Thursday, December 8, 2016

SNOW!

Well, it is snowing here! It started a couple days ago with a light dusting and then didn't really snow yesterday, but this morning it is SNOWING and the horses were covered in a layer of snow when I went out for breakfast.

This picture is from lunch outside on the first day of snow.



Pony's sleazy is now off but the last of the open wound is still closing. It has healed nicely and she's on full turnout (solo, still) and her movement doesn't seem to be affected at all.

Just for giggles, I thought I'd do a first ride - first show video comparison. She sure did come a long way in a year!



Saturday, November 19, 2016

Out of jail!

The vet came on Wednesday to take Pony's stitches out and she got the okay for turnout - yay! I'm not turning her out with the other horses, but she does get to go in her own paddock. Since she and Paddy get along well, she can go out when Paddy is out of his paddock. At night, when Mac goes out, she goes back in her stall for lockdown (well, she can put her head out the dutch door).



Princess Fancy Pants has been very good for her turnout. For the first two days, I did it for breakfast only. She never got up to any hijinx (that I could see, anyway) and was very calm and well-behaved. Now she goes out all day and comes in for dinner and overnight.

When the stitches came out, the vet said it looked very good and that it is healing well. It looks gross to me still, but I'm not a vet so I take her word for it. I didn't get a picture of it today, but it looks so much better than just three days ago, so she's continually improving. Part of it just can't be stitched up, so the skin will have to fill in and grow together - this is how it looked on Wednesday.



PFP doesn't seem to be favoring that leg so that's good news. I did buy her another sleazy because the first one got bloody, even though I put a maxi pad over the wound. I think she was fussing with it a lot. For the new sleazy, I bought a roll of non-stick batting (I'm sure it has another name but it escapes me right now) and so I'm cutting a big square of batting and then safety-pinning it under the sleazy. When I took it off to change it this morning it was appropriately bloody and the sleazy was mostly clean, so I think this is a better solution.

I guess the best thing to come of this is that for all the doctoring I'm doing with her in the barn aisle, she's getting much better about standing quietly in the cross ties!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Fresh air!

Poor Pony has been stuck in her stall for almost two weeks now. Even though I clean her stall every day (four times a day), her feet are a mess because she pees so much, and pretty much all over her stall, and of course she poops and she is standing in there all day on stall rest. I take her out once or twice a day and tie her up to clean her stall and groom her and tend to her wound, but her legs are stocked up and her feet are in need of drying out!

Her wound is healing up well. I ended up getting a sleazy to put on her to cover it. I put the sleazy on, then put a maxi-pad over the wound, then I safety-pin the maxi pad to the sleazy so it stays in place. It helps a little bit with the drainage and to also have something soft over the wound. At first I just stuck the maxi-pad there but they kept falling out so I moved on to safety pins.

The vet has come out a couple times to clean it and re-do the stitches a bit. The top part of the stitches healed well and right away - it is just the bottom part (distal) that is taking longer to heal. It looks gross to me, but the vet said it is on track and looking good so I'll take her word for it!

I thought Pony would appreciate some fresh air for a change, so I tied her out with her hay bag for breakfast while I did my morning chores. You can see how beautiful she looks in her sleazy!



I worry about the stocking up in her legs and her getting fat (I pretty much keep hay in front of her all the time so she'll be occupied and won't lick at her wound), but first things first - the wound needs to heal. After that, then we'll start a rehab program and take it from there.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Pony vacation time (gross picture warning)

But not for a happy reason . . .

I was planning on giving Pony the winter off of riding (we'd still do trail hand walks or long-lining as I could stand it in the cold weather), but she had to go ahead and get herself an early vacation time by injuring herself.

We went on vacation to Hawaii and our farm sitter did an amazing job as always. I was hoping to make it to a h/j schooling show on Saturday, but after getting back at 1 am Thursday morning and being still on Hawaii time, and having a bunch of winterization projects to do before Colin has knee surgery, I cancelled.

Now I wish I had sucked it up and gone because if I had then Pony would not have gotten herself into such a mess.

It rained a lot while we were gone and for a couple days after we got back. The horses had only been out singly while we were gone because I didn't want the house sitter to have to deal with all the horses running around together. I put them out on Saturday for lunch together. I can imagine what happened, knowing each of the horses. First, there had been running around such that the horses banged on the fenceline from inside their paddocks. The line between Paddy's and Pony's paddock had gotten bumped enough that the metal post bent outward. In doing so, the caps over the pipes were either knocked off or pushed inside the pipes such that there was now metal exposed. Something happened to make Pony either run into that directly, or swing herself around (a la pirouette) and slice her pectoral muscle. I did not see this happen, but it is my best guess.

Originally I actually thought she ran into a tree branch or something, and when Colin was scouting the paddocks to see if he could find the culprit, that's when he found pony hair there and told me that he suspected that was the source of her injury.

In any event, when I went out in the afternoon to gather the horses (because I was going to lunge Mac and/or Pony to see how everyone is feeling), I saw Pony standing funny. And then limping. And then I saw the wound. Ugh. Yuck. Cry. I put in an emergency call to the vet right away and went about getting Pony into her stall. She would not walk. She would not budge despite my efforts at leading her. So I left her where she was, grabbed a feed bucket and put pellets in it and walked out to her. Of course she would be motivated by food! She slowly ambled her way into her stall and ate her pellets. Colin came out to help me with chores so I could wait by the phone for the vet to call back. We closed her in her stall and waited. I sat in front of her stall and cried.

The vet came out and administered a sedative, cleaned her up, stitched her up, and left me with after care instructions to keep her in her stall and my regular vet would come out on Monday for a re-check.







The on-call vet and my regular vet did Face Time to consult and see how bad it was. The vet could not feel bone when she put her finger into the wound - that was good news. There was a flap of muscle that had to be cut off as it couldn't be sewn back together - that was bad news. Pony was a perfect patient throughout it all.

On Sunday she was in much better spirits and perkier. Yesterday (Monday), she was perkier still. I took her out of her stall and put her in the covered arena so I could do a good stall cleaning for her. She was walking MUCH better, much, much better! She was happy and sweet. After I cleaned her stall, I put her in the cross ties so I could groom her for the vet's follow-up appointment. I wiped the Vaseline and drainage goo off her leg so the vet would be able to get a good look at it, I brushed her mane and tail and of course the rest of her body. She tried pawing a little bit with the ouchy leg, but thought better of it and switched legs to paw. At least she's got her personality back!

Vet said continued stall rest for two weeks until the stitches come out. I can hand walk her for maybe 10 minutes a day (think I'll just start with one lap around the arena a couple times a day). Banamine protocol ends tonight. She'll be on antibiotics for 10 days. Her poops look good (she's on a probiotic because of the antibiotic), she's eating and drinking normally, she's bright and alert, her TPR (temperature, pulse, respiration) are normal, there's no heat or swelling or stink or sign of infection at the wound. The vet did back out the stitches just a bit to change where the drainage would go.

Pony has been a perfect patient . . . well, except she doesn't like her Banamine! She is happy, doesn't seem overly annoyed at being in her stall, and she's not acting naughty or anything like that. I'm sure it helps that her brother Paddy sticks his nose in the open stall window (not hers, the one next to her that is empty of horse but which we use for storing shavings and stuff) and she can touch his nose from her stall (stalls are separated by half-walls with grills, doors to outside are dutch doors, so while the stall itself is not accessible to the horses, Paddy can stick his nose through the open dutch door top to check on her).

So that was NOT the kind of vacation I was planning for Princess Fancy Pants. Vet thought she should heal up just fine with no gait abnormalities as a result. She's already walking better so we'll just follow doctor's orders to facilitate healing.

I'll say this, though. No more joint turnout with Mac. He's the troublemaker and it just trickles down. Paddy and Pony can go out together, but Mac will have his own dry lot pasture (which I've been busy pulling weeds in to re-set-it-up for him). Oh, and Colin went straight to work repairing the fence so that those posts are covered again. Gah!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Pony's First Show!

I hemmed and hawed about signing up for Pony's first dressage show. When it was about the time to send in the entries, we had a really cold snap and I couldn't foresee myself getting up at 5 a.m. to go to a show when it was so cold outside. But I decided I'd rather have the option to scratch if the weather report was bad versus having a good weather report and then not being able to go. So I sent in my entry. Turns out, is was a beautiful day for a horse show, after all.

I signed her up for Intro A and B (walk/trot classes) since all I wanted was for her to have a good experience, and I figured the easier we kept it, the better our chances would be of having a nice go of it. Colin was a champ and came as my groom and to video our rides. It is really helpful to have a second pair of hands, and he did a perfect job of it.



Since spring-time, I've prepared Princess Fancy Pants as best I could. She couldn't have been any more ready, I don't think. I've been hauling her out at least once a week for some sort of lesson; first we started with some ground work (tarp and improving trailer loading) lessons with one person, did some other lessons with a cowboy, and just 10 weeks ago had our very first dressage lesson. Five weeks ago we had our very first jumping lesson. She's been to an away 5-day clinic in California, and for the past couple weeks she's had one dressage and one jumping lesson per week. She's handled it all very well.

So Sunday was show day. I got out of bed at 5 a.m. (probably woke up around 4!) to feed the horses and give myself enough time to eat and do some yoga. I had my whole morning planned out. Wheels up at 6:30 a.m. to get there at 7 a.m. and hand walk and check everything out.

I wondered how she'd do about loading up in the dark and so that was my first hurdle. Well. We loaded up no problems! Started down the driveway, and . . . automatic gate would not open. Great. Colin had to run back into the house to get the key to the gate arm to swing it open manually. I hoped it wasn't a sign of how the rest of the morning would go.

We were the first ones there and got parked (in the wrong side of the parking pasture, but I didn't know!) and unloaded. The facility is lovely - immaculately maintained - and had a round pen. I thought I'd offer her a chance to run around if she liked. Nope. She just wanted to be with me. Instead of trying to make her go out and gallop around, I decided it was nice that she wanted to be with me and seemed to be feeling confident and curious, so we just hand walked and got our number and hand walked a little more. They let you walk around the perimeter of the dressage arena (which is set up in a fenced arena), so we did that in both directions. I made sure to stop at the judge's booth to give her some cookies.



She was so non-plussed, I just shrugged my shoulders and said it is time to tack up!

So we tacked up. Numbers were bridle tags, which I hadn't practiced with. But she didn't care.

Ok. Off to the warm-up arena with the other horses. Thought it might be interesting and a potential disaster since we only always ride by ourselves. Nope. Perfect pony in the warm up arena.

I didn't want to over-warm-up so after the first rider went out, I went out after her to just hang out by the arena (we were third to go). Dooo deee dooooo. Boring.

Okay, our turn. Go have a lap around the outside. Hum deee dummmm, la deee daaaa. Nothing. Trot? Sure. Walk? Sure. Whatever.

Bell rings. We trot around the outside and up centerline and then do our test. She felt a little pokey once we got in there so I felt like I struggled a bit with impulsion and then contact - head up, head down, whatever. I tried to at least focus on having decent geometry.



Finished the test. Nothing exciting happened. Nice halt at the end.



(I decided to have my coach read the test for me - I've never done it before and I had my tests memorized inside and out but thought it would be good to at least have one less thing to worry about, so that's her voice you hear.)



Well that was certainly uneventful!

I only had 10 minutes or so before the next test, Intro B, and so we hung around outside the arena for our turn again. Went in for our circle around the arena and then the judge rang the bell (why do they always do that when you are not in a good place? I had to turn around, walk back a little bit so I'd have room to pick up a trot and prepare and go in). Ugh. Got a horrible turn up centerline so was very wiggly and our halt wasn't really a halt. Figured I got a 5 on that one! I thought our trot circles were nice and round and our free walk was okaaayyyyy - we'll need more work on that, for sure.





The rest of the test went fine. I tried for more impulsion and so gave up more in other aspects. My geometry wasn't as good in the corners, contact was still hit or miss, but we had a decent up centerline for our halt and salute.



All in all, though, I couldn't be more proud of her!!! I told Colin that morning as we were driving there that all I wanted was for her to have a good experience. And she did. She was amazing. You wouldn't guess it was her first show. It was my first show in years and it was so much fun!



So, for our scores . . . . drumroll . . . .

Intro A we got a 72.5! We got three 8s and in the collective marks actually got a 7.5 for impulsion and a 7 for gaits. Acceptance of contact was a 6.5 but that's no surprise. We got an 8 for geometry and the judge wrote "appreciated your attention to detail and geometry!" "Well done!" "Nicely ridden test!"

Intro B we got a 65.625! We did get a 5.0 for our centerline/halt/salute, which I expected. No 8s and more comments about bracing and stiffness. It is funny that I tried for more impulsion but actually lowered our score in that area to a 7. I felt like we were less consistent going between forward and bracey and stiff and whatever. Judge's comments were "Cute, energetic creature" with a smiley face - can't go wrong with that! Stiffness over topline was the theme for that test.

So we came home with a blue and red ribbon and a very happy and proud Pony mom and a perfectly fabulous Princess Fancy Pants! I couldn't be more pleased, she surpassed my expectations.

Now to plan ahead for a little h/j show at the end of the month and then it is Pony vacation time!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

No poop

That could be the title of a post about colic. But this isn't about colic! This is about the little things...like pony poops!

I've been trailering Princess Fancy Pants out for a once-a-week lesson at various places for the past six months or so. She's gone from not wanting to go on the trailer, to going on and rushing back out, to grudgingly going on but only with the help of a flag, to now going on with just a lead rope and some direction (although she still doesn't walk right on the first time). She no longer rushes out or gets nervous or fidgety.

And the past two times she's loaded up for lessons, she hasn't pooped! Now, that seems like a "so what?" kind of thing, but I see it as a sign that she's getting more comfortable with trailering and isn't anxious and doing a nervous poop. When we got to our lesson this morning, there was no poop in the trailer! She also has started eating hay while traveling, so I take that as a good sign too.

It is getting pretty chilly in the mornings here. I've taken the horses off the grass because there has been frost these past few mornings and that's a time when it isn't good to put them on the grass (low overnight temps, sunny warm days) so they are dry-lotted all the time now. Maybe that will last until spring. Our water is getting turned off in a few weeks and so I probably won't be putting them out anymore.

Pony has been so good in both her dressage and jumping lessons that I'm considering a little schooling show before year's end. Considering. It is, after all, very cold in the mornings, and getting up early to get ready for a show when there's frost on the ground isn't my idea of a good time.

We'll see.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

All the Fun Was Had!

Giddy about my two little jumping efforts on the pony, I decided I was ready for a lesson. My hip pain has reduced for the most part (although I do still suffer a little lower back pain after a ride depending on what I do) such that I can spend a lesson's-worth of time in the saddle. I got in touch with the person who helped me last year by teaching me to long-line, as I know she does h/j and I know her students really enjoy riding with her. This afternoon was our first lesson.

I had all the fun that there was to have!

Pony was perfect. Just perfect. The "green moments" that she had were no big deal and consisted of looking sideways at something outside of the arena and drifting right a couple times. A few times that I was trying to get the left lead we got the right lead and so trainer gave me a helpful hint and that seemed to sort out the issue. This trainer is good at picking apart my position, which is actually something I love, and giving me the right reminders at the right time of things to fix.

The lesson was perfectly progressive. A little work on the flat, incorporating poles, "jumping" a pile of poles, doing a little four-obstacle course that was like two big figure eights, doing a cross rail and then graduating to having the little course be four cross rails. It was just perfect, and I was so proud of my Princess Fancy Pants!

I haven't had a jumping lesson in years and this was So Much Fun!!!!! Pony didn't hesitate at any jumps, no jumps scared her, she just went happily over them and I think we both had a blast!

Maybe she'll be a little jumper pony! ;-) My goal will be to do some schooling shows next year - so yay, I have something to work toward!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The post-great-ride high

I just love my pony! She is coming along so quickly. I had to change her riding schedule this week so she got Monday off and I rode Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday I rode in my jumping saddle as I wanted to work on getting off her back and going really forward at the canter. I went back to something I learned from one of my trainers about riding corners and started off with that exercise at the walk (indoors). Then we went outside to the dressage arena. This was actually the first time I've ridden Pony in it since I put all the flowers around it. She was curious and not spooky about them. We worked on basic walk, trot, canter stuff, focusing on geometry of 20-meter circles and promptness of responses to aids. She was nice and forward and picked up the canter wonderfully and we got some actual 20-meter circles at the canter in both directions! Awesome!

I don't know if it is the saddle itself or my position or maybe I ride differently in my jumping saddle, but she seems to be most happy in that one because she canters mo' betta in it.

Anyway, after a light schooling of 20 minutes or so I gave her a loose rein and walked out of the arena and let her choose the path to walk on. She had a choice of probably five different forks of the path and chose the fork with the jump. So of course we had to jump it! I had set up another group of poles and standards to make a second jump. The poles were set as trot poles at the time so after landing from the first jump there's enough room to canter away, but then come back to a trot to go through the poles (or jump, when it is time). So we jumped the first jump and trotted the poles a couple times. Between each time we'd finish the trail loop on a loose rein at the walk. After the second time, I made the second pole into a cross rail and jumped that by itself. Then we went back and I put the two jumps together. Two trot poles to a cross rail (bigger one this time!); land and canter away. Come back to the trot, and go over the second jump which was another two trot poles to a cross rail. Land and canter away. She was so perfect that she got lots of good girls, lots of pats, a loose rein, and we finished on the trails and then walked back to the barn.

Yesterday we trailered out for a dressage lesson and she was so good! She was still a looky-loo in the beginning, but her steering was much better, circles were more uniform, straight lines were straighter, and she was moving forward into contact more consistently. Canter wasn't as good as it is at home, but it was better than in last week's lesson (when she threw in a little squeal and buck for good measure . . . you know, since her stallion friend was there watching). I got help with turning down center line, and for some reason she seems to think/know that going across the diagonal means extended trot! It is pretty cute and fun to ride. It just left me with a big happy smile on my face and happy thoughts for the rest of the day. :-)

I'm going to take her for our first jumping lesson this weekend - can't wait!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Pony's first jumping lesson - video!

I'll just get to the good stuff first:



On Saturday I was supposed to go take Princess Fancy Pants to my friend's ranch for a visit. The logistics didn't work out because it was to be a very hot weekend (and it was so I'm glad I didn't go, although I missed the fun) and I had to make a decision early enough to cancel the house sitter. So I got out for an early ride and decided - what the heck? Colin's at a bike race, I'm here by myself, what better idea than to jump the pony for the first time?

I deployed her tying skills and tacked her up and left her tied in her stall while I went and set up the exercise. I went on the trail out back because it is shady back there in the trees. I picked a nice path that was flat and had good footing, was a little in the shade (actually a mental exercise for the horse to go from light to shade to light) and had trees on each side so if I pointed her at the jump she couldn't go around it.

First I set up two jump standards and three poles. The poles were set so that there were two poles set at a trot stride. Then there's a trot stride with no pole (when I put up the jump that defines the take-off space), and then a ground-line pole is set up between the standards. The ground-line pole also helps the pony decide where to take off for the jump. When I get to jumping, all those poles will still be there, and a cross rail pole (looks like an X if you are headed toward it - the horse jumps over the lower part which is in the middle) will be added one at a time.

Pony was so good! We worked on it in a progressive way. First by walking through the poles, then by trotting them, and then going the other way just for fun (although I'd only do the jump one way). Then I put up one side of the cross rail and went over that and she did a little jump - it was so fun! I did't know what to expect - if she'd try to go over the low side of the pole versus jumping over the middle part where she's supposed to - or if she'd try to stop or duck out or what. But she was totally game and went right over the middle of it! We did that twice and then I put up the other side of the cross rail so that it was an "x" and rode over that and again she was great! We did that twice and then called it a day.

In between all of the pole/jump (if you can call it that, it was so tiny!) work we rode around my trails/track and did some walk, trot, and canter, and staring bug-eyed at the neighbors playing soccer in their back yard. So she got a full workout, the video just shows two minutes of pole and jump introduction.

I'll probably add little exercises like that into her routine once a week. So Tuesday, hack; Thursday, lesson; Saturday, hack/jump; Sunday, trail ride. A good schedule for a young girl, I think.

I'm so proud of her!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Clever pony opens gate!

Well, golly gee willickers! Pony has learned how to open a gate!



The past few weeks I've thought maybe I'm losing my mind as I would come out to the barn after having let all the horses into the sacrifice area for breakfast and have subsequently found them back in Mac's stall/paddock with the back gate open! At first I thought I maybe forgot to latch the gate. Then it happened when Colin was on breakfast duty. And then again and again and again. I wanted to see who was doing it before I went to chain the gates closed, and this morning I got a chance to see it.

Turns out Pony has learned how to open the gate! I don't know what/when/why/how she learned, but she did. Funny thing is that she hasn't done this to let herself OUT of her paddock at night, but to let herself IN to Mac's paddock after breakfast. And everyone follows her!

Silly pony!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Practicing a dressage test

After having so much fun in my dressage lesson I thought maybe I could think ahead to a little schooling show and do Intro with Pony. So I looked up the tests online and memorized Intro A - a short little walk/trot test. This would be good practice for me to work on geometry and timing. I think Pony is in heat today because she wasn't interested in being forward and her trot strides felt a little shorter than usual. But we did a couple practice runs and then called it a day and walked on the trails out back.

First try:



Second try:



A little wobbly in places, but not bad for first efforts! I do need to get some cones or markers for the letters, as I just went by an approximation of where I remember them to be.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Pony's first dressage lesson!

Pony and I had our first official dressage lesson today! We trailered out to a new place where we haven't been before. Pony loaded on the trailer like a champ and hauled perfectly. When she got off the trailer she was a little looky, but I remembered my last lesson with Charley and got her attention such that I could tack her up without tying her to the trailer. I left her halter on and took her bridle and went into the covered arena.

We did a bit of our standard ground work so that I could get her attention and focus on me instead of being a looky-loo all around. After a few minutes, I put her bridle on and went to the mounting block. She was a little wiggly so it took a couple passes before she was ready to stand for mounting, but we got it done. We walked off and got to work.

We started with some spirals in and out at the walk and changing direction. There were two other horses in the arena who were working, so she was a little distracted, but she wasn't naughty. I just focused on keeping her bent in the direction of the circle, keeping her forward, and keeping my hands soft.

I can't remember if it was when we were walking or started trotting, but when a horse came in to the arena she let out a squeal and a little hop. I laughed and told the trainer that she likes boys so she was probably distracted by the boy. Trainer said, well that's a stallion and he likes the ladies. Great. Actually, she was pretty good about it. After the initial squeal, she did try to trot faster when going in his direction and slower going away from him (we were on opposite ends of the arena), so it gave us a good chance to work on tempo and direction. We did lots of trot circles, transitions back and forth between walk and trot, change of direction, and we also went down the long side (using half of the arena) so she could move out a bit more.

She was nice and forward and soft in my hand and she's starting to seek the contact and go lightly on the bit.

We gave cantering a try and did get a trot-canter transition in each direction, but the left was harder than the right. We only cantered for a half circle or so, but we did get it done.

Pony got lots of compliments on how cute she is - of course! She handled all the commotion very well - people and horses coming and going, working around a stallion (!), dogs running about outside, etc. It was a great first outing to this new place! In the end she didn't want to leave so we had a little discussion about paying attention and getting on the trailer, but it wasn't a big deal. She hauled nicely home and when we got there I tied her to the trailer for five minutes and then put her in her pasture for lunch.



We're going to go for weekly lessons. It was a lot of fun!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Tying to the trailer

I had a lesson with Charley yesterday. One of the things I love about working with him is that he is so thorough and the lesson starts immediately. It isn't all about the riding, it is about getting your horse with you and handling your horse in a manner to get it with you.

Yesterday I trailered to Charley, as I want practice taking Pony to new places and learning how to get her to be tuned in to me right away so that we are safe to do anything we want. I was taking her to one trainer's place near me and that was a great set of experiences for both of us; and we went to the clinic in June and that was great, too. I wanted to try somewhere new where she hadn't been before and wouldn't have a day to settle in before going to work, so off to Charley's we went. The lesson started the second she stepped off the trailer.

We started first with a short lesson on getting her attention. That didn't take very long and I commented that I wanted to work on tying her to the trailer. She does well with tying to the tree (hanging tie that Charley set up for me) and she'll stand patiently very well there. But she's also surrounded by her friends in their paddocks (or at least one of them if I take Mac out for a ride) so there's not much to worry about there. I'm also working on ground tying her when I tack her up and she's not too bad with that. But I need help with tying to the trailer because she's apt to paw when she is frustrated or wants something and that could be dangerous at the trailer. So we tied her up.

Charley grabbed a handful of pebbles and we stood near her and she was okay. He had his horse saddled but he wasn't on him yet. We moved a bit farther away, maybe 20 feet or so, and sort of behind Pony. She started getting a little fidgety, and was about to start pawing. Charley tossed a pebble in her direction. She stopped pawing. We stood there talking for a while and he tossed maybe five pebbles her way. She settled down and stood more quietly, although she did move side to side a bit so she could see us out of one eye or the other. Charley then got on his horse and walked away. Now her attention was divided between me and the other horse. I think Charley used up one or two other pebbles. Then he started walking his horse around her and using the horse to get her to move her feet. And then she just stood there and he walked around her, back and forth the length of my rig, and close enough to her butt to reach out and pat her. And she was fine just standing there.

So that was the end of our trailer tying lesson and it didn't take but 15 minutes or so. He did say that for tacking up to not have her tied up for now and just have the rope in my hand or draped over my arm. So I did that and she was very good. BUT. It wasn't about just having the lead rope and she could wander about and wiggle around. It was about getting her in a mindset to stand quietly. So even while I was grooming he had me position her head and get to a good place where her mind was quiet. And same for leading her to the arena. Don't let that quietness go away and her focus go every which way. If it took me 20 minutes to get the quality of leading that I wanted, then 20 minutes it would be. But it didn't take that long. I did stop a couple times and ask her to put her head down and she was very polite.

When we got into the arena we did some ground work of the sort that we've been practicing at home and we worked from one end to the other where there was a scary mirror (oddly placed - it was at the top of the wall, but it was a half wall so it was just a weird visual distraction). She was great and I was really practicing and trying to get certain steps which Charley had shown me and he recognized that so at least I know I'm on the right track!

Then we practiced mounting with me on the block and leading her by and lining her up and having her stand quietly. I got on once but she took a step before I asked her to, so I got off and we practiced some more. I got on again and Charley and I stood there chatting for a couple minutes before asking her to walk off.

Then we practiced the same things we've been practicing at home, but with new distractions - different horses! Dogs! A lady in a wheelchair! Cars on the road! Chickens! And she was very good.

I had to go because I had a schedule to keep, but it was a great lesson!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Progress!

Pony is so smart and cute. I know I've said it before, but it bears repeating. Every time I ride her is better than the last; and if it isn't, then it is my fault.

When I work her, I try to keep it interesting and varied. I usually start with some ground work, do some arena work, then some trail. Today the ground work was working on her feet, as with going back to a dry lot for most of the day she was getting some chips that I wanted to smooth out.

Today's arena work was mostly at the walk. I'm practicing things that I've been working on in my lessons and that I observed at the Buck Brannaman clinic. Today we did the tear drop pattern and also the "can you stay on a circle without me directing your every step" exercise. The teardrop pattern was very good. The circle exercise was mediocre but we did make improvement. Since I don't want to drill her, I found a good place to stop with that and moved on to something else. We did just a bit of backing and she was nice and soft, so that was that. We did some trotting and that is getting much better - she is keeping a rhythm, the shape of the circle is actually staying in the shape of a circle, she isn't trying to go back to the barn, and we can do figure 8s and change rein and she feels pretty balanced!

So today we cantered!

I've cantered her before out on the trail on a straight line, as I think that is an easier way for a young horse to go into the gait and to just move freely. I've cantered her before in the indoor arena but it was not so great because it isn't as big as I would like it to be and she wasn't as balanced as she is now. I've also cantered her in the outdoor arena, but it was her idea (in protest of . . . something) not mine. But today it was my idea. There's a certain rhythm to the trot. 1,2,1,2,1,2,1,2 . . . and when posting, you can feel the rhythm of the canter in the trot. I don't know really how to explain it, but you can sort of change your posting with the idea of cantering and then the horse can easily transition into the canter. That's what we did today! Her canter is pretty cute, I must say. It feels very determined, but in a pony sort of way. She wasn't running off, she didn't feel wobbly side to side. She just cantered. We only did a few strides in each direction (she got her leads!) and had walk breaks in between. After that we did a few more trot circles where she seemed to be seeking contact, and with that good work I called it and we finished up with a nice little trail ride.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that after I got on her and I was working her in the indoor first, just walking around, I had my tarp-flag in my hand and sort of waved it all around her and she wasn't bothered by it.

Such a good girl. So smart and cute. Have I said that already?

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The observer's paradox; or, another pony video

I call this the observer's paradox (Schrodinger's Cat: http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/Schrodingers-cat) because I changed the outcome of my ride by measuring it. Were I not videotaping my ride, it probably would have gone differently. Sigh. Such is the paradox of videoing. Yesterday I had a great ride, probably one of the best ever on the pony. So I thought today I would video it. And of course knowing that I was being observed (by myself) changed the way I rode. I was less focused, had less of a plan, and felt I was less effective than yesterday. Oh well, when I went back to watch the video it wasn't as bad as it felt.

As I'm sure I've said before on here (or maybe it was on Mac's blog), I've been having trouble with my hips. After trial and error and experimenting, it has come down to me being able to ride in two saddles (shouldn't that be enough?): my jumping saddle and my dressage saddle. Having ridden the pony heretofore in my jumping saddle (with the exception of the couple of times I rode her in my western saddle that is now for sale), I thought I would graduate her to my dressage saddle. I say graduate because my position in the dressage saddle is different than in the jumping saddle. In the jumping saddle, I was all about teaching her to go forward and being light in my seat (not that I ever want to be heavy in my seat per se, but it is easier to get up off her back in a jumping saddle). She learns so quickly and has come so far (to me, anyway, for being the first horse I started under saddle) that I think she can handle more in terms of asking for a bit of contact and sitting now and again for a few steps, and a dressage saddle makes that more comfortable.

Here's a short video showing how good Pony is for mounting. I haven't worn breeches and boots in a while and these breeches are pull-ons so needed some adjusting after I got my butt in the saddle!



Yesterday I set up "the wheel of death" in the indoor arena - basically, four cavaletti set on a 20-meter circle equidistant from the center point. At the two ends of the arena (the longer side) there was room between the cavaletti and the gates so I could go around the two on that end, or I could walk on the circle over all four.

In my lessons with Charley I've been working on maintaining a circle with my legs and using my reins to remind Pony to stay on the circle. Ideally I'd be able to go a whole circle without using my reins, but for now she needs reminders. The cavaletti are to help me mentally pick a spot where I want to ride to, and it is a good exercise for her in keeping a pace and staying on a line and picking up her feet. In the center of the arena is the dreaded tarp. This is for us to circle around (inside the cavaletti circle) and do a half-circle exercise that is supposed to get the inside hind engaged and then I release and she steps through with her front legs. This is like the Buck Brannaman half-circle/half-circle exercise, but with a prop to help.

Here's a video of us doing the half-circle exercise and walking over cavaletti and working on backing softly.



And another video of us walking over cavaletti and doing some flexions from side to side.



Another thing we've been working on in lessons is having a nice, soft trot. When I first started Pony, her trot was fast and unbalanced and so I've been working (and she has, too!) on keeping her quiet and not running her off her feet (not that that is my MO - I just want to be careful to NOT do that). Still, with Charley we've been working on soft transitions and trotting on a loose rein, trying to get her to keep the circle o her own, but using reins to set her back on course when necessary.

Here is some work trotting over cavaletti; at the end we line up at the gate and she backs up as I open it and then she walks over the cavaletti and we walk out.



And I'm very happy to report that this afternoon I am not in pain! My hips and my back are okay for the moment . . . and I even rode Mac after I rode Pony!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Pony is going western!

So I've had this trainer coming out to my house to give me lessons. While I'm getting along fine on my own, I always want to learn more and do better. It has been a while since I've had regular lessons, and I appreciate that he will come to my house because trailering out two horses takes a lot of time and is a hassle. Since he's got the time, he comes out on Saturday mornings and we spend most of the morning together. It takes away one weekend day of possibly sleeping in, but it is worth it and I am learning so much.

A lot of what we are learning and working on is back to the basics, but a different sort of basics than I grew up with riding hunters, and most definitely a lot different than what I was doing most recently, which was dressage. Trainer is happy to tell me what I'm doing wrong and show me how to do it better. And I'm happy to be told what I'm doing wrong and how to do it better. Various things I do wrong are: I'm too busy with my legs and/or I use my heels too much (instead of my lower leg), I cross my inside rein over the neck (typical english rider thing, he says), my reins are too short (hallelujah! I much prefer to ride with longer, looser reins, but was always told when riding dressage to shorten them), and other little things.

I've been working on this stuff with Mac and started out with a couple ground work sessions with Pony, but decided to ride with Pony in a lesson this week since she shaped up to the ground work really nicely. Since Trainer is a saddle maker, I asked him for his opinion on how my western saddle fit Pony, since the first time I put it on her she didn't seem to like it. He actually thought it was a good fit for her so we put it on and I had a lesson in it. The thing she didn't like, which she didn't like again, was the cinch. The big buckle seemed to be bothering her. Since the saddle otherwise fit, though, I went and got her a fleece cinch whereby the fleece cushions the buckle from pressure.

And here she is, looking cuter than anything.



In our lesson we worked on circles, bending, lateral work, backing, and transitions on a loose rein - all of this is baby stuff, though - just a step here, or a movement there. At first I thought my reins were loose enough, but he had me ride on the buckle (or where a buckle would be if I had english reins) during transitions, and he commented that Pony was much happier with that. I didn't think I'd be able to ride her like that since she's got so much go and is so bendy and wiggly, but she was amazingly good! She kept her line, went softly into the trot, and then came back down nicely.

It is really fun and exciting to be working with someone like this on a regular basis. Pony is so smart that she makes progress very quickly and retains it very well!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Clinic report - last day

Finally it was the last day of the clinic and we both were exhausted. I didn't know how much I had in me and she had been so good and brave and bold and so I didn't go to the morning session. Instead, my friend and I tacked up our mares and headed out for a morning trail ride among the cows. The clinician had moved the cows from one pasture to another a couple days before (we were welcome to join but it was a little too much excitement with other non-clinician-visitors who were yahooing around a bit) and I had asked if it was okay to ride among them and they said yes so we did that. We went out with the cows and just went up a hill, walked a fence line, went down the hill, back up and checked the other fence line, and back down again (just a big figure 8 loop), leap-frogging along the way. Our other friend had decided to come out just as we were coming in so we all used it as a training exercise. Pony and I left the other mare and the gelding who had just joined and went back to the paddocks by ourselves while the two of them went out on a trail ride. It was a good exercise and Pony was very brave and bold out on the trail.

I didn't want Pony to be standing around in the paddock for the rest of the day, though, so after lunch I brought her out and tried more tarp work on my own. Someone else was in the round pen so I used the square area where the bridge was. First we did the bridge to reinforce something she was good at. Then I started with the alleyway exercise again, giving her big breaks when she walked through it calmly. Then I closed the gap and she'd rush and trot over it. But I was pleased with her even putting her feet on it, so again she got a big break with lots of pats and praise. Finally, I got her to calmly walk over it in both directions. She was so great! More praise and we left that area entirely to give her a big break.

Everyone was interested in cow work, so I got on and my friend and I waited in the arena as some people went out with their horses to bring the cows in. We did a little warm up of walk, trot, and canter, and then just walked around and/or stood while we waited. Eventually, the cows came in and we got to work with them! We took turns circling them and keeping them in a place or trying to move one or another and then trying to split them and walk through the middle. Pony was great and my friend was kind enough to get a little video of us taking our turn!



It was an amazing clinic experience. We worked on walk, trot, canter moving off the leg, baby lateral work, standing still in the big arena with lots of horses all around us. We worked on (and defeated!) our nemesis, The Tarp. We had two nice trail rides. We worked with and without her neighbor buddies. We played with cows. She hauled perfectly. We did everything I set out to do, and more.

I swear, I feel like this experience advanced her training by leaps and bounds - 5 days of clinic experience gave her more confidence and furthered her education by probably what I could do on my own in 6 months to a year.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Clinic report - day 4

On day 4 I asked for more help with the tarp in the round pen, as I had done what I felt confident doing on my own. I told him how far I was able to get the previous day but that I wanted help with the actual going-over-the-tarp part. Since he was horseback - and the clinician - I thought he would be better suited to knowing when to push and when to say it was enough for the day and his timing and tools are of course better than mine. He started out with the alley way again, but we soon closed that up. He put on pressure whenever she was away from the tarp and when she got to the tarp, he released the pressure . . . but he would add just a little movement with his flag to try to entice her to go over.

Here she is considering the tarp while he puts a little pressure on her with his horse and the flag.



Then she got to the point where she'd trot over it.



And then eventually, with help from another guy (I didn't want to get run over in case she tried to jump over the person on the lead rope!), she walked over it.



And then she stood on it!



Oh, and I forgot to mention another thing that the clinician emphasized:COMPROMISE! "Do my thing, your way" - if you want the horse to go forward over there, but they are scared to go over there, just get them to go forward wherever they feel comfortable going. In the case with the pony, he said that sometimes the tarp is scary, but is less scary if you scoop and scatter some dirt or sand on it, so the helper guy put some sand all over it and that seemed to help her.

After that it was all praise and scratches and pats and loves and a really good roll!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Clinic report - day 3

The arena had all sorts of toys to play with - two tie lines hanging from the ceiling, a sled for dragging around, a "car wash" thing extended from the wall with straps that you could pull/tie back to make an opening for the horses to walk through, the aforementioned bridge. On this day I decided to play with the "car wash" thing. I just worked on foot with this to start, riding through it would come later. I tied back one side so that half of the car wash fingers were hanging straight down, and then there was an opening where the others were tied back. I asked her to walk through. At first she rushed and trotted through, but she got praise and breaks for trying. We'd go back and forth a few times - going through, and then taking a break. When she got quieter about it and walked through, I called it quits.

I took some time in the afternoon to practice the tarp technique in the round pen. The clinician was on horseback when he did it, and I was on foot, so I had to be fast and have good timing about how I did it. Basically, I laid the tarp out and made an alley between it and the round pen wall. The tarp became the resting place, and anywhere else was somewhere she had to work. It was all up to her how much work she wanted to do. As long as she considered the tarp (at first looking at it, then getting closer to it, then stretching down to look at it or sniff it), she would get a break. Otherwise, it was time to go to work. She caught on pretty quickly and so would go up to it and drop her head and stand and look at it. So the next thing was to ask her to go in the alley between the tarp and the wall. She caught on and would do it, but she'd rush through at the trot. All during this, she got breaks (reward) for considering it more and more. Eventually, she would walk through the alley calmly. I didn't feel confident enough in my abilities to get to the next step (going over the tarp) without screwing up, so when we had something good, I called it a day.

I took the opportunity to tie her to one of the hanging ropes, which was no big deal and she was really good about standing there and not pawing and having horses work around her.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Clinic report - day 2

While I had many goals for the clinic, my main goal was to get over the tarp issue, so on day two I asked for more help with the tarp. We did a little more of the same from day one, but still no walking over it.

The clinician actually did the same work with another horse in the round pen and I watched his approach so that I could practice it later. Of course I've always heard "make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult" but it always helps to watch a master in person to study his or her technique and find the nuances of how to make that happen. What he did with some other horses was to make the tarp the "safe place" or resting place - otherwise, the horse had to go to work. The horses he worked with didn't seem to have such an aversion to the tarp as Pony does, but it was still helpful to watch the progress in person.

The clinician was in the round pen on his horse and had the other horse loose. The tarp was on one side of the round pen next to the wall. The clinician flagged the horse on the ground, only putting pressure on in the area that was NOT near the tarp. Once the horse got near the tarp, he took the pressure off. If the horse wanted to leave the tarp area that was fine, but he would get flagged and asked to move around and work. Again, the tarp was the resting place. The more the horse got comfortable near the tarp, the clinician asked him to consider going closer to the tarp . . . first standing squarely in front of it, then getting closer, then putting his head down to look at it and/or sniff it, then to walk over it. Eventually, the horse would stand on it to find relief. I kept that imagery and session in my head for the next day's work.

Before anyone rode today, the clinician had the horses all run around together in the arena. I've seen this done before and actually never thought I'd have my horse do it because it looks scary and potentially dangerous. But I did it. And nothing bad happened. Having said that, though, I don't think I'll ever do it again.



In the afternoon I did a little more riding, this time working on figure 8s around other horses in the arena at the walk and trot. Pony was very good with all the stuff going on around her. I didn't ride for too long, and when I got off I continued work with my flag, getting the tarp pieces around her feet and rewarding her for considering it and not stepping away. Got lots of "mental releases" where she'd lower her head and yawn, so I considered that progress. We also worked on walking over the bridge and she decided she was very brave about that. I think she enjoyed being a bit taller, as she'd get on and stand there and look around. She seemed quite pleased with herself!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Pony's first clinic - day 1

I got home on Tuesday from taking Princess Fancy Pants on her first big outing away from home. Since I keep my horses at home and always ride alone, one of the things I was worried about for the future was how it would go when I took her to her first show or outing where there would be lots of activity, so I decided a great place to start would be to a clinic that wasn't too busy but where she would get exposed to all sorts of things that are new and different for her. It was also a fun girls' week trip to catch up with my old riding buddies from CA - one has a green mare Pony's age and wanted to get her going more, and the other has a BTDT gelding who could be a steady-eddy companion. The two of us with the mares decided to do the colt-starting class so we could see where we stood and what else we should be working on.

My goals for the clinic were: get Pony out and about and exposed to a new place where she'd have to be in a paddock next to other horses, work on exposing her to new things, get over The Tarp issue that we've had, learn where other holes may be and how to address them, ride in a group situation, and if I was lucky, to introduce her to cows.

The clinic was split into two groups - mornings for colt starting, and afternoons for the others. Basically the young horses would go to the arena in the morning and we'd get help with whatever we asked for. There were two long ropes hanging from the rafters where we could work on tying and leaving the horses; there was a round pen in one corner, and then a sort-of waiting area that was fenced off where we could do other ground work or work on going over a bridge that was set up there.

On day 1 we did some ground work and I worked on some flagging (after finding the great trainer here to work with and taking his advice on working on flagging her more, I changed my flag to a big piece of cut-up tarp because it is noisier and she would pay more attention to it than the other flag), paying attention while leading (going and/or stopping with my feet and staying at a certain "spot" with me - I never really thought she was bad at this, but the trainer pointed out that she wasn't stopping her feet with mine and paying attention when being led), and then I asked for help with the tarp. One thing that the clinician said was "preparation is more important than execution" - meaning, take your time to set it up so that your horse will be successful. It isn't about MAKING her go over the tarp NOW, but setting it up so that she will want to go over the tarp and seek relief there (eventually). Another thing related to that that he worked on was getting the horse to CONSIDER [the thing] - you've got to get the mind first. So at first he wanted her to consider the tarp. Look at it, turn your attention to it, and you will get relief/release from it (taking it away as a release, or taking her away from it). I had been working on this with her at home, so she was familiar with that concept and has learned how to be curious about it . . . but not so much that she would step on it or go over it. The goal for the first day wasn't to get her over the tarp, it was to get her more comfortable with it and it being around and it being near her, on her, other horses walking on it, etc., and then to know that she'll be rewarded for considering it.

Here she is with it in her space.



Here she is with it on her.



Here she is getting a break and checking in on how some other horses were doing in the round pen. The clinician gave really big breaks disguised as checking on other horses or telling stories, but it was really the release/"soaking" time for the horse to think about what just happened.



He tried getting her to walk over just a corner of it, but she would not have it, so once it was spread out on the ground and she just considered it, it was enough for the day - there would be plenty more opportunities to work on it.

Since she's usually in a pasture at home and here she was just in a small pen, I got her out in the afternoon as well. I just got on and walked her around for a bit. If she wanted to be near other horses, I gave her the opportunity to go to work in their presence and then go somewhere else to rest. She caught on pretty quickly to that one! Once she stood quietly on her own with her neck relaxed and paying others no mind, I got off and took her back to her paddock. She was really good about leaving the group and going back to the paddocks with me.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Best ride yet!

I got the name of a cowboy trainer from a friend. I feel like I've done a decent job of getting on the pony for the first time, working on steering and stop and go, getting her out on the trails and out to new places. But I feel it is time to get some more instruction. I've been happy with the one trainer I'm working with (and I'll continue to work with her), but wanted another perspective from someone who has developed bridle horses. I actually called him up because I'm interested in learning some basic roping skills (with Mac), but after meeting him thought he could also help me with the pony.

New trainer came out on Saturday to help me with my rope, as I seem to always get it twisted. His instruction really helped me - it wasn't anything the other person didn't try to teach me, but I had forgotten since the first lesson; new trainer also changed my technique to use more shoulder swing.

Anyway, this isn't about roping, this is about the pony.

So when NT (new trainer) got to my place, I had just finished grooming Pony and she was tied in her stall. His opinion was that she wasn't far enough along in her training to be tied in her stall - it is too closed-in of a space and she needs to be able to move around more and see more while she's tied. So the first thing he did was help me pick out a tree limb and hang a lead rope with a swivel snap from it (properly tied & knotted). We tied the pony up and left her there while we worked on roping (maybe 20 minutes or so). The tying exercise is actually one I've been wanting to do but didn't know how to set it up so I'm thankful he helped me. The problem I have with tying the pony is that she's impatient and fidgety and paws. Tying her like this doesn't stop that, but it is set up in such a way that she can move around more (bending and turning while she's at it), I don't care that she paws in the sand, she's in the shade, she's close enough to the boys that she can see them but not interact with them, and if they come into their stalls then they go out of her sight and she has to deal with it. So that day we tied her up and left her. And then I did that yesterday again (30 minutes), and then this morning while I worked with Mac (an hour).

When NT was here he helped me with some ground work exercises also. I had mentioned the tarp issues and it just so happens that his "flag" is a shredded tarp, so it was perfect. He swung it all around, next to her, up over head, along her back, over her head, under her belly, up and down her legs, etc. Of course he did both sides. He said she needs a lot of work with that because while she would stand still, she was really in a frozen-with-fear sort of mode - head up, back dropped, muscles tensed, eyes a little buggy. But he looked for places where he could stop and let her relax and soak it in and she got better and better with it. She still needs work with it, though. Then he did some leading exercises and focus/attention exercises that I'd find hard to explain. She was very calm and quiet at the end and he said NOW would be the time to ride her, when she's quiet and focused and relaxed. I said I do some ground work with her sometimes before we ride, but not that extensive and not every time. So now I have a goal.

Yesterday I did the same pattern. Tie her up, practice my roping technique, then go get her and do ground work with my new-and-improved-shredded-tarp-flag. She didn't start off as nervous as the day previous, so there was some improvement already. I looked for every opportunity I could find to give her a rest and let her "shake it off" - head down, big sigh, licking and chewing, and yawning. All were signs that she was feeling better about things. I practiced some of the leading exercises, too. I didn't ride her - just turned her out in the pasture afterward.

Today I did the same pattern again, except I tied her up while I worked with Mac, so maybe about an hour today. She may or may not have been pawing during some of that time (although I didn't see any big trenches in the ground), but she was not doing any screaming, so that was good news! When I was done with Mac, I got Pony and did some ground work like yesterday and she was very good. At one point during a leading exercise, she stopped to check out the tarp hanging from the gate - that's a new one!

She was very quiet and focused and not fidgety at all and I got on with no issues. I had some poles set up in the arena and walked and trotted over those for a bit (both directions). We worked on some big loopy figure eights, and then went outside.

From riding Mac this morning, I knew the back neighbors were out doing a big gardening project. They had some friends there helping, so there were four people shoveling dirt into wheelbarrows and then dumping it in a garden area. She had a startle for a moment, but I let her just stand and look while I petted her and she walked on. The first lap by them was interesting (nothing bad, just stopping and looky), but after that she couldn't have cared less. We did half a lap of trotting in each direction (walking by the people) and what I noticed about her in this ride, after doing the ground work, was how much softer her back felt. She wasn't running/rushing at the trot, she was just nicely trotting along and not bouncing me out of the saddle with her trot. It was just very relaxed. So after our couple of laps, we walked back to the arena and she got BIG PATs and lots of GOOD GIRLs and when I took her saddle off and groomed her she seemed quite pleased and happy.

We're getting ready for a clinic coming up and I felt like these past few days has given me a renewed plan of action.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Cows on the trail ride!

I had a lesson with Princess Fancy Pants on Tuesday where we worked on ground work and getting her to focus on me, so I did a bit of that before my trail ride on Friday. Since I don't have a round pen, I fashioned one in the arena by putting up cavaletti and jump standards in a line so they formed a barrier. Granted, she could have jumped over it, but she didn't. One part of me would love to buy a proper round pen, but the other part of me doesn't want to spend the money; and, I've gotten thus far with her without it that I'm not sure it is really necessary.

Anyway, we headed off to the trails across the street. She stood beautifully for mounting. We started out by doing lots of circles around sage brush to get her bending and soft and paying attention (it wasn't a bunch of circles in a row, it was walk down the trail - circle, walk down the trail - circle, etc.).

We went for the long loop and this would be the second time she's done that loop. We walked and trotted and I gave her an opportunity to stop at the water and have a little grass and bite to eat. If she put her foot in the water, great, but my plan was to just get close to it. No dice on going in the water, but she did inch very close and have some grass.

So off we went again to the end where we'd turn across to get to the other main trail that would loop us back home. I knew there would be cows there because I had taken Mac there the day before and they were out. Sure enough, they were there and there were lots of them!

Pony was intrigued. She tried to get closer and closer, but there was a barbed-wire fence in between us and the road and the road and the cows, so there was only so far we could go. I turned her off and walked a little farther down the trail and there were more. We walked over to check them out.



She was so interested! If there were no fencing separating us, I'm sure she would have wanted to go closer still. I was hoping our neighbor would get cows again this year but I don't think he is, as it seems everyone who is getting cows have them by now. Oh well. At least we can see some if we hit the trails!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Tarp progress

I don't know what it is about the danged tarp! The sound of velcro is fine. The sound of the tractor is fine. The sound of the neighbor shooting is fine. The sound of the dogs barking is fine. The sound of the garbage truck picking up cans is fine. Deer in the woods are fine. Ducks are fine. Birds flying in and out of the stall or arena are fine. But the tarp is not.

Over the weekend, I decided to do some tarp work. I put the tarp away from the edge of the arena such that there was a big lane between the tarp and the arena wall. I stood on the tarp so it made noise. I had the pony walk on a circle between the tarp and the wall. That was fine, so I made the lane smaller and did it again. And then smaller still. We got it to the point where it was just wide enough for her to pass through without her feet touching the tarp and then it was a bit scary. I had her walk through and let the long lead drag on the tarp - SCARY!!!! We worked on that enough, though, that it didn't seem to bother her anymore. Then I'd have her walk through the lane and stop between the tarp and the wall. At first she stopped before the lane. Then she'd stop right after the lane. When she stopped in the middle (both directions) and stood quietly, I called it a day.

When I got on Mac next, I decided to move the tarp so that it was in front of the gate that goes to Pony's paddock (where she likes to stand when I work Mac). Mac is so not bothered by the tarp, so we walked over it so Pony could watch. Then Mac helped me out by just standing there and picking up the tarp and flapping it all over the place. While I think it was good for Pony to watch and see that, she was not interested in being close to Mac for that exercises.

So yesterday I trailered out Pony for a lesson and we worked on the tarp again. This time with a long strip attached to a stick. Trainer walked with it dragging on the ground.



Sometimes Pony was fine, sometimes she wasn't, so she just kept working calmly and quietly until it was no big deal and trainer could rub her all over with it (except face and feet, she still wasn't happy with that).

She got a bigger piece of tarp and did the same thing. I had a bunch of cookies with me so trainer tried to see if Pony would be interested in the tarp if there were a cookie wrapped in it. At first she was not interested, but then she was.



That seemed to really help, because after that, trainer could rub her face with it and she was okay.

We did just a little more with it whereby we left the tarp on the ground and we were chatting and Pony picked it up and nibbled on it herself (instead of it being rubbed around her mouth with a cookie wrapped inside). I had my clicker with me, so each time she did that she got a reward.

With that great progress, we called it a day!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Happy birthday, Pony!

Princess Fancy Pants is officially four years old! We celebrated by her getting a pedicure. And grazing, which makes for a happy pony . . . .well, three happy ponies!



I think I may have thwarted her pawing a bit. I've been grooming her in the cross-ties more, but I do keep her lead rope clipped to her halter. Just the other day as she was pawing and I was gathering up the lead rope, she got her foot over it (I actually have worked with her with ropes around her legs so she is used to that and doesn't freak out). I just went with it and threw the rest of the rope over her withers, so it went through her front legs and up and over her off-side shoulder. Every time she pawed, I didn't say anything (no growling or "knock it off" to her) - I just gave the rope a little pull so that she would feel it under her right front leg. It was as if the correction wasn't coming from me, the rope was just the result of something SHE did. When she stood still, there was no pressure. When she pawed, there was pressure. It worked really well, and her pawing diminished in duration greatly - yay for self-correction (as far as she knew)!

We then tacked up and headed out for a Big Girl Trail Ride in the BLM. This was her first long trail ride where we did the "Boneyard Loop" as I like to call it (due to the plethora of bones there - yikes?). This is a ride I do regularly with Mac, but for Pony it was her longest ride yet. We did walking and trotting and transitions back and forth. It is a great loop to ride because it is a long rectangle, a little less than a mile long on each long side, and the short sides are short. On either side going both ways is a ditch with irrigation water, so depending on the flow and where you are, it can be loud or quiet - AND there can be ducks that fly up seemingly out of nowhere! We can go nice and straight for a long time and work on, well, just going straight!

At one point she did spook at a pine cone falling out of a tree and hitting every branch on the way down, but her spook was sort of zig-zagging in place because she couldn't figure out what the noise was and what it was. No biggie, she handled it like a brave pony and we kept on going after some pats and deep breaths!

We also worked on circles around sage brush and picking our way through some trees and brush in an area that has some old junk on the ground.

It was a great ride! Now that she's four, I'll step up her work a bit - longer trail rides and/or more frequent under-saddle work - probably 3 rides per week. This ride was the first time I got on her since coming back from vacation (so about two weeks, as before I go and after I come back there's stuff I need to catch up on). I didn't lunge her first or do any ground work other than walking down to the BLM and having her mind me. She stood stock still for mounting, didn't call to her friends or refuse to head out on the trail.

We've had some rain this weekend (well, all weekend, actually!) so we did some ground work in the arena yesterday with the tarp, and I had a short ride in the indoor today, working on circles and keeping their shape and going forward. Short but sweet at about 20 minutes of walk and trot.

The horses are all out in the pasture right now and I've upped their hours to pretty much all day. I am getting grazing muzzles for them, though, so they don't get too FAT!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Pony play date - tarp work

Yesterday I took Princess Fancy Pants for a lesson. She loaded beautifully and I think I'll back off the loading practice for now. There is a time to focus on something and a time to let something "soak." I think now is the soaking time for trailer loading.

Yesterday the goal was to work on the tarp. I had mentioned to the trainer that the things I wanted help with were mounting (check), trailer loading (check), and tarp work (or really, anything foot-related - pony seems to have a thing about her feet). I told trainer what I've done with the pony and the tarp so far (clicker training, working with a small piece of tarp and moving up to bigger and bigger pieces - throwing a tarp over my head and walking around with the pony, walking on the tarp (me), walking with the tarp under my feet and shuffling it around, getting pony to smell the tarp, getting pony to let me touch her with the tarp, getting pony to chase the tarp), so she started with dragging the tarp behind her while she led Princess Fancy Pants.



All tarps are not created equal and this one was scarier than any other one. Trainer tried a different tactic. She folded the tarp up so it was a narrow rectangle and then put it on the ground with a pole on each long side to keep it stable. The goal was to get the pony to walk toward it and be comfortable standing and facing it.

At first she didn't want to go near it and tried to circle around trainer. But with patience she relaxed and walked up to it. When she'd lower her head to sniff it, then she got a break to do something else.

The something else was this, which she likes to play with.



It is like rewarding a dog by playing with its favorite toy!

Then we'd go back to the tarp, get closer, relax, take a break.

Eventually, trainer put both together such that the ball was on top of the tarp.



And when that was successful, she moved it behind the tarp.



At the end we had a relaxed pony playing with the ball on top of the tarp. Pretty good progress!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

VIDEO: Our first ride in the outdoor arena

Heretofore I've worked Princess Fancy Pants either in the indoor arena (basic ground work, long-lining, and walking under saddle and going/stopping/steering) or on my little trails. I like the trails because they encourage going forward and there's not too much to worry about with turning or circling - we just follow the trail. For our work on the trails we've done walk, trot, and some canter.

Today is a lovely day and so I dragged the arena in the morning when it was still damp with dew, and convinced Colin to pretty please come video me and the pony doing our first official ride in the outdoor arena. Seems like a no-big-deal kind of thing, but the arena has no walls (well, neither do the trails, to be fair) and it is dressage court-sized so there's always a corner that needs to be turned or a circle that needs to be made.

Here's the pony:



She did so well on her right turns! For the short amount of work I did with her in the covered arena, right turns were our nemesis. She leans on that right shoulder so I've been doing ground work to teach her how to bend through the rib cage going right and also trying to work on not popping out over that shoulder when going left.

Granted, she's very young still and so I don't expect too much, but I definitely notice progress! I think I cut out the one spook at the beginning where she notice the neighbor's irrigation going in his pastures. The total ride was about 20 minutes of walk and trot, but I highly doubt anyone but me is interested in that, so I pared it down to about five minutes of video.

We continue to work on trailer loading and had a very successful lesson last week. I'm in talks with the trailer manufacturer about what modifications I can make to the trailer because the butt bar is just a bit too high for her. I'm taking the trailer in next week for an annual check up so I'll see if they have any ideas on something they could fabricate. We also went trailer shopping today just in case....;-)

I noticed that the saddle pad slipped back as our ride went on. This is a new thing, so perhaps she's going through a growth spurt where she's growing up but not out? May try a different pad or combo thereof.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Before and after

I broke down and did Princess Fancy Pants's mane last weekend. Here she is before (note the unamused look on her face).



And here she is after. She is a moving target so hard to get a picture of her when I really want to. She's shedding out so her coat looks a little weird.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Ten reasons why I love my pony

In no particular order....

1) She's smart
This pony learns so quickly, and she remembers her lessons well. She also seems to have the ability to mentally transfer work we've done on the ground to work we're doing under saddle. Just today on our trail ride (our second solo trail ride), we did some baby leg yields. She somehow put two and two together and easily did it with minimal aids.

2) She's forward
She's forward without being hot. She marches right along, she goes quickly and easily off the leg and/or a cluck, and she's keen to move out.

3) She's brave
She's the first horse I've started under saddle so maybe this is normal and I'm over-gushing about her, but she goes with me down the trails (off property) without company, and when we come across something on the trail (deer or birds flushing from the brush in front of her), she might have a little startle in place but she gets over it quickly and doesn't act scared.

4) She's a willing partner
Princess Fancy Pants works for me and tries to figure out what I want and how to do it. She puts her trust in me to not put her in a bad position (well, except for the tarp . . . we're still working on that).

5) She's friendly
PFP is a friend in a pony package. She'll come up to me in the pasture to see what's what, she'll follow me around in her paddock while I'm doing chores, and she has a cute nicker to greet me with.

6) She's cute
I don't think I need to explain that one, just look at her!

7) She's got a lot of potential
Maybe I'm crazy, but I feel like there's a lot in there that I'll have fun developing. Her gaits are elastic, she feels good underneath me, she likes to work, and she's smart (see #1).

8) She's hardy
She's a sturdy little pony, she has great feet, a strong back, a nice loin, pretty neck, lovely head . . . I guess I'm getting back to #6

9) She plays well with others
Pony gets along with the boys. She's a little too flirty sometimes, but she's not bitchy and everyone likes her.

10) She's the pony I always wanted! I grew up riding horses, not ponies. Honestly, I don't think I ever rode a pony until I got her! And she's mine, all mine, muahahahaaaaaaaa!

Monday, April 4, 2016

First trailer-out lesson!

The weather is so lovely right now. I scheduled my first lesson whereby I trailer Princess Fancy Pants out. We went to the place where we've gone for a couple play dates and I brought my tack. I didn't know what would be in store for us for our first lesson, but I had some non-riding things I wanted help with, so I mentioned those: standing for mounting and standing on the trailer. The trainer said they are similar problems in that the pony needs to find, and be comfortable in, a defined space.

Since we were already in the round pen, we worked on standing for mounting first. I was to stand on the mounting block and ask the pony to line up in front of me, with her body in the position where I can just get on. It took a few tries, but it totally worked like magic! Here's what we did. If PFP wanted to walk by me or swing wide or swing her butt out, I was to keep her moving and then ask her to turn around. I was not to let her walk in a circle around the mounting block (this was what I was doing wrong), but to keep her in front of the block. There was no crazy "make her move her feet" aggressive energy. It was just "turn her around and try again." The other part of what I was doing was using my breath to ask her to stop in front of me (this works for us because I already use that as a cue to come down a level from where she is - so canter to trot, trot to walk, walk to halt). Once she did, then I let her just stand there and rub her all over - neck and butt - and tell he what a good girl she is.

We did this for both sides. It didn't take very long. She stood still, relaxed, wasn't fidgety, and I got on from the off side.

Then we just walked around and talked about PFP's balance and where she likes to lean (right front) so we talked about how we would work through that, and it started with some ground work. I got off and we just worked on walking her around the round pen and asking her to move her ribcage over and bend her body through the ribcage. Again, very quiet, no aggressive energy, just walking and bending. We did that for a little while and as time was running out, I asked if we could finish by working on loading/standing on the trailer.

We walked to the trailer and I told her what my issue was. PFP will load just fine, but when I put the butt bar up, she gets nervous, fidgety, and antsy and wants to back off. I was prepared with a bucket of alfalfa pellets, some carrots and some cookies, which I put in the manger. We worked on getting the pony on and letting her eat, but asking her to come off while she wanted to eat, so that it was our idea to get her off the trailer, not her idea. We also worked on just standing quietly and petting her bum when she was standing quietly (just like the mounting exercise). And we also showed her that we wanted her to come off with a tugging of the tail so that we could teach her that only when she feels her tail being tugged is when she should come off. It didn't take too long and she was very good. I got the trailer closed up, then trainer and I stood there talking for a little bit. Pony was antsy at first, but then settled down and was very quiet.

It was a great lesson! I really like the energy and vibe of this trainer - she's very quiet and calm and doesn't have that aggressive energy that some other people have (not speaking of anyone in particular, just some clinics I have done/seen, the trainers exude an energy that I don't really like even though they aren't mean or anything, it is just too much).

Yay, Pony!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

First real trail ride!

I haven't been able to ride for two weeks because we went out of town and then had other life stuff that came up (covering for co-worker, taking car to the shop, doctor appointment, blah blah blah). So I was determined to ride today, dammit (even if it was cold and grey and cold)!

I rode Mac first and we went for a trail ride on the BLM. He was great, very forward and happy and we had a very nice ride.

We have a big burn pile to do and Colin was nice enough to get it started for me so I could ride. I thought that it might not be the best idea to ride the pony in the back while a burn pile is going on so I thought I'd try giving it a go on the BLM trails. My goal was to ride, but if I didn't feel the timing was right, a hand walk with tack on would also have been fine.

I've hand walked her there many times, so I stuck to the trail that she's familiar with. I hand walked her a bit before mounting up, as the usual mount-up log is close to the gate and she can hear Paddy and Mac yelling for her from that spot; I thought it best to go farther down the trail so they wouldn't distract her. We walked about 1/3 mile in and found a stump to use for mounting. I had been walking her with her rope halter on and some trail reins I have, and her regular bridle (sans noseband) was on. I affixed the trail reins such that they'd be reins (vs. using them as a lead rope) and so I'd ride with two sets of reins. After a little fidgeting at the mounting stump, I got on and tried to adjust my reins. I don't know if it was the halter/reins combo or the different saddle pad I had put on her, or just that it was the first time I was on her back on the trails (versus leading her), but Pony was mad. She didn't want to go straight down the trail, and she threw in some head-tosses, backing up, and crow-hops to let me know how she felt about the situation. For a split-second I considered bailing and walking more, but then I thought that would just teach her that she can stomp her little feet and get what she wants and that is not a good thing to teach a smart little pony mare. I quickly ditched my dismounting thoughts, gave her a growl and a "Pony, git!" and off we went and there was no more trouble. Whew.

We walked along the usual trail and the only thing I asked of her was to be straight between my reins and legs and have a soft and consistent contact with the reins, which meant no stargazing (not that that's her thing, but...) and no rooting in the bridle. Just a relaxed head and neck and a forward walk. There was one point where she wanted to trot and so we did. I don't want her to feel like she's confined and can't go anywhere so I want her to trust that I let her go forward and forward is the answer; at the same time, she needs to come back when I ask her to, and she did.

We had a very pleasant walk, with me praising her the whole way. When we turned for the last stretch home, we started to hear the other horses. Wanting to be proactive and not reactive to any sort of fuss she'd put up to get back to the boys sooner, I started circles around trees and sage brush. A circle here, a circle there. Asking her to put her feet where I say so, asking her to bend in the direction of the circle and quietly go back to the trail. We did that for maybe 10 circles or so (not in a row, just a circle, then walk down the trail, then another circle, then more walking, etc.). I didn't want her to get jiggy and then have to have a discussion with her, so we just made it a circling exercise and everything was peachy. We got back to the gate area, did one more circle, had her stand still, and I dismounted.

It was her first big-girl trail ride and it was a success!