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


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