Thursday, May 1, 2008

Rule #1: Always expect the unexpected!

Sorry about the lack of pictures, but we were suffering from a dead camera battery. Next time, really!

Tonight, after a busy week, I finally managed to put ride #4 on the VLC. We had sunshine and beautiful weather, so I thought it would be a good time to venture into the great outdoors. I put him out in the round pen to investigate and ran around feeding the others for a while. He trotted around once, slowly, and then set to snaking his neck through the panels and vaccuuming up every blade of grass within reach.

I headed out, brushed off his filthy self (of course, he had to roll and coat himself from head to toe in filth...hmmm maybe it's a good thing we didn't take pics tonight!) and tacked him up. While he was less wiggly about the girth and saddling in general, he did revert to cowkicking at me twice. It was right at the beginning, as I reached under for the girth, so he got smacked and growled at. He then decided that pawing violently with a front foot might be a better way to show his displeasure (mind you, I had not yet actually pulled the girth snug and it was hanging in a loop under his belly. Drama queen.) Of course, he was not allowed to do that either. He finally gave up with a big sigh and allowed me to proceed to tighten the girth. I do it slowly and always let him move around in between pulls. Once it's tight, he doesn't care a bit or show any discomfort, and I have been pulling out both front legs to make sure the skin lies flat. I just think it's a naughty baby behavior that he will get over with time, although I am going to buy him a fleece lined girth this weekend and see if he minds that less than the neoprene. I know some horses just hate neoprene girths.

I chased him around a bit at the trot. Probably 5 minutes tops. The footing is quite deep in our round pen and he was quickly huffing and puffing. It was obvious it wasn't going to take much to ensure he was safe to get on - he is a marshmallow. (So am I. We both need to get more fit!) I pulled out the mounting block and got on and we proceeded to swim around the round pen. Seriously, it felt SO weird going through the deep footing. I had to remind myself again to just pitch him away and let him put his head down for balance. I did not want to try a trot again in the deep footing, so we just worked on walking, circling, and stopping. He barged through the first two stops a bit and then the third time, he was really good. We do need to spend time practicing that. The nice thing is once you get the halt, he stays in it until you ask him to move forward. He's listening very, very well to leg and never shows any resistance to it.

Here's the funny part: I am normally a little leery about riding outside because of the unexpected things that happen. After all, we are right next to pastures full of horses and adjacent two very wooly llamas that sometimes bolt off at a surprising speed. And, Murphy's Law being what it is, of course two horses took off running at full tilt while I was riding. The VLC raised his head and paused to look, but didn't get upset. He ignored other horses whinnying, and couldn't have cared less about the llamas. You know what he had to give the wall eye to and sidestep away from?

You ready for this?

His own poop.

Yup. It was going to bite him in the ankles if he stepped on it. He had to sidestep into the middle of the round pen the first time to get away from it. (interesting note: he's going to have a lovely sidepass once we actually train this into him!) When I got done laughing, we went back to the wall and after several more rounds, he managed to at least walk next to it. I do not think he ever stepped over or through it, though!

Silly, silly, very large colt!

Overall, though, no complaints. How are all of you doing? Those of you who put first rides on recently, have you gotten back up there for ride two or three? How are you doing dealing with your own fears? I seem to be totally fine on the VLC now...I know it sounds corny but I already feel like we're a team.

Of course, now I have to start scheduling in time on the other three year old I promised to start. He's in my comfort zone size-wise (about 13.3!) him launch my butt, LOL!

By the way, tomorrow is the VLC's third birthday! I think we'll do ride #5, add a little trotting and celebrate the fact that no wacko yearling-riding AQHA trainer got ahold of him and ruined his legs at 16 months. :-)


cdncowgirl said...

Ahhhh... the terrifying "poo pile". The first time I came off my OTTB mare was because of that same pile. We were loping through a pasture and coming up on a fence, I asked her to turn right and she saw "IT". Very quickly (and nimbly) she turned left, alas I had already committed to turning right. :(
Even worse, we were at our first ever barrel racing jackpot and she took off for the arena (and all the other people/horses). My friend sat on her gelding laughing at me (once she knew I was not hurt) before she got her butt in gear and went after my mare.
On a good note, I've had this horse for about 14 years now and I've only come off her twice. :)

Sagebrusheq said...

Glad to hear it's good, Fugly. I was wondering how things were going.

Good weather here too. I'm on day 5 with Merlin. Saddling him but staying on the ground for a while with this one. If I was sure I could stay on I might chance a ride but he's very sensitive (my favorite euphemism) and I've been very careful not to get him upset and progress has been steady and good. Landing in a heap in front of him would ruin everything I'm sure. I haven't run out of things to do on the ground yet so might as well stay there. I'm supposing I'll be able to trim his feet tomorrow without incident, probably could have today.

ellen said...

Good job! VLC is going to be a wonderful horse because you are taking your time and being smart about starting him.

Today Cute Little Gelding was introduced to the saddle I'll be riding him in. I usually ride in a treeless Ansur dressage saddle, which is small comfort on a brand new green bean -- nothin to hang on to! So he was introduced to my Tucker trail saddle -- which he had zero interest in once he decided he wasn't going to be allowed to eat it.

It was a blustery day, complete with heffalumps and woozles in the woods, and his pasture mates were racing madly all around across the creek from my indoor arena (which has an open side), so he was, shall we say, a bit distracted at first.

He does the same thing with the pawing, he's just impatient and wants to be On With It, though he's not the least girthy. If he's worried about or tired of what is going on, and is required to stand still for it, the front foot gets going.

Once the herd o'maniacs calmed down, his mind joined the rest of him in the arena and he did fine -- longeing and double longeing with the saddle, which he took absolutely in stride as he has everything else so far. I had my helper with me today (everyone needs a talented and hardworking teenage Pony Girl on the payroll), and she got a quick double longeing lesson with him (spaghetti horse a time or two, but they sorted it out).

The only problem I have with him is that he is (and always has been )weird about his head -- as in wallowing it all over me when I'm trying to bridle him. We are working on having him bend toward me softly while I stand at his shoulder, but he's always trying to grab everything and lug on me with his head. Getting better all the time (he was REALLY obnoxious about it when he was entire, which is one reason he's not any more).

which_chick said...

Last night was ride #5 on Project Horse during which I GOT ON BY MYSELF (no helper holding the horse) and rode large figures of eight in the yard with multiple walk-halt transitions, including the use of firm leg pressure (at which PH did NOT blow up or look weird). This was probably five whole minutes of riding during which there was absolutely no excitement or difficulty.

I have scheduled a "trail ride" on Saturday with a buddy (and buddy's Calm Sensible Horse) in which we will bravely cross the paved road, go through the hayfield, and ride on the little dirt road (no traffic) loop through the woods for twenty minutes.

Trail riding already? Well, yeah. The yard/driveway where I've been doing the work up to now doesn't have a lot of space and the footing is kind of rutted from the bobcat moving round bales around. The trail has decent footing and more space.

Also, the end goal for PH is to attend and complete the 4-H state CTR (30 miles) this fall. We're due to start conditioning at walk/jog speeds at the end of May, so starting to get a a handle on that is probably not a bad idea.

Horsegal984 said...

Did you miss the memo on the horse eating poop? Apparently once it makes it out it turns around and eats the horse that ate it! =) silly VLC

Man, I was so ready to brag about my PITA Jax, then yesterday happened! Wednesday I felt really froggy after having been off him for about a week and a half and decided I wanted to go for our first hack around the pasture. Corralled a friend who also didn't feel like doing any real work on her horse into going with us. We walked around, and he's doing really well. One of his pasture buddies takes off past us coming out of the woods and Jax took about 3 canter spook strides and came right back to a halt. I was SOOOO proud of him! My BO was taking bets on what I was going to break on our ride and not really a bit of fuss out of him, other that having to convince him it really IS ok to go out of the arena with a rider on!

So yesterday I go out, gonna do some W/T in the arena, noting big, lots of trotting to bulid up muscle and balance. Get on, start walking and everytime I ask his lazy little butt for a trot he bucks me! He'd slow down, I'd tap him with my heels and he'd buck again. I tried giving the little bugger the benefit of the doubt and tried 2point instead of posting, thinking maybe he was a little back sore, he still bucked. Ugghhh fun lesson! But at least now I know that he's not going to go straight from 0 to rodeo-bronc-no-way-in-hell-to-sit-them bucks. So I feel more confident in being fully capable of working his little butt through it!

Lisa said...

That's funny. Usually colts aren't scared of their manure... they're dragging you to it!

I had a great ride on my filly on Wed. She was actually non-comatose under saddle for once, due to the fact the neighbors got new horses and decided to introduce them as soon as I got on my filly. It's always something!

I'm debating if I should walk her across the street to a neighboring farm's dressage schooling show next week. Even though I'm not much of a dressage rider and don't plan on her being a dressage horse, I'm thinking about entering her in their intro w/t test. Although maybe I'm getting ahead of myself...

Shana said...

I think I mentioned this in another comment, but just in case I didn't...

I had a riding lesson yesterday and for the first time in 4 months had a very perfect trot out of my girl. She's very well trained, I am not, and its caused a lot of our troubles. Getting her to trot faster than a human can walk is hard!

Anyway, not only was she trotting using her full stride, which is huge, but I got some suspension as well! WOO HOO! Except it scared the bejeebees out of me. I thought for sure she was bucking, as my timing was way off so I was coming down too late and the force from her rear pushing off smacked into me and I was sure she was bucking, so of course I stopped her *eyeroll*

I've only ridden a trot with suspension once before on her, over trot poles, so I wasn't expecting it. It was very refreshing to have a good fast trot out of her for once, I need that consistency if I'm ever going to learn how to ride. Can you imagine learning to find balance on a horse that changes speed every other stride? Its damn near impossible!!

I'm always more brave after a ride, standing on the ground with her. It is rides like these though that boost my confidence a bit. I mean, she trotted fast, didn't break into a canter, and I didn't die - seems pretty positive all around =P

icepony said...

Glad to hear you're having good rides! Nothing doing here, due to it snowing again/still :( We're working on the "trailer terror" problem, and actually managed a nice, calm, mannered walk past the back end of the dozen or more parked trailers a few days ago. Time to start randomly opening trailer doors now!

Heidi the Hick said...

So true.

The 13.3h horse is more my size too. Watch him launch your butt? Yup. Our Halflinger bucked me off at a horse show. Good times.

Good to hear that your big guy is going well.

Francis said...

Might as well jump in with my saga.

48 years old, continuous rider, started a handful but the last one was 15 years ago. Bred that mare for her replacement who just turned 3 in April. I am not a petite rider so I waited until 3 to really start this filly even thou shes had ground work out the yahoo. But shes alittle hotter than her mother was, a little jumpier, and I am alot older and while shes only about 15.2, the ground *seems* futher away.. BUT, all that said.. I am looking at ride 3 on her. I have an issue with help, as in I dont' have any, and a husband who thinks that I don't need to be on a young horse alone.. go figure.. so I have to wait until I can bribe someone qualified to help me when I get the opportunity to ride. Anyone else understand what PIA that is!?! Qualified being the key word.

But I digress.. and so we have done ground work, progressed through to actually getting on a couple of times, walks, stops, backs, leg yields.. etc.. then she got the idea that I was going to kill her when I got up on the mounting block.. so back to square one.. get her used to me being above her again.. slowly.. and we are ready for ride three.. when I can get someone there to help me.

So, while waiting on help .. which hasn't arrived yet.. I decide to saddle up the fat horse that I intend to ride this weekend just to make sure hes sound and mentally ready to ride for a few hours. He is coming off an injury and has been steadily gaining weight on air.. so I saddle, notice that the saddle I always ride hiim with seems awee bit tight.. but heck, ride him anyway just to see. he starts off taking itsy bitsy steps so I quickly realize that the saddle really is pinching and turn around to go swap out for a larger saddle.. and.. the dead solid broke albeit HUGE horse.. falls down.. splat.. I go over his head and realize *golly* I don't break after all! Bruise maybe, but nothing permanant..

Which, in the long run, will probably help with rides 3 - 6 on the mare..

When I can get some qualified help..

Redsmom said...

FHOTD, Glad you had a good ride on VLC. He seems wonderful.

Got home too late to ride yesterday, but Dude and Matt were running around like maniacs, kicking and bucking. Once they settled down to eat I saw the cause. Mr. Bott Fly has returned. Everybody got sprayed with fly spray and all are happy now. I'll be doing work close to home with Dude this weekend as Matt has thrown a shoe (farrier coming Monday)and Dude is too herd bound to go down the stupid road without Matt. I swear they are boyfriends! I'll see how far I can get before Dude bows up and wants to come back. You never know. He might surprise me. He loves going on trail rides. The other day he found a new trail through a little opening in the woods that I had not noticed before. He loves to explore.

Redsmom said...

Francis - I had that happen on a sweet old draft horse. She was huge and tripped over her own feet. We went almost one more stride as I debated whether to bail and then her left foreleg failed to untangle and come forward for her and down we went. I'd have been okay if she hadn't rolled on my ankle. Should have done the Hidalgo and thrown my legs up, but I was just sure she was going to keep going forward - she was such a freight train I couldn't beleive her momentum didn't carry her. LOL.

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

>>That's funny. Usually colts aren't scared of their manure... they're dragging you to it!<<

Ah, but the first time around, he wanted to stop and sniff it and I wouldn't let him. So after that, it became the Scary Poo of Death.

Horsegal - always nice to see what they've got and realize you can sit it just fine!

Lisa - why not at least ride her around the show grounds for experience (if management permits that)? If she's being wonderful, you can always decide to try an actual class at that point. At the very least she'll see what a show looks like. I always think that is so good for them. When I start showing the VLC, I'm going to drag my yearling along to watch.

Francis - I hear you on the qualified help. I'm very lucky in that I have roommates who are usually around to at least witness my rides, and will help out if I need help. You've had about the same amount of time off from starting one from scratch as I have - I hope your luck goes the same as mine has so far. The VLC being so good is really helping me get my confidence back about putting that first 30 days on a horse.

hope4more said...

I am glad to hear you had a good ride on VLC. He is such a pretty boy too.

I am not training any horses so much as they are training me. I am back into horse owning and riding after a long time. I rode as a child (6) until I was about
13. Now I am 29 and bought my first horse a year and a half ago. This fella is wonderful, but we were riding in the field and we have a plowed track around the outside. Well there was a wayward weed growing straight up about 3 feet tall, I thought nothing of this. My dear boy is an accomplished pole bending horse......can you all guess where this is going? We were loping and very smoothly he weaved or bended to the left and I stayed where I was and dropped in the dirt. It was hilarious!!!! He stopped turned around and just looked at me, he was so stunned. I couldn't stop laughing after I had checked all apendages and made sure nothing was broken like my butt! My girlfriend had to get off her horse she couldn't catch her breath she was laughing that hard.

We have not had such a thing happen again as I am now very ready for all zigs and zags....see he is a great teacher.

Sagebrusheq said...

Which Chick;

Amen, I think that the sooner you can get them out on the trail the better. Among other things it gives them something to think about besides, "Why is he doing this to me?" Mild hills, walk, walk, walking (and then walking), riding him forward into a loose rein over uneven ground; let nature be the bad guy while you get to come to his aid and help him out of his quandaries with new situations. It builds confidence, balance, agility, they start looking where they're going; and by the time their conditioning catches up with their mind you have a horse that is calm, seeking the bit, and ready for work on the flat . No amount of gymnastics and indoor inventiveness can do for a horse's mind and body what outdoor riding can, and it comes without the pitfalls of repetitive ring work. It's an old school but the safest and best, and most of the great manege riders have endorsed it as indispensable throughout the horses career. Don't fence me in.


LongBranchFarm said...

I haven't been able to ride the pest this week, however, I must report he has learned lots of things. Like how to take off everyone's fly masks and leave them in the middle of the water trough. He's called The Pest for a reason.

I will ride him this weekend. We are going to work on big circles and straight lines. You know, instead of wavy lines and deformed eggs. We might start learning that legs mean more than just "go forward". Depends on his frame of mind.

QueenSkankarella said...

Shana said:

"I mean, she trotted fast, didn't break into a canter, and I didn't die - seems pretty positive all around =P"

That's pretty much how I define success now too. Though I'm happy to keep her moving forward, my main problem was at the last barn I was at, there were always jumps set up in the arena, so she would use those as an evasion.

Or rather, I would let her use them, as I was convinced that she would lose her mind, go over them, and I would die.

Yeah, I know.

bigpainthorse said...

Congratulations, Fugly, and Happy Birthday VLC~! Sounds like a very good experience overall. I had a great ride on the BigPaintHorse last night; she was cooperative for everything except mounting, grrr, the whole moving off before I'm on thing is going to STOP (we are going to do some serious ground work on that this weekend).

Her primary accomplishment was maintaining collection for a full circuit of the arena, trotting at a steady and pleasant speed. (Yes, yes, I have a 12-year-old horse that no one ever bothered to teach about collection under saddle. I've only had her about 18 months, and mastering this has been job #1 for us!) This was the best she's done so far, and keeping that head down and that back-end engaged and driving forward at my direction rated a lot a praise, extra scritches and treats, and an immediate untacking and return to the barn. A great note to end on.

Also, I notice I'm only nervous when I'm thinking about getting on her. As soon as I'm actually in the saddle, the Old Me comes back and it seems like she could spook, bolt, be completely pissy or grow wings and fly and I'd be able to handle it. Isn't that odd?

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

bigpainthorse - I think that's a fairly common reaction to anything you have some apprehension about...the anticipation makes you nuts, when you're in the thick of it and doing it, you're okay. That's actually a pretty good way to be as the horse doesn't have to deal with your fear!

Lisa said...

>>Lisa - why not at least ride her around the show grounds for experience (if management permits that)? If she's being wonderful, you can always decide to try an actual class at that point. At the very least she'll see what a show looks like. I always think that is so good for them. When I start showing the VLC, I'm going to drag my yearling along to watch.<<

She's been to about a dozen in hand shows, so she's used to the commotion. The main thing I've worried about is the fact we'd be walking over there. I have this insane fear that something will spook her and she'll try to bolt home, thus running into oncoming traffic. Likely for her lazy butt? No. But it's one of those left brain/right brain conversations. ;)

My truck is out of commission at the moment, so I can't even trailer the 200 yards over there.

CutNJump said...

I just really have to laugh about the poop.

I had a gelding who would act like an idiot at times until he seen poop on the trail... That meant another horse has been this far down the road and we should be fine from here on out.

He also had to sniff it too. which is what almost got me in trouble one day. We had galloped down 'the wash' and had turned around walking back to the group of mules we were riding with. as he was walking, down went his head- nose to the ground. I gave him the reins figured he was sniffing for poop.

All of a sudden he dropped out from under me. Not an easy feat for 16 hands of horse, but down we went. I was still astride him, but my feet (still in the irons) were on the ground. He had laid down.

My friend goes all ballistic screaming at me to get off before he rolls on me. I go all ballistic on him- "Don't you DARE roll on my new saddle!" I smacked him on the neck and he jumped to his feet, me still on his back...

We had a good laugh and I was a bit more observant about him putting his head too far down for too long. :-)

Francis said...

redsmom - thats exactly what happened here.. he was concentrating on getting back with the "others" and got his front feet tangled and with his bulk he couldn't keep his feet under him and down he went. I elected to go over his head in case he kept going cause I didn't want any part of my body under him! He has got to be over 1300 pounds and grace is not in his vocabulary. As it was, he got up, looked down at me and turned and sauntered off.

Had to go catch his big butt, resaddle with a more appropriate saddle and ride him again just to keep it real. Meanwhile, the 3 year old just watched it all, taking notes...

bigpainthorse said...

fugly said: That's actually a pretty good way to be as the horse doesn't have to deal with your fear!


LOL, that is indeed a plus. She definitely has enough baggage to cart around just counting my big behind. She doesn't need to be carting around my emotional baggage as well!

Masquerade said...

It rained and snowed for the next three days after my first ride :( And then I had to leave for a couple of weeks so I won't be able to get back up until mid May. I should probably do a bit of ground work again before I do that too so I won't be back on him anytime soon.

Glad to hear VLC is doing so well. And now outside at that! We don't have an indoor so all training will be outside, adds that extra element of excitement. LMAO

Hope to hear about more great rides while I'm away. How many others are just getting on for the first time?

Wibble said...

Congratulations! I've been following your FOTD blog for awhile now and love reading it, this is just icing. Thanks for starting a blog for those of us who have gotten older (heavier ugh) and have finally come to grips with our own mortality.

Frankly, I'd prefer to stay at grips with it and not get to know it on a first name basis!

My current nemesis is a little 14.1 hand Ball Of Energy who does that whole "wow he really turns fast.. that's going to be a bitch to stay on top of! O.O" We've done ground work until I'm sick of it, but I'm just not there yet ready to get back on him. Yes BACK on him as I rode him some last year and he did great, was just getting to that ride 4 and 5 where he was going "hey wait a minute, I'm ready to play something different now". Talk about pucker factor coz this little monster can BUCK.

Anyway, thanks for this blog.. it helps so much to know I'm not the only one having these conversations between the right and left brain. Laughed so hard I cried at those - Great job!! :)


grounded said...

A bit late on this but here are my comments regarding the 40 and over re-riders...

How did you know what was was going on in MY head when I ride a new horse?

What makes us more like the DQs that pay the trainer to ride VonCrashenDon Spinnerst versus the wild eventers who jump solid, unfelled trees in mud on horses named Breakless Skyrocket? If someone was to guess when we were in our 20s, they'd have put us with the eventers.

I see jumps in the arena. As long as they are 2' 3" or less they look very inviting. I remember the feeling of cantering around a course. Then I remember the feeling before each jump of "OMG! Please keep going forward over the jump!"

I find great comfort in my deep dressage saddle with my leg nice and long (more leg to hang on with). I prefer to ride horses that keep their legs perpendicular to the ground and their torsos parallel to the ground.

For some reason my biggest fear is that moment of actually getting on. Even with horses I know (except my 20 yo QH) I have these waves of fear that they will bolt or do some bizarre move found in Olympic gymnastic floor exercises just as I have one foot barely in one stirrup. Once in the saddle, forward movement doesn't scare me. Thank you OTTBs! Just the thought of bucking, rearing and other contortionist moves makes my blood run cold. I've gotten my emergency dismount down pat. I can and DO bail if I'm not comfortable.

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

I am paranoid about getting off, particularly since the VLC is so Very Large. I am always afraid I will somehow get caught, hung up, and spook him - so I drop my stirrups, grab mane and do the emergency dismount every time. To his credit, he does not spook at Mom flying through the air to land next to him. Smart colt.

dante said...

Happy birthday and congratulations. Sounds like he's progressing well and congrats too to everyone else.
Getting hung is my worst nightmare so I ride bareback all the time now. It does mean that I fall off easier but they are usually only minor slide and plonks rather than a major splat.
Pony and I had a happy bumming around day.
Rode for an hour just round the trails then gave his feet a good scrub and a bit of a trim, washed his sheath, and generally did all the jobs that get missed during the week. He's agisted in a large paddock and I often don't make it out till after dark.
I sometimes think that we treat our phobias as though they are the sum of our horse life. It can seem that way as they can fill the horizon but we mustn't forget that our overall experience often makes us pretty good people from a horses perspective. I know pony is perfect for the person I am now but in his case who else would be willing to care for an old arthritic horse. Horsemanship and horse care is often what we are best at.

Kathrynne1 said...

Ha ha, I always sidestep poop ;)

irisheyes999 said...

I need to figure out how to orchestrate my trail rides so that we are going downhill the entire time. The Beast spends so much effort making sure his feet are in
that he doesn't even pay attention to all the scary flappy things.

We had a very successful trailride today.

deanna may said...


Haha, that's my reaction when a horse falls, too. Once, my horse and I slipped and fell on some wet grass (morning dew on a cross country field!) and I bailed and got out of the way once I realized he was going to come down. As soon as we both stood up (and he started trotting away) the first thing I said was, "MY SADDLE!!"