Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Back in the saddle!

I just got off a horse! For you diehard blog readers, this is kind of surprising since I haven't gotten on a horse since the ride on Lucy that I detailed in November. Between bad roads and bad schedules (I won't get on green horses unless someone else is at the barn), I have done a whole lot of mucking and bucket-cleaning and zero riding.

Today we finally got everybody's
schedule together thanks to the holiday, so I was able to start working with Sly. Sly (reg. name One Sly Private Eye) is a buckskin tobiano APHA mare who was rescued as a weanling from a PMU farm in Canada. Her training history is a crazy story, but not that unusual. She was sent out for 90 days of training as a three year old. She returned, and someone got on her who admittedly did not do the smartest thing and gave her a boot in the ribs.

Sly, somewhat understandably, took off bucking. Her owner called the trainer, who said, and I quote "well, I never rode her with a


Since that time, Sly's mom has ridden her with a saddle at a walk and jog in the round pen without incident. That was a few months ago and now, again thanks to the weather which necessitated 30 horses living in the indoor arena here til the flood went down, she has been vegetating and eating for a few more months. She's my new project, starting today. I started off with some basics, just longeing both directions. She started off perfectly and then decided to see if she could stop and back up instead. Of course, the only way to correct this is to get yourself behind the point of their shoulder again and urge them forward, so she would start backing and I would scoot to where I could get her forward again. A few verbal corrections and finally I gave her the butt-smack she was asking for. Amazingly, she instantly remembered how to longe nicely without stopping up and backing. Uh-huh. We had a good laugh about that. She has a good "ho" although not quite AS fast a response as I like. We will be working on that.

She knows how to back and she moves away from pressure on both sides, faster on the right side. I tested that out some before getting on her, mindful of the kicking --> bucking incident, but she's not that sensitive. The guy must have really booted her a good one. I got on her today and just got led around and then longed at the walk. I like doing that as we can reinforce the going-forward thing on both ends - she tried to stop and back a few times and both got leg and encouragement from the ground. Worked great. What I was particularly excited about is that we reversed and she did a nice little half-turn - stepped right around, crossing over. Some of them would happily let you drag them on a half-circle to reverse like you're turning a riding mower. I like it when the lateral moves come so naturally.
Last night I went to visit Bessie, the ex-broodmare I worked with this summer. She has now had a few weeks of additional training and is solid at the walk and trot. Monica says cantering is not exactly her idea of fun yet - she said she will lope a few strides and then balk. However, apparently she can't buck to save her life because she is too big and unwieldy (I believe that - this is a moose of a halter bred mare, she wears a 54 huntseat girth!) so it is more funny than anything else when she tries. She is doing very well and is on track for her owner, Sydney, to show in 4-H this year. Here she is in her stall, which is covered with Christmas decorations!

I also saw another happy ending rescue at Bessie's barn. Seven in the Tropics came off the track this year with a blown suspensory. It looks great now, and he is on track for an eventing career. He was bored to death on stall rest, so his teenage owner started teaching him tricks. When you say "show us your ID," he flips his lip to reveal his racing tattoo. How cute is that?

There's also a particularly cool Thoroughbred there looking for a home. He is over 17 hands, 10 years old, bay, personable and sound. I am told he is a nice boy to ride. I might go try him out myself (not for me, but just so I can tell you all what he's like). He's looking for a good home "make an offer" so if you are around Seattle and looking for a bargain on a new dressage or low-level event prospect, contact me and come check him out.

The VLC is back to work and he also started a very important lesson this week - clipper training! This had been delayed as the clippers had fallen into one of those black holes in the barn. The harder we looked, the more we couldn't find them until finally they chose to reappear :-) He was fine as soon as he realized clipping was going to happen in conjunction with cookie feeding. He is extremely food motivated. He would walk across a bridge with flames at both sides if you had an alfalfa flake on the other side.

So that's my update. Have the rest of you been riding over the holidays, or have you let it slide?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Well, I don't have much to talk about. With the recent blizzards, the VLC's progress has come to a screeching halt because I can't get out to the barn he's at. I haven't made it further than the grocery store in over a week.

For those of you in the Midwest or East coast who think I am a wussy, let me explain what happens when it snows in the PNW:


Yes, that's right. Because it's such an infrequent occurrence, we are not set up for it and so nothing gets plowed, salted or sanded. It just sits there on the road. Everything closes up and you are expected to simply stay home. So, despite three decades mostly in Wisconsin and good winter driving skills, this time I am stuck. I am assured that the VLC is fine and that a friend actually made him a nice hot mash with peppermints in it the other day. He goes out in the indoor with the geldings and they play tarp tug-o-war. Well, the other gelding is trying to teach it to him. He hasn't quite caught on yet, and simply drops it and lets the other guy have it. He's not the most competitive, ha ha.

*shrug* What can you do? Can't fight Mother Nature! The VLC blog will return when the weather cooperates and he can get his furry oversized butt back to work. For those who missed this in the comments, he's been seen by the vet and put back to work - slow conditioning, backing up in hand and hill work if we can find a hill (nothing on the property, unfortunately). It was his stifle, as I thought, plus he was a little bit out in the hip so that got fixed. He also needs work on neck flexibility so he was prescribed carrot stretches. The VLC thinks the vet-chiropractor was like the best idea ever.

So that's it for now - Hope you and your horses are having a wonderful holiday season!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cross your fingers...

I finally got the vet I wanted (the vet who is also a chiropractor) scheduled to see the VLC and hopefully figure out what is going on with his very mild left hind lameness. We discussed it on the phone and she thought he might be out in the back which honestly would not surprise me as he is a big goofy dork and does things like jump sideways on to his gelding friends and fall off, and he has been doing things like that as long as I have known him. So, please cross your fingers that we can resolve this and get his big furry butt off to training ASAP!

In the meantime, allow me to introduce my next project. Sly is a young buckskin and white APHA mare who had 30 days of training on her a year or two ago. I am assured she did not make any effort to kill anyone during that process and that she will welcome further training. :-) She is a very sweet and people-friendly mare, and we have always gotten along well, so I'm looking forward to working with her. Her bloodlines look like she ought to be interested in cows, so I am hoping that is true because I'd like to do a lot more of that stuff myself. I'm dying to have my own cutting horse but that is probably several years down the road, so in the meantime I'd be very happy indeed if I had something I could go team sorting on, and Sly might be it!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

And here is your dose of cuteness...the VLC's son Bullwinkle. That's the barn owner where he lives with him, not his owner, but you can sure see how fast he's growing! He was the LAST colt of the season at his breeder's so this is not an early one...I will bet he's going to be bigger than his dad. I am so thankful he found a great home - look at that lovely fence. He is also out with another colt now for which I am equally thankful. They really do need buddies their own age!

So, I'm still working on the web site and still not riding but I can give updates on previous horses I've talked about here. The VLC is still a little off and doesn't mind it a bit. I have so far played nothing but phone tag with the vet that is also a chiro, but I really want her because, after all, why not call the vet who is also a chiro and kill two birds with one stone? Also, my friends think she's a goddess. So I'm still trying. He doesn't mind the layoff a bit. He is entertaining himself playing with his gelding friend and doing things like systematically pulling bags out of the trash and throwing them all over (I always forget he's THAT big and he can reach over fencing the other horses can't and cause mayhem). I haven't been able to blanket him as heavily as I probably should, because I'm always worried he'll get hot during the day when I'm not there, so he's only wearing a lightweight one and has haired up like a yak. Could be the next thing we'll be teaching when he is sound is bodyclipping!

For VLC fans who would like one just like him, but a gelding, I noticed Clyde is for sale. Clyde is a 17 hand gelding by the VLC's sire and he is reportedly the quiet, willing, trail safe gelding of your dreams. Registered AQHA, not sure if he's PHBA but he could be. The pictures show they are not exaggerating his size!

Lucy may be going out to a friend of mine who has a daughter who can ride anything - we're working on that. It has not worked out for me to do anything with her because, due to conflicting work schedules, no one is ever around to be a ground person for me and I'm just plain not getting on a horse who is squirrely to mount and dismount without a ground person. Friend's barn has ever-present trainer and lots of other people always around. We are still trying to ID Lucy and I have submitted a search to the Thoroughbred Protective Racing Bureau which is known to get results where the Jockey Club can't.

Bessie had her VLC filly, Libby, weaned off of her and neither one cared. Bessie then headed out for training with Monica Stephens who will be finishing her under saddle. Apparently the month I put in messing around with her with wild filly at side was completely adequate for Bessie to think she was broke, if not going to work too hard at it - her new kid has been riding her all around the home property, sometimes double with friends. Yes, with helmets. Bessie loves, loves, loves the attention. My friend who feeds in the morning at Monica's tells me that every morning, Bessie is flat out in the shavings in her box stall, clearly not believing her good fortune. She was born and raised on an Idaho ranch, came through the Yelm auction and then lived in a big broodmare herd. The whole stall/spoiled life is a completely new experience for her at age 10 and she is eating it up. They have also discovered she has the ability to pin an Uncle Jimmy's Hangin' Ball up against something no matter where they hang it, and eat the whole thing...Yes, Bessie is happy. I am not sure how happy she will be when training begins December 1st and she learns she is actually going to have to, like, canter with a rider and, you know, break a sweat but I guess we will find out!

By the way, I noticed Bessie's three year old daughter on DreamHorse...bad picture, but might be worth checking out if you're local and looking for a project! She sounds like she got Bessie's people-friendly disposition. This is the foal she was carrying at the auction, from the stallion in Idaho.

The Drama pony returned to her owners and is jumping with their adorable 5'0, 100 lb. friend Heather in the saddle. I will get pictures as soon as I can. She is so damn cute. They almost took her to a schooling show last week but decided she was not quite ready...but that is coming soon. I like the role I played here - it's the same as I did with Connor, another rescue pony who turned out great. Connor was broke out by Juliane of Cowgirl Spirit. I had him for a while and did more finishing and put a canter on him and leads. Then he got sold to an event trainer who finished him the rest of the way and now he lives in luxury at an "A" barn.

I realized we have a little theme here going on the updates and it is a good one to bring know, you don't have to be the one who gets a horse get trained from start to finish to be successful. It's perfectly fine to do what you are able and then pass them along to someone else for a next step. I see people who are driving themselves crazy because they don't have the ability to take the next step, and why? Do what you can. If that means doing all of the groundwork, great. If that means putting the first 30-60 days on, great. If your niche is more finishing and fine tuning, that's great too. Horses need people who can do all of these things, and they're not going to be traumatized if they have a couple different trainers along the way. And with rescues, we all need to work together to ensure they get as trained as possible and on track to great homes in the future.

My Big Gold Yearling is ecstatic - I found new boarding for him where he is out with a weanling Thoroughbred colt. They run. And run. And run some more. I had no one his own age to turn him out with and he would just stand in a corner of the paddock and sulk. This is so much healthier for him. He is fat and filled out now and looks so good - the yearling ribby stage had me at my wit's end despite the vet telling me he has fine - he just looked so lousy, you know? Fortunately it really was a growth stage and he looks good now. I may actually get a picture of him I'm not horrified by sometime next year. :-) The Crabby Old Bat moved to the same place, as it could offer the mud-free pasture she needs to stay as sound as possible on her creaky old legs, and my other two old mares are going this weekend. Clover of course stays home as she needs her hot mush twice daily, but at 35 she also is fine being turned out in a small paddock, while the rest of them aren't. Crabby Old Bat is very happy. She walked through the hot tape the second day and moved in with the barn owner's four geldings. I thought that was going to be a disaster but she merely established herself as the Queen of the Pasture and now has a 17 hand gorgeous Seattle Slew bred gelding who is in love with her. Go figure. Love is blind.

Casper returned to Cowgirl Spirit and they have taken her out trail riding and she did fabulously. Acted like it was all old hat to her. Didn't spook at a thing! That's pretty much what I expected since nothing ever bothered her here. She did figure out that she could revert to her stubborn/sticky behavior with some riders so Juliane is working on training that out of her. She is, of course, still available for adoption and does come with her APHA papers so she is eligible for all of APHA's riding and showing programs.

I may have a new project but it'll just be an old mare fattening-up project. I'll fill you all in if I get her! Hopefully we can make it a happy Thanksgiving for her and have her in a safe place eating mush before the weekend is over. She is a thirty year old Thoroughbred mare and the cutest thing ever...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Slow going...

Not much to write about because not much is happening! I'm trying to get in touch with a highly-recommended chiropractor to give the VLC an adjustment and see if we can get him back to 100%. I'm sure if I trotted him past 100 people, 99 would ask me WTF I was talking about, but one of you would see what I'm seeing...slightly uneven on the left hind. I've been keeping him in more and only turning out in the arena since we've had a monsoon here and everything outside is slop. He doesn't seem to care. He's certainly an easy horse - he's happy living outside, he's happy living in a stall. Nothing in the world stresses this horse. He'll deal well with the horseshow life.

We're taking it very slow with Lucy. She's still very nervous about ground work so the current goal is longeing at the walk without thinking we're going to eat her. She remains unconvinced, but I think it will just take time. She's so much better on the ground than she used to be that I know she'll come around with time. We are still trying to ID her - I sent off pics and info to the Thoroughbred Protective Association for the really high-tech search this week so I'll let you know if we get a hit!

The Drama pony is doing very well. As I think I mentioned, we found an even smaller rider for her - and one who has more recent jumping experience - so she is learning to jump and getting close to being ready for her first schooling show. I can't wait to post those pictures so you can all see - she is just adorable over fences, but they have to be high enough or she is lazy. It's just so easy for her.

All right, hopefully someone else has something more exciting to report! I may have a new project to talk about soon, but I'll bet some of you have a new project already. Fill us in!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Dealing with new mom syndrome in horses...

I'm writing this for someone I know reads the blog but I won't ID them. I think it's something a lot of us went through with our first horse and I'm hoping someone can offer some helpful advice.

By the time I got my first horse, I'd been in lessons for nine years and was already working polo ponies. When you polo groom, you are 100% responsible for making sure that 6 horses stay the right weight, fit, and completely sound. You get used to inspecting legs daily and memorizing what they look like. You know right away if a horse isn't quite right or something feels or looks different. It's great experience and I'd recommend it highly to any of you younger riders who want to really learn horses inside out and learn to ride a variety of temperaments consistently well. So, growing up in that, I didn't really have the "new mom syndrome" that so many people go through upon purchasing their first horse.

You know what I mean. If you're a boarding stable owner, you've likely encountered this person. They may get upset if their horse has a little hay in his water bucket, for example. I dump buckets once a day, when I clean stalls, and I assume other good barns do likewise. That said, horses like to throw their hay in their bucket and some actually wash their hay. The crystal clear perfection accomplished at cleaning time usually only lasts 5 minutes once the horse goes back into the stall.

This kind of owner will just about have heart failure if their horse comes in from shared turnout with a bite mark, and your reassurances that this is just what horses do won't assuage their level of upset. This owner worries nonstop about their horse and is often calling upon you to look at it and see if you think it looks thin or is acting sick. Now, while we all far prefer this owner to the owner who doesn't
notice if their horse is thin or acting sick, after a while we end up rolling our eyes when the person heads our way. Their horse is fine, why can't they see it?

Like I say, I never really went through this. I've always had horses, I've usually had multiple horses. If they get a cut, they get it washed off and treated. I don't worry that they're going to die unless they're colicking or something that I know is truly life-threatening. I can't really put myself in the shoes of an adult who didn't grow up in the barn and is experiencing a constant and continual fear that she is not taking good enough care of her horse, when in reality it's obvious to everybody but her that she is taking exceptional care of her horse, with the exception that her worrying has resulted in his having to change barns a lot. It sounds to me exactly how (I hear!) people are with their first baby...where they are just convinced they are doing it wrong and will somehow kill it. If you can relate to this syndrome, I'd really appreciate your posting your story or your helpful advice.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I rode her!

First, I have to tell you this - this is so cute. Drama, the POA, had her first jumping lesson tonight, so we had a small x set up with two ground poles spaced in front of it. I was going to see if Lucy would walk over ground poles, so I lowered the x to the ground and learned that not only will Lucy walk over ground poles, she will walk over them following me like a dog! All I had to do at the end was kiss to her and circle and she'd follow me back over. It was adorable.

So, I finally decided to get on her and I used the time-honored Cookie Distraction Method to do it. My friend fed her cookies, I got on. Worked GREAT. She did not move a muscle, even after I was up. Stood quietly, was only interested in my friend and the cookies. Hooray.

Well, bless Lucy, she pretty much told me everything I need to work on in the space of one short ten minute ride. I love it when horses are transparent like that. There is not a whole lot of steering and she massively overreacts to leg (like, spooks away from it like you goosed her). That's a pretty comfortable zone for me - I've ridden a lot of horses like that and don't have a problem staying quiet and leaving their sides alone. She's really gate sour - one moment I was walking past the gate to the left and then, swoosh, we were back at the gate facing right. WTF? Kind of interesting to correct on a horse who won't bend her neck and doesn't like leg. I told her she was going to deal with some leg, but we were going forward and going to the left. She actually dealt with the correction pretty well. I felt like the first time I put leg on her it surprised her and she was a lot better after that, though of course I kept it as subtle as possible.

"Ho" is not a problem. We have "ho." We have a nice quiet stand once stopped.

She wanted to follow the cookie-feeding friend, but she accepted being asked to part from her without any drama. She didn't act spooky or "looky" at anything in the arena.

I didn't want to do much the first time and just keep it short and positive, so I halted (far awa from the gate!) and dropped my stirrups in preparation for getting off. They must have tapped her in the sides because she jumped and tensed up. White eyes, scared again. Hmmm. I quietly recollected my stirrups and petted her. When she had settled again, I dropped them more carefully and slid off quickly. That scared her again, but I was definitely not leaving a foot in the stirrup on a horse that goosy about mounting/dismounting.

She's broke and never felt potentially explosive when I was on her but either (a) she hasn't been ridden since the track except for Stephanie and hence is still adjusting to rider legs being in that position at all or (b) she's been spurred/scared. I did not feel at all like this mare was wanting to do anything bad to me. She was simply concerned about what I might do to her. She would relax pretty quickly every time I petted her and told her things were fine.

So, tonight's ride makes our game plan pretty clear. We're going to do some ground driving to improve the steering and also desensitize her to things touching her butt and flanks. Kind of thinking we may do it in a western saddle so that she adjusts to stirrups bonking her in the sides and comes to learn it's no big deal. I think that she is a fast learner and will come around quickly, but I do think she has a little bit of that naturally panicky nature you sometimes get with Thoroughbreds, so we'll go slow with her.

P.S. Drama pony was AWESOME about jumping! She LOVES it and will not even jump unless it's a vertical...X's are too easy and she trots them. This pony will choose to free jump when loose in the arena and not being chased. She's got a real enjoyment of it and I am sure she will only go up from here!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Just one of those times...

I don't have anything to write about because I'm busy working on the new web site and all I do in the barn is chores! My stalls are clean, pails are clean and full, paddocks all got mucked yesterday, aisle swept, old mares got baths yesterday and tails conditioned (boy was the Crabby Old Bat so not thrilled with being tied to a tree to dry off...she got me back by rubbing her nice clean neck all over the tree and getting sap on it) and I haven't ridden anything. I was finally going to tonight, and then the barn owner decided to replace the light bulbs in the indoor arena (for which I AM grateful, as it needed to be done).

So, uh, yeah. So much for the training blog 'cause all I'm doing is barn work and grooming! I hope the rest of you have more exciting things to report - fill me in. On the plus side, Lucy is really starting to like people now...she followed me all around yesterday while I was picking up poop and was nosy and everything. I love watching her start to seek out attention and seek out human contact. She was so "shut down" this summer. I haven't gotten her to make a face for wither scratches yet, but I will. In the meantime, the Crabby Old Bat is enjoying them...

I spend a lot of time scratching my horses, and would actually really love to learn equine massage. My best friend does it professionally and I love watching her work on the horses. They all look so darn happy. I figure anything that helps them relax around people and enjoy human company, particularly if they're rescues or horses with questionable past experiences. I was told that the COB was originally trained by a girl who implemented a training device known as a barbed wire necklace. I thought that had to be an exaggeration, but a little investigation and I learned that this training trick actually exists - you use a piece of barbed wire, one would assume wrapped on the ends so that you can hold it, around the horse's lower neck/chest, to force them to rock back on their hocks. The mare is so psycho about having her chest area touched that this story makes perfect sense. Blanketing her takes two people because she will chomp you when you go to fasten the neck. Now I know why. Yes, the more I hear about some people's training methods, the more I understand why there are so many crabby old horses out there who have just had enough, thank you very much.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Things I used to know about riding...

And still know, but seem to have lost the ability to implement particularly in the split-second when I need to do it!

1. OTTB's don't stand still. Just get your toe in the stirrup, grab a good handful of mane and haul your ass up there as they trot off. It'll be fine!

2. Of course the pony is going to be better if you ride 6 days a week as opposed to 3, dumbass. Why are you acting surprised by this? This is how ponies have been since the dawn of time. Did you forget?

3. They can't buck if they're going forward so all you have to do is boot them in the ribs and they won't be able to buck hard enough to launch you if they can buck at all. If you hunch over and freeze the moment they start bucking, yeah, you're gonna eat dirt.

4. Oh, and LEAN BACK if they buck. You knew this when you were 16. It was second nature. How is it that now you hunch over? Do you think that will work better? How's that going so far?

5. In your entire riding career, you have been spooked out from under all of twice. So why do you get nervous when they are spooky? You have taken cutting lessons, and did fine. They don't spook any harder than they dodge following a cow. It is the exact same motion.

6. Taking the easy way out doesn't get the horse trained. Bailing while you know you can still safely land on your feet when a horse is brewing up an explosion may be the easy way out but it doesn't solve the problem at all. (Who else has developed the "emergency dismount" response? I particularly have it when trying to trail ride. If they start jogging or being stupid or acting like they want to go home, I am on my feet beside them in half a second. Then I regret it and think, you moron, how is that going to fix it? Ride it out. But then I can't get back on because they're jogging and being stupid and I'm not coordinated enough to get on jogging, stupid horses anymore...*sigh* This is why I mostly stay in the arena, where I feel safe. And I know it's mental because I feel safe in a pasture made of one strand of hot tape, too. You KNOW that would not actually stop a horse, but it stops my fears. Go figure.)

OK, I know I'm not the only one. What have you forgotten that you used to know (or just forgotten how to make yourself do?)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Working with Nervous Nelly!

Lucy is a 14 year old Thoroughbred mare rescued from the Enumclaw Auction this summer. I took her on because I'd just placed Petersburg Knight, and as they say, nature abhors a vacuum. A friend of mine had her all summer and put some rides on her, and now she's back for me to continue with.

Lucy is interesting. She's broke. She got ridden around all summer, no problem. But the horse is scared. She's truly nervous about people. Oh, she's 500x better than she was when I first got her - back then you could barely touch her head and she would not take food from your hands, not grain or grass or anything. Now, she only gets upset about her head if something happens like the reins hit her in the ears as I flip them over. I can touch her everywhere, she will lower her head and snuggle, and she was even letting me pet her ears today. She knows all about cookies and carrots now, will seek out attention, and is getting easier to catch.

Now I'm trying to fix her fear of mounting. I get on the block - she swivels the other direction. I have someone stand there to block her, and she stands but the head comes up, the whites of the eyes show, and she starts breathing faster. She's genuinely scared. Why? What was done to this one? I don't know, but I'd like to fix it. So I have been tacking her up and just going out to the block and standing there, and petting her, and scratching her withers, and leaning over her like a green horse. She seems to be less nervous but I still feel like she's waiting for the ax to fall. Very interesting.
If only they could talk, right? Well, I've got all the time in the world...we'll figure this out!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sorry for the lack of updates...

As you Fugly blog readers know, I am nose deep in developing a new web site. The VLC is still looking NQR so he is on vacation and doing nothing more than rolling in the mud and playing with his gelding friend. I have not had time to ride at all in a few days and am going to regret it when I have to get back on the Drama pony.

Casper went home to Cowgirl Spirit to begin competing in drill this season and I wish her much luck. We had begun cantering before she left and she was wonderful on the straightaways and (I LOVE this description my friend came up with to describe those greenie legs-everywhere moments) an eight-legged huffalump on the corners. But she is a baby and she will get it! Other than that, she was a total success story...riding like a champ, no bad behavior. I am very happy with how that one turned out!

Lucy came home and I need to ride her too. She is looking good and much less head shy so I'm very pleased by that. Updated pics very soon. She is available for adoption so if your barn might need a cute black 14 year old TB mare with four socks and a blaze, let me know. Stephanie says she's great to ride and has no issues other than a bit of ongoing headshyness.

OK so someone else entertain the troops...what's your best green horse story from this summer? Funniest/silliest/dumbest moment?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Maybe it's not fear. Maybe it's common sense!

I heard something VERY interesting on the radio the other morning about how the human brain doesn't fully develop until age 25. Until that age, people have problems with impulse control and poor decision-making not because they weren't raised right or whatever, but because their brain simply isn't mature. So I started thinking about that in relationship to riding as I drove along...what if we're all here wondering why we got chicken as we got older, when really all we did was develop better decision-making and that's what keeps us from riding as fearlessly as we did at 21?

Certainly food for thought!

Anyway, the update here is that the VLC pulled his stifle. Probably did it playing in the mud - he does not see the presence of mud as any reason he shouldn't gallop and slide stop and do rollbacks. So he is just taking it easy and I'm hoping he's back to 100% to go to training in November but you all know it'd just be Murphy's Law of Horses that he won't be...

On a better note, the two training projects have made major progress. Both seemed to turn a corner into the land of cooperation quite suddenly. The lazy little paint filly has developed forward motion and barely requires any leg now! I'm so excited. She was always this amazingly smooth and sane ride, but she went through this "no I WON'T" stage which involved a lot of ear pinning and cow-kicking. Thanks to longeing and "ground support," she caught on and is now just a joy to ride. She is heading back to Juliane's in a week to begin her drill team career, and I am getting Lucy back on the same trip - an adorable black Thoroughbred mare with 4 socks and a blaze that was rescued from the Enumclaw sale this summer. Lucy is doing great and it sounds like she's pretty much ready to adopt out, but I do want to work further on her headshyness issues. She appears to be totally convinced somebody is going to ear her down, even though that has certainly not happened since she left the auction yard!

The headshaking POA mare has calmed down considerably. She still plays with her head but she's not rooting and having a fit, and the spooking and propping episodes seem to have been worked through. (Good thing. Propping ponies are hard on the ol' back.). There's another POA show toward the end of this month so I'm hoping we'll get her to that and see how she does. Her owners and I had talked about hanging on to her and finishing her further but I think right now the decision has been made to sell, so if anybody wants a pretty darn fancy medium pony prospect, let me know! (put PONY in the subject line so I don't miss it.) I am going to try to get some video soon. She really is a wonderful mover.

I have my next project all picked out, if Lucy gets adopted and I have room. A Thoroughbred breeder I know has this to-die-for gorgeous 17 hand broodmare for sale. She's only ten so she's plenty young enough to have a riding career, she's a Northern Dancer granddaughter, clean legged and sweet and a whopping $300. So with any luck I will have space for her soon!

I'll also be getting in another POA to work with. This one is very well broke but pushy on the ground and needs finishing under saddle. She is much more classic POA type than the other pony - this one is a big, substantial thing. She is going to be interesting as she has a truly problematic ground issue - being SO aggressive to other horses that she will actually go for one while you're handling her. If we can fix that, she has the potential to be a terrific show pony - but the challenge is, how do you 100% fix that so that a kid will be able to handle her safely? How do you drill through the pony's head that she's just never, ever going to do that ever again? This should be an interesting challenge. She is a rescue and probably for that reason as I'm told she's a bombproof machine to ride. I'm looking forward to her arrival and would also love to hear everybody's bag of tricks for curing aggression toward other horses (both on the ground and under saddle - I don't know if she'll go for another horse mounted yet but I'm assuming she will).

So that's the update here. How is everybody else doing? Horses sound or lame? Behaving or not?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Longeing: It's not just to keep from dying anymore!

When I learned to ride, and particularly in my teens as I was learning to train and ride more difficult horses, I learned to longe as a means of survival. I boarded where they didn't turn out for you, so my horses maybe got a little turnout a few days a week, if I could manage to grab one of the whole four turnouts (at a barn with 60+ horses). So, throwing them out on the longe and letting them buck and fart around kept me from eating dirt, particularly with the really cold backed gelding!

By the time I was 19, I was boarding at an AQHA show barn and while I did plenty of longeing there for the same reason, I learned reason #2 for longeing: fitting up yearlings. So I worked off my board by letting previously unhandled yearlings drag me around the arena. My primary accomplishment from this time period is learning to yank the line sharply down and to the side and throw them on their side if they tried to bolt off and drag me.

(Yes, yes, sorry, I was young and dumb and did what the Big Name Trainer told me to do.)

And of course I did the usual longeing with tack on prior to riding greenies. Figured if they stopped trying to buck the saddle off their back, it was safe to get on! I once had a mare who bucked so hard on the longe she broke the cinch and the saddle flew off. (Surprisingly, that mare turned out to be easy to ride. She just played HARD on the longe.)

Mugwump has blogged rather extensively about longeing as an actual training tool. She doesn't allow hers to buck and fart around and she actually has a pretty interesting method for disciplining that kind of behavior out of them, which if I tried it, would probably wind up with my getting myself macrame'd tightly to a panicked horse's side. I am 41 years old and can't do shit with a rope and I know better than to start trying now. But it works for her, so go Mugs and the rest of you who can handle ropes! I still figure I am having a good day if I can longline without tripping myself.

I have, however, evolved to the point where I do see longeing as a training tool and not merely a substitute for turnout and am trying to resolve specific problems with my horses that way. Drama, the POA pony, was only broke to walk and trot under her previous owner. She started out having a lot of trouble holding her lead on the longe line so I have been using longeing to fit her up at the canter before I try it under saddle. If she gets disunited or switches leads, I break her to the trot and we re-start. She has been doing wonderfully and I can see her becoming more balanced and stronger. It makes so much more sense to start our canter work this way rather than with my weight for her to deal with!

Casper, the paint filly, has had some trouble connecting the idea of leg pressure + go forward. She was confused and resistant. Since she had started to longe well, we started longeing her with a rider and it's working great. She knows how to longe and feels confident that she's doing the right thing if she obeys the commands of the person on the ground. It's made so much more sense to use a little "ground support" than have a senseless fight with a confused greenie who simply wasn't getting it.

The VLC, as I've noted before, definitely prefers to go to the right, so with him, I've been working on the left lead on the longe. He doesn't mind taking the lead, but he doesn't bend/balance himself as well that direction so I'm letting him work on that without my weight. He's such a big galoot and I can see that it's hard for him to manage himself sometimes. He totally does NOT get how big he is. He reminds me of the big dog whose wagging tail knocks everything over, except with him, it's his nose!

I'm always concerned about centrifugal force and "torquing" the neck, so I always longe at the far end of the line, so the horse is taking a big circle of half of the arena. I know a lot of people who only round pen because they want to avoid the force on the horse's neck, and I kind of went through that phase myself, but ultimately it's two different things. You have more control with the line and I think even the horses feel more like they're working with the line - as opposed to feeling like they are turned out.

So what do you think? Are you okay with them "playing" on the longe or is it always work time? (I'm still a bit undecided. I still kind of feel like longeing gives them the chance to buck and have it be okay if you're in a situation where turnout is impossible, let's say at a show, and I like giving them a chance to "vent" acceptably.) Are you/have you used longeing as a training tool, and if so, how? What kinds of issues have you fixed on the longe? Or are you anti-longeing and think it's too hard on them? (Well, it definitely can be, the way I've seen some people do it with the horse going 95mph on a teeny circle in deep footing!). Thoughts?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Rolling the dice...

You all know what I'm talking about. You know when the horse won't do what you want, or is having a rebellious moment, and you have that little internal conversation? I was doing that last night with Drama, the POA pony I'm working for friends of mine. She is a lovely little pony, but the last two rides, she's developed this new behavior where she stops short and balks. This wouldn't faze me so much, but she has an ongoing behavior where she rears in the crossties. The crosstie-rearing has been improving, and she has never reared under saddle, but when you know you have a rearer on your hands, and they suddenly stop and suck back and start going backwards and all the weight goes to the back end, it does give you that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach. And so my gutsy side and my chickenshit side were back to doing battle.

Gutsy Side: She's giving you Appytude. You need to whale her one and let her know that's not okay.

Chicken Side: Um, but what if she goes ballistic? I've never had to "get into" this pony before.

Gutsy Side: She's just gonna get worse if you don't make the point now that you're in charge. And she's 13.1. How far are you gonna fall?

Chicken Side: She could go right up and over and land on me, I bet a 13.1 pony weighs a LOT when it lands on you...who'd make the point then? I think I will just cluck to her and tap her with my heels.

Gutsy Side: Oh yeah. That'll scare her. Oh noooooooo I will never balk again, I might get clucked at.

Well, the clucking and tapping didn't work so I cautiously escalated. Nothing bad happened and I finally realized that booting the pony while growling really loud caused the pony to go forward every time. And after 2 or 3 boot/growl combos, the pony actually gave up and rode fine.

Gutsy Side: Bwahahaha, I told you so, you're such a dumb shit!

*sigh* That's always the hard part though. Logically, you know that 99 times out of 100, the horse is gonna give up and do what you want...but there's that 1 time that lands people in the emergency room or worse every day. The older you get, the harder it is to believe that you're going to continue gambling and winning.

I was going through this with a friend the other day, who is paying waywayway too much money for a trainer to do things she could perfectly well do herself, if only she could get over the mental block so many of us are fighting at this age.

Me: Has Horsey ever bucked anybody off?
Friend: No.
Me: Has Horsey ever reared and dumped anybody off?
Friend: No.
Me: Has Horsey ever spooked out from under anybody?
Friend: No.
Me: Then he's probably not going to develop any of that specially for you. I think you should ride him.

Of course, High Priced Trainer has told her she can't ride her own horse *eye roll*

Ultimately, we have to remember that we gamble every time we get out of bed. Sure, people get hurt or killed riding, but they also slip in the shower, get nailed by a drunk driver on the way to work, or find out they have terminal cancer after living the health-nut, organic only, exercise-daily life for forty years. We have all chosen to ride. Everybody reading this blog loves horses and wants to enjoy them. Sometimes you just have to take that leap of faith and decide that for the 10 seconds required, you're going to ride're going to do what needs to be done. If you can convince yourself, you're going to have a lot better time convincing the horse!

(And by the way, this is head shaking pony, and before someone brings up that head shaking pony may be seriously out of alignment, we discovered the head shaking stops almost completely when we braid pony's forelock for riding! So apparently pony is suffering from Fluffy Forelock Syndrome which is not a condition requiring veterinary or chiropractic intervention, but is merely cured with a rubber band...LOL! I am told this is a comon Welsh pony quirk and this pony is allegedly part Welsh...)

As to the rest of my herd, Casper, the APHA filly from Cowgirl Spirit, had a pretty extreme wolf tooth removal so I'm taking it easy on her - we're slowly starting back ground driving and I rode her around lightly yesterday. She is quiet but lazy and very resistant to leg so I'm trying to put together leg + voice cue so that it makes sense for her. Right now if you just put leg on her, you get pinned ears and cowkicking, but she is starting to figure out that leg + cluck means trot and don't be pissy about it. She is very forward on the longe, I just don't think she understands the leg squeezing thing yet. She's dead quiet at the walk, has a perfect "ho," and I could take her on a trail ride tomorrow but now we need to develop those other gaits.

The VLC continues to be wonderful. He's my easy horse to ride, which makes me laugh daily. Who would think that my 3 year old, 16.2 stallion, who's been under saddle for five months, would be the easiest horse I ride? He is, though. He just never does anything bad. The only thing I have to remember on him is to steer because he doesn't realize how big he is and will go too close to the walls if I don't direct him. I set up new cross ties and now he gets cross tied right next to mares and he ignores them. He rides in the arena with others, no problem. He is almost 100% fine about his feet now - the back left, he will still try to pull away a time or two but he gives up pretty quick. I bought him a brand new rain sheet and even though I'm pretty sure he hasn't been blanketed at all in the past, he's fine with it and has made no effort to destroy it (GOOD COLT! Some of them are so hard on blankets.) He's just such a sweet, cooperative horse about everything.

I also got a great report about his mini-me -- Bullwinkle is leading, "longes" at a walk (goes in the direction you point, what a smart boy!) and is generally just learning everything about life very quickly. Of course he's out of the cute baby stage and now looks ridiculous, much like my Big Gold Yearling. I tried to get some good pictures of the BGY the other day...oh forget it. I'll try again in a year, ha ha!

I loved hearing everybody's updates - keep it up! It's really good to hear from those of you who finally found a trainer that works for you and your horse. The good ones are out there - I swear, trainer shopping is like buying clothes at Ross, you gotta go through all of the fuschia print hot pants and sweatshirts with teddy bears to find that little black designer dress in your size hiding amidst all the crap!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Off to school!

I said I was going to do it and I have...I believe I finally found an AQHA trainer that I trust to finish my VLC and do it fairly. Great facility, weekly lessons are included, and there was not a single bit in her tack room that I object to. The worst thing I saw was a slow twist, which doesn't bother me. It's the thin wire "tongue slicer" bits I object to. Like this. If anybody ever put this on my horse, I would have to kill them.

Anyway, he is off to school November 1st! I am excited about it even though he won't be at home and I'm paranoid about that. But I'll have my weekly lesson so I'll still see him regularly. Right now the game plan is just to do a thirty day evaluation and then give me things to work on for the rest of the winter at home. Then he'll go back in the spring, closer to show season. Money is always a factor, and I like that this trainer is willing to work with a limited budget. She made a lot of good points I'd already thought of about how it makes more sense to go to bigger shows and fewer of them and to start him off at the local open shows and keep it cheap and not take him to an AQHA show at all until he's super solid and has a very good chance of doing well. I really felt like we were on the same page, and every horse in her barn was happy and looked great. I didn't see a single pinned ear.

I figure I've got him as far as I can go without possibly making a wrong turn - he walks, trots, lopes, halts and backs. I can ride him around bareback in a halter. He is still somewhat one sided and doesn't like to bend to the left, and sometimes has balky moments on left circles. He also likes to drop his shoulder that direction. All the methods I know for fixing that are probably not the ones we want to use given that we want his head to stay low and his neck to stay flat. It's time to turn him over to someone who is an expert at what he needs to do and can also watch me ride and pick on me.

I think I'll always be glad I started him myself though - I got what I wanted, which is a very calm, easy horse who's never had a bad experience about riding or a reason not to like it. Now I just need to fill in some of the training gaps before he leaves - like teaching him to clip, as he's expected to know that and I admit I don't own a pair of clippers at the moment and haven't even tried so far. (Fortunately, I can borrow!)

So how far did the rest of you get with your projects? Did you decide to get some outside help? Did you decide just to haul in for lessons or get a friend for a second pair of eyes to assist? Who actually made it to a show this summer? (I tried, and then they decided not to allow stallions, and they didn't have stalls so there went that idea) Did you accomplish as much as you meant to? More? I got everything done on my list except the trail riding - not surprising, that's the hard one for me because I freakin' hate trail riding, even on trained horses much less taking the green one out to see what happens! But on the plus side, he rides absolutely great bareback and I hadn't even meant to try that at this point.

(hmmm, there was more to this post and Blogger ate time!)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The turtle and the hare!

Right now I have both of them to ride!

The turtle is Casper. Casper is a three year old APHA filly that was rescued and donated to Cowgirl Spirit. From pretty much day one, her attitude about riding has been "okay, whatever, and can I have a cookie now?" Juliane rode her bareback the first ride. I believe she trail rode her on ride #2. I got her after that and the only real challenge we've had is that she doesn't see any reason why she should have to go faster than a walk. Just like Bessie, she is pretty much bomb proof quiet at the walk but now has to learn the other gaits. She is so smooth once you get her going that it's just a pleasure to ride - one of those trots you can sit even if it's fast - and "level" is her natural head set. Casper's only about 14.3 so normally I would think that's a little tougher size to place, but in her case she's a born youth horse. It really isn't going to take much to get her ready to progress with a kid (or petite adult) who has a trainer, so I don't expect to be writing about her for long. If you think you might be interested, let me know! (Please put CASPER in the subject line). She does have papers, in order and ready to transfer, so she's eligible for APHA competitions and programs.
This was ride #4. As you can see, she is not actually awake...

Then there's the hare. The hare is a pony named Drama. My friends rescued her from a scary chicken barn thanks to a Craigslist ad, and they made a great call, because this pony is a "10" mover and I mean a "10" mover. I mean, a holy-crap-this-pony-could-go-to-the-A-shows mover.

The Drama pony, so named because at first everything they did with her involved a lot of Drama, is the opposite of Casper. She is fast, and fussy and will shake her head violently when you ride her unless you braid her bushy forelock. (Ponies!) She was broke out the typical way around these parts, complete with western saddle and shank bit and oversized rider, so I have had to convince the pony that I will not (a) hurt her mouth (b) flop on her kidneys or (c) annoy her in any way and it is ok to (a) slow down and (b) relax. But she is getting it and as I have mentioned before, I love ponies. This one is a medium, 13.1, a POA/Welsh mix. The girls who rescued her got her ground manners solid and did a lot of ground work, and have now passed her along to me for riding. She's five, so a perfect age to begin serious work.

We hope to get her to the A shows eventually (of course with someone else up - I'm too old for ponies even if I'm still reasonably size appropriate for them). But you know, first we have to get the head flipping and, well, drama to stop so you'll be hearing about her for a while! (And yes, she is scheduled for a power float - but she flips in a halter too so it's not just about teeth).

So those are my two new projects. Of course I've still got the VLC, who is the turtle when it's warm out and the hare when it's chilly, LOL! He is very much tuned in to the weather. If it's 85, I could ride him in a halter through a field full of mares in heat and he wouldn't have the energy to raise an ear. Memo for future: Send him to big AQHA shows in very hot climates and watch the points mount up!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

This is why I love my Very Large Colt

I haven't ridden him in a few weeks. I left my girth at the SAFE show, and nothing else I have works on him, and I've been busy with other horses and working and you all know the drill. So today I climbed on him and he was...

exactly the same as always. Quite lazy, actually. Walk,
trot, canter...didn't do a single thing wrong. Someone was actually watering the arena with a hose while I was riding...he didn't blink. Oh, and I longed him yesterday and someone had left a tarp in the arena. He bulged out a little and trotted over it without blinking. He's going to be such a good trail horse - he really ought to be owned by someone who isn't so chickenshit about trail riding!

This is why he rocks. I have ridden a lot of 20+ year olds who get a few weeks off and it's like they just came off the range the first time you get back on.

He is awesome. I love him. I gave him a nice bath and detangled his tail (which is thicker than my own hair, and that's saying something) by hand. Then I did the same to the Crabby Old Bat, who was
highly annoyed at the beauty treatment and responded by whipping her tail violently back and forth and whacking me in the face with it. Gotta love old broodmares...

Meanwhile, I have actually gotten off my dead butt and started working with my yearling. He is such a smart little snot. I pulled him out last night and longed him and he was kind of all over, and then today? Longeing like a superstar. Which is great, because I want to put him out on a big circle because of his age and now I can do that because he's staying out there and not requiring much guidance to keep going. We just walk and trot but he is being very, very good. I thought for about a minute about how cool it would be to take him to a show for yearling longe line and then I remembered he's butt ugly at present. Just use google to find a picture of a yearling Thorough
bred. Now paint it yellow. Now you know what he looks like. Blech. Seriously, the only thing he got from his dad is his color and his wavy tail. Everything else is from his mother, who wound up a very attractive 17 hand Thoroughbred mare but was probably extremely hideous at 18 months also...

So I'll put up a picture of when he was a baby and still cute. You will all see more pictures of him

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

No real rhyme or reason to it...

I commented briefly before that I can't figure myself and my fear issues out. I really can't. It's like there are some horses I'm fine on even if they do misbehave and others, forget it. I want off. NOW.

The SAFE show was a prime example of this. The vet put the kibosh on showing Honey (who I was
very comfortable on) so a friend brought a sale Thoroughbred for me to show. He was just lovely. Dapple gray, elegant looking, pretty mover. Well, I got on him and after one circuit of the warm up ring at the walk, he dove for the out gate. I wasn't expecting it and we nearly took out a pony. I got off and I said, uh-uh, not going to do this.

Half my brain was telling me I should have fought it out, but the other half provided the convenient (and actually
accurate) justification that the warm up ring is not the place to have a battle with a horse you don't know and that it is unfair to jeopardize other people's safety with a horse you may not be in control of. (Especially when the horse has scared the crap out of you and you are all weak in the knees like you narrowly avoided a car accident) So I took him back to the trailer and one of the other girls from the barn said "oh yeah, he dove out the gate with me at home, too." Well, okay then...

By then the Cowgirl Spirit trailer had pulled in and I figured I would try to commandeer Class, a Quarter pony I'd worked with a little earlier in the year, for a class or two.
Instead, Juliane suggested I ride Prince Caspian, the rescue's newest project, in the 40+ walk trot.

"Is he broke?" I asked. I knew he hadn't been just two weeks ago.

"Yeah, he's great! I've ridden him four or five times now."

Four or five times.
Juliane being Juliane, she had already fearlessly trail ridden him, taken him into the river, etc. I looked at him. He looked really calm. So I got on him and he just plain felt calm. He felt solid. I felt solid. So even though he was dead green and he went sideways all the way down one side of the arena when he saw the flapping banners on the fence, I never felt unsafe or unconfident or like I wanted to get off. I felt like I was in control. We were good to go. I enjoyed the challenge of trying to keep him straight and focused. (He got adopted very shortly after the show, by the way!)

So why was I okay on one and not the other? I'd love to analyze it out. Well, I do truly hate gate darters. I have this vivid memory of a horse that my friend was on darting into the barn from the arena and sliding right onto his side when he hit the slippery wood floor. That was over 20 years ago but certain things stick in your mind, and that stuck in mine. Still, that's not all of it. I just can't explain it. Green Arabian, normally a breed I'm wary of, no problem. OTTB, normally my comfort zone, I just wanted to get off.

I hear this from a lot of you though. You've had the same thing happen. Allegedly "easy" horses scare you, whereas you effortlessly deal with "difficult" ones. There are certain horses you'll fearlessly bomb around bareback on, and other horses you feel nervous walking around the round pen. Why? Why? Why? Wouldn't it be great if we could just figure it out?

When I was younger, I used to psych myself up to ride the really nutty greenies by visualizing that I was on one of our old school horses who was in a mood and needed to be sorted out. It worked really well. I've tried to do that now, and it works inconsistently. Some horses, I just want to get the hell off of. This drove me crazy at first, and now I've decided, eh, it's okay. I'm not training for a living or anything. It's fine if I don't want to ride something. I used to worry that - especially if I backed down and got off the ones that scared me - the fear would keep growing like some kind of fungus until it took over and I was afraid to ride everything but the 25 year olds, but that hasn't happened. I just can't make total sense of what has happened, and for a super logical, must-analyze-everything person like me, it annoys me.

Ah well, that's my SAFE show report amid lots of rambling. I lost my girth at the SAFE show and as a result of that and just lack of time, the VLC has been on vacation. I started longeing him again the past two days and I think I'm going to finally ride him again tomorrow. He's so easy to longe that if I wait til the end of the evening, that's all I do because I can almost fall asleep standing there holding the line. I need to make my own horse a priority again, instead of letting him wait until after I've ridden the horses I'm riding for other people!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

And back to work...

A post on the show is coming but I really do want to wait for more pictures to surface. I can talk about last night because in the indoor arena, almost all I got was grainy and blurry anyway!

So last night I felt like being productive but I was worn out from the weekend and knew it wasn't the best night to get on greenies, so we did more ground driving. I think the ground driving is very helpful for the VLC. When he wants to resist the bit and balk, you are right behind him. That option simply isn't available. Therefore, he has to get over himself and go forward, and he does. I have a friend who knows how to ground drive much better than I do, and she's giving me lessons in how to do it effectively.

Then we decided to do the same with Casper, the Cowgirl Spirit horse that I am working with. Casper is just one of those great green horses who truly wants to learn and loves the attention. She caught on to everything we asked so quickly, whether it was body language on the longe line or her first ground driving session. I admit, I've become a
fan of ground driving. I like it better than longeing because you can go in a straight line and do maneuvers like serpentines that you could never try on the longe. You can use the whole arena and aren't torquing their heads around. It's just more tiring for the human because when they trot, you trot. But hey, I needed more exercise anyway!

Honey and Bessie are home and back on vacation for awhile. I am sure they are both thrilled!

One preview from the SAFE show...this is me on Class, a Cowgirl Spirit pony who is available for adoption now. She is a Quarter pony and is six years old with no soundness or behavioral concerns. She is just under 14.2 and would be great for a Pony Clubber or other young rider with supervision. She still needs finishing (this was actually her first show class, ever) but she is willing, easy to ride, and has seen and done a lot this summer with the drill team.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

That annoying, frustrating thing that you can't fix!

I wish I could learn to have an eye for distance. I don't have it. I've NEVER had it, and because of that, I've never tried to jump anything bigger than 2'6. I had my trainer at the time try to train it into me, with all of the usual drills involving counting, or practicing seeing distances while on foot or driving the car or just didn't help much. My depth perception isn't great or something. I can see a polo ball and whack it just fine but that's because it's right next to my horse. Trying to look ahead of me, I don't see my jumping distance until it is too late to adjust nicely.

(That's a great big reason someone else will be showing the VLC)

There are riding flaws that can be fixed with work, and riding flaws that seem to be insurmountable. I used to pump at the canter as a child; that turned out to be a matter of no trainer who had been able to explain how not to do that. I finally figured it out myself and stopped doing it, but there's no such easy fix for the distance thing.

Do you have a frustrating riding flaw that you just can't seem to fix that is preventing your ability to progress in your chosen discipline? I hear a lot of dressage riders who are having issues with sitting trot given their bad backs, for example. What's yours, if any?

I will have a full report on the SAFE show but I'm waiting for pictures. It seems to be my show to end up riding barely-broke grey Arabians. Go figure. I still can't figure out my own fear's like, certain horses I'm just immediately confident and fine on, and others I just know I'm not going to be able to do it anymore. It doesn't even have anything to do with how they're acting. It's just weird. But more on that later...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Nope, not dead, just busy!

I've been busy and so the VLC's only been getting ridden about once a week, although we did have a super nice ride in the french link happy mouth bit I borrowed. He definitely prefers that bit, as many of you predicted! I am not taking him to the SAFE show because (a) they don't have any stalls and I don't think that's a good first show situation for him and (b) they decided not to allow stallions. We will find another schooling show for him to go to in the next month or so. However, as you can see from this (admittedly crappy cell phone pic), he continues to be, um, not exactly a wild and crazy guy. (The misty effect is my friend's finger...LOL!)

The new plan was to take Honey to the show, but I have noticed Honey's back bothering her and the vet
determined yesterday that he'd like to see her get an adjustment before we proceed with any further under-saddle work. Karen came and picked her up and I did climb on her with a halter and lead rope bareback and show her how quiet her OTTB was now. Honey is such a sweetheart!

The nice thing is that she will have a home with Karen no matter what her physical issues are. My vet suspects an old pelvic or hip fracture as she flexes a little sore on the ankle (what I thought was the problem) but very sore when she is flexed "high" to stress the hip/pelvic region. He also felt she had some arthritis in her neck (she does have an obvious old neck injury, with visibly asymmetrical muscle development). She trots out sound without
weight and a little off with weight, but I noticed her getting sore toward the point of the hip and we decided to have her examined. I'm glad we did, and I hope that a chiropractor can help her be comfortable and happy for some light trail riding, which is all Karen would like for her to be able to do.

Bessie goes home on Tuesday and the plan is to give her a break until the baby's weaned and then resume training in October. She is steady as a rock to ride - just needs further education about what the aids mean. Her former owner is theorizing that she may have been packed with, which actually makes a lot of sense as she has no reaction to the girth or anything that you do on her or anything that happens around her. (The last time I rode her, several cats bolted through the round pen. She couldn't have cared less. She is a superstar!) However, as one of my roomies pointed out, dead deer don't use leg aids. Nope, guess they don't. That really would explain a lot of her mysterious training level - bombproof to ride, but totally uneducated! Her filly Libby got halter broke this last week and is learning to lead. She was not thrilled at first, but learns quickly and is figuring out giving to pressure very well.

Bullwinkle also got halter broke, but he is pretty disgruntled right now. Of course, he also got shots and weaned and his first trailer ride and I think the combination of all of those things have fried his furry little mind. He is on his way to his new life and I'm very happy for him!

With horses leaving, another project has arrived. Casper is a three year old APHA filly that was rescued and given to Cowgirl Spirit Rescue Drill Team. She has matured incredibly over the summer - she was a classic example of something that might have chronologically been old enough to ride, but one look told you she just wasn't there yet. Now she has filled out and looks ready to carry a rider. Since Casper is small and Juliane feels too tall on her, I'm taking over her training. She has had 3 or 4 rides on her and has been very cooperative so far. She's great about most things and has already attended a couple of CSRDT events as a "spokeshorse" for the rescue! This one is going to be a lot of fun. I'm not sure what her niche is going to be yet, but we will find out.

I also climbed on another old broodie this week to evaluate her under saddle. Well, she's not old, she's only ten. She's had some very nice babies but was also a sweetheart to ride - despite the fact that she most likely has no post-track training, she rode off very quietly and even stood motionless for me to mount. Also, no herdbound behavior which is unusual -- usually when you take one of these broodies away from the other horses, they act like the sky is falling, but not this girl. Like Bessie, she was actually lazy which I am coming to appreciate more and more as I get older. ;-) She is looking for a new home which could be breeding, riding or a combination of both. Both sire and dam are stakes winners. E-mail me if you would like to know more.

Monday, August 11, 2008

What does cross-training mean to you?

Thought this would be a fun topic...

Most of us have heard the term "cross-training." The general idea is, you shouldn't school your horse day in and day out to do Discipline X or pretty soon he's going to get sour and hate Discipline X. You should mix it up, do something different, and give him some mental breaks. I agree with this 100%, but I'm curious to hear what that means to you and what you do with your horses.

My old show horse Jack competed in pretty much all of the typical open show events. We did showmanship, hunt seat and western and he won a lot of high point trophies. While Jack was well trained enough to dink around with the other WP horses, he truly loved to run so we did things like gallop in my back hayfield and occasionally run barrels and poles at the shows. He wasn't good at barrels or poles - he was a big horse and not that great at pulling himself together for a fast turn - but he liked it. So we did it. At home I whacked polo balls around off of him, jumped a little, and used him to pony young horses.

(I've always hit polo balls off the show horses. I think it's good for them and most of them find it interesting. I will have to start that with the VLC. I am just not sure they make a mallet that long...)

Of course, I know that if I were keeping the VLC at some nice h/j barn and I went to whacking polo balls around off of him, people would think I had lost my ever-loving mind. In those kind of barns, cross-training means that you do a little dressage sometimes with your hunter.

To me, the perfect horse is something like the VLC's famous uncle, Favor Mr. Sabre. FMS is a full brother to the VLC's dam. He was AQHA Amateur Versatility Horse of the Year in 2001. He has points in halter, ranch versatility, barrel racing, reining, trail, hunter under saddle, working cowhorse, western pleasure, western horsemanship, hunt seat equitation, western riding, pole bending, showmanship, and breakaway roping. I love the idea of a horse that can win western pleasure and barrels at the same AQHA show. I'd very much like for the VLC to mature into exactly that kind of a horse. (By the way, if anybody has a picture of FMS, I've always wanted to see one and have so far failed to locate it. Super special bonus points for video!)

So, I'm curious, what does cross-training mean to you? What do you like to do with your horses that is totally different from what they show/compete at? Have you jumped your cutting horse or taken your warmblood team sorting? Do you have one of those fabulous all-around horses who does it all and does it well? Do you agree that cross-training improves performance and keeps their mind fresh, or do you think it's possible to confuse them by doing things that are very different? Does your horse like to do a lot of different things, or does he/she seem to get frazzled when you deviate from the norm?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Heat Wave!

You guys in the South and SW are gonna smack me for whining about the 80s's been in the 80s and it's hooooot and huuuuumid and I don't waaaaaant to ride. Or clean stalls or do much of anything else except maybe spray myself with the hose while watering!

The good thing about heat waves is it makes all the green horses safer. After all, who really wants to explode in the heat? Not that Bessie was in any danger of exploding anyway. Bessie is just making us laugh. Tonight was ride #3. I've been trying to teach her to associate clucking with moving forward, since she has no reaction to leg pressure. Honestly, she reminds me of a draft horse. She just does not care HOW hard you squeeze. She can stand there and go to sleep through as much squeezing as my legs can provide. Nor does she care if you smack her on the butt. So now I am working on verbal cues and I think she is starting to figure it out. You can turn her and "unstick" her front end but it's not that easy. She is a big, heavy mare and about as easygoing as a Barcalounger. Which will be great for safety with her 12 year old owner - but we do need to create some semblance of forward motion!

One nice thing is the baby has settled down about Mom being ridden and now calmly walks along behind us. I think this is a good experience for her, too. The big challenge is grooming Mom. Baby is SO in love with being groomed that she squeezes between any grooming implement and her mother. :-) I'm glad she's so people friendly though - maybe she'll forgive me for tomorrow night, when we plan to put them in a stall and get a halter on baby, who wants no part of that idea.

I'm also pleased that Bessie seems to have figured out that she has a reverse gear. The first week, it was truly funny. She just would not back up. I mean, you could push on her chest for all you were worth and she would just give you a look like, WTF are you trying to do? I employed Mugwump's hoof kicking trick and what do you know, we DID get those front feet unstuck. She even did it willingly under saddle tonight!

In other news, for those of you who remember Footloose, the OTTB mare we rescued literally minutes before the truck to Mexico was loading last fall, her new owner took her for her first ride tonight. I'll let her comment on that but apparently she was awesome! Hopefully she will have a new career as a low level eventer. I think she'd like that, she's super calm outside and nothing seems to bother this mare. She is just naturally good minded and no amount of training can replace that! The really cool thing is that she wasn't sound last fall, but after time off doing nothing but eating - she is. Pretty cool outcome for a mare who almost slipped through the cracks.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Best and Worst!

What is your horse the best at?

What is your horse the worst at?

Here are mine:

The VLC:

Best: Best darn natural, slow, round lope I have ever ridden. And, really, nothing upsets him.

Worst: Staying on the rail. He's just lazy and will cut in if I'm not paying attention, in the manner of a 26 year old school horse on a hot summer day. Solution: I just need to pay attention - it's a lot easier to catch them two inches off the wall than when you are daydreaming up there and all of a sudden you are in the middle of the ring wondering how you got there!


Best: She has totally mastered halt and stand still. I mean, she will halt on seat and I can drop the reins and she will stand there motionless until next week. She does not fidget at all. It is really impressive. She stands still like a cowhorse!

Worst: Still working on bending right. She still wants to drop her shoulder and put her nose to the outside. I would like to get her off site to a better arena for some rides soon so that we can work on proper circles. That would help a lot!

So what is your horse's best and worst?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Let's talk about pain!

As one alert poster observed, I ride like my back hurts. Yep, I do, because it does. 24/7 to varying degrees. It hurts a lot when I get up in the morning. It hurts enough to make tears come to my eyes if I have to stand in one place for long periods of time. Riding actually helps loosen it up but I have some degree of back and neck pain 24/7 and it's been like that for a long time. I can trace it to an accident at age 15 where I went ass-over-teakettle into an arena wall, but really, all the wear and tear since hasn't helped any.

This is not unusual. Most of us realized around age 30 that our bodies no longer felt the way they used to, and if we've had some painful spills, that was even more true. By 40, the arthritis and age related stuff starts to set in as well. I have a bad back, a locking knee, and ankles that crack like a 16 year old OTTB's when I walk stairs.

Most riders my age tell the same tales. Riding is not easy on the human body, particularly if you've ridden competitively or trained for a living. You can always identify the trainers at a horseshow - they are lamer than the oldest schoolie, hobbling from show ring to barn area with a perpetually hunched back. They all look like they need 2 grams of bute and possibly a shot of vodka to chase it. Now, add the fact that most of the professional horsepeople I know either have no health insurance, or no time to go to the doctor (I have the latter scenario) and - let's be honest here - we horsepeople are infamous for hating the doctor. I freely admit to the statement "I go to the doctor - if they drag me there unconscious while I can't protest." I tend to treat my aches and pains with lots of Advil, applications of horse liniment and the occasional shot of vodka. That's pretty typical. I have pointed out MANY times that if we only took as good care of ourselves and paid as much attention to rehabbing our injuries as we do if it's our horse with the problem, we'd be in a lot better shape - but it seems like almost none of us do. (Why is that? Why is it so many horsewomen, for example, have their horse's nutrition down to a science, yet can't put themselves on the same strict plan and lose the extra weight or just plain eat more healthfully? I mean, hell, I'm guilty. The horses have supplements for whatever they need, but do I take a vitamin? Uh, no.)

So as we age, we're not only dealing with increased fear issues, but most of us are dealing with pain issues. Yet we want to ride. None of us want to take the doctor's advice and take up a kindler, gentler sport more suited to aging bodies. And hey, we all saw the video about the 102 year old cowgirl...if she can do it, why can't we?

What's your pain issue? Do you know why you have it (i.e. a specific accident) or is it just wear and tear related? Have you been good and received actual medical care for it, or are you self-medicating? Does it affect your riding? Are you doing things like yoga or pilates to help regain your lost flexibility and strengthen your muscles to help deal with it? Why are we all so bad about taking care of ourselves?