Monday, June 17, 2013

Liebster Award

Finally!  I've 'won' something.  Now if I could just get a ribbon to hang on my wall.

Seriously though, thanks to Carla at The Collegial Equestrian for nominating me.  I'm about to go on vacation so it's kind of good timing since I didn't get a ride in since my last ride.  At least I'm leaving on a good note!

Okay, here's the contest stuff:

HOW TO ACCEPT THE AWARD: The Liebster Blog Award is a way to recognize blogs who have less than 200 followers.  Liebster is a German word that means beloved and valued.  Here are the rules for accepting the award:
  1. Thank the person who nominated you and include a link back to their blog.
  2. List 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions given to you.
  4. Create 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate.
  5. Choose 11 bloggers with 200 or fewer followers to nominate and include links to their blogs.
  6. Go to each blogger's page and let them know you have nominated them.
Eleven Random Facts

1. I have had every hair color you can imagine, including purple, pink and even orange.  My hair this month is platinum.  Sorry you don't get to see it since I usually don't take pictures of my un-showered, helmet haired self at the barn.

2. I have worked in the pet industry for 17 years and know more than is appropriate about dog and cat poop.

3.  After having my daughter in 2006, I developed dogs and cats.  Please see above for why this is a problem.

4.  I love my kid, but I'm not a huge fan of 'kids'.

5.  Until a few years ago the only thing I could cook was toast.

6.  I'm a messy clean freak.  I want my  house to be clean but I'm a bit of a slob.  It makes me feel a bit schizophrenic sometimes.

7.  I'm a musician and all my friends are 'music snobs' and pick on me because I like really bad pop music.

8.  I also like really bad reality television, but I don't have cable so I only get to watch it about once a year when we're in a hotel.

9.  I'm taller than I look.  I slouch so I look 5'4, but I'm actually 5'7.  It's mostly in my legs, which also makes me look shorter than I am.

10.  We can't keep ice cream in the house because I will eat the ENTIRE carton in one sitting.  No joke.  Doesn't matter how big the carton is, it's me and a spoon and a good book until it's gone.

11.  My husband's passion is a sailboat which, as it turns out, is WAY more expensive than horses.  Though this helps my guilt about spending money on my pony, it doesn't help our bank account which is always pushed to it's limit with boat and horse stuff.  If my daughter takes up race cars, we will have the tri-fecta of most expensive sports in our family.  We will probably also need second jobs...

Questions from Carla

1. Outline your riding experience.

Rode at horse camp as a kid for a week every summer.  My parents borrowed a horse for a year when I was 14.  I rode bareback because they wouldn't buy me a saddle and my babysitting money all went to pay for the care of the horse.  After that year, I went horse-less until I was 21.  I scrounged up money to take english riding lessons and bought my first horse.  Rode regularly for two years until I had a horrible accident where I ripped my hip flexor tendons, broke all the little bones on the top of my feet, hyper extended my lower back muscles and cracked most of my ribs.  Took some time off.  Bought another horse to do Western Pleasure with.  Took some natural horsemanship lessons.  Sold her due to financial problems.  Took more time off to grow up and have a kid.  Bought a fancy pants Western Pleasure horse that was drugged at time of purchase.  Huge lesson learned!  He was supposed to be bomb proof and instead was one of the scariest spookers I've ever ridden.  He'd go from head down, ridiculously slow jog to spinning halfway around the arena in terror.  Sold him and took a few more years off.  Then bought The Pony (Tessa) for peanuts.  My first trainer was in an eventing barn and when we ran into problems, I switched to the resident trainers and have been there ever since.  I take lessons weekly in dressage or jumping.  I was told by my doctor to not jump anymore after my accident, so we only jump teensy tiny little jumps.

2. Who was your favorite instructor and why?

I don't remember her name, but it was a clinician who was just very enthusiastic.  She'd say something like "a little more leg.  Move it back.  There.  There!  YES!  BRILLIANT!  FEEL THAT??!!!  WONDERFUL!  MARVELOUS!"  You'd be sweating and grinning like crazy and nodding because you couldn't actually talk because you were working too hard.  I've never ridden at anything other than a low level and my horses have always been grade or off breeds and she didn't care ONE TINY BIT.

3. What is the best thing that has happened horse-wise so far this year?

Learning to finally go forward and believing in my horse's awesomeness.

4. What is the worst thing that has happened horse-wise so far this year?

Coming to terms with the fact that I do not get to ride the way I did before I had a kid.  I'm lucky to make it to the barn three days a week and this is my reality.

5. Are you a cat person or a dog person--or both, or neither?

I've had both dogs and cats.  They both have their ups and downs, but I'm probably more of a dog person.  However, I am now a dog person who is so allergic to dogs that she can't even touch one or go over to a house where there are dogs without having an asthma attack.

6. What's your favorite piece of equipment?

My 'Oh Crap Strap' on the front of my saddle.  Even though I've never used it in an actual emergency, I like knowing it's there.  Sometimes I use it to steady my hands and sometimes I just hook a hand through it if I'm feeling nervous.

7. What's your favorite thing to do with your horse?

We haven't experienced enough to answer this properly, but I love our jump lessons.  I also have a secret affinity for tail washing, but Tessa isn't such a big fan so it's not my favorite thing to do....yet.

8. What is something you've always wanted to do but never tried?

Some sort of cow event or dude ranch where you have a 'job'.  
9. Do you and your horse have "colors"?

Pink and black.  Which is hilarious because I'm SO not a pink girl.  But Tessa is a total princess and looks adorable in pink so I just roll with it.
10. What is your favorite easy dinner to make after coming home from the barn?

Ha!  My favorite easy dinner after the barn is one that my husband cooks.  Otherwise, I would just eat cereal and toast for dinner.  I usually am at the barn after dinner, so my after barn snack is usually some popcorn and red wine.
11. What is your #1 riding goal for this year?

To be able to ride forward without fear.

Eleven Blogs!

Some of you probably already got one of these from someone else, but what can I say....these are some of my favorites.  Also, if y'all are too busy to do this, I totally understand.  :)

1.  All Gear No Skill

2.  Calm Forward Straight
3.  I Pick Crazy
4. Thoroughbred Adventure
5.  My Equine Odyssey
6.  Green Slobber
7.  Princess Diva Diaries
8. Pia and Prarie's Parade
9. What Was I Thinking?
10.  Life As A Dangerbunny
11. The Red Horse Tales

And now I have to come up with my eleven questions.  Uh....erm.....ok, here goes nothing.

1.  Were horses in your childhood?

2.  What's the weirdest lesson/clinic you've ever had on horseback?

3.  What one thing would you change about your horse?

4.  What one thing would you change about yourself?

5.  Do you board or keep your horse at home?

6.  What is your favorite thing about boarding or keeping your horse at home?

7.  What is your least favorite thing about boarding or keeping your horse at home?

8.  What nicknames do you have for your horse?

9.  What scares you the most about riding/horses?

10.  What is your best skill around horses?

11.  What is your dream pony vacation?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Take A Picture!!!

I vaguely remember some phrase from middle school about liking someone so much that you should 'take a picture, it will last longer!'.  It was meant in a snotty way when someone was staring at you, but holy cow I want a mental picture of yesterday's ride.  I want it to last forever.

I rode in the Barca Lounger Dressage Saddle yesterday.  I had to pull my stirrups two holes and even then, I lost them a lot.  I started out just really focusing on keeping my knees and thighs FAR AWAY from the saddle.  Then I focused on we MUST go actively forward.  If I felt like we were going too fast, it meant we probably had some forward.  

The most amazing piece of my ride was that when we truly had forward, suddenly she was an easy ride.  She naturally went round and on the bit, especially in the canter.  On the bit was no longer heavy in my hands, but a light contact, a conversation.

I can already tell the next piece of my journey will have something to do with figuring out how to ask my pony to move off my leg without suddenly gripping with my legs, but for the time being I'm just going to bask in forward.  Forward.  Forward.  Finally, forward!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Back to Business

I got to the barn yesterday and my pony's mane and tail had been trimmed.  Looks like we're back on the radar after taking a winter off and growing out her mane.  I think my trainer got to the point where she couldn't stand it.  I kind of miss the long Arab mane, but it does get less in the way when we're jumping.

I got the whole scoop on the woman who was thrown on Sunday.  There's always more to the story.  This story is a good reason why if you have your horse in training you need to communicate with your trainer.  Lots of people feel that because it's 'their horse' that they should be able to do whatever they want, whenever they want.  Though they do have that 'right', it's not always the best idea.  Sunday's fiasco is a great example of why.

I don't want to get into too many details or it just turns into petty gossip, but basically the owner had told trainers that after Wednesday she would not be riding for 30 days due to her surgery.  So trainers began  pushing horse out of his comfort zone.  Which resulted in some baby behavior attitude stuff (bronco bucking).  Trainers then left for show for the weekend and were unaware that owner was going to ride.  Had owner talked to trainers, they would have said "do not ride your pony until we have resolved this issue".  But that obviously didn't happen and things didn't go well.  So that's that.

I felt pretty nervous before my lesson.  Every time Tessa shook her head, my brain went back to that mustang shaking his head before pile driving his owner.  But Laura just pushed me forward and we worked through it.  She said we had the best forward trot she'd ever seen for us.  Yeah!  Progress!

Then we jumped and cantered and jumped.  We mostly worked on me not throwing myself over the jumps.  We found out that this is especially evident the first time I jump a new fence.  It's like I think I need to jump it first for the both of us.  Which usually results in me launching in front of the saddle and Tessa lurching over it and shaking her head at me.

After my lesson, since I was the only one riding in it that night, I untacked Tessa in the arena and helped put jumps away.  Tessa was like a big Golden Retriever, following us around while we moved poles and jump standards.  At one point she put her head on my shoulder and sighed.  I gave her a big hug and took her out to eat grass after our lesson.

My brain is still frustratingly afraid, but at least my body is starting to respond and we're getting more forward.  Also, I did yoga and lesson on same day again and I feel like I'm 90 years old today.  Ouch!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ejector Button

I was having a fairly average ride on the pony on Sunday.  Now, when I ask for forward she puts her head down and wiggles it around like she wants to buck.  This happens if I'm using leg or spur or whip or reins on her neck or even reins slapping the saddle.  I really want to find a way to work through this that doesn't feel like I'm punishing her.  Maybe this is my big issue though.  She wants to be in charge and I'm not stepping up and saying no loud enough.  It's such a fuzzy, fuzzy line between leadership and dominating and I'm still not sure where to go with it.

So, I'm noodling around in two point and trying different things.  There's another woman in the arena on a horse I've seen before, but not being ridden.  It turns out she's brought this horse in for 30 days of training while she has a surgery done.  She's super nice and her horse is a well put together and cute Mustang.  We chat about his history.  He's been under saddle since December but hasn't had much in the way of good training.  She's come off of him once, though we didn't talk about why.

Her little horse doesn't have much in the way of steering and they mostly walk.  When they trot, it's a very tense trot without any forward movement.  I wonder if she's nervous.  We talk about our "Oh Crap" straps and how she's never had one before.  We talk about how she's getting older and her horses are getting greener, culminating in this mustang who came off the range a year ago.

One of the young girls at the barn joins us and has not mounted yet, but is walking her horse around the arena.  The woman and her mustang (I know their names but for privacy I don't want to put them here) are still doing random circles at the walk.  One time, he busts into a canter when she asks for forward trot.  She laughs and says this is his new evasion.

She's walking and then doing the uptight trot and then she asks him to canter.  He puts his head down and bucks.  She flies forward.  And then he hits the ejector button and puts his head between his knees and his heels to the ceiling.  She FLIES off over his head and slams the ground hard.  Her horse takes off running.  Tessa's body goes tense and she skitters to one side, alert and ready to bolt.  The mustang stops and allows himself to be caught by the young girl in the arena.

I hop off Tessa, asking the woman "Can you talk?  Should I call 911?"  She doesn't respond.  She doesn't move.  She groans.  I run to the other side of the barn, Tessa dancing beside me, to grab the phone.  It's not there.  It's with K, who's running the barn for the weekend while everyone is gone at a nearby show.  Tessa and I sprint down the aisle.  Side note here:  I did a lot of running.  Tessa ran exactly with me.  She was never in front or behind or in my space.  I was only focused on one thing.  Find K QUICKLY and call 911.  I didn't have an opportunity to worry too much about my horse and so neither did she.  It was the perfect example of being exactly in the moment, without any external or internal bullshit.

I get K and she calls 911.  I rip off Tessa's bridle and put her in the cross ties, heading back out to the arena.  The young girl has taken the mustang back to a stall and unsaddled and unbridled him.  The woman has struggled to a sitting position.  K is on the phone with 911 and asking the woman if she wants an ambulance.  She says no.  She says she is embarrassed.  I recognize that it is more than just embarrassment, it is fear and anxiety and shock.

She gets up.  The medics come and check her out, but they see no signs of anything major.  Lots of bruising, probable muscle pulls and strains but nothing broken.

I go back and get Tessa.  I put her bridle back on, though my heart isn't in riding.  I know I need to get back on.  We do a few twenty meter circles, some trot and a canter transition.  Then I get off.  I inhale her pony scent from her sweet muzzle.  I am grateful that though she does buck and get huffy and pissy, she doesn't hit the ejector button.

The horse I saw on Sunday wanted his rider OFF RIGHT NOW.  There were warning signs.  His trot was bunched up, he was behind the leg.  I am going back tonight for my Tuesday lesson and will likely find out more about what's happening with this horse and rider.  I will also be telling the trainers what I saw, because I don't want anyone else getting ejected and hurt.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

More of the Same

Sorry I haven't been great about blogging.  Two reasons:  craziness in the rest of my life, including ALMOST selling our house and moving and then not and then the fact that we're just revisiting old problems.

Yes, it's still the forward problem.  Last night my trainer wanted me to ride forward.  I felt like we were REALLY MOVING OUT.  She took my pony away from me and had Layla get on.  Layla took five minutes, amped her up, jumped the course and gave her back to me.  I got back on and was told to feel how forward really felt.

I'm embarrassed to say that it felt scary.  Yes, she was able to jump MUCH MUCH MUCH easier.  I did my best to not shut her down.  To keep my reins short and my body upright.  But it took a lot of breathing and realizing that THIS is what normal should feel like.  I need to adjust my expectations and my feel.  I need to be more comfortable with my horse being forward.

Unfortunately, I don't have the opportunity to ride other horses to fix this.  I'm okay with that though.  As a wise woman at my barn once said "You have to learn to dance with the partner you have."

So, my upcoming goal is to just try to find comfort at a forward gait.  And if I can to try to get someone else to get her going forward so that I can start with just maintaining it.  From there I think we can build on it.

P.S.  I also did a course that included a tiny little vertical.  Which made me grin from ear to ear like I just did a Prelim Event course.