Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Rodeo Lesson

It was time for me and the pony to work. it. out.  We have been hovering on the edges the last few weeks.  She fusses.  She pushes into my space.  She swishes her tail and back talks me when I ask for forward.  She ignores my leg and then ignores the whip.  Repeatedly.  She breaks to trot when we canter and threatens to canter when we trot. 

So today, I was given spurs to wear.  This was actually good for me because it forced me to keep my leg quiet so I didn't accidentally stick her with a spur.  They were the tiniest of baby spurs but you wouldn't know it from the way the Princess reacted.

So we got geared up and began.  Trot.  Swish tail.  Throw head.  Suck back.  Whip.  More tail swish.  More head tossing.  More sucking back.  More leg, more whip.  More sassing.  Leg, whip.  Leg, spur.  The 'thunk' I heard was her leg kicking out at the spur and connecting with the wall.  Okay, that's okay.  But then she's back to seeing how slow she can go.  More leg.  Then, spur.  Little buck.  Tap with the whip.  Little buck.  Tap with the whip and leg.  Bucking is not the answer, forward is.  Tap again and ask with leg and spur.  BIG BUCK and forward into trot.  A lovely, energetic trot.  We trotted.  We cantered.  We had some little bucks and kicks out at the wall and the spur, but overall some really great work.  Then we walked on a long rein for a few minutes.  That's when I knew the argument was really coming.  Because of course, L wanted me to go back to work after the walk on a long rein and the Princess wanted to be done.  

Okay, pony, we're going forward right back into energetic trot right?  Uhm, this isn't energetic.  Remember my leg?  No?  How about the whip?  No?  How about the spur?  Don't want to trot energetically, that's fine.  We'll canter instead.  Which turned out to be a twenty meter circle of buck, buck, kick at the wall, refusing to canter, buck, buck and then a buck so big and a twist in the air that as we came back down to earth I let some expletives fly.  But I stayed on and I pushed forward and our next circle was lovely and forward and soft.

We ended the lesson after switching directions again and making sure that I was the one in charge of when we were trotting and when we were cantering.  We've had some of our best trot work yet.  L reassured me that everything Tess has thrown at me is very normal young horse stuff, especially mares.

p.s. My New Year's resolution is totally going to have something to do with more blog pictures.  I need more pictures!!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Cookies and New Breeches

Not surprisingly my family did not get me any horse related gifts.  My husband did give me a silk undershirt that I can wear to the barn, so there is that.  But for the most part, my family doesn't really get the whole horse thing and though my Christmas list was littered with pony stuff, I think it intimidates them.  

So I bought myself a new pair of cheap, full seat breeches online and they arrived in time for me to throw them under the tree.  I only have one pair of breeches (the horror, I know....and I ride six days a week so they are getting USED!!) but we just don't really have a whole lot of extra money for $100 breeches right now.  So I was super psyched to find full seat breeches for $35.

I can see you now, rolling your eyes and shaking your head.  Yes, yes. You are right.  I should have known better.  $35 is just too cheap.  I pulled my new Gatsby Girl breeches from the bag.  They were definitely more lightweight than my current breeches, but that's not surprising at $35.  I pulled them on.  Kind of scratchy, but still, the money I saved was like a balm on my skin as I wrestled them up my legs.  I finally got them up past my thighs and started to pull up the waist to button them.  I pulled and pulled and pulled and finally was at the end of the waist, which actually ended somewhere at the top of my rib cage.  Suffice it to say, these were not low rise breeches.  I have a short waist and thanks to the many varieties of Christmas Cookies, I now have a short, thick waist.  The effect of these breeches buttoning up four inches above my belly button, is that I look like Toad from the Wind in the Willows.  Except not as cute and not quite as green.

 I plan on keeping these breeches anyway, despite the fact that they are not all that comfortable, they sag in the crotch and they give me an amazing pot belly.  I will just wear longer shirts.  In the meantime, I'm on the hunt for reasonably priced, but also reasonably attractive, full seat breeches.  I am short waisted and not a stick and would prefer them to be under $100.  Any ideas?

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hey Crazy Lady

Despite having been ridden hard the last two days by S, the pony came out of her paddock on fire today.  It didn't help that I hadn't been out all week and my nerves were jumping so bad my hand shook when I tried to do up her throat latch.  A horse walked by and Tess hunched her back, lifted her tail and left a puddle behind her.  A horse down the aisle coughed and she tried to spin, her eyes round and wide.   It was also a cold, sunny morning (29F) and the sun was just starting to thaw out the ice on the arena roof.  Drip. Drip.  Drip.  The pony stood trembling for thirty seconds while my shaky hands fumbled with the lunge line.  Then she was off.  Rearing, bucking, kicking, snorting.  Galloping wide eyed around me her head swinging to the outside as her shoulder cut in towards me.  After about five dizzy minutes, L saw her and advised me to un-tack her and let her get her fizzies out.  Even after five minutes of galloping, Tess fidgeted while we took the saddle off.  The second the saddle came off her back, she tried to take off again.  I dug in my feet and gave her a sharp correction on the lunge line.  Then I sheepishly asked L to come back and help me get the bridle off.  By this time my anxiety had turned into cold, sweaty fear and my hands were shaking hard.

I started to think about ways I could get out riding in my lesson, ways to get L to ride her for me.  Should I say I just can't do it?  Should I feign injury?  Sickness?  These thoughts spun around my head while the Princess spun around the arena in a long, low gallop.  As she flew by me for the tenth time, she tossed her head and slowed to trot for a moment.  A suspended, fancy trot.  Her neck was arched and had her mane not been covered in green goo, she would have had a long, flowing silver mane.  I looked up, my fear simmering back down to anxiety.  Her nostrils were wide but her eyes were softer.  I lifted a hand and she spun around easily, galloping the length of the arena.  After about ten minutes she stopped, ears pricked, steam blowing out of her nostrils and waited.  I walked up to her and gave her a quick pat on the forehead.  She followed me carefully.  I asked her to move out again and she moved out at a controlled trot, her sides heaving, her eyes watching me.  She had gotten her fizzies out.

Following that, we had an amazing lesson.  I rode in S's jump saddle and the difference in Tess's movement was nothing short of a miracle.  We had forward!  We had round!  We had soft!  We also cantered.  And cantered.  And trot to canter.  Canter to trot.  Trot to canter.  Keep cantering.  Keep cantering.  Keep cantering.

At the end of our lesson, we had a steam cloud that rolled off of us as we walked.  Her head was low, her back swinging and the smile on my face stretched from ear to ear.  Days like this remind me why I do this.  Because when we get it right and we're a team, we're a damn fine team.

I hope you are all enjoying the holidays and giving your ponies extra hugs and kisses for Christmas.  It looks like I will be starting the saddle search next week, so I have that to look forward to!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas for Tessa

Santa must have been listening because when I went out to the barn on Saturday, Tessa had a stocking hanging up in front of the tack room.  Awwww. 

 I also tried to get pictures of her with antlers on, but the only antlers I had were for humans so they were kind of small and didn't show up.  Also, the pony was not a fan of the bells.

You will notice that the pony is a hot, sweaty mess in these pictures.  I wanted to take the pictures before my ride, but the Princess had a different idea.  She's been a DOLL the last few weeks about grooming and standing in the cross ties, but when I went out on Saturday she was in a stall doing crazy eyes and practically humming with energy.  She saw me coming and started to dance around.  Then she pushed herself against the wall and lifted her tail....and squirted.  What?  It's December!  Pony's don't go into heat in they?  I found out the answer is, sometimes they do.  So I led the Princess to the cross ties where she left puddles from hunching and squirting while she fidgeted back and forth and back and forth.  

I took her to the arena to let her blow some steam off but all she did was spook and then stop.  Spook and then stop.  So I saddled her up and went and found L.

"She's in heat and she's a hot mess and I'm afraid to get on her.  But she's fine on the lunge so I don't have an excuse."

Enter my savior, the teenager that's been riding Tessa for me.  She hops on.  Tessa is indeed a hot mess.  She's spooky and balky and hunched up.  Poor, PMS'y pony.  I know how that feels!  S pushes her through some big bucks and tantrums and gets her going sort of forward.  The Pony is still looking at everything with big, bug eyes so I ask her to keep riding.  

"I'd like to switch to my  jump saddle if I'm going to stay on her."  S says.  

I remember L and I having this conversation on Thursday about how it's hard for the pony to go forward in my dressage saddle because she throws a fit, hollows her back and then when she tries to canter I am sitting way back on her and it stifles her.  

We throw S's jump saddle on her (a really cool Pessoa Military II that I am now in love with) and within minutes the pony is moving freely forward.  Uh oh.  I mean, it's great.  The pony is going forward easily and beautifully.  But does this mean new saddle?  So, at the end, the Pony was sweaty and tired but forward.  I hopped on at the end and did a few twenty meter circles with the incredibly light and forward pony and then cooled her out.  

We debated clipping her.  S works her into a lather when she rides but I don't even get her sweaty.  I really WANT to clip her because I think she'll look less like a yak.  As L was walking by, we asked her about this.  

"Sure you can clip her with a trace clip...." she walked away and then paused, throwing over her shoulder "but if she's clipped horses tend to have more energy and be a bit hotter."  I swear I saw her wink and I KNOW I saw her smirk.

The pony will stay a yak for now. This is at the end of her ride when she should have had her head hanging down to her knees but she was trying to decide if she should spook over the fact that there was a horse in the was rack.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thursday is Lesson Day

I am still feeling woozy from my head cold so I opted not to ride today.  But since today was lesson today, I went out and got the pony ready.  I even got on her for a few minutes (after which I desperately wanted a nap) before handing her over to L.  L dwarfs my pony.  L is taller than me by a few inches and has long, long legs and on my little Arab mare it was pretty funny to watch.  It was great to see how quiet she was, especially with her hands.  I really, really struggle with keeping my hands quiet and allowing the pony to come forward INTO them.  Especially when I get nervous.

So L worked on our obvious issue, which is forward, forward, forward.  There were a few moments when L asked and the Princess answered with "But I'm a Princess and YOU are supposed to follow my command!  How dare you tap me with your whip!  How dare you!" followed by a tail whip to the head and a kick to the wall.  But most of the time things went smoothly.

Also, the pony got her teeth done yesterday.  Which is great, but I wish I had known so I could go out and take pictures of a drugged up Princess.  I'm sure she was hilarious.  My barn is wonderful in 'taking care of things' but they don't always tell you when this is going to happen.  It's nice to know that I don't have to be there, but sometimes I would like to be there!  I mean, I'd love to actually get to TALK to my vet sometimes.  

She was a snaggle tooth hot mess according to the vet.  I'm super excited to see if she still tries to rub her bridle off her face every time.  We also may be moving out of the Mullen Mouth Happy Mouth bit and into a jointed bit (possibly a KK).  Progress!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Decorations

I am going to complain about the stupidest, shallowest thing right now.  It's a minor thing and I think it's funny that I'm bummed about it.  Ready for it?  I am sad that my pony doesn't have a stall to hang a stocking on.  There, I said it.  My pony comes and hangs out (and takes ridiculously long naps) in other horse's stalls during the day.  She lives outside.  She has a lovely large turnout and a great shelter and ponies on both sides of the fence from her.  Right next door is her boyfriend Manny.  Tessa isn't really into Manny, but Manny believes that Tessa was put on this earth for him and that he can't live without her.  Manny also comes in during the day and whenever we walk by his stall, Manny cries and cries.  Tessa doesn't even flick an ear at him.  When Tessa first arrived, we thought about turning her out with Manny for company but now that he's so attached that isn't an option.  He actually tried to climb the fence one night when she was in heat.  Tessa wanted NOTHING to do with that action!

So, anyway, there really isn't a spot where I can hang a stocking.  I visit Tessa in the daytime so she's always in somebody's stall and not outside anyway.  There's a small, terribly shallow part of me that wishes she was in a stall so I could decorate her stall and order her fancy name plates for it and get her cute stable blankets.  But the terribly practical part of me knows that she's better off spending more time outside.  The horses in stalls only get out every other day for turnout, but my pony is out every day!  Plus she is outside from around 4:00pm to about 9am in the morning so she gets more time than a stalled horse would.

Still - - seeing everyone's cute stockings and stall decorations has me the weenciest bit jealous.  To make up for it, maybe I'll put some antlers on the Princess and take some pictures of her.  She looks a bit like a little, grey yak these days anyways.  She can be a Christmas Yak!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Again with the Canter!

Cantered again yesterday.  This time, no trainer in sight.  It may have only been one twenty meter circle to the left and a half of a twenty meter circle to the right but it was cantering.  I asked for the transition, I rode the transition and then I asked for the downward transition.  Yeah!!

I am starting weekly massage and/or chiropractic treatment for my neck and shoulders.  I am also really trying to focus on exhaling and relaxing those muscles when I ride.  The nice thing about not having to spend so much time working past my fear, is that we can begin to work on things like my shoulders and how I must be tensing them the entire ride.

No barn for me today.  I am going out to dinner at Teatro Zin Zanni, which is this cool dinner theatre experience.  I am also coming down with a cold and have a sore throat and a runny nose and getting bundled up to go to the barn just isn't working for me this morning.  So instead, I have made myself a gigantic latte (the joys of having a home espresso machine) and am going to catch up on everyone's blogs.  Hope you all are having a great weekend!

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Positive in the Negative

Today was gorgeous, sunny and cold.  My work was a bit out of control this morning and watching the blue skies out my window only added to my sense of frustration.  I wanted to go ride!  I finally made it out to the barn about two hours later than I usually do.  Pony was in her stall, lying down.  Lying down and eating some lunch.  She didn't bother getting up when I arrived.  She flicked an ear at me and went back to eating while she reclined.  I took this short video on my phone...I can't tell if it's going to work and I can't figure out how to turn it the other direction.  Oh technology.

She finally got up and we went to start grooming.  First, she pooped in the aisle.  Then she noticed there was sunlight and steam on the grass.  Her ears went up, her head went up and she snorted.  Which meant she snorted steam.  Which made her jump and tremble.  Oh, poor Pony.  I laughed at her.  It must be hard to be her some days.

She did seem uncomfortable today.  It could be from the harder riding we did yesterday, she was probably a little sore.  She was very gassy and very stuck.  All that lovely forward from the last week.  Gone!  But this time, rather than freaking out I just kept riding.  I congratulated myself on riding in a very busy arena which included a lunge lesson for a five year old.  I worked on keeping my hands low.  I pushed as hard as I felt comfortable pushing.  It was a short ride and one that likely would have left me defeated and depressed last month.  But this month?  Nope.  I groomed the pony and trimmed up her tail and generally fussed over her.  It was also good timing because I didn't feel compelled to do anything that might stretch my hip too much.  So all in all, a good day.

Cantering is a Pain in the.....Hip

The last time I cantered was about three months ago.  I strained a hip flexor (which are completely weakened due to a previous accident from years ago) and was on crutches for a few days and off of riding for a few weeks.  I thought that I had strained my hip flexor because I was pushing my outside leg too far back and curling it up.  This still may be the case, but after my lesson yesterday my hip flexor started aching.  This morning, it hurts to walk.  Not so bad that it will stop me but bad enough that I'm concerned about riding.  I don't want to make it worse.

I've been googling hip flexor strains and stretches and though I have a good idea of how to take care of it after I injure it, I need to figure out a game plan for strengthening it.  It seems like yoga, pilates and riding without stirrups are some of the best ways to help make my hip flexors more fit.  I have ordered the 10 minute Pilates videos from the library so I'm ready to go with that.

In the meantime, I need to decide if I'm going to go out and ride today and see if I can work through it or if I'm going to rest it and ice it.  I know the answer is probably rest and ice but I've only ridden once since Sunday!  And I had such a great lesson yesterday!  Waaaaahhhhhhhhh.  I may also call my massage therapist and see if she thinks a massage would help.  Sigh.  

But since it's still December and I said I would keep things positive - - I had a fantastic lesson yesterday!  And my hip flexor causing me distress is just a reminder that I need to strengthen my core and stretch more.  Because riding is a sport and I need to prepare my body properly before playing.  I'm grateful that I got the reminder early so I can fix it before things get out of hand.  And it might be a damn good excuse for an extra massage......

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Finally! A lesson!

I hadn't been out to the barn since Sunday and I was a little nervous about how things were going to go.      Luckily, the pony had been ridden the night before by S, so she hadn't just been sitting around for three days.

First we lunged.  And ran into a bit of a snag going to the right.  Princess decided that turning in and half rearing was more fun.  Especially since she figured out that totally threw me off and I would stop, get re-organized, trip over the lunge line, cuss a bit and then try again.  So she knew every time she turned in and spazzed out, it would give her a small break.  L put a stop to that.  She took over, pony spun, half reared and even did an all four feet off the ground leap.  L tapped her with the whip, stayed calm and focused and pony learned forward.  Then she had me come back in.  She was good as gold, but we worked on forward, forward, forward.

Then it was on to the riding lesson where we worked on....riding.  Yes, folks, we worked on riding.  We didn't talk about fear.  We didn't talk about spooking.  My heart wasn't in my throat.  We rode on the inside of a 20 meter circle and worked on pushing her out to the wall. 

Don't use your heel, just push with your leg.  Good.  When her head starts to come up and she loses forward tap her with the whip.  Good. Push with the inside leg into the outside rein.  Good.  Now the same thing doing a change of direction.  Good!  Now here you lose her shoulder.  Don't cross your rein there, keep it showing you where you want the circle to go.  Quiet hands.  Great.  Now walk.  Okay, now we're going to canter.

Okay, heart rate went up a bit.  L reminded me to sit back and to only worry about one thing, getting the canter and keeping it.  Transitions might be rough, but that will come.  Right now the focus is get into canter and go forward.  

Breathe.  Okay, forward trot.  Now stop thinking about it and just canter.  Yes.  Forward.  Tap if you need to.  Sit back.  Hands down, don't worry about her head, just get her forward.  Now ask for trot before she breaks.  Good!  Now let's go the other way.  

At this point, I got distracted and felt like I was falling apart.  L reassured me that the problem was most likely that my brain started over thinking it and to get afraid and the best thing for me to do is to just go right back into canter before I could make a big deal out of it.  So off we cantered to the right.  Yes!  Then back to the left.  Then to the right!!  Canter! Canter! Canter!

We must be pretty for our lesson!
The very best part of today's lesson was that it was a riding lesson.  Not a life lesson.  Not a lesson in 'is this the right horse for me'.  A riding lesson.  And now I'm going to go soak in the bath because it's been a while since I've actually had to work on riding.  Haha!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Three Days of No Pony!

I have work deadlines and laundry and parent obligations for the next three days so I won't be seeing the Princess until my lesson on Thursday.  I'm okay with that because we have had great rides every day since Thursday.  That's FOUR DAYS of decent-ness.  I rode again yesterday in a very busy arena and besides one spook, the pony was very good.

She does have two things going on right now.  Neither is related to my fear or bad riding though, how cool is that??!?!  Small victories are good!  So problem number 1 is that she seems to have a cough.  On Friday, she coughed a few times under saddle when I got her going.  She hadn't coughed on the lunge line so I thought maybe she just inhaled something funny.  I gave her a breather and she didn't cough after that.  Saturday she did the same thing.  Sunday, she actually was coughing before I put the bridle on.  It's a dry cough and she has no other symptoms, such as a runny nose or goopy eyes.  She coughed maybe five times in the cross ties.  Then after about fifteen minutes of riding she started coughing again.  So I cut my ride short just in case and have emailed L to see what she thinks.  There were some new horses that came in a few weeks ago that had snotty noses and coughs, but they are on the other side of the barn from us.  Of course, though I was careful not to pet them, you never know who else might have pet them and then pet my pony....

Problem number 2 is that with her gigantic fuzzball winter coat, my square pad seems to be rubbing her hair off.  L thinks it's because the pads are new and that they just need to be softened up with repeated washing.  They're not too long so I know it's not that, but I don't want her getting a bald spot this winter!  I might buy an extra pad after Christmas is over and see if switching pads helps.  The two pads I have are both inexpensive pads from VTO saddlery ($25 for super cute square pads!).  But maybe the edge is too stiff.  Any recommendations for super soft dressage pads would be appreciated!

Here's a picture of the pony with her stable blanket on.  This is a backup blanket if I decide to clip her.  So far she hasn't needed it so she's just a big hairball.  The giant man is my husband.  Pony is 15 hands but looks like she's 13.2 next to him!  Cuteness!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Tap, Tap, Tap.....Hello?

Most of what I'm working on right now is forward.  A girl at my barn hopped on the pony yesterday and had the same challenge getting her forward.  It was a tiny bit satisfying for me ego to see that even a very competent rider had a hard time getting her forward.  Of course, in the next minute, I realized this also means that since I've been the only one riding her for the last few weeks that I'm the one that broke the gas pedal.  I'm of two minds about this:  the brave, rider in me knows that forward is the way to go and the panic side of me likes that if given an option, the pony's natural inclination is to slow down or stop.  The wonderful thing that came out of this, is that the girl who rode her for a few minutes yesterday, volunteered to help get her forward by riding her once a week in a jump saddle and just showing her how to gallop.  She said if the pony shows any interest, she might also jump her if I want.  I think it will be really good for Tess to have a once a week ride where her rider is showing her that forward can be fun.

But my title is about something else I've been pondering.  Tap, tap, tapping for forward.  There seem to be two schools of thought on instilling forward.  One is that you motivate the horse by asking first with the seat, then the legs, then the whip and that you then increase these aids consistently until the horse moves forward at which point you release.  The other is that you still start with seat and then legs and then whip, but after politely asking once with the whip you don't mess around.  You don't gently increase the pressure, you say "Pony, I've asked you three times and now it's time for you to take me seriously."  This usually results in either a jump in forward motion or a protest in the form of a kick or a buck followed by a jump in forward motion.  I can see why you would use both but I'm unclear on when each is appropriate and which is the most fair to the horse.

I know that with dogs and children (both of which I've actually had success with) you do NOT want to waste a bunch of time slowly increasing pressure.  Because they will then wait five, ten, fifteen times after you've said it, knowing that it's not going to get super uncomfortable until you've reached a boiling point.  And by that time, you've grown frustrated at asking them over and over and are likely to be unfair and over the top when you reach your increased pressure point.I know that with my child, once I feel she understands the rules (no four letter words) we move to the one warning phase.  If the behavior keeps coming back and I've warned her once and she continues to cuss, then I eliminate the warning phase.  This is always preceded by a conversation that "You know cussing isn't allowed, so if you choose to cuss you will have an immediate time out."  For reference, my little potty mouth is five.  So now, if a cuss word comes out of her mouth she gets a time out.  The time out is meted out fairly and without dramatics.  I'm not angry, I'm just matter of fact.  I usually say "Oh, I'm sorry you chose to say that.  You need to take a time out."  She wails and cries and apologizes and then gets angry and then gets sad and then comes around.  After a few of these, she has given up cussing.  It's not worth the hassle for her.

So, how does this relate to forward and how we ask?  Well, I'm not sure.  How do you know when your horse understands that the movement of your seat or your legs means forward?  After ten rides, twenty rides?  After six months?  A year?  When do you decide (or when do you know) that your horse understands what you're asking them?  I don't think horses are ever 'out to get us' or anything like that, but I can understand that my pony is a smart cookie and that she knows she can slow down and I'll just keep bump, bump bumping with my legs for two circles and then I''ll tap mildly and she'll swish her tail and it will be at least another three circles before I get up the gumption to smack her.  And then after I smack her, she knows that in four strides she can slow down and we'll start the process all over again.  Because for a horse, this 'laziness' is self preservation.  Why expend energy if you don't have to?

Anyways, those are my rambling, long thoughts on this process.  Now off to the barn to see what I can convince the pony to do today!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Intentions vs Expectations

Kate over at made an incredibly profound comment on my last blog about having intentions when we work with our horses, instead of expectations.  Boy howdy if that ain't the truth.  For the last three days I have gone out to the barn and left my expectations at the door.  Sure, I've had intentions.  I intend to ride the pony.  I intend to find good things in every day with her.  I intend to work on our forward.  I intend to sit back and tall and not let my legs creep up and forward.  Armed with these intentions, I move purposely into my time at the barn.  Having let go of any expectations for December, I'm finding that my time at the barn gets better in leaps and bounds.  My ride today was good and forward and I rode in a very busy arena with a lot going on.  The barn put Christmas lights up and Tess wasn't sure what she thought of those, but she got over it quickly and without much ado.

So thank you, Kate, for helping me define the difference between having an intention of doing something and an expectation of something getting done.  Intentions are what get my lazy, chickenshit ass to the barn and expectations are what drive me to drink.  I'm thinking letting go of expectations is the best gift I could give myself.  So Merry Christmas to me.

Friday, December 2, 2011

December Goodness

Two good rides in a row.  Yes please!  L's partner (also a trainer) even said "You have a different horse." because the pony was being so good.  Our ride was short but I wanted to end on a good note and not bore us silly.

Today was Goat Boot Camp for the pony.  The scary corner of the arena is the corner that the goat lives behind.  Yes, we have a goat at the barn.  She lives in a pen on one side of the barn.  It's not the side that Tess stays in during the day so she's never actually seen much of the goat.  This is the most she's ever seen of the goat.   The next picture is the pony's usual reaction to the corner that the goat is behind.  This is her "omigodwhatisoverthere?!?!" stance.
And the last picture is her just hanging out in the corner, though obviously still uptight.  The mounting block and muck bucket are on the wall that the goat lives behind, so now you have some perspective.  This is the corner that we don't ride in.  Even hand walking her over there, she has a limit to where she'll go.  Since I have been nervous about it, I haven't been helping her so today L had me do a little Pony Goat Camp where we walked over the other side of the barn and showed her the goat.  She was a very brave pony and stood still, but did not trust that goat at all.  There was an empty stall across the aisleway from the goat so we ended up putting her in there and letting her hang out and mellow out.  When I last left her, she had settled down to eat but would pop her head up every minute with her mouth full of hay.  Just to make sure that goat didn't escape or something.

I'm excited to start being the leader that Tess needs to explore her world.  I think we're going to make a point of visiting different barn aisles and maybe grooming her on the other side of the barn, so that she learns she can be quiet in all cross ties, not just the familiar ones.  I see long walks in our future together. It will be interesting to see if showing her the goat on the other side of the wall makes any difference.  I wonder if she'll make that connection?

Thursday, December 1, 2011


I know it's not New Years quite yet, but I have a resolution for December.  After reading through some of my past posts and having a good talk with L today, I am going to focus, focus, focus on ONLY the positive things.  Every time I blow a molehill up into Mt. Everest, it gets worked out within a day or two.  But the more I keep calling it a mountain, the bigger it looks!  So I'm putting on my rose colored glasses for the month of December.  I will be Susy Sunshine.  I will be PollyAnna.  I will be Maria from the Sound of Music (omigod I LOVE that movie by the way.)  I may have made lists before, but if you have to make a list it's not positive enough.  So from here on out there will be facts and there will be accomplishments and there will be optimism.  For those Debbie Downers out there, yes I am going to now enter the world of rainbow pooping unicorns.

So, now that we're past the resolutions bit let me tell you about today's lesson.  We were rock stars.  We've been having some forward issues and L helped me work through some of that on the lunge.  When the Princess would slow down and shake her head at me, I snapped the whip and pushed her forward.  Kicking out?  Forward!  Backing and half rearing?  Forward!  The answer was always forward.  So before I even got on, we had established that the word of the day was Forward.

Once I was on, we went very quickly into working on our trot which over the last week has gotten sticky and slow.  I'm not even exaggerating that within ten minutes we were a changed team.  L showed me how to put my hands wide and NOT pull, just to keep some connection.  So I put my hands wide when her head went up and just tapped with the whip.  She tried three or four times to come back to that, but when she found that it wasn't effective, she stopped.  Just like that!  We spent the rest of the lesson doing transitions from walk to trot to walk.  Transition on a circle.  Transition on a line.  Transition in the middle of a bend.  By the end of our lesson we were almost on the bit during our transition and even had some downward leaning into contact.

L and I also talked about expectations, which are the root of my unhappiness lately.  She said that every day I come out and spend with my horse is a good day, no matter what we accomplish or don't accomplish.  She also pointed out that I have completely lost of sight of where I was a month ago (in case you forgot, I was terrified to ride and only rode about 2 days a week.).  These days I am out at the barn 5-6 days a week and I ride every time.  These days I'm working on keeping my horses attention and transitions.  Did we have to talk about fear today?  Not really.

The last thing we talked about was my panicky pony, who continues to tremble when a horse in the aisle way kicks or someone walks by the gate.  And by tremble, I mean she wants to get the hell out of there.  L said that she really believes that will go away on it's own in time.  Part of where L and Trainer #1 disagree is that Trainer #1 was really pushing the pony with strong, driving aids and a fair amount of whip.  L thinks that since the Princess doesn't have confidence, that she is now scared of the spooky thing AND scared she'll get punished for it.  She thinks this also will just dissolve as the pony learns that's not going to happen.  With me, when she spooks we simply go back to work and that is all.

L also said that she was really, really impressed by how mellow my pony was for a five year old.  She said that if I had been working with her she would have never let me buy a five year old (ha!  As if Trainer #1 would have let me.  I bought my pony because I'm old enough to make my own stupid mistakes thank you very much.) but then went on to say that my horse has an amazing temperament.  She said she thought she would make an excellent lesson program horse because she takes things in stride.  She also said that a year from now I will be amazed at the difference.  A year?  Hell, it's been a month and I already am.

Happy December everyone!  I'm excited for my month of sunshine and flowers even if it is cold, dark and rainy here.