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


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: 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!