Saturday, November 3, 2018

Gosh, it has been sooooo long!

I can't even remember the last thing I wrote...God forbid I go back and look it up.

I think it has been about a year since I posted, maybe? I took most of last summer off because I got bucked off (my own fault entirely!) and then it was such a smoky summer that riding would have been unhealthy. Then it got cold and well, you know.

So we got back at it in the spring and I went back to dressage lessons with Mari at Natalie Perry Dressage. We struggled with the canter for a while. Probably it was mostly me because I have a mental block when it comes to trot-canter transitions on a green horse (history of being bucked off of a 16.3 monster). We could easily do it at home on the little trails when we can go forward more in the open, but for some reason put me in an arena and I panic. It is probably the other way around for most people!

Anyway, I decided two things. 1) to sign up for a dressage show in October and 2) to put Pony in boot camp for a month and board her at the barn (that has a beautiful large indoor) in order for her to get some training rides and get through the canter block that's been looming over me.

It was such a great idea to put her in training for that month. Mari rode her and really worked on forward...GO PONY GO! And I took lessons and also schooled on my own in preparation for the show. I took her home a week before the show to do beauty parlor and just hack around and Mac was so happy to have her back!

And speaking of the show, it was great! Pony now loads up easily, is a good traveler, and unloads and just chills. She doesn't need any lunging or prep, just tack up and ride!

Our warm-up at the show wasn't great, I didn't think. Forward wasn't as good as it has been and I felt like I had to work harder than I wanted to. I kept the warm-up short and easy and figured I'd just do the best I could in front of the judge.

Our first class, Training 1, we won with a 69.something!

I was so proud of her! She marched in and did her job. I did feel like I was working too hard, but she was perfectly behaved and I was happy with what she gave me.

We had about an hour break before the next class so we went back to the trailer and she had some water and hay while we waited. The next warm-up I again kept it short and easy.

Our second class, Training 2, we won with a 70.something!

The judge liked her and was probably more generous than I would have been, but I'll take it!

It is now cold outside and I am procrastinating going to ride. I'm probably not going to ride today. Pony has a massage this afternoon and I need to catch up with cleaning the pasture since I had a houseguest last week and didn't do all my chores.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Shocking . . . cows!

It has been so dry here - of course, we live in the desert - that the time has come that I start shocking the horses while grooming them. I don't know why it seems to happen when fall weather seems just around the corner. Maybe it is because the horses are shedding their summer coats and their winter coats are starting to come in? Poor Pony, I was grooming her yesterday before riding and when I was brushing her face (her favorite thing), she pulled her head back and got bug-eyed for a moment. She is so sensitive - at first I couldn't figure out why she did that, but when I brushed her a little more that I felt the shocks. Gah!

This morning when I groomed her before riding, I had a brush in one hand and a spray bottle of water in the other hand to keep the static down and that seemed to do the trick.

Our neighbor has cows again this year, and Pony seems enthralled with them! Every ride I go out on the path/trails for a nice long walk warm-up and Pony drags me over to the fence to visit the cows. One morning there were a bunch of yearlings there that she so desperately wanted to move, so we did our best with them right on the other side of the fence, but it isn't the same as actually getting up close and separating them or moving them along. Oh well, it had to do.

The other day I snapped this picture of a young mom and her calf who were staring at us from their pasture.

The saddle fitter I was hoping to have out couldn't make it to our appointment and has to travel to see family, so I'm looking at another person who is local. I'm just trying to work through some hip stuff and then I'll have her out to work on Mac's saddle and see what she's got for Pony.

Not much exciting is happening here. We're working on plans to put up some new fencing to open up the entire back area to the horses, so that would be about 7 acres or so of native grasses and trees, no irrigated pasture. I think it will be great for them to have more room to move around and explore and keep themselves busy during the day!

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.