Sunday, July 9, 2017

Summer fun

DH had a knee replacement back in November and has been working really hard on rehab and getting back into shape. Yesterday he rode in a 50-mile bike ride and so I think that maybe he's fit enough to give riding a go again. The weather has been very warm and I've been riding both horses in the morning but thought it would be fun if DH rode with me today. So we saddled up Pony and Mac and went on our little trails out back together. It was so fun to be out there with both of us. DH is a good fit for Mac, and he needs the work to keep his weight down (Mac, that is), so maybe DH will ride Mac on his own once or twice a week if I'm lucky.

Meantime, I've decided to take Pony and Mac off of pasture altogether. Even with early morning grazing (when sugar is lowest) for just a couple hours and with a grazing muzzle on, Mac's crest gets hard, his sheath gets swollen, and it just makes me worry for him. They both now go out on the dry lot all day with hay in hay nets; I've also found them a really low-sugar hay that I just got delivered so that will be good. I'll transition Mac more quickly than Pony, as he needs it more urgently.

Everyone is getting along fine without Paddy here and things are actually quieter now that there are just two versus three.

Not much exciting stuff is happening. I've got a saddle fitter coming out in a couple weeks to have a look at my dressage saddle and my jumping saddle and maybe give me ideas of if there is something better for both of us - narrower twist for me and whatever might be better for Pony.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Back to my old dressage saddle

I'm finding it difficult to work on my dressage position in my jump saddle, so I went to the consignment store and took my dressage saddle back. I had a lesson in it yesterday and Pony was softer and more supple in the trot, but our canter work sucked. Because the twist is a little wide for me, I have trouble using my leg as I would in a saddle with a narrower twist. But I felt my balance was better. Sigh.

I'm working with The Saddle Geek to help me come up with some ideas so I don't waste money shipping saddles back and forth that will be for sure "NOs" for fit for either of us. I'm following a few leads to see what might be available and interesting.

Saddle shopping sucks!!!! If only my Baines had a narrower twist I would be so happy!

I'm about to go out for a schooling ride at home so we'll see if I do any better on my own today. Blah. Some days I feel like I can't ride for shit. I guess that's how it goes with a green horse, yes? I have to remember back to when I was struggling with Mac when he was green and couldn't canter in a balanced manner under saddle and remember how far he came. There is hope, right?

Monday, June 5, 2017

Canter breakthrough!

As I think I mentioned, I'm hitting the pause button on jumping right now to focus on improving canter work with Princess Fancy Pants. I haven't worked on it a lot because it is the gait that most aggravates my hip, but now that I've been feeling a lot better, it is time to get more serious!

Last week I had a lesson on Monday where we worked on some good exercises with shoulder fore, serpentines, shallow loops, trot-canter transitions, and adjustability at the canter. It was a good lesson and Trainer is very good at picking out what my body issues are that are contributing to any difficulties Pony has. For example, in picking up the right lead canter I get all twisted about and make it harder for Pony to bring her inside leg underneath her, so Trainer has me focus on weight in my right stirrup and looking over Pony's left ear to straighten myself out - and it always works.

I unfortunately wasted a homework ride by trying a saddle I didn't like, but did get in a schooling ride on Friday. Again I focused on transitions, loops, and serpentines. And when it came time to canter, I got some very good transitions in their promptness. I've learned to take what small successes I have and build on that. For example, when Pony is really on her forehand at the canter, it is a tough ride; so when I got a canter where she was a little above the bit, I was ok and happy with it because it didn't feel like she was dragging me around. The quality felt better and it was something I could work with and build on. And when I got a prompt but above the bit canter, I was pleased with the promptness, so I didn't worry about anything else and called it a day and went for a walk.

That served us both well because Saturday's lesson was awesome! Trainer and I talked about a little schooling show coming up so we ran through Training level test 1 and 2. They weren't pretty but they were acceptable enough that I've got a foundation to build on and a concrete goal to work toward. Canter transitions were much improved and by the end of the lesson the right lead canter was hugely better than the lesson previous. Since Trainer is good at picking out my crookedness issues, I actually feel better after lessons and my hip doesn't bother me as much, so that makes me very happy!!!

Pony is coming along very nicely. She learns so quickly and is so sensitive . . . that can work for me or against me, so I must help Pony use her pony-powers for good!

Yesterday we had a lovely trail ride and Pony wanted to trot and canter a little bit so we did. And we did the water crossings and sniffed cow poop (the cows are out now, but we didn't see any on the ride) and saw an owl and had a lovely morning.

Pony gets her chiro/body work today so she'll have tomorrow off then I have a chiro on Wednesday; next lesson is Thursday and I'm looking forward to it!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Metal and the engine

Hmmmmm....what could "metal and the engine" possibly mean? An engine is made of metal - is that it? Nope. I'm talking about metal in the mouth (bit) affecting the engine of the horse (haunches).

I'd been riding Pony in a loose ring double-jointed snaffle, which she seemed to like enough, but it is a pony bit and I think maybe a bit too small for her mouth now (width-wise) so I thought I'd try something else. My friend was sending me some bits that she had for her smaller horses and until they arrived I tried a couple other bits.

First off, I thought I'd like to try something other than a loose-ring bit to see how Pony likes that, as she plays with a loose-ring a lot. I wanted to see if it was the loose ring's "play" that made her play with it or if it is the mouth piece or something about my hands.

I have an eggbutt Myler snaffle that I tried on her but it is too wide for her mouth. Tried it once and decided I didn't like it.

I have a couple D-ring bits, but they are definitely too big for her mouth as they were Tomato's bits (Colin's big TB that passed away a few years ago).

So I went off to the consignment store to see what they have. Found a simple plain snaffle with a small D ring. Now, mind you, I have never been a fan of the plain single-jointed snaffle because of the way I think they work, but I know some people swear by them so for $15 I thought I'd give it a shot.

Before I rode Pony in it I ground-drove her and double-lunged her in it just so she could get a feel of it. Interestingly, when I first put it on, sans reins, when she was chomping/moving it around in her mouth, she moved it to a position that it wouldn't be in when reins are attached - she rotated it down in her mouth, which I thought was interesting.

There were two takeaways from my experiment with this bit, and both reinforced my position that I don't like a single-jointed snaffle. The first is that for the two times I rode her in it, without even having real "contact" (just a light contact at the walk down the trail), her hind end sort of gave way....don't know how really to explain it except to say that one hind foot seemed like it got stuck in a hole or something. It didn't happen throughout the whole ride, just once or twice when starting our walk. She hasn't done that before and so I was wondering if she hurt herself somehow in turnout. Once we started our ride she didn't really do it again.

The second takeaway from this is that she was chomping the bit a LOT - just about constantly - with the single-jointed snaffle in. I haven't really noticed that before as a constant. She's done it here and there (last time I noticed it was at the little show and I think she had to pee because after the class where she was chomping, she did have a big pee and then didn't chomp anymore). Of course I wanted to make sure it wasn't my hands and that I was hanging on her or anything, so I spent most of the ride on a loopy rein walking and trotting around and doing transitions and figure 8s, checking in with myself and what my hands were doing.

Those two rides were on Friday and Saturday. Friday I actually was trying a new saddle (that I didn't like) so didn't even really ride, just wandered around a little bit.

The next day, Sunday, I put my friend's bit on my bridle. It is a Myler D-ring comfort snaffle. When I first got it I thought it would be too small, but I put it on and it fits just right. We went for a trail ride and had a nice long walk for over an hour (crossing both waters - yay! - well, jumping one and walking through the other). It was such a nice relaxing trail ride. No wonky steps, no chomping at the bit, just walking and taking in the sights and sounds and enjoying the day. Then yesterday I had a lesson and again no wonky steps or chomping at the bit. We are working on the quality of her canter and good departs and did some really good exercises. I'm focusing on dressage at the moment as I want to get her canter better before going back to jumping and cantering courses.

I've got another saddle coming on trial and fingers crossed that we both like it. I've tried two County Competitors now and know I like the seat and Pony fits in the wide tree well. I just had to figure out the combination of tree size for Pony and seat size for me. This one checks the box for both of those criteria.

So I stick to my guns about the types of bits I like. The metal in her mouth does affect her engine!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sad news

It has taken me a week to be able to post this . . . we lost Paddy last Saturday. Paddy was my 20-year-old TB and Pony's friend. I had Paddy since he was 7 and we had many fun adventures together. From eventing to dressage; from galloping down the trails to jumping with no bridle; to camping trips and giving pony rides to visiting guests, Paddy was my partner and friend. He was retired and lived the good life at home with me as long as I had him.

Sadly he colicked last week and an emergency trip to the vet's complete with a full diagnostic workup indicated he would not make it. We put him to sleep so that he wouldn't suffer any more than he had to from this acute onset. Paddy always had trouble with the spring weather changes. In the past I kept an eye on him and he'd always come through a gassy sort of episode. But the week before it was in the 80s for a couple days, then back down to freezing overnight and I guess it was too much for his system to handle this time.

I will always love and miss him.

Here he is with his sister-friend.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The saddle search

I'm on the search for a new (used) dressage saddle, since I've definitively decided that my current dressage saddle contributes to my hip pain.

I went to the two local tack stores that I know consign used saddles - both to check how much % they take when they sell you saddle, and also to see what they had available.

There was a decent selection of high quality saddles at one of the shops so I got to sit in a Bates, Albion, Neidersuss, Passier, Stubben, County, Schleese, and Prestige (I think that one was actually my old saddle that I sold last year!). For the top contenders, I just sat in them. For a really long time. Just sat there reading on my phone. I wanted to see how it felt if when my butt was in the saddle for a while, because sometimes it will feel okay on my hips at first, but then they start to ache. I put back the Bates and the Albion after sitting in them for 15-20 minutes, and then put the County on the stand and sat in it. Heaven! So I took it home.

I gave it a test ride and loved it for me. I could use my leg properly, sit in the right spot, and it didn't bother my hip at all. Unfortunately it is too narrow for Pony. That, and the tree head is asymmetrical and the right side was steeper than the left side. Bummer. But at least I know what I like so I can look for it in a wider tree size!

Two of my friends have saddles for me to try. One is a County (same model as I liked!) and the other is a Schleese. We'll see if either of them work out.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Mounted water crossing!

We did it!

Yesterday we went for a trail ride and crossed the water while mounted! I did have a long lead with me just in case, but I decided to make it easier on the pony by only doing the flatter, wider, shallower crossing - that way she wouldn't have to stress about jumping the ditch.

We walked down to the ditch and the first time she stepped in and jumped out. And the second time, going back to the trail, she did the same thing. Then the third time she stepped in more and took a couple steps and jumped out. And the last time she stepped in, stopped and put her head down to check out the water and eat some grass. I gave her a cookie while she was standing in the water. Then she calmly walked out. YES!!!! Of course I gave her a cookie each time she crossed, but after the last time which was calm and quiet, I quit on that and continued the ride on the "home" side of the ditch.

We crossed over some cow trails to get to another ditch (this section has two parallel ditches) and then we had a nice canter up that ditch to head toward home. Such a nice ride. Such a great pony!!!!

Pony has taught me a lot about not getting greedy, not pushing too fast, and being patient and finding a way to break things down for the best outcome. <3 my pony!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Pony's first "big" show off property!

Yawn, I'm tired! Colin and I got up this morning at 4:45 to feed the horses, with the plan of being wheels-up at 6:00 a.m. to go to Pony's first "big" "away" show in mixed company (versus her first in-barn show a few weeks ago). Our morning routine went without a hitch and we got to the show grounds and parked at 6:30. I hand walked Princess Fancy Pants around the indoor and let her look at all the flowers and the judge's table before I went to tack her up for a 7:00 warm up. It was a cool, brisk morning, with frost on the ground. My feet and fingers were freezing!

We had a very uneventful warm up with just walking and trotting around the arena with new (horse) faces in the arena. We popped over a few jumps and called it. We were done by 7:20.

There was also an outdoor arena where people were warming up for the bigger classes, and then also jumps set up outside in the pasture. It was a beautiful place and setting for a show.

And then the waiting began. I forgot how much I hate this part of the h/j show world! Wait, wait, wait. Pony was very good in just hanging out while other people warmed up and while the first few classes went. She has declared a nemesis! There is a very cute small Welsh pony who is a bay with a blaze and stockings. Very flashy, very cute. As we were just walking around outside the arena, she pinned her ears at this mare and tried to lunge at her! Oh my! Pony does not want any competition in the cuteness department, that's for sure!



We signed up for just three classes in the "cross rails" division. One flat class and two over fences. There were probably 10 people in the division and the flat class went first. It was just a walk-trot class. Nothing exciting. I thought we did well, but the judge didn't pin us. Pony had to pee, I think, and was chomping her bit for most of the class, so I'm sure the judge didn't like that. But she went around very well and I was happy at how well-mannered she was in the group.



We went outside and Colin gave her a cookie. Then the next class began. Just a cross rails jumping class. Our goals were: straightness, rideability, breathing (for me), position (for me). The plan was to trot the course unless she landed cantering in a line and then she could canter out. Since we're working on the goals above, those came first before cantering the course (remember, we've only had four jumping lessons this year!) - that will come later.

I thought she did great! Most of the other riders were kids on ponies (I think there was maybe one other adult in the class - or at least she was an older teenager, I couldn't tell) and they cantered their courses.

Here's our first round.



And our second. She got a little playful after the first line, but that's okay - this is just for schooling!



No ribbons for Pony today, but I am so proud of her! She needs no prep. No lunging, no riding-down, no nothing. Just get on and ride.

Go pony!

Here's a screen shot from one of the jumps.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Ditch crossing - with water!!

Sometimes I think I'm pretty clever. This spring is one of those times.

As I wrote about earlier, I started taking Pony to the dry ditch that we'd have to cross (eventually with irrigation water running through it) and schooling her in going through it. The first time we went out there I led her through, and then after that she calmly walked through on her own.

I took the day off work today and decided since I had a lot of time that today would be the day to go through it with the water. I outfitted Pony with her rope halter on under her bridle (I know, unsightly, but necessary and functional for today) and I brought a lunge line and wrapped it around her neck for the ride to the water (wrapped in jumping-strap fashion). We had a nice jaunt to the water and got to our first crossing.



I got off, wrapped her reins so they wouldn't drop over her head when she put her head down, and unwrapped the lunge line and hooked it up to her halter. I had my Dublin boots on so I could wade in the water. This crossing is narrower but deeper than crossing #2. I'd say the water is mid-calf high, depending on where I stepped. I eyeballed it so that I presented her with a path straight to the opening on the other side (this is also a narrower "out" than crossing #2), and I stood in the water to the side of that so that she could go by me without running me over. As I stood there, I just opened my leading arm to ask her to go through. She eyeballed it and decided it was narrow enough to jump! I let the lunge line slide through my hand such that she didn't get tugged on mid-air or right on landing and could go forward but I could still hold on to her. Of course it helps that the other times we went through it when it was dry she learned that she'd get a cookie for crossing it, so she stopped on her own and I walked out of the water to give her her reward. We went back and forth three or four times, with cookies each time of course, and then I hand walked her down the trail a bit and put her all back together for riding again and we continued on our loop.

We came to ditch crossing #2 and I got off again, got her all set up, and led her to this water. She eyeballed it and saw it was too wide to jump, but it is also shallower and so she felt more comfortable walking through the water, which she did without hesitation.



I counted the cookies in my pocket and we had enough for a couple more back-and-forth schoolings through the water. She did great! I'm so proud of her!

I decided I'd just hand walk her back home and on the way we came to a place where Colin was doing some fence repair and adding a gate so we (and others) can get through the fence when the ditch paths are closed off in the summer because of grazing cattle (got permission from the grazing lease holder to do so). The cattle will be put out in the next couple weeks, so the timing is perfect.



She gave Colin the almost-hairy-eyeball for a second, but then she recognized him and wanted to go up and have a chat. I gave her my last two cookies and then just hand walked her home.

I'm so proud of all she accomplished this weekend - such a brave and good pony!!!!

Pony is SO BRAVE!

I had a lesson on Saturday and I was looking forward to putting to practice the homework I've been doing, especially with having a larger arena to ride in where there's more variety in little courses I could do. Pony had zero issues in trailer loading, so I'm pretty sure the problem last weekend was of my doing.

Anyway, we had a little warm up on our own and then Trainer came in to start the lesson and warm up. She gave me some pointers on my own body positioning to help me be straighter in the saddle and more secure in my position. After our flat work part of the lesson, we did a course of trot poles, then cantered, then it was time to start some jumps.

And then the unfortunate timing of All The Things Happening began. The time had come for the fencing work to be done. A dirt bike zoomed by, followed by an ATV, followed by a tractor; somewhere in the mix were a bunch of dogs running around and probably a truck, too. The fence work to be done was to dismantle a straight line of pipe corrals. Bang, bang, bang, bang, clang, bang! That was the sound of (I'm guessing) getting the pins out of the connectors and then disconnecting them from each other. Band, clang, bang, bang, clang! That was the sound of lifting them up and loading them onto the front loader of the tractor. Chuga-chuga-chuga-chuga was the sound of the tractor being backed up and moved to the next section, combined with the zing, cling, jangle, jangle of the fence panels as they banged against each other on the tractor as it was being driven around. Oh, and this was maybe 10' or so on the other side of the arena during my lesson. Oh, and somewhere in all that, a chihuahua made its way into the arena and decided to have a lie-down.

Needless to say, we both had a bit of a hard time concentrating.

BUT! Pony is a rock star in every way imaginable. What would have probably sent my 20-year-old TB over the edge was merely a distraction for Pony. Yes, she was a bit amped and distracted by it all, but she didn't use the commotion as an excuse to lose her marbles or do anything naughty. We were able to continue with our lesson and school a few things (pace, straightness, position) and make improvements on each question that was asked of Pony.

At the end, the ATV and dirt bike were zooming around a pasture behind the arena (complete with the dirt bike jumping dirt mounds or whatever they jump), the dogs were playing, and Pony and I stood in the middle of the arena with my reins draped over her neck while she stood looking at it all.

I was eager to get out of there so we just loaded up and came home and went back to a relaxing day of grazing. While it wasn't enjoyable from a lesson standpoint, it was a good schooling experience and a confidence-builder for both of us to know we can count on each other even when there's annoying stuff going on!

Friday, April 14, 2017

VIDEO! Cavaletti work today

I decided at the last minute to set up my video camera to capture today's schooling session. Yay for having a video camera, but when you only have a tripod available to work with, you don't get good following coverage and close-ups.

Anyway, I tried again to focus on keeping my hands quieter and I think for the most part I did a good job. We started out at a walk, of course, walking over poles or doing circles or changes of direction. Then moving up to trot, Pony noticed the deer in the woods behind the arena. Instead of having the boogey-deer lurking in the corner (granted, they were napping, not being rude), I decided we should go chase them away so we left the arena to move the deer and then came back and had a nice ride.

We did some trot work over the poles and I tried to focus on straightness and pace, which are harder than they should be! Sometimes I'm sure I make it harder for Pony. I notice if I let my upper body creep forward in an exaggerated forward-seat position, then she slows down and gets sort of balled-up, so we had some bobbles in that respect, especially at the canter.

Anyway, here's our first round of cavaletti/pole work.



Then we did our first little cavaletti jumps on a figure eight.



And we finished with some more little cavaletti jumps on the figure eight, but this time I focused a little more on schooling the straightness after the jump. She's pretty smart and clever so it doesn't take much for her to get the idea.



We finished with some trotting over the two poles and then had a nice walk cool-out on the trails out back, chasing the deer out of our path.

Just for good measure, I did trailer loading again to be sure I got my body positioning right and again she walked right on!

Such a good pony!

Homework

Even though we had a successful first schooling show over the weekend, I felt like I didn't ride as well as I wanted and the feedback the judge gave was the same as Trainer gives in a lesson (I use too much rein to steer on a course, especially down a line if Pony is wiggly). So I gave myself some homework to do, which was to set up a poles/cavaletti course in the arena to practice on at home.



There's a line down a long side that is three canter strides, then two poles sort of where X is that are on the diagonal, one for each direction, then another two cavaletti on a diagonal that I could do singly or in a bending line. And then I can mix and match as desired.

I started out deciding to be more discreet with my aids. Pony is far enough along now that I don't need any sort of big opening rein movements, and it is distracting. So I shortened my reins and practiced warming up with focusing on little rein movements if needed. We walked around and did some circles and changes of direction and she was just as responsive with my new rein length. Good.

We moved up to a trot and got into the pole work right away. I focused on keeping my hands closer together and my reins shorter so they aren't in my lap and I'm not tempted to make grand gestures with them. It was actually really good! We did all sorts of variations of the poles - down the line (or up the line), across one pole diagonal to the other, then around the empty long side to the shorter pole diagonal, back to the line but only do one cavaletto and come at it through the middle, etc. One of the cavaletto I had up in the highest setting so we could jump it and that went very well, also. I did realize that those that I set on the shorter diagonal made for a hard turn around the corner, so I re-set them last night and swapped out the poles and the cavaletti and put the two middle cavaletti at jumping height.

We also cantered the line and cantered the poles on the diagonal, with a flying change over each pole!

By moving the jumping-height cavaletti last night to the middle of the arena, I think it will be better for actual jumping - that way I'll have a longer diagonal for preparation and landing. And then with the poles I can do a bending line. Sounds good - off to ride!

Take a step back

Since Pony stomped her little pony feet about trailer loading over the weekend, I thought I'd work on it this week. I rode her on Wednesday and afterward did a trailer-loading session. Stomp, stomp, stomp. It had me scratching my head, as the first time I loaded her up this spring (test loading session before our first lesson), she walked right on. Colin says, "that's girls for you." Ultimately, she figured out that getting on was easier and more pleasant than making a big deal out of it and so she did.

Then yesterday I practiced again before I took Mac out for a ride. And she walked right on. Again Colin said, "that's girls for you - it is Thursday, right?" (Meaning, there's no rhyme or reason to Miss Pony Mare's feet stomping.)

But I realized something yesterday. I took a step back in my body positioning. I think the other day I was "blocking" her space to get into the trailer. In my mind there was plenty of space for her to walk between me and the center divider to load onto her space on the trailer. But maybe in her mind if I generally "claim" a certain amount of space around me as mine then she is invading it and doesn't feel comfortable doing that?

Anyway, all I did was take a step back so that I was standing farther away from the trailer opening and she walked right in! I had her quietly load and unload a few times, then I had her load and I put the butt bar up and gave her butt scratches and lots of Good Girls and then I unloaded her. It was less than five minutes. She was perfect. I brought her back to her stall and gave her a bunch of cookies.

Maybe it just was Thursday.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Pony's first hunter/jumper schooling show!

There was a small in-barn h/j schooling show today. Even though we just had our first lesson of the season last week, I thought why not go and give it a whirl? We entered the ittyies-bittiest classes we could. The goal was to have the experience of prepping for a show (got a new fitted pad - yeah!), ride with other horses in the warm up arena and flat classes, go into the arena on our own, and make it through a small course without making a fool of ourselves. We succeeded in all of those!

I signed us up for a "trot-a-pole" class, one walk-trot equitation class, a cross rail equitation class and a cross rail jumper class.

There was a dusting of snow (!?) this morning and the ground was hard, so the show was in the indoor arena, which made for a challenging warm-up/class management, as we did a joint warm-up in the arena, then cleared out into the barn aisle or outdoors to wait, then back in the arena for the class. But it was actually a great introduction to Pony of being well-mannered with horses all around her, waiting, and waiting.

I did a little lunge at home (and then groomed her) before we left since it was chilly and the horses didn't get their normal turnout yesterday due to a crazy wind storm (60-mph winds that knocked over a couple trees/branches - thought they'd be safer in their paddocks in case any fence damage was done in the pastures). She was fine so we loaded up (which she did not want to do - need to work on schooling that more).

When we got there I pretty much just took her out of the trailer, tacked her up, walked into the arena, hand-walked around just a bit, and got on to warm up. There was a fresh horse there who was a little spooky and look at stuff in the corner, so he had a bit of a naughty moment and then someone else's horse reacted and that rider came off. Pony was a little looky about that, but she got over it quickly.

We were then led through a group warm-up of walking and trotting. There's a little viewing area in the corner that is a balcony that overlooks the arena and some people went up there to watch and that really bothered some horses as well. The one spooky horse was spooky about that and did a spin and a bit of a runaway and his rider came off. Pony was near him so she did just a bit of a scoot as well but then stood and the spooky horse came up to her and then he was caught. Both of us riders did some schooling in that corner with the people up there. It wasn't ideal, but it worked out okay.

We left the arena and then the trot-a-pole class started. It was a simple hunter course of diagonal, outside line, diagonal, other outside line. We just trotted it and that was that. Pony was good. I steer too much with my hands so really need to work on that. But I thought I did a good job of picking a line and (mostly) sticking to it. We cut the scary corner a little bit but it was otherwise non-eventful. We left the arena and waited.

Then we went in for the walk-trot eq class. We walked. We trotted. We reversed. We walked. We trotted.

Trainer asked if anyone who didn't sign up for the walk-trot hunter class wanted to stay and I figured riding was better than standing around waiting, so I rode in that one, too.

Then the judge had us all gather around and she pinned each class and gave us feedback for why she pinned the way she did. That was so very helpful! There were no ribbons, but Pony pinned first in the trot-a-pole class (comment was that I had a plan and stuck to it!), second in the hunter walk-trot class (comment was that even though she doesn't move like a hunter, she was forward and consistent and had a nice expression and our turnout was nice). We got fifth (don't exactly remember?) in the walk-trot eq class because I carried a crop (I dropped it before the hunter class, per Trainer's instructions) and that's a no-no. I swear way back in my old showing days that we did carry crops in the flat classes, too, but now I can't even remember. Oh well. She said otherwise we we did a good job in the class.

Some feedback related to other riders that's good to remember was about diagonals (that was for the kids), tack (no twisted reins, please! No martingale in a flat class), turnout (for a young rider to have longer jods, or appropriate saddle pads), consistency of pace.

Then it was time for the jumping classes. Since we were already in the arena we just stayed for a short warm up to pop over two cross rails. Pony was great.

The cross rail eq class was first and the course was the same. I tried to have my plan and stick to it. The cross rails were small enough to just trot over and not really jump, so mostly that's what we did. I trotted after each one because I feel a little claustrophobic in there and didn't want to canter, so that was part of my plan. I thought our round was just fine, but Trainer commented that I needed to open my chest and carry my eyes more. Got it.

Went out after we finished and waited for the next class. Course was a bit different with two more jumps. The first jump was pretty much up centerline. When we landed she veered right and almost ran into a standard for another jump (it was a bit tight)! I got her straightened out and continued and almost forgot where I was going, but we worked it out. I tried to be better with my shoulder and my eye and thought I was successful with that. But we were more wiggly in this class so less good in that respect. But we were done anyway!

I took Pony back to the trailer to untack her and then brought her back to the barn area and put her in the round pen to roll while I had a pee. I'm sure she had to pee, but she didn't. We got the call to come back into the arena because the judge was ready to pin the two classes.

Pony got first in the eq cross rail class - yay! Again, we stuck with our plan, although I need to be more subtle with my corrections. Pony got good feedback for her willing attitude and pleasant expression. In the jumper class we got second. I'll take it! The judge did say she recognizes I'm on a green horse, but I very much appreciate the feedback.

I have been schooling a jump on my back trail, which is fun, but I think it is time to move the jumps in the arena and work on trot pole courses with maybe a jump here and there, focusing on straightness and steering more from my legs.

I consider it a very successful first outing for Pony. Her attitude and professionalism outshone her green-ness and I'm so proud of her!

No pictures or anything, as I didn't have any accompaniment, but I can assure you that Pony looked very cute!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

I was wrong

The water is on. There is no more dry-ditch practice time. The real deal challenge has arrived! Maybe this weekend we'll venture our there again...

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

More ditch crossing

After Saturday's lesson I thought it would be nice to just have a nice and easy walk in the woods. That, and I want to do the ditch crossing as many times as I can before the water gets turned on.

So Sunday we went to the BLM and did the same loop we did last time. I was ready with cookies in my pocket. We walked down the main trail, got to the ditch crossing, and there was zero hesitation. Pony walked down into it, up the bank, and . . . stopped. She knew she'd done well and knew she deserved a cookie! So I obliged, gave her her cookie and we went on our way. We took the small loop back to the other ditch crossing and again she went right in and out and stopped. I gave her her cookie and we continued.

I had two cookies left in my pocket, so when we got to the first crossing area again, we went through, stopped for a cookie, and turned back and went through again to earn the last cookie.

I'm guessing we have one more week or so to do this and then the water gets turned on - then comes the real test!

I've already prepared to ride with my Dublin boots on (I don't know how to classify them . . . tall, but not tall boots; waterproof, but not rubber). I did a test ride in them and they fit in my stirrups just fine and are comfortable enough. If/when I need to get off to stand in the water, they'll do the job.

The power of the cookie compels her!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Weekend shenanigans

Pony and I went for our first jumping lesson of the year on Saturday. Boy was it windy! So windy, in fact, that we had our lesson indoors. This was Pony's first time in this indoor arena, but she did just fine. I got there too early, which was just fine, as we walked around as someone was having a lesson. I'm pretty good at staying out of other people's way, so when the other person was using one end, we'd use the other. When she crossed the diagonal, we'd go down the long side; if she went down the long side, we'd circle at the other end, etc. When the other person started a course of ground poles / cavaletti, we just parked ourselves in an unobtrusive spot and watched - that was actually good for Pony, as the person crossed in front of us and behind us. Pony was great.

At first while walking around, the light rays in the footing on one end of the arena were a little interesting, but she got over that pretty quickly. There was a small flower box on the ground that must have had the soul of a dead monster in it because she wouldn't walk over it - more on that later.

When it was time for our lesson to start we were ready. Since we did a lot of walk warm up on our own, we went straight to trotting and circles and poles and transitions. Then we did a small crossrail to start. That surprised her and it was a bit awkward and wiggly at first, but after a couple times it was just fine.

Next we were to do a trot pole then many strides to the dreaded flower box. NO! Pony did NOT want to go over that flower box. Trainer stood on one side of it and put a pole on the other side for sort of a "chute" and then Pony went over! Lots of praise and big pats for that. Then we came again and again at the trot and then we did it the other way. It wasn't perfect or very pretty, but we got the job done. Funny thing is we also did a vertical with an identical flower box underneath the rail and she didn't even bat an eye at it! We also did a gate, which she was great at. We put it together in a little course with a couple different variations. I need to work on not releasing so much with my body - especially since she's a pony and smaller, it could put her off balance. I also need to work on steering more with my legs. All in all it was a GREAT first lesson back and I'm so proud of her! For our last course we nailed a couple things and it was so much fun! I of course would like to drill and drill for my benefit so I can practice my own stuff; but for her we ended on a good note for what she accomplished. That's the way it must always be for a young horse. Find the good thing to finish on and leave it at that.

When we went outside I untacked her and then had to write a check and bring it to Trainer. We walked through the barn aisle to meet her on the other side and I decided I'd walk back to the trailer along the driveway, not back through the barn. Great. Another training opportunity. It is funny the things you don't even notice as a person, but when a horse brings it to your attention things change.

The driveway goes between the house and the barn. At the house there was a spinning pinwheel with lots of swirly colors on it - of course spinning as fast as it can because of the wind. At the corner of the barn was a flag pole with a big American flag flapping in the wind. Pony wanted none of either of it!

We did a couple episodes of advance and retreat. I tried to remember what Bryan Neubert would do. Take a break. Retreat. Go do something else. Give the horse a break. So we walked back to the back of the barn and stood there for a little while near the company of the other horses. Pats, deep breaths, a break. Then we went back to the driveway - a little farther down this time (but only by a few steps!). Stop. Stand. Wait. Breathe. Take it all in. Breathe. Pats. Breathe. Pats. More pats. And leave again, back to the barn area for a break. After a few minutes, we went back again and walked by the flag and spinning pinwheel and to the trailer. And when it was time to go, she didn't want to leave! But she loaded up and off we went, back home.

Turned her out in the pasture and she was a happy pony!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Ditch crossing, part deux

After yesterday's successful ditch crossing, I decided I wanted to ride out there again today in order to cement the progress and confirm that Pony felt okay with crossing the ditch.

When I woke up this morning it was raining so I thought I wouldn't ride, but after a delicious breakfast and some reading by the fireplace, I decided I would suck it up and ride. The rain had momentarily stopped and I could get done what I wanted in less than an hour. So we went out.

Pony was very looky-loo, but not in a spooky way - just like, What's over there? What's over there? And there? Is that a log or a monster? What about that?

We came to the dry ditch crossing and . . . she went right through it!

Today I was armed with a pocketful of cookies so once we were on the other side of the ditch I gave her a cookie. And we marched on. We did the same loop Mac and I did yesterday. I don't know how much of a scent a horse leaves on the trail, but I figured if he left one, then at least Pony would know that she was following his same route.

When we got to the end of the loop and the other ditch crossing to come back, she hesitated for a moment, but I gave her a little encouragement, so she went right on through. At the other side I again stopped and gave her a cookie. Ditch-crossing isn't so bad, after all!

We went back on the main trail and at one point could hear Paddy (her brother) screaming for her - he seems to know when we (either Pony and I or Mac and I) are on the final leg of our journey because I always hear him near the same spot (his voice travels, so I could likely hear him also from any other spot, it is just that one area where he says "I know you're coming!").

Yesterday Pony thought she maybe wanted to jig a few times and I quietly shut it down each time, letting her know that jigging gets a short trip around sage brush. This time on the final stretch, I rode her on the buckle completely. She had her head down, a nice swinging walk, and was in no hurry or anxious in the least to get home. We reached the gate, I said "whoa," and she stopped promptly.

SUCH an awesome pony!

I wanted to follow up on my statement about yesterday's ride whereby I said what a wonderful feeling it was to ride this amazing pony that *I* trained. I neglected to say (and I meant to, I just forgot as my fingers were flying) that I can't take all the credit because I've had wonderful teachers. But I also wanted to give a big shout out to her breeder. Pony is her own individual and she is amazing in her own right. She is the product of a thoughtful breeding program to create an ammy-friendly all-around sport pony. Pony gets just as much credit as I do and as my teachers do. She is the reason this is so much fun!

Anyway, just as we came back from our ride the skies opened up again and it is now raining. I did some beauty parlor on the pony and now her feathers are trimmed up, her jawline is trimmed up, and her mane is nice and tidy and shorter. (I will say that clipping is the thing I am least good at and while her feathers are trimmed, it isn't as perfect a job as I'd like.) Pony really likes beauty parlor treatments and was sort of awake-but-snoring with her head lowered and body relaxed.

Now we're spic-and-span and ready for our lesson next week!

Fear and extrapolation

One definition of extrapolate from Merriam-Webster is thus: to predict by projecting past experience or known data

Yesterday I took Pony for a trail ride on the BLM. We haven't been out there since last year before the water was turned off. There's an "inside track" trail between two irrigation ditches that I can do that is about a 45- to 60-minute ride. If I cross one of the ditches, the world of trails opens up to thousands of acres and there's more to explore than I can comfortably do with my back/hip issues. I regularly take Mac on the other side of the ditches and there are loops of various lengths that give me different options depending on how long I want to be out (2 hours is about my max). I really want to get Pony over there because it is good conditioning, it is nice for a different change of scenery, and well, I just want to! BUT! Pony will not cross the ditch when the water is running.

Since the water isn't on yet, I thought it would be a great time to take her over there and cross the dry ditch and explore other areas.

Pony and I went down the main trail and came to the "water crossing" spot - it is flatter and more open than other areas on the ditch, so no ditch-jumping is required. Pony took a look at it, put her nose down, snorted, and planted her pony feet. She was not going near the ditch! I thought it very interesting, as she seemed to extrapolate that she wouldn't want to cross there because she remembers there being water there and for some reason she thought that was A Bad Thing. I turned her away and reapproached a couple times, but she was not interested. I remembered back to the Bryan Neubert clinic of last year where one of his mottos was to get the thing done but let them do it their way. Usually I wouldn't get off during a ride if something was going hairy, but I thought that this time maybe Pony needed a little extra help from me, so I got off.

I took the reins over Pony's head and walked forward so I was standing IN the ditch. She put her nose down, sniffed, took a bite of grass, and tentatively took a step in . . . and then both feet . . . and then she walked through and out the other side. Much praise was given to Pony, although she did let me know she expected a cookie on the other side and I wasn't smart enough to bring any with me.

I had walked her through the ditch back and forth maybe 8-10 times until she comfortably just walked right through. Then I got on and did it under saddle a few times and she was great.

We continued down the main trail to the next spot that I use for water crossing (there's a nice big loop between the two crossings on the "other" side of the ditch). This crossing spot is flatter and wider and the ground is different. Where the first crossing has a sandy bottom, this one has a flat lava rock bottom. I didn't get off for this one, just encouraged her, gave her the reins, and grabbed my pommel just in case. No problem. She did put her head down, but she didn't try to turn away or back up - she was just cautious in her first few steps. We went back and forth a couple times on that one, too. Lots and lots of praise!

There's one more water crossing that if I can get her over, it will allow me access from a different trail-entry point in the summer when part of the area is closed off for cattle grazing. That ditch is steeper and so I thought it best to get off and lead her over it, first, so she can see me stepping down into it and then walking out of it (in one direction the edge it is steeper than the other). I stepped down into it and walked out and she came right behind me. We went back and forth over that one a couple times and then I got on and we went back the easy way to the main trail. She was great!

It was time to go home so we did some trotting and cantering on the main trail to get back. As we were enjoying ourselves, I had this wonderful thought/feeling go through me. *I* did this. For better or worse, *I* have been the one to train Pony, the one to introduce her to the trails, the one to help her understand trail manners (for example, jigging on the way home is NOT allowed - you may walk with purpose, but you may not jig or get yourself wound up and lose your brain), the one to show her the cows on the trail and to let her stand and look and see and soak in what's going on. I have tried to give my Pony Girl good experiences and some well-rounded basics so far so that we can trailer out to dressage or jumping lessons, go out of state for a cowboy clinic, bring a cowboy to my house, trailer out for her first dressage show, ride out of the arena, go for trail rides, see cows, etc.

It was a very happy and gratifying feeling.

I think I'll go out again today to solidify the ditch crossings we did yesterday.

I hope that she can extrapolate what she figured out about the ditch to apply it to when there's water in it. After all, if she did the reverse and was hesitant with no water, she must be smart enough to figure that when there is water, it is still safe to cross!

Pony Power!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The WIND!

Holy moly cow! It sure does get windy here sometimes. It will come and go so quickly that you don't have time to change your plans. On Saturday morning, the wind whipped up early, but then died down by the time I wanted to ride. Then whipped up again! I rode Mac and he was very good. First time I've trotted him since having the winter off and despite flipping over a fence about a month ago (had a vet/chiro visit since), he felt very good and swingy through his back. Something may be a little tweaked behind, though, so we won't do much until the next vet/chiro visit.

Anyway, this blog is about Pony in all her Princess Fancy Pants-itude.

So after I rode Mac, I rode Pony. On one hand I didn't want to because it was chilly and windy and, well, who wants to ride in the wind? On the other hand, it is a training opportunity that needs to be taken advantage of. If we're going to live here and show here, chances are that it will be windy any time we are showing, so best to suck it up.

Pony was a little spooky - but for her that means giving something the hairy eyeball and maybe taking a side-step or two. She was SO GOOD! Really, better than one should be able to hope for or expect in a 4-year-old riding outside in the arena that has no fence or walls.

Surprisingly, my hip wasn't hugely in pain afterward. Not that it was completely pain-free, but it wasn't the depth of pain that I would have expected. I have/had decided that for now my jump saddle is the only saddle I can comfortably ride in, so I rode both Mac and Pony in it and it was the right decision.

Sunday I rode again but this time I did just the trail track out back. I did, however, set up a jump! First I set it up as four trot poles, which she went through beautifully in each direction. Then I set up a cross rail with a trot pole going into it and then maybe seven or so strides after that was just a ground pole.

First time I totally jumped ahead. Second time we were crooked. Third time was better. Fourth time was great on both our parts, so I called it a day after that.

We've got our first jumping lesson of the season coming up in a couple weeks, so I wanted to get some jumps out of the way so we'd feel confident going into the lesson. Pony was a rock star champion, though, and I'm feeling good about our upcoming lessons - AND plans for shows this year!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

We rode over a tarp!

No pictures or video, but we did it! Going to the left she is better and we walked over it. Going to the right she's a bit hesitant, but she did it at a bit of a trot. Regardless, we did it!

And the weather has cleared up enough that we are able to ride in the outdoor arena, yay!

Tomorrow is body work day, lucky girl! <3

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Discretion is the better part of valor

On Thursday I rode Princess Fancy Pants in the arena and it was a nice enough day that I decided to go for a walk out back on our little trails. Pony always wants to go to the back gate of the arena because she'd rather be outside. So at the end of our short ride of walking and trotting and a little canter, we went to the gate and opened it and went to check out the trails. There was still a lot of snow on them and it was the crunchy-on-top snow that you walk on and then sink into. We made it around the loop but I decided I wouldn't be doing any actual work out there just yet.

So yesterday I get the grand idea that it is time to ride outside and since the arena footing is still covered in snow that I'd head out front to the pastures. There is a big-enough workable area without snow on it, and the footing is firm but not too hard. Perfect, right!? We did a little warm up in the covered arena and pony was good for some walk, trot, and a little canter, so I decided to head out to the pasture. We had some nice forward trot and found a path through the trees and with room for some nice straight lines. Everything seemed to be going well and then pony tried to pull some tricks. Squeal! Leap! Sort of buck! Leap again! Twist the body! Nope, Pony, nopenopenope! Put her back to work and a little more squealing and antics. Nope! Shut that down! Back to work! We did some more walk and trot and transitions and circles and when she was relaxed enough I called it a day and decided to not push my luck.

I decided that everyone needed a good run-around so I opened up the pasture that is in front of the barn (horses can access it through the sacrifice area if I open up the gate). So I let Mac out. Put Paddy out. They do not want to leave the paddock. Get them out of the paddock and close the gate. But they don't want to leave the sacrifice area. WTF? I go out into the pasture and stand there calling Mac and he slowly tip-toed his way down there and then he and Paddy went into the pasture. I went back up to the paddocks and let Pony out and she galloped off to join them and then everyone had a grand run-around, just as I'd hoped. I only left them out there for 20-30 minutes while I set up dinner and then brought everyone back in.

Today I thought I might want to ride out front again, but when doing ground work in the covered arena, the wind kicked up, a cold front moved in, and I decided that discretion is the better part of valor so I'd play it safe and ride inside. I did bring out the video camera today and set it up (not a good angle, I realized after viewing the videos) to watch my ride. Of course I don't look as good as I think I do! LOL! I got some MDC stirrups and switched them from my dressage saddle to my jumping saddle, and should have put them up a hole, but I just went with them feeling a little long. It really shows how much my left leg goes out in front of me. This is something that my old eventing trainer would point out to me, especially over jumps, but after my hip-pain issues, I think it is just an unconscious thing I do because that is the most comfortable position for my hip.

We of course did a walk warm-up, but that is boring (and half the time is off-camera) so I cut that out of the video. Here's a video where we do some trot poles:



Then we worked on transitions:



And finally we finished with some canter work - just a little bit in each direction:



I don't often canter in the covered arena because I feel like there's just not that much space in there to work on going as forward as I'd like. But I was happy with this canter work - I'd say it was her best ever in here - she's feeling much more balanced and like she can handle it, so I'll have to do it more often!

I feel like she'll be ready for lessons soon, I'm so looking forward to it!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

I had that dream last night . . .

. . . you know the dream. The one where you are at a horse show (or supposed to be going to a horse show) and you are late because you can't (get your hair right under your helmet, find your boots, find your horse, find your bridle, find your saddle, remember what time you ride, remember what ring you are supposed to be in, etc.). I hate those dreams! I was taking Pony to her first show (even though I've already done that) and couldn't get my hair right under my helmet (which isn't too far off because I have a lot of hair!). Then it was somewhere I'd never been before and I didn't know where the arena was. Then I was helping someone else do something. Then it turned out I had Paddy with me, not Pony. Then I figured I had enough time and made it to the arena just as another class was finishing. For some reason I decided to clean everyone's bridles for them (?!) before their next class, but I didn't make a note of which bridle belonged to which person. And it went on and on and on from there - ugh!

When I think about why I had this dream, I'm pretty sure it is because the weather is crappy and I've only done been back to riding for three weeks now, but I'm sick of being stuck inside. And it was so windy yesterday that I opted to not ride (arena is covered but not indoor and the west wind whips right through the arena and makes a lot of dust). My goals are to get Pony out to dressage and h/j shows this year and so I feel like I'm already behind since we just started riding three weeks ago. And I feel like I need to have and keep up with A Plan, even though Pony is only four and we're not going to the Olympics and it really isn't a Big Deal in the grand scheme of things. But I'd like to get going with lessons again in March and that's really just next week so I need to make it happen!

ARGH!

I think I need to take a chill pill!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

We rode outside!

Sure, come summertime riding outside will seem like no big deal, but the snow/ice on the ground heretofore has prevented me from even wanting to do any sort of hand walking outside. All I've done riding-wise is 20 minutes or so of mostly walk and trot in the covered arena, with a little canter thrown in for good measure.

Well, yesterday we had intermittent rain, but between the rain it was clear enough to go out. The rain had washed snow away in enough places that I could do a little walk back to the manure pile, a little circle around some trees in the snow, back to the barn, and down the driveway to walk through the puddle that is at the entry to one of the pastures. Pony had fun playing splashy-lips with the puddle before walking through it.

I've been doing some trot poles and yesterday opened up my box of cavaletti blocks to make the middle pole just a little higher. We only did that a couple times, but it was fun nonetheless.

Another thing I've done a couple times is more tarp work. The dreaded tarp!!!! But Pony has been so good! The first time I got her to calmly walk over it going to the left. To the right she'd trot over it, but no balking or explosions or spooking or anything like that. I do bribe her with cookies. Today we did some tarp work again and she calmly walked over it and stopped and stood on it going in each direction so she got Big Cookies for such a job well done.

Of course it snowed this morning so I didn't get to ride outside, but spring is coming - it must be!!!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Back to work!

Well there's still snow on the ground, but the temperatures have warmed enough that I don't freeze my patootie off when I go to the barn. It has been three months that the horses and I have had off from riding and so it is time to swing a leg over again.

I decided Saturday would be the day. While I'm sure Pony would have been her Perfect Princess Self, I decided to be wise and let her stretch her legs in the arena first with some free lunging for a couple minutes. Then I put on the surcingle and bridle and did a bit of ground driving. She seemed to have her brains about her so I tacked her up and did our usual ground work exercises first and then got on.

And, well, she was perfect. We didn't do much, as we haven't ridden much and I want to leg her up carefully (and since there still snow and ice on the ground, I won't be riding her outside for a while), so just a little walk and trot for 15 minutes or so and then called it a day.

I had ordered some MDC stirrups back in the fall. I was willing to try anything to help my hip and since Riding Warehouse has a 1-year free return policy I had nothing to lose. But I haven't put them on my saddle or tried them until Saturday. I rode Saturday and Sunday and they didn't cause me any problems. So fingers crossed that they work for me and allow me to ride pain-free.

I did get a hip injection maybe 6 weeks ago (for the bursa, not intra-articular) and while that hurt a bit at first, I did get some relief from it. I do think part of the problem might be my foot. I'm going to see a different orthopedic surgeon soon. And if he can't come up with any answers, then, well, I'm on my own I guess. But I'm feeling a lot better, so I'm hopeful.

Yesterday's ride was better than Saturday's. Pony was light and responsive and she felt really good. I'm so looking forward to getting back in the groove with lessons again! I'd like to do some showing this year - both dressage and h/j - so I need to get a regular program going again.

Looking forward to spring, that's for sure!