Monday, January 30, 2012


My pony has a new gait.  It's called the tranter.  It's a teeth jarring combination of trot and canter.  This extra special gait comes out when I ask for more trot.  She flings her head and canters for a half stride before trotting again.  Over. and Over. and Over.

I will say that I had a bit of a breakthrough about her attitude where I lost my shit.  Yes, I lost it.  No, it wasn't zen or calm or anything like that.  What happened was the pony was so tired looking that I decided to get on without lunging.  I got on and did a few loose rein circles while she warmed up her muscles.  Then I asked for more contact and asked her to step up.  Her attitude took about five steps to increase to fight mode.  And I could feel that old fear rising up fast.  And I was pissed and scared and pissed that I was scared (p.s. if you're in England, I was mad not neighbors are British and I'm pretty sure they think I'm a lush instead of just an angry person).  I hopped off.  I  mean, I launched off that pony and nailed her HARD with my dressage whip.  She spun around fast and looked at me like "Holy crap, what was that?"

"Fine.  Just fine.  You want me to get off?  Fine, I'll get off."  I grumbled and stomped over to get a lunge line.  If I was a cartoon Mona, I would have had steam coming out of both my ears.  I put her on the lunge line and asked for forward.  She sassed me by leaping straight up into the ear on all fours and facing me.

"Oh no.  Not today."  I spit through my teeth as I got behind her again.  "Today, there will be none of this bullshit.  I am NOT having this."

Okay, there was probably more bad language than I care to admit, but by the time we were done lunging, we had an understanding.  If she couldn't go forward when I was on her, she was going to go forward on the lunge.  She was going to work harder on the lunge than she wanted to.  Transition.  Trot. Canter. Canter. Canter.  Trot. Canter.  Twenty meter circle.  Fifteen meter circle.  Ten meter circle.  Sucking back?  Oh, hi pony...this is a lunge whip and I can actually flick it and HIT YOU WITH IT.  How's them apples huh?  Is this better than trotting forward?  Yeah, I didn't think so.

Then, with my red hot anger cooled to a nice banked ember glow of "Don't you eff with me." I led her to the mounting block.  She started to do her old trick of walking forward and I practically breathed fire at her.  "Do NOT move or I swear you will regret it.  If you choose to move you will MOVE!"  She didn't move.  I got on.  I asked for walk.  She started to slug off.  Then she stopped to poop.  No joke, I was up there kicking and spitting and whipping and she was pooping.  I think I may have popped a gasket this time instead of just steaming through the ears.  I tapped her hard until she started moving and then shoved my feet down in my stirrup irons and nailed her hard.  She threw her head up and....tranter.  It was ugly for a while.  There was a lot of crappy cantering.  But you know what, there was also a lot of forward trot and some lovely transitions.  And after a break on a loose rein, it only took one little tap to remind her that today was not the day to mess with Mona.

Not surprisingly, when I was putting her away she was an angel.  All soft eyes and standing perfectly still, letting me brush even her sensitive belly without so much as an ear flick.  My next ride is not until Thursday when I have a lesson.  We can show our trainer the tranter.  I'm sure she'll be impressed.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Forward! Forward!

Our ride today started off with me feeling like I just couldn't do it.  There were three other horses and a horse lunging in the arena and I felt overwhelmed.  But Laura was there and walked out and said "Trot this pony."  I whined and hemmed and hawed.  She took my feet and pushed them down hard into the stirrups.  "Hunker down and trot. this. pony."  Yeah, she kinda growled at me.  I knew from her tone that if I didn't make the pony trot, she was going to.  "If she bucks, smack her.  If she bucks again, smack her harder.  She will give it up quick," Laura assured me.  So I rode and smacked and there was some ear pinning and some random cantering, but there were no bucks.  And we had a lovely ride even though there ended up being five horses in the arena and it was chaotic.  Now if I can just get a life size cardboard cutout of Laura and a tape of her saying "Forward! Forward!  Keep the contact!" then I'd be set.  I could also save some money on lessons if I did this since most of my lessons right now are rinse, lather, repeat.  Forward! Forward!  Keep the contact!

Opinion Vs Attitude

Everyone knows that mares are opinionated.  There are also a lot of folks who would say that mares have attitudes.  So what's the difference?  Is it just our perception that changes it?  I think about kids and how some parents say that their kids are 'creative' or 'strong willed' and I'm watching this kid mouth off to his parents or draw on the walls and I think, "No, this is not creativity this is bad manners."

I have an opinionated kid.  She's five years old and has ways she likes things done.  I'm okay with her deciding to do things a particular way.  I'm okay with her asking for me to make her a waffle, with strawberry  jam but no butter and not too crispy and make sure it's hot enough because she doesn't like cold waffles and please may I have a cup of ice water too?  I'm okay with it because she says please.  She ASKS.  She says thank you when I bring her the waffle and the ice water.  Some mornings, she forgets herself and  says, "Mommy!  Waffle!  I'm hungry!".  All I need to do to remind her of her manners is to look at her with raised eyebrows and say "What?"  This is usually enough of a prompt for her to correct herself.

My daughter is five...only two weeks younger than my horse.  So they're basically the same age.  The difference is that I've had five years of being consistent with my child about please and thank you.  When she was first learning to speak I had to remind her every single time she requested something.  It took time.  So much time that I don't know when it happened that I was able to stop reminding every day.  But I now have a five year old that consistently gets praised by strangers for her amazing manners.

So, let's bring this back to ponies shall we?  My pony is also five and I don't know what her former 'parents' taught her but it sure as hell wasn't please and thank you.  Even the six months of pro training didn't seem to teach her these kinds of manners.  My trainer at the time said to just ignore the ear pinning, tail swishing and go about my business.  That she would react to my energy and begin to calm down.  Only that hasn't happened.  When you groom her girth and chest, she swishes her tail, lifts her front legs and tries (halfheartedly) to nip.  Hit a wrong spot and she'll threaten to lift a back leg.  Sure, she stops when I growl at her and smack her but I don't want to spend every session growling and smacking.

Some folks say that she's just expressing her opinion about grooming.  Maybe she's thin skinned or something.  Okay, she can have her opinion but grooming has to happen.  I am not overly rough.  I'm not using metal currycombs and wire brushes.  And at some point she has to suck it up, right?  Just like my daughter has to wash her hair AND brush it every day.  It's not negotiable.

So I want to spend time teaching my mare to say please and thank you.  Teaching her that she can express her opinion but she's got to lose the attitude.  I have no idea what this means or how I'm going to do it, but I'm going to do what I do best with it and obsess like hell about it.  I hope you are all having a good weekend with your ponies!  I'm going to see the princess later on today, so I might have an update this afternoon.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Good Reasons For Blogging

  I had written a long post about my continuing frustration with the pony and her bucking and not going forward.  When I was doing whining, I did a quick check on when I started working with Laura.  And was flabbergasted.  I need to LAY OFF on picking on myself about progress.

I bought Tess in late May of 2010 and didn't ride her for almost four months while she was in full time training and then had horrible, crazy, spooky rides with her for two months.  Then I switched trainers in late October.  So I've really only been working regularly with my horse for three or four months.  Wait!  What?  Only three or four months!?!!?  And I got on her without lunging yesterday!  And we're cantering!  And we're working past a bucking issue!  And she spooks less now even if she is a crabby, hot mess.  I suddenly feel very different about things.  I'm doing super great and we are making super progress.

When I started this blog, it was to keep a journal so I could look back and chart our progress.  I don't go back and re-read my old posts but it was really great to be able to see that I started this in late October and have only been working hard for three months.  Give us a year together and I have a feeling the pony and I will be able to look back at the early days and laugh.  Hopefully together.  With each other and not at each other.

Also, thank you so much to for the Liebster award!  That means that I got TWO of these.  Practically famous, right?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Celebrate Every Success

Rather than give you a long post about my ride today and how defeated I felt after she tried her same old tricks, I'm going to focus on my success.  Ready for it?

I rode my horse today WITHOUT LUNGING HER.  That's right.  I pulled her out of her stall, groomed her, saddled her and GOT ON.  Dude, I live on the EDGE!!  She did walk off when I got on, which I hate, but otherwise was very sensible.  She wasn't spooky or crazy and I survived.  I did have to talk to myself to keep myself breathing, but I did it.   Go me!

We also had a few okay moments in our short, crappy ride.  And then afterwards she fell asleep in the cross ties, like the crazy lazy Arab she is.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Lesson Plans

I went into my lesson determined to try something new.  After reading all your lovely comments and not having seen the pony in two weeks, I was hoping we'd be starting fresh.  So, here's how that went.

I walked into the barn and found Tess in her stall.  She didn't really look at me.  I haltered her and led her to the cross ties.  We hadn't taken two steps before she swung her head into me, her mouth tight and her eyes hard.  I backed her up, fast.  She was still tense and seemed angry.  She was filthy, not having been groomed for two weeks.  She was cranky, swishing her tail, pinning her ears and swinging her head into me constantly.  I took her off the cross ties and backed her up when she got aggressive.  She would lick and chew, but her eye stayed hard and her mouth was a tense, unhappy line.  I thought maybe she needed to stretch out and move, so I put her in the arena and asked her to move out.  She sauntered around a bit, cantering and trotting and occasionally spooking but it wasn't an excess energy thing.  She got tired of moving and looked to me, licking and chewing.  She followed me around the arena and I decided it was time to tack up.   She was still unhappy looking.

I got her tacked up while she fussed and grouched, her body tense but not with energy.  I wish I could describe it better.  It was that she was hard all over.   Her eyes, her mouth, her tail.  Everything was stiff and resistant.  I put her on the lunge and she went quietly walk, trot, canter without bucking, spooking or getting angry so it was time to get on.

Here's where I am going to give myself some serious kudos.  My horse had not been worked in two weeks and I got on.  First.  With nobody in the arena with me.  It took a few circles of the mounting block, but she settled down and stood and I got on.  And then I walked her around on a loose rein.  She had a few little spooks, but was good for the most part.  I focused on feeling her back legs hit the ground (and totally had to cheat to look in the mirror the first few times) and seeing if I could get her to walk freely around the arena.  Now, for you Western riders and those of you with calm horses and no confidence issues, the long rein might be a given.  But as recently as two weeks ago, I was afraid to give her a long rein.  I would get on and immediately want contact and since my fear ran from my head all the way down my arms, it was more of a death grip than contact.  So riding on a loose rein for ten minutes AT THE BEGINNING of my lesson was the first step towards changing my relationship with my horse.

I felt it was going well enough that I should ask for trot.  I asked, she hunched up, swished her tail, pinned her ears and got ready to buck.  I shifted the saddle back and forth suddenly.  She stopped.  I asked again.  She hunched up again,  I shifted the saddle back and forth, hard.  She stopped.  I still wasn't getting trot.  I asked her to walk.  She swished her tail and pinned her ears.  I sighed.  A big, giant sigh of defeat.  I slumped my shoulders, let the reins go and just sat there thinking 'What the hell am I doing?'.

Laura came out and I told her that I just couldn't gear myself up for a battle.  That I knew I was causing the problem and that we needed to find a different way to do this because the idea of 'getting it through it' wasn't working.  I asked if she would get on Tess and ask her to trot so I could watch how she did it and see Tess' reaction.  So Laura gamely hopped on.  At the walk, the pony was resistant and sucked back.  Laura spent a good ten minutes correcting the walk.  No, you can't be crabby when I put leg on.  No, you can't flip your neck away from the contact.  No, you can't push your shoulders out.  No, you can't spook to get out of this.  Then she asked for trot and got a soft, forward transition.  Such was the rest of the ride, besides two nasty bucks when she really got after her about cantering.  But Laura said her hips were out and that it was probably uncomfortable for her to canter in that direction.  She's going to give her an adjustment and take care of it.

So then I got on.  Our game plan was to have me make sure I had obedience AT THE WALK before going to the trot.  And to make sure that when she was walking forwarding into the contact that I kept my hands SOFT and STILL. worked.  We had no bucking.  I kept my ride short so we could taste real success together, but we walk, trotted and cantered both directions and did lots of transitions and change of directions.  Laura showed me how to put all my weight in the stirrup irons when I asked her to trot, so that if she did buck (she's a hind end bucker) it would just put my weight in my irons.  I didn't end up needing that.

After the ride, the pony's eye was soft and her mouth relaxed.  She stood quietly while I brushed her and even let me hose off her green legs with minimal dancing.  I'm looking forward to see if we can get the same ride tomorrow by concentrating on getting obedience at the walk first.  I sure hope so!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hand Holding

I'm a needy horse owner right now.  Somewhere in the last ten years of being away from horses, I mis-placed my ability to try things.  I'm afraid of looking stupid.  I'm afraid of screwing up my horse.  I'm afraid of being wrong.  I'm afraid of failing.  Yes, we all know that I'm a master of being afraid.

But this has been bothering me lately.  Because I'm paying a trainer a decent amount of money every week to help me through this.  To tell me what steps to take to make this better.  But I'm starting to think that maybe part of my problem is that I want my hand held.  Every ride.  Every grooming session.  Every flicker of my horse's ear.  I want to know what the right thing to do if she pins her ears and for every answer I have a "Yeah but what if..." scenario.

Let's take biting for example.  Tessa will swing her head and try to bite while you saddle her or if you're grooming her girth or her chest.

Answer #1 - let her head connect with your elbow, finger etc so she punishes herself.
My Response- She's in crossties and can't actually reach me.  Also, she will just bite my elbow, finger, fist etc.

Answer #2- Back her up and get her feet moving.
My Response- This works but then I can't put her in the cross ties.  And I want a horse that I can put in the cross ties.  Also, this doesn't work if I'm in the wash stall.  There is no where to back up.

Answer #3- Hard smack on the neck.
My Response- She will throw her head up and away when I do this.  And then come back for more

Answer #4- If she comes back for more, you haven't disciplined hard enough.
My Response- But I can't hit her any harder and if I (theoretically) booted her like I was a horse, I wouldn't want her in the cross ties.

Just so you know, this was NOT an actual conversation with my trainer.  This is just an example of how no matter what training advice I get (and putting it out on the internet, I've gotten LOTS) I have a "yeah but..." to go with it.  Because what it comes down to is that I want someone with me EVERY TIME I interact with my horse to make sure I'm doing it JUST RIGHT.  That way I won't embarrass myself or ruin my horse or be one of those people everyone talks about how they're ruining their horse with their stupidity, yet somehow nobody ever SAYS that to those people.

I don't have an answer, this is just something that I'm mulling.  I've been reading some pretty great blogs about lightness and training and different ways of doing things.  My lesson is tomorrow and my trainer is pretty traditional.  Not harsh or close minded or anything, just more of a traditional trainer.  And some of the things I want to try aren't traditional, but I have a gut feeling that I need to try them.  They may be spectacular failures, but I think I'm realizing that I need to be willing to have a spectacular fail to prove to the pony that this between her and me.  And that *I* will hold her hand (hoof?) because I'm in charge.  A little bit like finally realizing that you don't need to ask your mom for child rearing advice at some point.  It's okay to do what you feel is right for your children without living by consensus.

Can I be in charge instead?
Sometimes I feel like I need to move barns to find a community that I connect with differently.  Everyone at my barn is super nice and I'm REALLY enjoying riding with my trainer, but....but.....I need to find MY voice and MY stride and I don't know what that looks like yet.  Ahhh....rambling thoughts.  The big update after a two week break comes tomorrow!  See you then!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

You Must Read This

This is my favorite New Year's post ever.  After reading this (CAKE!!) you must go check out pictures of the adorableness that is Murphy.  Totally worth wasting a work morning on.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

I am stuck in the waiting part.  The roads are mostly clear, the weather is warming up.  The horses at the barn were still on limited turn out as of yesterday because the parking lot is still full of ice.  And I am stuck at home, catching up on a week's worth of work from having those darn snow days.  By the way, a week inside with the stomach flu and a rowdy five year old makes you REALLY miss the quiet of the barn!  I'm ready for some pony time.  So, to tide us all over, here's a picture of the Princess in her winter fuzzies with her purple pad.  It's this cute face that keeps me from sending her down the road when she's a crabby, awful bitch.  This makes me think I should take a very cute photo of myself to give to my husband for exactly the same reason....

Sunday, January 22, 2012

These Are A Few of My Favorite

Oooooooh I got an award!  Thanks to Sand at for the award!!  If you haven't checked out her blog before, you definitely should.  She writes great, detailed posts about her horse (who is adorable) and their journey.  And she just got a trailer so I'm sure this spring we'll be seeing some awesome traveling photos!!

Liebster means “dearest” in German, and the award is intended to help up-and-coming blogs get the attention they deserve. Here are the rules:

1. Copy and paste the award on our blog.
2. Link back to the blogger who gave you the award
3. Pick your five favorite blogs with less than 200 followers, and leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have received the award.
4. Hope that the five blogs chosen will keep spreading the love and pass it on to five more blogs!

I like lists and following rules.  It's too bad there aren't more rules about what to blog about.  A giant blog list that you just follow items 1-50 and that's your topic.  Creativity?  What creativity?  Imma list maker!!  And actually, it's much easier for some of us to get creative if we have some limitations set up.  Otherwise we end up WAY too avante garde and our creativity resembles bad performance art involving toilets.  But enough about art and toilets, let's give out some Leibster awards!!!
The trials and tribulations of owning a young, thoroughbred.  TBA's posts are honest and funny and often full of great photos.  

Muddy K is an amazing writer.  Prepare to cry and to laugh and to be thoroughly moved by her stories of her horses and her connections with them.  

New blog by someone with a new horse!  How could this not be awesome?  I can't wait to watch these two progress from groundwork to riding to dressage!

Women and horses.  Horses and women.  This blog is for all of us re-riders out there or first time riders who do not have rubber bones and nerves of steel. 

A great training blog chronicling the adventure of Oliver and his owner, Steph.  Well written with lots of information that you can apply to your own riding!

There were so many others that I wanted to link to!!  My blog list is full of great blogs and I want to give every single one of them an award!!  So if you're not on my list, it doesn't mean you're not in my top five, I was just trying to follow the rules......

And on the pony front, nothing yet.  Barn has power today, but sent an email saying the parking lot was an ice rink.  I'm a bad ice driver and not much of an ice skater either, so I think I will give it another day to melt.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Week of No Pony and Too Much Thinking

We've had off and on snow this week, with another round headed our way.  This has led to school closures, which means I haven't made it to the barn.  My five year old does not have the horse bug and it's never a good time with her out at the barn.

It's been a hard week, mentally.  I've spent a lot of time worrying, thinking, overthinking and chewing on the problem of Tessa's lack of forward and her attitude about it.  I KNOW that it's me, since every other trainer can get on her and after one half hearted attempt at a buck, she goes forward the rest of the time.  Their solution is that I need to get after her hard enough so that she gets the message.  The dog trainer in me knows this (it's never good to pick at your dog, just correct them hard enough to only have to do it once) and yet it's not working with Tess.  I correct harder, she bucks harder.

So here are some of my new theories and thoughts.

1.  I am clenching with my legs when I ask her for forward and especially when I get after her.  Knowing she's going to put in a big buck makes it challenging for me to relax.
2.  I am pulling back on her mouth when I'm asking for forward or I am dropping the contact altogether so I can grab her mane.  Again, knowing she's going to throw her head in the air and then follow it up with a giant buck hasn't really given me much confidence in keeping a light, steady contact.
3.  At this point, what I am doing is not working.  If I'm having to get after her more and more and her bucks are getting bigger and bigger, whatever I'm doing (correcting her, clenching, pulling back) is not effective.

I got the stomach flu today (ugh) and am writing this from bed.  It's possible I'm a bit delirious from my fever, but mostly this is just something I've been thinking on the last week.  With the crazy weather, I may not get out to the barn until this weekend and it will have been a week since I've ridden.  I have been obsessively googling the forward/bucking problem and looking for solutions.  I'm not sure I've found anything yet and I will be talking to my trainers about this again, but I really feel like it's time to try something new.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Balancing Act

Our ride today was up and down.  She didn't want to move forward and she could feel my hesitation to enforce it.  I was close to giving up and calling it a day, then Laura drove up and asked "How's it going?"  I said she was being a pill.  She just smiled at me.  I knew what that smile meant.  That smile meant "Ride that horse like you mean it."  That smile meant, "Stop walking and make her go forward."  That smile meant "I believe that you can do this and I don't need to help you."

And so I did.  By that time I had been half-assing my ride for the last hour so I was almost out of time.  But the end of our ride was fairly lovely and I was able to start looking at what I'm doing, instead of riding around cursing under my breath and hating myself and my pony.

Our turning is having some trouble.  She pops her outside shoulder and drifts through my outside rein.  To be fair, I have noticed that I hang too much on the inside rein, dragging her around corners in desperation.  My  outside rein is not consistent enough.  And when I try to push her shoulder over with my outside leg, she thinks I'm asking her to canter and pops her head up to canter.

I haven't spent my requisite two hours googling this problem, but rest assured I will have some internet ideas for our next ride.  I also really need to get a book of exercises and have a better game plan for when I get on.  Otherwise, I end up with a horse who's forward and not enough to do with her.  We still can't quite make it around the entire arena, so we're limited in our space.  But we are getting closer.  We actually rode V to P without a spook.  Progress, folks.  Progress.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Like a Weight Off My Shoulders

Okay, that's technically the opposite of what I have going on, but now I know what causes it.  My incredibly tight neck and shoulders are back with one muscle actually seizing up.  The good news is that I am no longer wondering how this happens.  It's fear.  I hold my fear in my shoulders and neck, in frozen, tight knots.

I had my lesson today and though the pony wasn't worked yesterday, I was determined not to 'over lunge' her before I got on.  She seemed forward and submissive enough that I only lunged her for five minutes.  The first thing Tessa did was try to say no thank you to my leg.  Then she tried to say No! to my leg.  Then she tried to say EFF YOU LADY to my leg and the whip.  So after sitting a monster buck, we had our forward trot.  I tried to breathe deeply and get back to my happy place.  I lost her attention to something outside.  I tried to bring her nose in to the inside, to get her focus back on me.  She wasn't having any of it.  And then we were off and running.  What I should have done was let her run.  I mean, I'm working on forward right?  But I was scared.  So I tried to bring her back down, I used my left hand to tilt her nose in (basically doing a one rein stop) while she galloped a small circle.  I let up and she bounced away, her body tense and coiled and ready to gallop at the slightest provocation.

When we were past that, I wanted a break.  I wanted to walk.  I wanted to cry.  I wanted to quit.  However, Laura wisely kept me trotting and working, reminding me to breathe.  We worked through it, we had lovely work later in our lesson where we worked on controlling the shoulder.  We also got to the next level in evasions.  Celebrate!  I will take a horse grabbing the bit and diving (especially a little horse) over throwing their head into my face and hollowing out their back.  Bring on the nose to the ground!

So, I will be taking some ibuprofen tonight and doing some stretching for my poor, sore shoulders.  And I'm going to work on consciously not tensing my shoulders when I'm scared.  I'm not sure exactly how I will accomplish this since I do it unconsciously, but knowing this is the problem is a damn fine start.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Ear Pictures Make Me Jealous

You know the ones I'm talking about.  Most of you have probably even posted a few.  The picture of the scenery from between the tips of your horses ears.  I've seen green pastures, snowy fields, deserts, ditches, jumps, grass, trees and the blue sky of a perfect day.  I want to have ear pictures!  But even if I was able to snap a shot while I'm riding, it would most likely be a picture of an arena wall.  My barn is wonderful.  The care of the horses is impeccable and my pony gets to live outside.  The arena has sand footing that gets dragged regularly and two open ends, so there's fresh air.  But there's nowhere to ride outside.  Or at least nowhere that feels safe to a chicken rider and a green horse.

We are on the end of a gravel road that is probably thirty feet (I'm terrible at measuring distances and such, but it's not super long).  I could ride down this road, which is lined with threes and has minimal traffic.  There's only one other house and then the barn at the end.  But it opens up onto a quieter, but paved, road which then goes onto a busier paved road with no shoulder.  I've heard you can cut through some places to go ride in the quieter, housing development roads in the neighborhood.  The idea of falling (especially as my bones go all old lady on me) is hard enough to swallow without introducing pavement into the picture.  Add to that a green, spooky horse who doesn't wear shoes and it feels like we will be stuck inside FOREVER!

Everyone says that to keep their green horse interested, they hack out at least once a week.  How can I accomplish this when I have no truck/trailer and no access to any actual trails?  Should I just start hand walking her down the drive a few times a week to start?  At this point, remember, my horse is so nervous that if she changes stalls or goes to the other side of the barn she starts to tremble and over react.  We've been visiting the 'scary' side of the barn regularly, but she still has quite a reaction, especially to the goat (OMIGOD THAT THING IS GOING TO LEAP OUT AND KILL ME WITH IT'S SCARY GOAT EYES!  I CAN'T WALK PAST IT!  IF I TAKE MY EYES OFF THAT SLEEPING GOAT, IT WILL SOMEHOW JUMP ME LIKE A COUGAR! ).

Sunday, January 8, 2012

This is not a test

We had forward.  Neither trainer was at the barn today so I sucked it up and got on.  I had decided that I was going to ride through whatever she gave me.  She gave me a swish and a half hearted attempt at a buck.  I sat down and tapped her.  She went forward, I praised her lavishly.  It wasn't as forward as Laura had her going, but it was forward.  With no bucking!  We did multiple canter transitions with NO BUCKING!  She was soft and forward and lovely!  

We did have some minor steering issues where she would get bendy in the neck and throw a shoulder out.  Part of the problem is we're still using the Happy Mouth Mullen bit, which is wonderful in many ways, but when you have a horse with a crazy rubber neck it can make it hard to capture their neck/shoulders.  I just held a firm outside rein when our twenty meter canter circle turned into a thirty meter hexagon.

I kept our ride short because there was a lot going on the arena and I got such great transitions that I didn't want to jinx it.  Here's a little pre-ride yawn from the pony.

I have ordered our new bit, a Herm Sprenger KK Ultra Snaffle and am anxiously awaiting it's arrival.  I am also really looking forward to the rest of this week and getting more and more forward!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

And the beat goes on.....

I took my camera out to the barn yesterday with good intentions to take pictures and even some video since I wasn't actually riding the pony.  Did I remember that?  No, no I did not.  Sigh.

I got out to the barn to groom the pony and get her tacked up for Laura. One of Tessa's favorite activities is sleeping.  Often, when I come out to the barn, my pony is lying down napping.  She might crack an eye open when I open her stall door, but it takes a bit of encouragement to get her up on her feet.  She's a champion napper.

Not only was she not napping yesterday, she was spinning, rearing and calling out frantically every time she saw me.  She was in a different stall so we think she just might be really insecure every time we move stalls.  Which means she's going to be on the grand rotation schedule from now on where we will try to put her in different stalls every day. It also means I'm going to start thinking about who I can hitch rides with this summer so we can just get her OUT places.

I told Laura that there was no way in hell I was going to try and take off her blanket while she's rearing in her stall, so Laura went in and removed the blanket and turned Tess out in the arena to blow off some steam.  Five minutes of bucking, snorting and galloping later and she was still vibrating but she was much more sensible.  Remember my assignment from Thursday?  To act like I disliked my pony?  Yeah, I started that.  Which meant when she pushed her shoulder into me, I pushed her back (you have got to love horses that are small enough that you can actually *physically*push them over).  When she tried to push me with her head, I caught her one on the bridge of her nose.  When she tried to back up in cross ties, I pushed her back forward.  When she pinned her ears, swished her tail and twitched a hind leg I growled at her.  Sure enough, she stopped.  And was good for the rest of our tacking up.

Laura put on a helmet and prepared for battle.  Today was the pony's Come to Jesus discussion.  Today, the princess would learn that forward was the *only* answer that was acceptable when leg was put on.  Laura got on, adjusted the stirrups and hunkered down for the big fit.  She asked Tess to go forward.  Tess wrinkled her face up, threw her head back, swished her tail and went slower.  She asked again, tapping with the whip.  Tess threw a hind leg out and flung her head in hair.  Wrong answer, pony.  Laura snapped the whip smartly on her hind end and the pony put in a half hearted buck and shot forward into a.....canter.  But it was a forward canter.  Laura praised her and settled into riding.  She rode serpentines and transitions.  She rode in two point, deep seat.  She tried to emulate my riding (I told her to grip like hell with her whole body and ask her to go forward while holding the reins too tight...that should do the trick.), she flopped like potatoes, she was rigid.  The pony maintained forward.  Laura was soft and fair and only had to tap her one more time to remind her that kicking, bucking and pinning ears were not the answer to a forward reminder.

Our plan is for Laura to get on her before I ride for the next few times and to see if we can get past this with Tess and I.  It's very obviously an issue that is caused mostly by me.  So I'm going to focus on grabbing mane instead of rein (how's that for a rhyming mantra this week) and hunkering down for some serious forward.

Since I didn't get pictures of the ride, here is a picture of one of the babies at the barn.  They're at that fugly baby stage for sure, but this little guy is so damn cute and friendly and kept coming over for some more love.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Thursdays are My Favorite Days

Though I woke up this morning dreading my lesson and with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, it's become clear that Thursdays are going to be my best days.  Right when I got to the barn Laura told me the plan was for Linda to lunge the pony again in side reins and then put me on board.  Yeah, I'm throwing out the L's now that it's clear that I'll be working with both Laura and Linda.  Too confusing.....

So Linda lunges the pony in side reins.  After a few moments of discussion about running versus walking, Tessa settles in.  And oh my, I had forgotten what a lovely mover my pony is.  She has a beautiful, floaty trot!  Linda has me come over to feel the connection on the lunge line.  Then she hands the line to me and I try to keep the connection, relax my hands and keep the pony forward.  I succeed, mostly.  

Then it's time to get on.  I opt to get on without the lunge line, but Linda is still close by the lunge whip.  Tessa ambles off into a sluggish, crabby walk and lurches into her slow trot, snapping her tail at me and twisting her head angrily.  I try to relax my arms of steel and grab a hunk of mane as Linda snaps the whip.  Tessa goes forward.  This was pretty much my whole lesson.  Sometimes I got it, sometimes I didn't.  We were not able to duplicate the gorgeous, floaty trot and mostly she was trotting slower than she should have.  However, she didn't buck every time.  She didn't flip her head every time.  In fact, a few of our canter transitions were almost pretty!

I think Laura is going to ride Tess tomorrow (though we never confirmed this.  Note to self:  email Laura!) to really get the point across that when you have a rider you must, must, must go forward.  I hope she rides at a time where I can watch!  I'm not sure what I'm going to do for the next few rides.  Though I feel GREAT about what I did today, I also don't feel like I could replicate it without having someone on the ground with a lunge whip.  I ride five days a week alone and then one day in a lesson so I need to move past this phase as quick as I can.

The other thing that Linda has me doing is pretending I hate my pony.  Most of my problems stem from disobedience.  It starts in the cross ties and just keeps going to under saddle.  So when I got off, the first thing Tess tried to do is rub her head on me.  Rather than pushing her off and feeling like a failure and going down THAT rabbit hole, I cracked her smartly with the handle of the whip and then backed her up by tapping her on the chest.  Pony looked at me like 'Who is THIS???'.  Two minutes later, she remembered it was me and tried rubbing again.  I nailed her again and backed her up.  Then I gave her a pet on the forehead.  She stayed still.  That's right, Princess.  Momma's got some boundaries now and they will be enforced.  MWahahahaha.  She was amazing after that and didn't pin her ears or swish her tail at me even once.

I don't have any pictures of my actual lesson, but I remembered a camera today so here's a couple random shots.

This is the Pessoa Military Saddle I've been riding in.  Notice the crazy blocks in front of and in back of your leg.  Weird saddle but it kept me on the pony when she tried her hand at rodeo-ing.

Pony wants a treeeeeaaaaaaat.

This is Farthing who I rode for a few minutes on Tuesday.  See how huge he is?  Okay, I probably should have put something next to him for perspective.  The Pony (who is 15 hands) looks like a midget next to him.  I'm pretty sure (in my 'omigodthishorseishuge' imagination) that the fence behind him is six feet tall.  He's THAT big.  Warmblood riders, quit snickering at me.  I got off a petite 15hand Arab and he felt like riding a house.

Giant head!  He's SUCH a Warmblood.  Came over to visit but wasn't concerned or overly interested.  His take was "I'll let you pet me if you feel like it, but no pressure."

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year's Prediction Ride

I read somewhere that the first ride of the year sets the tone for your year.  This better not be true.  My first ride of the year was a hot mess with the pony getting stickier and stickier.  Then I went out to the barn yesterday and couldn't even get up the nerve to ride.  I brushed the pony and went home.  Today I was determined to ride and I did.  For five minutes we slogged around and before I could even get a decent trot out of her, the princess decided she was done.  She stopped moving.  I used my legs.  Kick.  The whip.  Kick, buck.  Argh!  Lucky for me, L was right there.  Her partner (also an L, dammit....this whole anonymous trainer thing isn't really working out very well) was riding a GIANT bay horse and yelled across the arena "C'mere and hop on this horse and ride while I put your pony in side reins and teach her some forward to contact."  

I blinked at her.  "Ride that horse?  He's huge."  I'm not kidding about the huge.  He was at least 16.3 and a massive warmblood.  "Uh......"

She laughed.  "He's huge but he goes forward.  He's totally safe.  We put beginners on him."

Okay.  I may be a chicken, but I'm not a beginner and I'm not going to let a giant, beginner's horse intimidate me.  So I handed her the cranky pony and got on the massive bay.  I asked him to trot.  Oh, hey core muscles, you might want to help out here.  He had a lofty trot that made posting athletic but somehow easier.  We flew around the arena.  I got to ride in the corner next to the goat's pen where Tessa doesn't go.  We did twenty meter circles with ease.  Linda was having a discussion with the Princess that involved some head tossing and some crankiness, but every time I flew by them the pony seemed to be going forward.

"Canter him."  Linda said as I flew by.  "But from the walk.  He's forward and it'll be a bigger canter but he's easy."

I took a deep breath.  I fidgeted my way down the long side, building my courage.  In the corner I sat deep, moved my outside leg back and pressed.  The big bay leapt into a ground covering canter.  We took the long side in four strides.

"Balance him." Linda yelled, while snapping the lunge whip at the Princess.  

I sat deeper in the saddle, took some contact and thought about lifting his back up underneath me.  It worked.  It worked!  We were balanced and cantering and forward and Oh!Oh!  I'm not nearly as bad a rider as I think!  I sat down and thought walk and he came right back underneath me, swinging his back and stepping softly underneath me.  

"Okay, now come get back on your pony."  She still had Tess attached to the lunge line.  I climbed back aboard (no mounting block needed for the pony) and asked for forward.  Immediately, Tess pinned her ears and swished her tail.  I tapped her with the whip and she kicked out, threatening to buck.

"I'm going to make her go forward, so be ready for her to really go forward."  Linda lifted the lunge whip and smartly tapped Tessa's side.  I grabbed a handful of mane and we were off.  Wow!  A forward trot.  A very speedy forward trot!  I could work with this trot.  We could get contact.  

'Now ask for canter."  Linda still had the lunge whip in one hand and the lunge line in the other.  I sat down and cued for canter.  Tess pinned her ears, swished her tail and bucked.  Linda tapped her with the lunge whip and Tess took off at a frantic canter.  In response I raised my hands and felt my hands, arms and shoulders turn to iron bars. 

"Relax your hands."  Linda admonished, "She can't go forward if you're pulling her back with all that tension.  Just sit down, relax everything and keep the contact steady.  Let her go forward INTO the contact."

Sure enough, two strides later we had a lovely, forward relaxed canter.  It was time to unclip the lunge line.

At this point, I'd love to end my story with "And everything was wonderful and we all lived happily ever after." but that's not what happened.  My pony is a smart pony and as soon as Linda was out of range, she decided that she didn't need to go forward.  She stopped dead and kicked out.  So, Linda came after her with a lunge whip, which meant me grabbing more mane and trying not to give her conflicting cues.

Linda pointed out that I need to start on the ground with being in charge.  That her kicking out and bucking at my leg and my whip are things that start when she pins her ears on the ground and swishes her tail when I brush her.  I just can't seem to find the spot where I'm a benevolent dictator.  So, I'm just going to make sure to take this project one day at a time.  And maybe I'll count the brief forward moments of our ride on the lunge line today as my New Year's Prediction Ride.  I predict, one way or another, I will find the gas pedal on this pony and I will find my way around being her leader.  

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 and the World Didn't End! Hurrah!

Well, we made it to 2012.  And since I have LOVED seeing the 'year in review' posts, I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon and try to put my own review together.  Of course, it's a bit challenging because my photo documenting could use some help.  That's going to be my blogging resolution:  MORE PICTURES!  

January 2011

Spent time talking a lot about horses.  Decide to look into getting back into them again.  

February 2011

Start taking riding lessons again regularly after a year long hiatus (which was following a 10 year hiatus).   I remember that as much as I like lessons, I like having my own horse to work with.  Husband I discuss and agree to begin searching for a horse.

March 2011

Spend every spare moment looking at horses.  My criteria for a horse is this:

1.  Pocket pony personality.  I want a horse who's a love bug.  No pissy attitudes, even if they're well trained.

2.  Quiet.  Not spooky.  

3.  On the smaller side.  Bigger than 14.2 but smaller than 16 hands. I know, I know.  I ride dressage and should want to ride a ginormous, powerful horse.  But I don't.  I like little horses.  They're closer to the ground, less intimidating for me, and when you're out on the trail (as if I EVER trail ride) they're easier to get on  from the ground.

4.  It MUST be a love connection.  The amount of money that I spend on a horse is approximately the same no matter how I feel about the horse.  It's going to cost me over $1,000 a month to do the horse thing and I better damn well LOVE my horse.  Otherwise there are lots of other things I could be doing for $1,000 a month.  

April 2011

Narrow the search down and find what I think is my horse.  She's a rescue horse and tries hard to please.  She's quiet and short and a nice mover.  But she has a funky looking knee.  I fall in love, take a few lessons on her and have a vet who's a lameness expert come out to do the PPE.  She watches her go on the lunge for five minutes and shakes her head.  It's a no go.  She'll be good for light riding and a weekend rider, but I want to ride six days a week.  I'm heart broken.  As I'm putting the horse's blanket back on, my eyes are filling with tears and I'm lost in my unhappiness.  At that moment, the mare throws her head up, catching my jaw and slamming it shut.  I spit out a mouthful of blood and bits of teeth.  I quickly put the mare away and drive off, disappointed and now missing my two front teeth.  A quick phone call to the dentist, two weeks of a liquid diet and three weeks later I have new front teeth and a brand new phobia about my face.

May 2011

I drive out to the middle of nowhere to see a horse that I'm pretty sure won't work for me.  She's not the right color (grey), she's a mare and not a gelding (mares!), she's young (barely 5), and out of shape.  On May 29th she becomes mine.  Here's the original post I wrote about her on my other blog.

June 2011

Due to the outbreak of Equine Herpes, the pony doesn't get to come home until the middle of June.  She  goes directly into full time training.

July 2011

Only my trainer is riding the pony.  I want her to get a clear, consistent start and this seems like the best idea.  I act as groom. Pony gains a little weight and a lot of attitude.  She has her first dressage schooling show and scores a 64%.  Not too shabby considering she's only been doing it a month.

August 2011

Pony is still very spooky and nervous.  I start riding her and am gripped with fear.  I can't get her attention.  I take this horrible picture for her registration because there isn't anyone else out at the barn and I need a picture to transfer the registration.  

Sept 2011

More full time training.  Less of me riding.  Thinking of selling the pony because I can't ride her.  I practice braiding.  My braiding gets worse instead of better.  I am convinced I am incompetent in all things horse.

October 2011

Decide to sell horse.  On the same day, decide to switch trainers to try something as a latch ditch effort.  Start blog.  Realize I am not alone and not as incompetent as I thought.  Barely.  Take some great photos showing how much she's filled out!

November 2011

Keep taking lessons even though I'm terrified.  Make a pact to keep the pony until spring/summer of next year no matter what happens.  No more training so it's just me and the pony.

December 2011

Slow down a bit due to holidays and family stuff, but have some big breakthroughs.  Now that we've worked past the major spooking we've entered in the major bucking phase.  Remind myself that I've committed until spring.  If you look closely, she's wearing tiny brown antlers.  Reindeer Pony!

I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday season.  I am looking forward to 2012 and what new things I will discover on the journey with the princess.