just little ADHD shuffles. And it absolutely drives me insane, haha.

All the times I tied her and walked away to do chores have finally started to sink in. She is curious and attentive by nature, so doesn't immediately cock a leg, but she understands the basis of pressure and what it means when she is tied, which I am glad for, especially since she attempted to pull back a few times last year.

She was... a very noodly pony, haha.
Still tho, there are all these little intricate details of Annie's life that are still budding and growing. There will be instances where we will have to revisit old concepts to build back consistency and understanding, which is just kind of part of it all. It is hard not to think that your world isn't crashing around you, especially when in reality, only one piece of the puzzle is falling apart.

I've been trying to change my thinking, especially when it comes to Annie. A few readers have noticed the difference in the way I address issues and how I talk about them (and Annie). I'm sure there will be difficult moments - frustrating moments, even. But they don't last for long. And if Annie has taught me anything, it is that humble humility is a requirement when working with baby horses.

I try to take things at face value now, instead of falling down the dreaded "what if" rabbit hole. Most frustrations don't last for long, and if they do, it is because the frustration is a building block onwards to success and consistency.

Our very first ride together.
The tune of my posts have changed because one day I woke up and realized that all of the issues I have ever blogged about or carried on about have slowly melted away. Remnants of the issues may linger, which they often do when something becomes habit, but for the most part I have been able to suss out the issue on my own, enlist the help of a willing individual, or have known when I'm in over my head. And while reaching out and asking for help felt like a blow to the ego, it made me realize that sometimes we build things up in our own head (and in our mare's head) to make them much more frantic and scary than they really are. Sometimes it takes an individual with no history to bridge the gap and fine tune our connection.

It's been a very humbling year - both in learning to eat crow a bit, and also to trust in the plan I set in motion when she first stepped off that trailer. It can be hard to trust in yourself, because the process is non-linear and there really isn't a book for every single horse and rider pairing.

The year of 2018 has been challenging, rewarding, and a bit like the ebb and flow of waves on a beach. Sometimes we have to re-draw the words in the sand again and again until it becomes second nature, and sometimes we have to take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the waves.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Things My Horse Does Now

Aside from the regular training and being able to do the whole "walk/ trot / canter" thing, there have been some things that have taken time to establish and it's been an interesting process to see how they have developed. Some are the nature of things with baby horses, and others just make me laugh at how long it finally took the light-bulb to switch on.

I am excited for next year - to see where we go and for the journey to get there.

1. Accepting the Bit
When I first got her, she was a bit difficult to bridle. Mostly just tossing her head, refusal to open her mouth for the bit, etc. I knew it was just a baby thing, so I started out slow and combined the use of treats to help her have a more pleasant experience. Unfortunately, it didn't really help much, and it often ended with me having to use my fingers to poke her tongue.

Her teeth were in great shape too, so there was no real reason for the hesitation. I thought she'd catch on after she was fed copious amounts of treats. But instead, it kinda confused her because she didn't understand how to eat treats with the bit in her mouth, haha. So, I just stuck with alternating treats and my finger on the side of her gums.

And over a year later? She gladly accepts the bit when I offer it.

She also finally has accepted the neck stretcher, which has become a
large part of our lunging routine (when I do lunge, which isn't often).

2. Stretching
I had tried several times before to get Annie to stretch - her first year undersaddle it was a battle and a half to even get her to extend and elongate her neck downwards. Which, yanno, is fine. She was a baby and such, so I get it. It was only earlier this year I was actually able to get some decent stretching out of her and REAL stretching. She also learned she could stretch and trot, without falling on her face, haha.

She also finally learned she can stretch out on the trail and on the lunge. More often than not, after a few moments of looking around, scanning her surroundings, she'll sigh and drop her head before plugging along quietly.

No media of our hill work - so here she is being cute in a
home-made hackamore, haha.

3. Going Faster Than a Walk Up Hills/ Down Hills
For the longest time, I only walked Annie up hills on the trail. As a young rider, I used to gum-boot it up a few of the bigger hills and it led to my mounts charging up any hill we could find.. which, isn't always a good idea. So I made it my mission to teach Annie to first walk before any other gait. Except... I kinda forgot to teach her she could trot and canter up hills, lol. The first time we trotted up a hill, she kept slowing to a walk, like, "This is hard work." By the end of this year, we have done enough canter sets in the trail along the fairgrounds that she can canter up AND down inclines with no issues. Her first canter down a hill was exceptionally hilarious.

An updated picture from last week.
She is disgustingly dirty, so ignore that, lol.

4. Eats
It took a lot of time, stress, and money to suss out this issue. When I first got Annie, she was uninterested in grain, mash, and even her hay. She preferred to stand at the front of the paddock, staring down the street for hours on end. I'd show up at the barn to her untouched raised feeder (that Spud cannot access), and it would frustrate the heck out of me! I tried leaving hay out (I typically have it in a slow feeder net) so she wouldn't have to nibble through the net, but it didn't seem to matter...

I consulted with two vets (which we all know are 6+ hours away), and made several adjustments throughout my ownership of Annie, including a physical exam with a traveling vet last Fall.

I did manage to find things that helped - the myoplast for one - but nothing could consistently keep the weight on my mare. After utilizing expensive ulcer medication that didn't do much for the either of us, I ended up reaching out to Bloggers (link here) and dug into OTTB groups on Facebook to learn more and try to get to the bottom of the problem.

Long story short, I started from the beginning and scrapped my whole feed plan after it was costing me hundreds of dollars a month. I power-pac dewormed both Annie and Spud, as well as added a product called Elite Three to her diet. I completely eradicated all of her grain, and only have her on beet pulp and supplementary alfalfa cubes. She also no longer stands at the side of the barn, staring down the driveway for hours on end. Almost every time I am at the barn, she is stuffing her face with hay, which delights me. I'm not sure which change evoked the increase in her appetite or interest in hay, but either way... I'll take it!

Friday, November 9, 2018

As the Seasons Change

It is no surprise that come Fall, our small town rapidly ascends into the season of monsoons. We luckily escaped most of them in September and for a period of October, but battling the constant wet has made it difficult to get any kind of real riding in.

The pastures are soggy, soaked to their core with an excess of moisture that causes the top layer of grass sproutlings to slough off as the horses walk from one end of the pasture to the other. I thankfully don't have much in the way of mud, as the pasture slopes to drain the excess run off away from the lean-to and subsequent shelter.

The riding arena is a heaping mess though, despite the significant amount of drainage installed last year. I mean, there is only so much draining it can do when the forecast calls for days upon days of 30-50mm showers.

I've been kinda taking it easy though, still coming to terms with everything that happened only three short weeks ago. I haven't felt much like riding still, but have taken opportunities where I feel strong and determined to play with some ground-work and even lunge Annie a bit.

I also played with a few different bridles, just to see
what a smaller noseband would look like.
The season is over for us - soon the roads will be too treacherous to drive on hauling a trailer, and the pastures will fill with an obscene amount of snow just like they do year after year. Schooling will become non-existent until 2019 and hacking the subdivision will be sparse unless the roads are well salted to prevent slips on hidden ice.

I am determined to get a few more rides in - nothing serious and nothing too far-fetched. Just enjoying my horse and enjoying the partnership we have built. Annie and I have had a very busy year, and we both deserve some down time to just enjoy one another. And the impeding Winter makes that pretty easy.

That being said, there are a few more rides I haven't blogged about yet. One of which was prior to Ella's passing and the other two were a short time afterwards.

I remember our ride on October 16th as crisp - the air had a tinge of winter bitterness in it, but the sun managed to disintegrate the cold edge. Annie was great to hack out, and although we only ended up hacking around the subdivision, we were able to throw in some really good work. Most of it was leg yielding, as well as serpentines where the footing would allow.

A good egg.
I was really happy with her at the end of that ride, mostly because for the first time since I have owned her, she foamed willingly at the mouth. It surprised me, mostly because she is quite "tight lipped" even when eating food that she doesn't easily foam or produce excess saliva. She felt good though, and we alternated between trotting along in a frame and allowing her to stretch her neck out. It was a great ride, and afterwards I cleaned my tack and took my time shining up my boots. An afternoon well spent, no doubt.

The next two rides were after everything that had happened, and the first ride was more or less to get myself back in the saddle sooner rather than later. Grief has a funny way of making us avoid or feel bad about enjoying the things we love to do, so instead of pushing it off for another day, I made myself tack up and swing aboard.

From a different ride, but a cute face.
I remember Annie was a bit spooky when I first headed out, but I didn't really blame her. The new park that was going up had changed quite a bit since we last rode by it, and she stared at it hard before cautiously continuing. At this time, she hadn't been ridden in well over 10 days, so I forgave the little bit of excess energy.

Not too soon after passing the park, she was back to her business-like self and plodded along quietly. Unfortunately, I was having a very tough time just sitting and relaxing. So we did a bit of a school - alternating between 'extended' trot and a more collected trot, asking her to stretch down through her topline, etc. It also had to be a bit of a quick ride, as Kelsey was coming to check the fit of my saddles one last time for the year. Thankfully, both saddles were fitting just fine and we had a good chat about upgrading my jump saddle sometime next year and what kind of saddles to look for.

She also brought me not one but TWO beautiful
ogilvy pad's. The second is a show pad with purple ;) 

It was a good ride - a ride I needed. I needed to get my mind off of everything and I needed Annie to just say "You want this/that? Ok, let's do it." And she dug in, did everything I asked, and took care of me.

When I slid off at the end of the ride, I thanked her profusely for being such a good girl. At the time, I don't think my brain could have handled a wirey, hot young horse, so I was thankful she was a steady rock despite her time off and lack of work in the past weeks. I really shouldn't have been surprised tho, she isn't naturally a very hot and energetic horse - but in the same breath she has played that card a few times in the past.

Our last ride together was on Hallowe'en. My brother was up visiting for the week and when he saw me looking out the window at the clear blue skies, he offered I should go and ride my horse. I'm glad he did, because I was waffling between being a good hostess as well as trying to bargain with myself I'd go "another day".

"We're ready if you're ready."
I took Spud as well, and ponied him from Annie. Both horses were super, and we did manage to do some trot sets where we could. I didn't really push it though, as both are quite out of shape now. It was also hard to maneuver them when we trotted, as Spud found it absolutely necessary to casually trot into Annie to push her over. Poor mare got a little bit pissed when I insisted she trot straight and ignore Spud's attempts to move her - she ended up pinning her ears at Spud and he slithered away, but ended up attempting it a few more times, haha. Little stinker!

All in all, it was a good ride and we finished it off with a little bit of bridleless again. I pulled the bridle off a few feet away from the driveway, and Annie happily walked home, casually observing some Hallowe'en decorations the neighbor had put up.

Since then, I've mostly been unable to ride due to the terrible weather and my new work schedule (oh and that darned daylight savings time!!), so I've spent time grooming, hand-walking, and lunging instead. Since it is my birthday this weekend, N has already planned to kidnap me for a ride - rain or shine (and we both know she means it!).

Monday, November 5, 2018

Back in the Fall

The last riding entry I made was amidst my attempt to play catch up on the blog - the rainy day ride with AJ and N. I have several other rides I need to write about, so let's play catch up with the two that followed shortly after the rain ride!

The following day from our rain ride was sunny - bright and beautiful!

So much so that I managed to coerce a good friend of mine to come play ponies for the afternoon. Truth be told, it doesn't take much to convince J to come drive Spud, because he enjoys the little sensitive red-head and does a pretty decent job of driving him, too!

The horses were pretty good, but I remember Annie being a very large butt-face when I tied her. Usually, I tie her very close to my tack room, but on this day I tied her farther away so Spud could be closer for J to get his gear on. Unfortunately, even though Annie was (quite literally) a few feet away, she just could. not. So, she pawed, snorted, clacked her tongue and threw her head around.

Since our last farrier appointment she found out how to play with her tongue.
Here she is in all her glory, yawning and flapping her tongue about because LIFE
Sidenote: her white flecks are very noticeable now with her Fall coat!
I left her to have a hissy fit while I helped J brush out Spud and ignored Annie's antics. She got the message pretty clearly, and nearly five minutes later Annie had become subdued and quietly waited.

She's hilarious though, because if I walk towards her, she gets kind of excited like she can't contain how much of a good girl she was being. She doesn't do anything naughty, but will look at me and bob her head up and down, as if encouraging me to continue coming closer. In the Winter time last year, I was a mean horsey momma and would walk towards her, only to walk past her and continue whatever I was doing, haha.

Despite it being a nice day, I didn't have a ton of time to go riding, so we opted to do the subdivision loop. It ranges from 35-45 minutes in length on the bigger horses and with Spud, it can take anywhere from 50- 60 minutes on a good day.

A beautiful day!
I remember it was a really fun day - the sun was shining, the dogs were happily bounding along the gravel sides of the roadway and the horses were quite well behaved. Annie was cool and collected as I swung up, munched on her little treat, and off we went. We did do some sporadic trotting, but mostly took the time to enjoy a leisurely stroll on two very well behaved horses and caught up on a few things since J doesn't live here anymore and was just up for a brief visit.

We played a few games along the way, since it was garbage day, and I dared J a few times to trot in between a few sets of garbage cans, which both Spud and Annie did with zero hesitation. We also wandered through some construction cones and such, which was fun.

Are you ready for a ride, Spud?
"Heck yes I'm ready!"
Towards the end of the ride, I was feeling particularly brave and trusting of Annie and mentioned I was going to drop my bridle for the remainder of the walk home. We were probably a short 2 minute walk from the barn, and Annie felt responsive and quiet, so I figured why not. I do prepare myself to jump off if necessary, but I find as though once I can "feel" Annie is in a certain frame of mind, going bridleless is a very quiet and calm thing. I do want to do more of it in the ring because a fenced area makes me feel less nervous, haha. I do know anything can happen though, so regardless of being in a ring or not, I let J know I was dropping my bridle and to stay a little further away from me and that if I needed to, I would jump off.

That being said, I wouldn't do it if I didn't feel confident in my horse and on this day, I felt that confidence.

And Annie was picture perfect.

So much so that Spud and J trotted up ahead while Annie and I stayed halted behind so J could get the following video of us trotting on the roadway for the very first time.

She is such a good bean. As you can see, she has
no problems going slow lol.
I was really proud of her. She seems to really like the bridleless stuff and while I am not necessarily comfortable enough to advance it beyond our short little stints like this, I am looking into purchasing her a hackamore to transition more from the bit to a neck rope. I have high hopes and aspirations to play around with this whole bridleless stuff next year (with the clicker ;) ).

With that ride completed, we made a plan to head out again in the coming days. The horses got two days off and then on October 12th, J and I took them out again (sans dogs) for a bit more of a funner ride.

Annie tied nicely this day and I ended up having to move her anyways to get Spud's cart out of the other stall she was parked next to. I'm glad I have good horses, because I nearly fell out of the stall pushing his cart... it bang and clanged and fell into the aisleway with a loud crashing sound. I am... not elegant by any stretch of the imagination.

Still, we got the horses tacked up in record time and off we headed to the fairgrounds arena!! Once there, I took some time to school Annie in the large meadow. She felt a bit bulgy in her shoulder and VERY behind the leg. So much so that I had to over-under her with the reins a few times. I managed to salvage a bit of the ride, but I really needed a whip (which I unfortunately did not have). So I squeezed out some good canter, some simple changes, and sitting trot before picking any more fights about forward and ended it there.

A photo of the handsomest potato, and our sweet Ella bean <3
(This was taken during our first ride).

I hopped off and instructed J with Spud while hand-walking Annie around so she wouldn't get cramped joints from our little school.

It was fun watching J work with Spud. Spud is a very kind pony, but he isn't generous - he'll do exactly the minimum effort unless you ask for more.

I had them do a few exercises to get Spud's motor running, because he was also very behind the leg (or... cart, haha?). A few times, I hollered at J to crack a rein over his butt for ignoring his cue to trot, so he did and Spud got VERY UNICORN PONY ANGRY. He bucked in the cart shafts, so I hollered again, "Give him another one, he knows he isn't allowed to do that." So he got another bad boy smack... another buck... another smack... another buck...

You can see where this is going.

Thankfully, after his last residual buck, he had less mini unicorn opinions and went straight to work.

A sneak peek.
There are times I wish he was a full sized riding horse and there are times I am eternally grateful his sensitive soul is only in a 34" package. This was one of those times, lol.

Anyways, after that little display of theatrics, Spud was back to his professional little self and absolutely rocked the schooling session him and J went through. Of course, the rapid succession of transitions also fired him up so much that he was *ready* to rock and roll for our next task.

I had told J we were going to canter the horses through part of the fairgrounds trail and altho J was a bit apprehensive (I gave him the whole "watch out for roots, make sure you don't go too close to either edge of the trail, help him around the corners, rate his speed, etc and I think it scared him more than prepared him, haha), we set off with Spud in front of me and Annie to set the pace. J was conservative, and popped Spud into a quiet and slow trot. I smirked, kissed at Spud and laughed uncontrollably as the little pony nodded his head back and leaped into a canter.

He knew what to do as soon as he heard the cue and his game face was on! We cantered along the stretch of trail and surprisingly, Annie and I had to canter a few times to keep up. Spud was boogeying!

^Sound off, unless you want to hear me cackling like
a hyena.

As the trail came to an end, both horses knew the drill and instinctively dropped to a trot and finally a sedated walk. J had forgotten to maneuver Spud along the last bit of trail and his cart caught onto a root, but it managed to roll over it. After that, the horses walked along, heads low and quiet.

It was a fun day, and even more fun to share it with a friend.

The last ten minute stretch before home, I decided to test my balance and Annie's saint-hood by going side-saddle. Annie could have cared less, so I thought let's try trotting.

The thing about trotting in a NON side saddle while trying to ride side saddle is that you will most likely (probably) fall off and smash your face.

Prior to the near face-falling, ahha. Poor Annie.

Thankfully, this didn't happen.

But it mostly didn't happen because as we went to trot, Annie was like, "Lady, you are half a second away from biffing it over my shoulder" and immediately slowed to a walk, "No way Jose, we are NOT going faster than a walk. Not with your immense lack of balance."

I laughed and it took J a second to realize what just happened (he is admittedly not a horse guy, but he's picking it up quickly). What a good mare though to feel that and make an executive decision to keep me safe. It made my heart smile a bit, thinking of my unbalanced nieces/ nephews and how Annie would probably take care of them too.