Monday, December 21, 2009

Asking the right questions




Are you going to take the time to read through this?  Will you actually stop to think about life as we know it?  As the new year and new decade approaches, I wonder more about life and how we live each day.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What do you do with separate passions?

When I was younger, I was fascinated with Monty Roberts, his method of breaking horses, and in particular the round-penning method he used.  Today it came to my attention that Fox has been a bad girl on the lunge line.  She stops and spins so that she only has to go in one direction.  So today I practiced the skills that the Sticky pony has been teaching me the past few weeks.  Sticky has lived in a herd for most of her life, and therefore is extremely sensitive to body language.  In her first week acclimating to her new herd, Polly drove her away each time she tried to join it.  In the same way, lunging a green horse is largely based on body language.  Sticky taught me more about my body language in the first day I worked her in the round pen than I had ever learned previously.

I was able to use those simple principles that I learned that day today with Fox.  From the way I position my body in relation to hers, to where I look, to my posture - she reacts to all of it.  After about twenty minutes of driving her forward, asking her stop, turn, and go forward she was ready to finally listen to me.  I dropped the whip and turned my back on her.  She stopped too, looking my way.  Eventually, while my back was still turned on her, she walked towards me and rested her head on my shoulder.  I proceeded to walk away, and she followed.  A huge part of respect on the ground can be taught in the round pen, and the concepts work whether you are in an enclosed area or not.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Potential after all?


Today was the first day that I have really felt like there was any kind of bond developing between me and the pony beast. I began using a new method for catching her in the field, and surprisingly (or not so surprising) it took much less time to catch her. When I walk out into the field she instantly realizes I'm coming for her, and begins walking or trotting away. So today I brought a whole handful of peppermints with me, and I walked towards the herd. I first walked up to Max, crinkled the wrappers, and gave Max a peppermint. I soon had the whole herd following me, but it still took a few minutes to catch the beast.

Once I got her though, we went inside and I pulled all the burrs out of her mane, tail and ears. I went outside and set up a small cross rail with a chute on either side. She followed me as I moved standards and poles, genuinely curious about what was going. She seemed happy to be out and about playing around instead of working under saddle. I started by leading her through the chute, letting her follow me, with no halter or lead rope. Everything she did was her choice, and she is extremely responsive to body language. I have been able to reach a point with her where she drops her head and chews - a sign reflecting her desire to develop a bond with her human.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A reflection on the holiday season

The holidays are supposed to be a time to think and reflect on all the things that we are thankful for, but because of the university exam schedule, and because of all my extra curriculars, this is one of those things that is easier not to think about. Last night while I was at a pre-game in my friend's apartment, the N'Sync "Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays" song came on (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKj92352UAE), and everyone around me gathered together and swayed to Justin Timberlake's soothing voice. While the song is simply a corny late 90's song made by a stereotypical boy band, somehow the lyrics really got me thinking. The pre-game was a small one, maybe 15 people, but all very close friends. I had my big Sarah next to me, my sisters all around me, and I just had to stand back and think about how lucky I really am.

I have 115 girls that I call sisters that I can depend on at any time to lift me up if I'm down. I have friends and family that will support me no matter what, I have people around me that have blessed me with opportunities to have horses that I can pretend are my own.

Today Sarah and I went to Walmart to buy frames for Grayson and David's pictures, and then we went over to their house to give them the presents. They LOVED them. The photo of Emma really seemed to move David, as she is his favorite. Their horses are their family, most have been in the family for 10+ years, and they can't imagine selling them. I can only hope that one day I'm as lucky as they have been.

Today I also had the opportunity to talk briefly with one of the boys I developed a bond with in Honduras. Kevin is seventeen years old, and lives in Flor Azul, a community of boys funded by donors to Hope For Honduran Children, and by sustainable business practices that the boys work on everyday. Our conversations always start off simple and are usually short, and he doesn't have much internet access, but speaking with him always brightens my day. Today was "do you know that I miss you so much? and its hard for me, because I cannot see you."

He is a person I admire more than most people I have ever met. He has seen things that many people couldn't dream up in their worst nightmares, and yet he is resilient, and knows how to put on enough of a front to let everyone around him think he is okay. I'm not sure why, maybe its because I connect better with people and animals that are damaged in some way, but Kevin was the only boy at Hope for Honduran Children that I really got to know at all. He began to let me into his deep dark world, and the bond we forged was unlike one he claimed to have ever formed with another volunteer. He says he uses the front even to fool Mama Karen, the woman who saved his life, and who founded Hope For Honduran Children.

Leaving Proniño had been really difficult for me, as I had immersed myself so fully in the program and given my heart so freely to those boys. I was distraught upon leaving, and wrote many of them letters letting them know how I felt about them. There were two boys there though who really got under my skin. Juan Carlos, a cheeky 12 year old with eyes as clear and free as the sunrise. He was a child that could portray anything he chose to portray, but upon getting to know him, he too let me into his past. He told me about his addiction to crack cocaine, the time he spent living on the street, and the things that happened within his family.
Juan Carlos, Me, Eddie

 And then there was Eddie, a seemingly carefree ten year old whose laughter could make anyone smile, but whose eyes could tell a story to anyone who cared to look. These were my boys, mis hermanos. But to say that I can relate to them would be a joke. How can I possibly relate to the experiences these kids have had at such an early age? But I never tried to pretend that I could understand what it was like to watch deadly violence between two parents, or to not know where my next meal was coming from, instead I simply listened.

I'm not sure exactly what role we were expected to play while we were there, I just know that I was able to give what I could, and I have no regrets about the experience. I guess the point of this post - for whoever actually reads this blog - is that if nothing else this holiday season, tell the people you love what they mean to you, and take a second to be thankful for everything you have. There are too many people out there that have none of this, but still have the ability to be thankful for the simple gift of life, and those out there who are willing to help others along the way in whatever way they can.



Juan Carlos left, Eddie right at La MontañaMe with Kevin in Nuevo Paraíso

Friday, December 11, 2009

60s to ice

The ground is frozen in North Carolina today, and so Sticky has the day off. I was really hoping to free jump her, but there is no point in asking her to do anything on the ground while its like that. But I had my lesson with Anne this morning, and the ground was frozen there too, so we didn't too much. We talked a lot about lengthenings, and practiced an exercise where we picked up the canter, came back to a walk in the corner and turned down the diagonal, and walked towards a pole set 6 strides away from a cross rail. The idea was to pick up the canter from the walk as the horse is about to step over the pole, and then canter down the line picking up the left lead over the cross rail. After the cross rail we turned left quickly (to avoid the icy part of the ring) and continued over the outside line. We cantered into the line, walked, and completed the last fence as a walk fence. This does not mean that we simply walked through the fence, but instead, walked up to the fence, and at the base then asked for the horse to jump.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Progress Report

Well today was a good day, for the most part. Jim Bob agreed that the pony has come a long way, but he is still livid about the way the situation with Heath turned out. The thirty days I have put into her prove just how little he had done with her. The pony hasn't been my priority, and still I have gotten her from a nervous wreck that reared at every chance, to a pony that only rears when she is nervous, and can walk, trot, and canter and jump cross rails. I told Jim Bob if he ever has another horse that needs work, to send it my way instead.

We are coming up with the plan for the little one, which includes her going home to Jim Bob's house for the next six weeks. He will be working with her, and cleaning up her attitude, and getting rid of some of the nervousness that is so inherent in her. We talked about different methods, and not surprisingly, Jim Bob and I disagreed on the best way to train her. Its not a fundamental disagreement in training, but a rather simple one. He thinks that she would learn best if she was tired out before every ride, and I think that its more productive for the particular pony to learn to obey commands while she is still hot, as a kids pony that needs an hour of lunging before every ride is useless. I think she needs to learn to how to listen at all points when someone is on her back regardless of the amount of energy she has.

Today also marks the day she graduated to a martingale. Until today I had been using the tie down and halter over the bridle. I finally feel safe enough on her to just depend on the standing martingale for support.

Part of the plan for the spring, include Jim Bob bringing her back in February with her attitude adjustment, and the getting her out to some shows. She will likely be ready to go into full time jumping training, and it won't be until then that we find out when she is capable of. I think I may try to free jump her before I go home for break. Larges in the regular pony divisions jump 3' at the A's and 2'9 at the Schooling shows. I'd like to see how she reacts to a jump of any real consequence.

In the spring she will go into full time jump training, and will continue to learn how to carry herself effectively and use that hind end.

The Sticky Pony in action:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ouch!

So I don't know what's going on, but I found another dog on the street this morning. This time Sarah was with me, and the dog was an adorable brown and white Shitzu (sp?) wandering around on Shoe Road on our way to the barn. Of course, we are not people who can just see a dog wandering loose and just keep driving. I pulled over my car, put down my window and said "PUPPPYY" - same as yesterday. This dog too was a very friendly dog, though like most small dogs, was nervous about coming close enough to be picked up by a stranger. Eventually though, she came to me and I saw that she had a blue collar on, lined with fake pearls. We got back in my car since it was cold out, and called the number on her tag.

When there was no answer, we got out and began walking towards the nearest house (which was not close on a road of farms!). As we began walking towards that house a car pulled up and put his window down. Turns out it was his dog, though I'm sure in reality it was his wife's dog. The man was a larger man probably in his fifties, and he was burly - the kind of man who owns an auto shop (as the dog's tag indicated). We happily sent them on their way, and I left the pup with a nice big kiss on her forehead as she had her feet on the window looking out at me and Sarah.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The responsibilities of an animal owner

My morning got off to an emotional start, after I left my apartment I went to Head Start to get my hours sheet signed. As I was driving down Front St. on the way to Burlington, I saw a dog loose with a broken coated wire dragging beside her. As I watched several cars inch past the dog, trying not to hit her but also not try and do anything about the situation, I decided to pull over.

 As I pulled over I put my window down and said, "Puppppppy" in that voice you can only talk to an animal with. Immediately the dog's ears perked up and she came right over to my car, though she was still shy and nervous - head down, tail between her legs etc - her hind end was shaking like she was wagging her tail in excitement. She came all the way over and I pet her for a solid two minutes while talking to her, and clearly she was starving for attention. I picked up the end of the broken wire line, and began to walk towards the neighbors house whose property she was on when I first saw her.

I have only ever found a dog once before, and it was in Westfield, so the dog was in perfect health, was relaxed and friendly, and the first person I talked to was the owner. I hoped for the same luck for my new found friend. Instead, when the neighbor whose doorbell I rang opened the door, a grumpy man in his sixties stuck his head out through the door. He told me that he didn't recognize the dog, but it didn't belong to any of the neighbors he knew.

He pointed to a run down house on a small hill across the street and said she might belong to them. He mentioned that he nor any of his neighbors will associate with them in any way, and that he doesn't blame the dog for chewing through its wire leash to get away. I joked about taking the adorable pup home, but thats just unrealistic. While she was skinny and I could feel her ribs, she didn't seem like she was in that terrible of a situation.

As I began walking across the street and up the driveway I was met by a large skinny white dog that started barking his head off at my presence. Since I couldn't walk onto the porch as the dog looked mildly dangerous, I assumed the dog would alert the woman to my presence, as he did seem to be a guard dog. The woman who came off the porch didn't touch the white dog. But asked about the dog I had. I asked if she was hers, she confirmed, and took the dog off my hands. We spoke for a few minutes, and I was talking about what a sweet dog she had.

 After all the dog had stolen my heart when while talking to the other neighbor, sat on her back legs and put both paws on my legs looking up into my eyes with a look that said "I just want to be loved on". It was a look I saw hundreds of times from my chocolate lab Maggie who passed away the summer before my senior year of high school. Maggie used to do that trick for a treat, but later in life simply did it to be loved on.

As I walked away from the house, and down the hill towards my car, I turned to see the woman I had just handed this beautiful creature off to, begin scolding the dog with low harsh words and short swift knocks to the head with her hand. In this part of the country though, there seems to be nothing you can say to a person in this situation. As I have learned from my month with Sticky, owners will treat their animals how they choose to treat their animals, and there is really no changing it. My heart broke as I realized that I just put the dog back in an abusive home, and there was absolutely nothing I could do to change that. While I realize you can't just take someone's dog, it almost seems like it would have been a better decision. Even the neighbor thought so before I went to the owner's house. Never before this gorgeous creature, have I ever felt like I have done so wrong by an animal. Its like after all these things that I have been preaching through my trials and tribulations with Sticky, I have failed one of these poor creatures too dependent to care for themselves.

Though I spent the car ride to the barn in tears, the yellow pony had no sympathy for me. Being the small crazy she is, it took me 30 minutes to catch her. Despite all her success yesterday, we were off to a rough start. Once Grayson came out to help me catch her, I was able to bring her inside and get her tacked up.

Our riding routine was same as yesterday, but I put the cross rail up two holes on either side. There is no reason why she should learn to drag her feet through a jump rather than making an effort to get over it.

I decided that on Thursday I'm going to have Jim Bob come out so that he can see her improvement before taking her home for the winter (if thats what he chooses to do). I think that in the next seven days I will be able to solidify the two most important things enough for there to be some remembrance of them if I get her back in the spring. I want her to w/t/c quietly, and I'd like her to jump a bit more as well.

On emotional days like today, I think about the fact that despite my passionate love of animals, my heart feels empty with no beast to call my own. And on days like today, when I have to realize that I can't hold myself responsible to all the creatures in the world, I think of my old mare Vanna. In the eight short months I had her she taught me more about life and responsibility that I could previously comprehend. We epitomized teamwork, and were so perfect for each other that it got to an extent that made her unsalable. Looking back, I know I failed her too, as I wasn't able to hold out to find the best possible home with four years of boarding school looming ahead of me. By nothing more than dumb luck, I found her after an excruciating four years, and she is sitting in a field that I can drive by when I get a chance. Not all creatures are so lucky, but then again, not all people are lucky enough to have a bond like the one I had with that gorgeous mare - the only horse I have ever be privileged enough to call my own.







Sunday, December 6, 2009

A day of firsts

I'm so proud of the little mare! Sticky (like Post-It, as Kaitlyn has affectionately named her - you're welcome!) had many firsts today, and what a good girl she was! Though I haven't been spending nearly as much time with her as I should, what with volunteering, classes and the heavy workload my teachers have decided are appropriate, combined with the fact that I'm not getting paid to ride her in any way, has led to her becoming a thing on the backburner.

Today, however, was the first time we cantered under control, that she stood while I mounted, jumped a cross rail under saddle, ground drove, and long lined.

I know this sounds like a lot to introduce to a horse in just one day, but I did go out twice today. Before I got on I decided to set up some trotting poles because she has consistently been working well at the trot. She is finally moving straight, responding to my voice commands, and staying in control. I decided after 15 minutes of walking, trotting, and transitions, that we could start playing over the poles. I did a similar exercise with her that I did with Fox over Thanksgiving, and after those poles I halted on a straight line with just a "woah" and body language. After three or four times through she got it. After she was consistently moving through straight I got off and set up the smallest possible cross rail - probably 12" high. We only did this twice. She picked up her feet, and didn't have a melt down - I was happy with that.

Friday, December 4, 2009

On Christmas

Today Sarah helped me with Grayson and David's Christmas presents. I came up with an idea that Sarah is helping to pull off. I thought that the best gift that I have to give is my photography. So I thought for Grayson and David, this would be a very special present because from what Sarah said, they don't have any horse pictures in the house since they just moved in recently. They have seven horses, Maddie, Gabby, Emma, Prince, Max, Peppy, and Cinnamon. They also have two cats, Bob and Tabby, and a dog, Elton. Today Sarah and I got photos of the seven horses (not as discreetly as I would have hoped) and Bob. We will get Tabby and Elton another day. I thought that we could print all the horse photos as 8x10 and frame then in a simple black frame, and then print each dog/cat photo as a 5x7, and also put it in a black frame. Grayson has been like a second mother to us down here, and we wanted to find a way to show our appreciation. I think she will love it. Anyway, here are my favorites of each horse, and the cat.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The mare called Fox

We came up with a barn name for our lovely Show Stopper. We decided to call her Fox.


My lesson on Friday with Adam was great, and I definitely came home with lots to practice. The main focus of the lesson was forward and straight, and making sure to keep her happy. I kept her on a fairly loose rein, and focused on forward, so that later it can be forward into light contact. 

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Turkey Day!


Happy Thanksgiving all! Miz Thang' (barn name to be determined) as Grayson would call her, is actually quite comical. The more I get to know her the more I like her. She is just my type - sweet, but mare-ish in the sense that she will let you know as soon as she is unhappy with what you are doing. She hates having her belly touched in any way, though if you leave your hand there, she gets over it pretty quickly. She is also very mouthy, but not in a way that she actually wants to bite. If you aren't careful she will grab your zipper, and undo your jacket. She also chews on the cross ties, and is very interested in everything going on around her.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The new Miss Thing

Today was my first ride on Showstopper, and boy is she fun! And adorable! We just walk trotted, and cantered, and her transitions need a whole lot of work, but she is only three. Marilyn and I went down to Horseman's after the ride and bought her a new bridle and halter. Also a baker sheet. I'm going to treat myself to an early christmas present and get a wool cooler, and have my name embroidered into it.

Here is the link to the video from today's ride - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlBvHZRWxrc

Monday, November 23, 2009

The excitement continues

Edit to add: Here she is!!

So I just talked to Anne for a while about the possibilities for the spring, and we are both really excited for everything that might materialize. I told her about my class schedule, which will allow me to spend the days working in the barn, and she is hoping to split her horse Brownie with me so that I can do the 3'3- 3'6 jumpers on him. She really thinks he would do great in the amateur stuff, and she wants me to get that same experience too.

She is also excited about Showstopper, and that I will learn more about the finesse involved in the hunter world, but glad that she can keep me moving up into some of the bigger jumpers while I bring her along. We are going to work out a deal where I will basically be a working student with lots of riding time, and showing opportunities. She is willing to have the mare come down before New Years, and keep her in training while I'm in London. I will work off that fee.

Tomorrow I have a presentation on Cognitive and Behavioral Theory in my counseling class, and then an Econ exam before I drive home. And because I'm such a good friend, I will be driving my friend Erick to the airport before I actually head home. I won't be home until late, but it will all be worth it to get up early to go meet Showstopper. On Wednesday I think I will go ride early, get photos and videos for all to see, then come home to see New Moon with Evan before I go to the auction with Stef and Kaitlyn. Excited for Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Moving forward


The past two days have been the best rides the pony has had, and I'm really happy with how she has been behaving. We are still only walking and trotting, but she seems to be settling into the expectations I have of her. I don't really expect or ask much from her at all. My priorities are forward and straight. I do ask her to bend to the inside when she starts looking to the outside of the arena, but yesterday and today it hasn't been much of an issue.

I loosen the tie down about an inch each ride, and right now its in a spot that really isn't tying her down much at all. It really just functions to keep her from throwing her head, which is what leads to her rearing. She will be ready for a regular martingale soon enough.

Sitting on a young green horse is interesting because you must be aware of your body at all times. Even at the walk I have to consider where my legs are, is my weight distributed evenly, am I providing even pressure on my seat bones, and where are my hands. Each of these things provides a cue for her. She has a sensitive mouth, and so I use my body and voice to ask her to slow before I use any hand. She does tend to rush though, and I have found that I do need to keep a constant feel on her mouth. Its clear that Heath emphasized headset with her, because the second I take up any contact, she drops her head into a frame. I don't mind this, but I don't want it to become an evasion tactic, which I'm sure it was with him. I still have her in the French Link full cheek snaffle, so I know its not that I'm using to much bit. I plan to continue to establish rhythm and relaxation with her, and I know that each day she likes life a little bit more. To me that is success.

All went well with Showstopper's vetting (she will need a good barn name). I believe she will be brought home tomorrow or Tuesday, and then we will trailer to Adam's on Wednesday for our first ride. Even though I haven't met her yet, I'm so glad Adam and Lacy called me about this horse. I'm really excited to meet her this week, from everything that I have heard, she seems like she will be a really fun project. She won't be shipped to NC until the end of December, where she will be in light training with Anne until I get back at the end of January. Since she is only three she doesn't really need to be ridden all the time. She has only had 12-14 rides on her at this point, but with her breeding, she has the potential to be something really special. It will be interesting for me to get a feel for the hunter world as well. Oh the possibilities!

Friday, November 20, 2009

After the down comes the up.

Since the week was so bad, there was no way to go but up. This morning M went to try out a mare for our next project, and she liked her so much that she is getting vetted in forty minutes. Her name is Showstopper and she is a 16.2h chestnut Holsteiner mare by Superman, out of a mare that did the small GP's. As long as all goes according to plan, hopefully she will be ours sooner rather than later. Its another one of those days that I'm so thankful for the opportunities I have been given. When Adam and Lacy heard about this horse, and found out she was in our price range, she called me right away because they thought of me. This horse was not listed for sale online, only advertised through word of mouth.

The mare will be a hunter, her sire is a champion conformation hunter. I'm super excited because this will be something new and different for me, and I will hopefully have an opportunity to bring along a really fancy prospect. I also think I'm going to have the opportunity to work with some really great people to help me bring her along.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The amount of zero's at the end of the number in the bank account

I feel like life lately has just been saying, "things have been too good for you lately, let me see what I can do to screw it all up." It has been a week on lessons about people. For the most part everyone is out to get you, out to screw you over. If they don't screw you over they are looking for your money. Now, here, I know you are saying, she's just bitter and cynical.

Maybe I am, okay wait, no I'm not. I'm not talking about our everyday relationships. Friends, family, etc., those are the people who are there for us. Those are the people that protect us, when all our other defenses seem to have fallen apart. Dealing with people within a business context, whether they do business with you, or you do business with them, there are always motives. If you can't see the motives right away, they are just good at what they do.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

On how to bail

Anyway, it has been a long time since I have bailed off a horse. Today was one of those days. The pony had her teeth done, so that means we are back to using a bridle with a bit. There was no rearing during bridling, but once I got on that all changed. She gave me a small rear in the second corner, but then in the third corner she went straight up, and I had to bail. She went up so high that I thought we were going over backwards, so I jumped off to the side and proceeded to try and pull her over backwards while she was still up in the air. When that didn't work, I went towards her trying to get her to rear again, so that I could try and flip her. But, to no avail. When I finally let go of the reins she proceeded to gallop around the ring for about 15 minutes.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A brief excerpt on the simple truths of life.

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately, but to no avail. Now I'm not talking about the kind of thinking that gears towards a math test, or Econ paper, I'm talking about the kind that makes you really consider life in its entirety. There are several simple truths I believe in.

I believe that hard work is rewarded.
I believe that those who work hard will get what they desire and deserve.
I believe gut instincts are worth listening to.
I believe that there is more than one mean to every end.
I believe that money does make the world go around.
I believe that patience and honesty are two of the most important qualities one can possess.
I believe that perfect timing is everything, and perfect practice is crucial.

But most of all I believe that there are exceptions to every rule, including each and every rule that I so desperately believe in.

Monday, November 16, 2009

No more excuses

So Saturday ended up being one of the best lessons I have had in a while. I wish I had the money to lesson more often. I rode Anne's "masterpiece" a Hanoverian/TB named State, that she did the big jumpers with. Once I got him to back off of my hand, and really balance back on his hind end, we got to work. We started with some gymnastic work, the same line we did last time. Bounce, two, one, one, bounce halt.

 After that, Leah continued to work with Huxley on the gymnastics and more IHSA type courses, and State and I did some jumper stuff. We did some really steep broken lines, jumping the line on a 30 degree angle. and then two rollbacks, and one really steep rollback, where I had to shorten State's stride to a five or six foot stride to make it. Overall it was a success, and in my next lesson we will do some big stuff, and jump him 3'6-3'9. Anne wants me to get a feel for how cool he really is, and how well he can really jump.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Rain rain go away, come again some other day.

Its been raining ALL week. I haven't ridden since MONDAY. Poor pony, and poor Kelsey!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Two steps forward, two weeks back.

I have tremendous respect for everyone I have been involved with thus far in the NC horse world, especially my vet. He is extremely knowledgeable, and really knows horses. That being said, there are certain horses whose minds you must be careful with, regardless of the circumstances. Today was a bad day for the little beast, just as we were beginning to get somewhere, with her in the cross ties, she started her little rearing charade.

When the vet began looking at her teeth, her reaction was to stand up on those hind legs of hers. I haven't figured out the proper way to punish her on the ground yet, but my vet sure figured something out. I have only ever seen one horse get punched in the face before, and it was a stallion with a habit of striking out at people. Today that was what the filly got for rearing. Each time, he gave her an opportunity to quietly open her mouth, when she didn't, he let her have it. Two big rears in the aisle warranted a location change to the stall. He did the same thing. Each time she reared he let her have it. This is not something he would ever do to a horse of a client's, but he and Jim Bob have a friendship beyond that relationship.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A long weekend with several realizations

I think its fitting that I have this little palomino now, while I have been spending time in the classrooms at Head Start. My volunteer work and my riding feel like they are on the exact same page. I work with 3-5 year olds in a pre-school environment several times a week, and sometimes I feel this kids are the human form of this palomino. It reminds me that its just not fair to really expect much, but that its important to have a firm guiding hand in the education process.

 Many of these children come from extremely impoverished households, with many whose parents are involved in gang life. Often during Bingo these kids can't identify the number they draw, but they can match it to the ones on their boards. I find that it is the same week after week as well. In the time that I have been working with these kids, and the time that I have been working with this pony, I feel as though both have made the same amount of progress.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Well, what DO you know Baby?

So Kaitlyn wants me to name the little one "Golden Opportunity" if she ever makes it into the show ring, but I already know a Goldie so I can't call her that. Plus she is more yellow than gold. I think from now on she will be called Baby. Its fitting I think, at least it seems that way now.

It's interesting to begin seeing the difference in the pony now that I have eliminated some obvious pain issues. I'm still riding in the raw hide side pull bridle, with a halter underneath, in my english saddle. I also keep the tie down on her, this time attached to the halter. I'm starting to get a feeling for what she knows, and she seems to be a fairly quick learner, though that cow pony in her is extremely stubborn.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

PONY is SOLD - and the new one is settling. GOOD DAY.

So I know I have been keeping you all in the dark about Zena's progress in Virginia. Her vet check was Tuesday, and she was 100% clean. She had no changes in the flex test or hoof test, "excellent" x-rays, clean straight legs, clean ultra sound when checked to be sure she could reproduce. The only things she was able to find were that her feet needed to be done (she is going on seven weeks, so truth, and her teeth need to be done, its been ten months, so truth.

 She also found that at the seated gaits, sitting trot, sitting canter, she may be a little sore, which makes sense since I'm a little too big for her. She also is has Equine Metabolic Syndrome which in everyday terms means "easy keeper". Basically it means that because of where the fat deposits are on her body she may be a candidate for laminitis down the road. To me these are all very cosmetic issues. There are no fundamental issues in her conformation that will keep her from being successful at the upper levels. The Equine Metabolic Syndrome is something that will never be an issue as long as she remains on the exercise/feed program that she is currently on.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hey truth, where did you go?

So the guy who broke this beastie, Heath, came out to ride her tonight. I wasn't able to get out until class was over, so I missed the first half of the ride. Grayson sent me short texts to keep me posted. Apparently the little one reared on him while tacking, and under saddle. This guy just over powered her, as he is a 6'+ 190 lb+ man. To me that is not breaking/starting a horse, thats breaking a horse's will. He said eventually she stood still after he beat her up a bit. My guess is that he didn't notice that she was probably shaking and terrified at that point. She has a tendency to do that.

Under saddle she resisted him a lot too. By the time I got there she was dripping in sweat and still fighting. He had a thin corkscrew snaffle in her mouth, and a tie down that works like a running martingale. He basically used all that leverage to force her down into a frame and get her bending back and forth to each side in a way that I have never seen. After watching him for about ten minutes, I asked him to steer her in a straight line without worrying about the bend. Oh wait, there is a hole in what should be basic training. Several other holes came up when he said he had never seen her rear before (oh really?), and again when he had to run her into a canter.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The beauty of round pens

So today I round penned the snot out of this little pony. I've started closing the doors behind her when we tack up so when she backs up she can't just run backwards. And so she went up, and high this time. Its a good thing she isn't malicious because if she wanted to come at me and strike out when she goes up she could seriously hurt me. I also tried putting the tie down on before trying to put the bridle on so that I could keep her from going up, but she figured out how to rear with it still on. I decided to switch from the halter into a rawhide side pull bridle with a chain curb underneath to attach the tie down to. I took her out to the round pen and sent her around until she was ready to accept the bridle. It took about four tries of her stopping, me trying to bridle her, and then if she backed up I sent her back around the circle. I used the limited knowledge I have of round pen work to drive her forward, and change directions, and pace without using a whip or even noise. All my work with her today was based on body language, and establishing my position as the "alpha male" in this herd of two (her and me).

After the fourth try she finally let me bridle her without much fight. I showered her with praise and patted her all over body. Some other issues I have found with her are that she has a tendency to cross canter to balance herself in the round pen. She also refuses to pick up her feet, and will lock the leg that I'm trying to pick up. And if she does give to it, she begins to fall over so I drop it.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Possibilities?



Today after speaking to Jim Bob about the pony we came up with several ideas for little pony's future. For one he doesn't want me riding her until we figure out what she has truly done. Heath is supposed to come out tomorrow or the next day to show me just how "broke" the little one is. Grayson and Jim Bob both know he is being dishonest, and there are many things that are just not quite right. Grayson was able to witness much of this today. I had her hang around while we got the little one ready. She saw some rears, she saw how bad she was when she went to tighten the girth - as if it had never been done before.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

I HATE rearing

This mare has not been broken, and if she has I'd be surprised if she has had more than five rides on her. She reared twice in the cross ties today while I was trying to bridle her, and then one huge one under saddle when I asked for a one rein stop. I had to grab her neck just to stay on. I'm going to have a friend out to video her, so I'm sure I'll get some of these rears on film :-/

I think I have to go all the way back to square one with her. I think her teeth need to be done, and I'm only going to be walking for at least a week. Today I got off after I convinced her to walk calmly around the ring once with steering and no stopping. More tomorrow.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pretty Lady!






So it turns out the little lady knows a whole lot less than we had originally assumed. When Jim Bob had originally sent her out to be broken, she came home and Jim Bob was told that she had been starting lead changes. Not the pony I rode today. This little mare doesn't steer, doesn't know kick means go pull means stop. There is no way she has changes. I spent about four hours playing with her and cleaning her up. I lunged her before I got on, and when I did get on I felt like I was sitting on a three year old that had never been sat on before. I wouldn't be surprised if this mare has only had ten rides on her. I pulled lightly on the reins to ask for a halt and she got so nervous that she just went straight up in the air. I have found that her tendency when she gets nervous or doesn't know what I'm asking of her, she will just rear. She has done it several times on the cross ties, and she gave me two big ones under saddle today. As much as I hate rearing, hers don't really bother me that much because I know its just fear. I don't think this horse has ever heard a kind word, or been loved on the way she will be in the next few months. Seems to me that everyone was pretty quick to lay a heavy hand on her if she did anything wrong. She expects the worst, and she expects that when she misbehaves that I will just hit her. I won't. I do give her a hard bop on the head whenever she rears under saddle though to imitate a ceiling.

I finally was able to get a brush through her tail today. I washed it again, and its starting to get closer to the white blonde that it is supposed to be. I will probably scrub it again tomorrow, and depending on the weather try and give her another bath. I'm not sure she has ever really been bathed, she was afraid of the hose, so I had to use a sponge. I didn't want to blow her mind though so I didn't really scrub her whole body. I got the front half done though and then next half I'll get her hindquarters and scrub her legs. That way we can find out just how many socks she actually has. I know that she has two stockings on her back legs, not sure about the front. Because she is a sun bleached palomino it all kind of fades in. I also finished pulling her mane, and took scissors to the fluffy parts of her legs, fetlocks, ears etc. She is starting to look pretty good!

Once she has a solid top line she will really be adorable.

Oh and our barn cat Bob is adorable, I thought you all would like him


Friday, October 30, 2009

New Pony!

Meet my latest project, graciously sent over by Jim Bob, my farrier. She is a 6 year old 14h Quarter Horse mare. She looked ratty when she got off the trailer, she has been sitting in a field since July. I immediately threw her in the round pen to take a look at what we have. She is a nice mover, no world beater, but certainly a pony that could win in the NCHJA circuit. She really needs a top line, but she has only ever been ridden western, and hasn't really been touched in at least a full four months. Here are some pictures! She still needs a name, and I have been toying with calling her Penny Lane. If anyone has any ideas please let me know! She is a doll, and is going to be a very fun project.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Changes, changes

Today is the first full day in a long time without the pony in my life. She has been such a fixture for so long, that I hadn't realized how much I would really miss her.

The vet check is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday at 1pm. For anyone interested, this is where the pony is right now: http://www.walnutspringstables.com/ Pretty nice huh?

I spoke with Jim Bob today, and he is going to get his filly over here as soon as possible, he is hoping to do it this weekend. I learned a bit more about her today as well. She is 14h and 6 years old, and bred to be a cutting horse. She has been started, but is apparently pretty wild. She is a palomino that doesn't have a name yet. When she arrives I will post pictures and you all can help me name her! The ultimate goal will be to sell her, and we will probably get her into the show ring first, so we are looking at a spring/summer 2010 sale. I haven't even seen a picture of her, but despite being bred to cut cows, and being out of a pretty crazy mare, he thinks she will make a nice little hunter pony. When I get her fit, she has been out of work since July, I will have Anne over to evaluate her, and we can come up with a plan of action.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

New home



This morning Nikki came out to meet Zena, and really liked her! She watched me ride her around and jump some bigger fences before she got on herself. She is a soft rider who stayed out of the saddle most of the time, especially at the canter. She really liked that Zena likes to stretch down - thats a good quality in a horse that will be asked dressage and jumping questions.

After seeing if she would still go if she was dropped at the base, if she would still go if she got put at a long or short spot, and trying her over a 3' swedish oxer, she decided that she did indeed like how she felt.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Its days like today when I realize just how cool our little mare really is, and just how much I will actually miss her. As I pulled up to the barn, her head flew up from her pile of hay and she trotted over to the near side of the round pen, and lifted her head over the high fence. Ears pricked she paced the fence on the near side while I turned the car off and got out. I think its really a testament to how much she will thrive in a situation where she has one person to just love on her all the time.

I rode her again tonight, and she was better although still hot. It didn't take as long to get her focused and working, although because I didn't have my spurs on she wasn't as responsive to my questions about lateral movements. I'll be sure to put them back on tomorrow. We also popped around some small fences, and worked more on staying collected into and during lines. I wanted to make sure that the lines set up were set to make her look good, with flowing distances rather than distances I really have to push or hold for (read: hold). Tomorrow I will ride each line again in the morning, and then I will reset them. I want to give Pony every possible advantage on Wednesday! Fingers still crossed...
As we prepare for Wednesday, the pony is sound, but now as hot as every. Yesterday involved lots of lunging and lots of bucking, and I still feel like I barely broke into that huge energy store she has. I rode her this morning on the flat, and it took thirty minutes for her to even consider focusing. After that though we did end on a rather nice note, with some consistency and focus. I will ride her again tonight after class, and then twice tomorrow. One of the three rides will be a jumping ride. Still hoping all goes well Wednesday.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Updates updates


Pony at the show! She looked so Fancy with her fuzzy halter and clean sheet.



Pony's new noseband!
So the Pony's shoe was reset yesterday, but I think she must have gotten kicked while she was turned out. I went to lunge her before riding and she looked sore in her back right hip/thigh muscle. I cold hosed, massaged, liniment bathed, linimented, and then poulticed her back legs, just in case. I also gave her some bute so she would feel better. Today she looked much better. I stopped by Anne's and picked up some really strong stuff kind of like mineral ice, and I massaged it into her hip after I cold hosed her. I'm going back out to do that again this afternoon. I also hopped on her for about 15 minutes to walk her and trot her. Once she was moving forward and out, her hip loosened up. I have a lesson with Anne this afternoon too, and our next IHSA show on Sunday.

I also didn't end up clipping her. I talked to Nikki, the girl coming to try her on Wednesday, and if she likes her and ends up taking her, she wants her to have some hair since its really cold in the mountains of Blacksburg. If she doesn't take her I'll clip her next Friday.


Grayson talked to Jim Bob yesterday, he asked her if I would consider taking on another horse, and how much it would cost, ie what I would charge. I think the pony is a large pony hunter prospect, and he would eventually like to sell the horse. I told Grayson I'd love to work with another - its the horses that make me most happy! Send him on over! And then he would sit for the end of Dec and Jan and go back into work when I get back in February.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fingers crossed!

The pony's shoe is getting reset tomorrow, so it will be back to work! I have to get her ready to meet her potential new mommy next wednesday. Cross your fingers everyone!! If all goes well Nikki will bring our little lady home for a two week trial to decide if she is what she is looking for. She is looking for an upper level eventing prospect, and though she wasn't looking for what Pony is, she was particularly intrigued and impressed (I believe "mesmerized" was the word she used to describe her canter :-D ) and of course, then inquired for more information. After much discussion, we decided on a day, and the terms of a trial, and now we just have to wait and hope!

Time management

Today, since the pony's shoe is still loose, I simply groomed her, oiled all my tack, traded her noseband for the figure 8, and cleaned my trunk out. I decided that I was tired of always having to dig around the trunk to find what I was looking for - so unorganized! I went to Walmart and bought two new storage units. One wide three shelf thing, and a narrow seven shelf thing. Now everything has its own place. Spare blankets (right now fly sheet and spare sheet) in the bottom of the wide box, with the extra leather halter, and two extra nosebands. Hoof stuff in one shelf, saddle pads, spurs, stirrups, earnets in the top shelf of the wide one, razors, curry, brushes hoof picks etc in another. Now I'm organized! And I can use that other trunk for storage in my apartment. It all works out.

And tomorrow its back to work for the pony! Once the shoe is reset we can get back to work.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Soon!

Back to my lovely little friend tomorrow after a much needed fall break! Body clipping here we come!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I have the best pony in the world!







After deciding not to load in the morning, and me thinking that it was possible we wouldn't be showing, we loaded Spice on the other side of the trailer, and put pressure on her hind end with a broom (and then she proceeded to poop on Fred who was holding the broom) before finally stepping all the way up onto the trailer. Once she was on we were home free. We shipped out and arrived at Sedgefield 40 minutes later.



Stepping off the trailer was difficult, since it's a straight load without a ramp. She tried to turn around, but I was in front of her to keep her from doing that. Once we were all unloaded at the show, and after Fred held her while I entered my classes, I spent the next hour walking her around the grounds. I met up with Anne and said hello, and I think the photographer snapped some shots of us together. I then headed back to the trailer and began to tack up. I rode her all around the grounds, around the jumper ring, and then flatted her for about 25 minutes in one of the schooling rings. I jumped a few crossrails and concentrated on our turning. I then headed back to the trailer, untacked her, and hung out some more.



Our division was supposed to run at 12, but the Short Stirrup ran late so they didn't end up setting up the ring for the jumpers until about 1. Then I walked the course with Anne and some of her other students. I've found that I have learned to ride from my eye more than I have from the technicalities of the steps. It was a bit amusing to watch everyone worry about the strides as I stood back looked at the lines and guessed correctly how many strides the pony would take inside the line.



In the first class I thought we were doing the power and speed, but really we were supposed to be doing class 185. Needless to say I was very pleased with the way she jumped around even though we weren't clear on what we were competing in. After how well she did in the first class I talked to Anne about the possibility of moving her up. She thought it would be a good idea to do one more 2'6 class and then the 3' Child/Adult class. "After all, whats six more inches?". I agreed, we had schooled 3' a few days before, I felt that she was perfectly prepared for this endeavor.



In the second class, I pulled the second rail, but I had let her get out from under me a bit. Because we pulled the rail, we didn't jump off, but I got off and gave her some time to just chill. After about 45 minutes, I got back on and began to warm up for our 3' class. I wasn't too concerned with jumping fences, but I did school a big oxer and a big vertical, focusing on relaxing my elbows and riding the turn from my legs rather than trying to balance her through the turns myself. I realized that I have gotten her to a point where she is able to turn herself, but I'm so used to riding horses that needed so much help and support that I have reverted to old habits by trying to support her. I need to relax and let her do what I have taught her to do and balance her own body through her hind end. All I need to do is sit back and get good spots.

Our little girl was absolutely fabulous in her 3' class. While she pulled the first two rails thinking they were still 2'6, it was as though a lightbulb went off in her head before the third fence and lasted the rest of the course. She really came back to me, balanced back on her hocks, and used her body over each fence. It was really great to feel her as she actually began using her body over each fence. And even better to know that she didn't feel challenged at all by the height. While the only ribbon we got was a fourth in our second class, I am extremely proud of how hard our little pony worked, and how focused and happy she was to do her job.

This little one is going to do great things! I think with more practice at this height she will have no issue being competitive against other bigger horses. And just yesterday I got a hit on a potential future owner for the little one, a lady who would be perfect! So everyone cross your fingers that this will be it!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Tomorrow is the big day!

So the past two days, or actually ten, have been spent preparing for tomorrow. Yesterday I schooled some 3' fences so that if we do decide to do it tomorrow, we would be a little more prepared than if we hadn't schooled 3' at all recently. She was a dream. A little drift to the left, but overall very calm and confident in her job. We trotted it a few times, then cantered it as the out of a line. We did some course work at 2'6 and she was awesome, and today I flatted her, gave her a good gallop, and worked on balancing herself through a ten meter circle.

Pony also got a whole lot of pampering today. She got a bath, her mane and tail washed, feet painted, and got to hang out, get treats and listen to music with me while I packed my stuff up. She is just so fun.

Now we just have to see how she goes tomorrow! The trailer is all packed, and we are ready, though loading her will be a pain since its a trailer type that I'm not sure she has ever seen. I did some work with it today, but I was alone, so as far as we got was getting her front end up. And that was fine. Tomorrow we will have to start early though on that endeavor.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Ah ha!

I think I might end up having time to ride the pony a second time today, depending on if my friends in econ want to study after class or not. If not I can head out to the barn and ride her again this afternoon. I began by riding her around the property, and I used her sheet as a cooler since I don't have one. She was hot so I ended up getting off and lunging her for about ten minutes. I still ended up needing to give her a nice gallop after we trotted a while, because she was so hot.

The main focus today was maintaining the flexion, and the bend, especially to the right. I was getting frustrated for a bit when she was tensing her neck right by the poll, but then I remembered some of the stuff I worked on with Patrick. I opened and lowered my hands, almost to my mid-thigh. I shortened my reins to keep her in check. by opening and lowering my hands I gave her an opportunity to soften to my hand, and move away from my leg. I was riding with a shorter stirrup today (I have been in dressage mode for too long now, riding with my stirrups 2-3 holes lower than my jumping length), and because of that I really had to focus on using my whole leg (much harder when your leg feels short) rather than referring back to my spur. She does respond really well to my spur though, and its all starting to click with how I can use/move my leg to manipulate how the the pony moves her shoulders or hind end depending on where I place my leg.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Up and Round

Before anything else - look how much weight the pony has put on! Her hindquarters are really filling out and you can no longer see any ribs. Muscularly she has also continued developing her top line, including the muscles that run down either side of her spine, and on either side of the top of her neck. She looks a little crest-ier, but its all muscle.

Anne came out this morning around 8 to give me a lesson, and we spent about 30 minutes on the actual over fences portions of the lesson. We began with the combination she set up, a two stride to a one stride. In the beginning I rode it as a three to a two since they were only cross rails, so it would ride a bit longer. We then continued to work on riding fences on an angle, and practicing my crest-release. Anne thinks that if I use a crest release and completely stay out of her face over the fence she will jump better. It began to work about halfway through the ride.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

And so it goes...

So after discussing it with Anne and Marilyn today, we decided that we will definitely figure out a way to get me to the show. Preparation is on! Pony might have to go up to Greensboro the night before, but Julie also says now that she may not want to show Saturday, since it will be after her homecoming dance. She would rather show sunday when she doesn't have to worry about getting up early and whatnot. I have to hope that she chooses to show Sunday even though it means her trainer won't be there.

I rode the pony pretty lightly today. She was resistant to coming down on the bit consistently during the beginning of our ride, probably because she was a bit hot. I will have to really ride her hard on Saturday, and maybe stick her in the Special Hunter U/S class first thing in the morning, untack and hang out, then get her going for her 2'6 jumper classes. I will ask Anne what she thinks about trying a 2'9 class, and since divisions are split over 2 days I won't be chasing tri-colors.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Let the countdown begin

So I competed in my first dressage show yesterday! The Elon Dressage Team traveled up to Virginia Intermont to compete in the first IDA show. I was nervous since I have never ridden a dressage test before, and the horse I drew was a lot older, swaybacked fellow that was a bit lame. Needless to say, Duke and I got along well - I was able to keep him down on the bit, bent and traveling forward with impulsion. I scored a 65.6%!! It earned me third place out of twelve riders and helped put our team up to fifth place out of twelve teams! I also got the highest score of anyone who rode my horse, the other two riders earned a 57% and 59%! Talk about a positive first dressage experience!

In other news the pony is doing really well. After Friday's two brilliant rides, I had a quiet jumping ride over small fences on Saturday, gave her the day off Sunday and rode her again today.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Prospects!

I didn't have time to post yesterday, so there are probably going to be two posts for today. I AM SO PROUD OF PONY. Yesterday I had my first ever dressage lesson on her, and Patrick LOVED her. I had one of the best lessons I have had in a while (I wish I could lesson more!) Patrick really helped me identify the weak spots of my ride and he gave me a lot of tools to make the pony softer and more supple. He had me really getting her body to bend rather than her neck, and getting her hindquarters to release around the circle rather than popping her outside shoulder out.

Patrick also began talking to me about break some of the babies he is getting sent this winter. And this time he asked me what I would charge! Thats a lot different than asking me to pay him to do his work! Obviously board would need to be paid so he was wondering essentially what I would charge for "training board". Board here is only 400 so I have to figure out what to charge to make it worth my time and safety. I would really look forward to this experience though!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Acres and acres to run

Sarah and I got to the barn early enough today that the horses that live in the bottom field were still enclosed up top. This meant that the five acres were free for us to use! We decided it would be a fitness day for Moose and the Pony, and let me tell you - the pony was HOT! She is still adjusting to her new turnout schedule and as a result she was super hot.

I really think she is proud of herself for being strong enough to carry herself while moving from behind. Even when I hopped off to cool her out (she wouldn't stop jigging) she carried herself in a frame. It was a "look at me, don't I look great?!" moment.

Throughout the ride I was able to hold her attention for bits and pieces of it, but mostly I just wanted to work her hard. At the end I let her have a gallop in both directions, and she was definitely surprised but very happy that she didn't have to package herself up and could just really run. She was also surprised when I didn't let her just continue to the top of the field, I was actually asking her to gallop all the way around the field.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New video!




Each day the pony amazes me with her work ethic. Kelsey came out again today, so I was able to get video and photos of today's ride. And I'm so glad she was there because the pony just worked SO hard.

 Each day she progresses more and more towards self carriage. I have to ask fewer and fewer times, and she seems to really want to go with a loose and supple back. She tries to bend her whole body, and she continually tries to do what I ask. There is definitely something to be said for a horse that tries to please.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Brrr, its cold out here

Last night it got down into the forties overnight, so it was the first night the pony wore her sheet. Grayson and I decided that anytime it gets below 65 we are going to keep a sheet on her. Sarah has some Ace left over from when Moose was hurt, so if we do end up needing to clip her, we can use that. I'd rather just keep her blanketed early so that she doesn't grow a winter coat anyway.

She is still in season so she was very hot, but not as hot as yesterday. Therefore I just got on and was sure to warm her up slowly since it was still so cold this morning. The ring was still a little sloppy from the thunderstorm last night, so that was taken into account when we began work.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Strengthen the back, carry yourself lightly





As I pulled up today Pony was trotting/cantering around her field upset that her friends were at the bottom of their field. She has become very attached to Peppy, the King Ranch cutting mare that lives the large field next door. Since she is in season she is much more vocal and much hotter than she normally is. I decided that I would take the edge off by lunging and then work on channeling the energy into effective use of her body.

After about ten minutes of cantering (5 in each direction) on the lunge I got on and began to work her down onto the bit. Today was one of the first days that she really lifted her back to round on the bit, and carry herself in a light but forward trot. She really felt great, and as Grayson put it she really just wants to please. She doesn't get everything on the first try, but she sort of asks, "Hey, can you show me that again?" until she eventually understands the questions being asked. That became clear today as we practiced transitions some more. I jumped a few of the jumps in the ring, asking her for a halt right away.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Different disciplines, different days

The pony had Friday and Saturday off, and today she was HOT. Its hard for her to even control herself when she gets too hot for her own skin. She is also in season so her head isn't really on straight. I think she went into season yesterday, so hopefully by the end of the week her head will be back on and we can continue with our schedule. Until then I will continue to work on improving her fitness and trying to maintain her flatwork, framing, and bending. I'm also working on a suggestion Anne had about downward transitions.

 She says she has all her horses trained to stand still when she presses her hands into their withers. She said it helps her a lot when she is foxhunting and has to go from a gallop to a halt, and keep her horse calm. The pony's downward transitions are lacking in crispness, so that is what we practiced today. I worked her for a solid 45 minutes, and spent most of the time doing serpentines, changing the bend, circles, and transitions. Her upward transitions are not as crisp as they used to be, so we will practice that too.

Grayson gave me a short lesson on Emma today! David was riding her and I commented on how slow she was! I've never really spent much time around any western riders or horses, especially western pleasure horses. So Grayson told me to get on and gave me some helpful hints about how to ride a western pleasure horse. It felt so weird to be on a horse that lopes slower than the pony can walk! Grayson had me play with her mouth to get her to drop her head, then kiss to her and off she loped. I didn't get it right right away though, apparently she was going way too fast (slower than the pony's slowest gear). So Grayson explained the concept again: I needed to essentially ride her with her haunches in and keep my shoulders turned in so that it looks like she is straight. Grayson got on and showed me Emma's slowest gear and then had me get back on and do it. It was so cool! That was three disciplines in three days!

On that note, I loved my dressage lesson! Patrick had me ride a very cute Dutch Warmblood mare that schools fourth level. We practiced lots of 20m circles, and maintaining the bend the whole time. Patrick had to spend much of the time teaching me some of the things that I will have to know to do well on my tests, like the difference between a free walk and a medium walk. He also gave me tips on how to make things more showy. He lengthened my leg, and I felt like I was riding with no stirrups. I am excited for the team though, I will be riding at Training level since I have never done dressage, and he thinks that I will do really well and really help us win.

 At the end of the lesson he asked me if I have any experience working with babies and breaking and working greenies. I told him some experience but I'd like more, and I'd be happy to help him with the ones that he is going to have. He then proceeded to tell me that he wouldn't charge me for helping him. I had spent most of the lesson telling him how hard I have worked to get where I am, since I didn't have the money for any of it. It caught me by surprise that he would think that there was even a chance that I would pay him to help him break babies, considering that is what he is getting paid to do.

 Oh well, I guess I still have a lot to learn about human nature.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fine tuning

Today was the first lesson with my coach Anne! It has been so long since I've had instruction, that it really was time. We spent much of the time talking about the pony, what she does, can do, has done etc. She loves that I put lead changes on her, and thinks that it adds a lot to her value. She also thinks that we should put some hunter mileage on her and work on a lot of those fundamentals since they will play a lot into her foundation for the jumpers.

She gave me a lot of homework to work on before the next time she comes out to the farm. She wants crisper downward transitions, including after fences. She wants me to be able to halt within a line, or right after a fence. I then should be able to pick up the canter from a halt. We worked on this a lot over the summer, but I haven't been a stickler about transitions lately. Thats definitely something I need to keep in mind though.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Rain, rain, GO AWAY

These pictures are a little taste of what we have been working on - lead change in picture 1 and coming down on the bit in the others.

Kelsey came out today to video my ride, but we were worried that it was going to rain and we weren't going to be able to do anything. It rained alright, but yesterday and last night. It was lightly misting when we arrived, but the ring was VERY wet. So I had to adjust my goals for the ride/video accordingly. I decided to just focus on continuing to develop her ability for self-carriage.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect

In the september issue of Practical Horseman there were several interesting articles that I found particularly relevant for the pony's progress.   "Are you practicing perfectly?" by Jim Wofford and "Peak at the right time" by Melanie Smith Taylor.  In Jim Wofford's article he discusses the proper foundation for a performance horse coming from a dressage perspective.

Everyone who knows me knows that I take horsemanship very seriously and subscribe to the George Morris school of thought.  After growing up playing soccer for a man who didn't accept less than perfect, I have learned to discipline myself as a person.  This discipline has carried over into my riding, and I take "correctness" seriously.  In Wofford's article he mentions the need to understand classical theory.  "This means we need a solid understanding of the correct theories of riding and training horses to school them effectively.  If we do not have an idea of what "perfect" looks like, they we will not know if things are "pretty good" or not.  ... but we need to have that theoretical standard in our mind as a measure of our progress to date."  Later in the article he discusses the need for a dressage foundation, and describes the basic dressage seat.

Monday, September 21, 2009

10 meter circles. Smaller and smaller...

Today I rode with Nina, the lady who leases Ritter from Janene.  She had already heard about Ritter's jumping excursions yesterday!  Apparently Janene called both Grayson and Nina because she was just so excited about what she had just watched.  She is just too cute.

After my ride Nina also let me know that she has left several people messages about Zena.  She used to do the jumpers before her accident so she contacted some friends about her.  She says she likes her so much that she just wants one of her friends to have her.  

I also talked to my coach about her.  She said at the show this weekend she saw several riders who she thinks would be perfect for Zena.  Everyone knows how successful she is going to be when we find the right person for her.  There is a show on October 10th a Sedgefield that has a 2'6 jumper division.  She thinks I could have some people try her out there too.  I think before that I'm going to try and trailer over to Townsend at least once for a lesson so that I can school over those jumps.  Anne has about 20 show quality hunter and jumper jumps, and we all know how good change is for the pony.