Monday, July 29, 2013

Falling From Grace

Also known as 'Quit Yer Braggin'.  I had a phenomenal dressage lesson on Tessa on Thursday.  She was forward and in the bridle and lifting her back.  We worked on my position and posting softer and letting my hands move at the walk and canter, but not at the trot.  And I was feeling pleased as punch about our progress.  I mean, I was REALLY pleased.  So pleased that I gave the pony the next day off.

Friday I came out and gave Tessa full on bath.  She did really well.  She got a little antsy at the end, so I didn't do much with cleaning her face, but overall it was very successful.

Saturday she had a day off to romp around the pasture with her latest turnout buddy, who is a 15.3 (she actually might be 16 hands by now) two year old filly.

So when I showed up to ride Sunday, I'll admit I had expectations of greatness.  She was well rested.  She was clean.  Although I had worn spurs in my dressage lesson, I like to leave them off when I'm practicing.  I'm not asking for lateral movements, so I feel like I don't need spurs.  I do carry a whip, but that's sort of  'dressage standard practice' and I use it to tap her to remind her to pay attention sometimes.

I got on and she was sluggish.  I asked for trot.  It was like riding through molasses.  She hunched her shoulders up and wiggled and resisted.  There was no motor at all.  I haven't felt her this bottled up in a long time.  She was a cranky pony.

Someone walked by the open arena door with a little dog.  Nothing Tessa hasn't seen before.  However, her reaction was as if someone had tried to light her tail on fire.  She threw her head back far enough to graze my nose and took off at a gallop, starting to buck.  I pulled her back down (I know, the gallop was good but I can't guarantee that I can sit a gallop AND a buck) and tried for working trot.  I got a little bit but it was WORK.  I was getting frustrated.  And when you get frustrated, it's really hard to be a good and fair rider.  I wanted to yank on her face and kick her in the sides.  Yeah, it's not pretty to even admit that, but it's true.  I did not do those things.

Instead, I got off.  And I asked Leila (who was there so I could take some pictures of her adorable horse Knox, who is going up for sale) to get on and give her a schooling ride.

Since I had my camera, I took some pictures of Leila and Tessa.  She asked her to trot and Tessa firmly said no.  Leila said 'please' and asked again with a tap of the whip.  Tessa gave her the pony finger.  Well, that's unacceptable so Tessa got a smart smack with the whip.  Which resulted in the biggest buck I have EVER seen the pony do.  Sadly, I missed the exact right moment.  But I caught on camera ALL the ugly that happened afterwards.  For your photo enjoyment, I present Tessa's Bad Moment.
Forward?  No.  See the tail?  The tail says no.

I will not go forward.  You can't make me.  And I'm going to try and whip you in the face with my crazy tail.

Right after the big buck.  The only evidence is dirt clouds behind her feet.  I realize it may look like Leila is pulling her head this way, but that's not the case.  When the pony gets upset, this is her natural head carriage.

Leila looks so calm as the pony turns into a camel.

You want forward?  Fine, I'm running away.

I'm running away AND I'm going to turn my head so it's harder to control me.

Running is hard.  How about I slow down a bit?  But I'm still not giving you the outside rein because I don't like you.

What if I bend my head this way?  You can't ride me if I'm bent THIS WAY!

Damn.  That didn't work.  I will now bend the other way?  Here's my camel impression again?  It's good, right?  And camels don't have to go forward!

I'm not looking.  I'm not looking.

This lady is not giving up and she's STILL facing the same direction.  I guess I'll face that way too.

Oh, alright.  I could give in a little bit.

I look purty when I trot.

Oh look.  I haz straightness and forward!

I did notice something after I took these photos.  I think the saddle had slipped forward and then got even more forward when she bucked.  Tessa has very sloped shoulders, no withers and a forward girth so it can be a challenge to keep the saddle in the right place.  I will be making extra sure to get that saddle back far enough next time, just in case that was contributing to the problem.

After her training ride with Leila, we took this hilarious photo.  I look spastic and my pony...well, she couldn't care less.
Hey crazy lady, are you done yet?  I see a patch of grass with my name on it.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Nada Mucho

Still here, just not doing much.  Have ridden the pony sporadically since our trail ride.  My timing has been off so I've only been able to get out the barn at noon, and it's been hot enough for us that we're both dragging.  Yes, I realize that 80 degrees isn't considered hot in most of the country but we're from Seattle so my pony and I both prefer cooler temps for riding.

I'm back in my pony crisis of trying to figure out what to do.  I'm sure my husband is tired of me talking about what to do with my horse.  Should I switch barns.  Should I switch horses.

He asked a very insightful question last night that I'm still struggling to answer, so I thought I'd put it out to my fellow bloggers.  We were talking about horses and how much I love them and he asked "What is it that you love about horses?"  I easily rattled off a list of things but he stopped me and asked what is the most important thing.

See, he's a sailor who came to sailing as an adult.  He started out racing on sailboats.  Though he enjoyed it immensely, something wasn't quite right.  He said it took him about three years and lots of different kinds of sailing trips and adventures to figure out that what he really loved was sailing.  Not racing.  Not the after parties.  Not the people involved.  He loved the ACTUAL SAILING and he didn't want to do it on someone else's schedule or with someone else's goals.  So he bought his own boat and he's been sailing ever since.

So, what is the most important thing for you with horses?  Is it the riding?  Is it spending time with them?  Is it having goals and meeting them?  The horse people you meet?  The adventures you go on?

I realize that it is usually a combination, but if you can, highlight what's most important.

So far, I've only realized that it truly is important to me to have my own horse.  I don't want to lease a horse, borrow a horse or just hang out with other people's horses.  I want my own.  I also realized I like lessons A LOT.  In a bit of an addictive way.

I'm hoping that by seeing your answers and thinking more about my own, I can start to get a handle on where I should go next with my horsey adventure.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Don't Fence Me In

Sunday, I was asked to join Sarah and her horse BayBay on a trail ride.  Even though I was completely nervous, I said yes.  We decided to go to a local park that has an outdoor arena to ride in first.

It was pretty hot by the time we got there.  I'm from the Pacific Northwest, where anything over 70 qualifies as hot and Sunday at noon it was about 79 degrees.  Sarah's trailer is a small two horse trailer and it took Tessa few minutes to decide to load.  All we had to do was wave a dressage whip at her hindquarters and she stepped right in.  Good pony!

With my nerves going full force, I took one picture right as we arrived at the park.  Hopefully I will have more outings and be able to relax enough to snap a few pics.

We got there and got tacked up.  Tessa munched contentedly on her hay while I groomed and tacked her up.  Then it was off to the outdoor arena.  I brought a lunge line and did a few circles with her.  She was very looky and up, but no bucking or other explosions, so I bagged that idea.

There wasn't a mounting block, so I led her to the arena fence and got on there.  She stood like a champ!  First time mounting from something other than a block!  Go pony, go!

The arena had scary bleachers on one end, some scary barrels and assorted other scary parts.  We trotted around and she was VERY FORWARD, which kind of scared the crap out of me.  We cantered a bit and she shook her head and grabbed the bit.  I got nervous and wussed out and asked Sarah to get on.  Sarah got on and gave her a good canter around the arena.  She also made her go by the bleachers.  It required some strong riding to keep here there, but as soon as she cantered by without protest, she got lots of pats and praise and got to walk.

By this time the pony was sweating and we thought it was time to hit the trails.  I got back on and out the gate we went!  The trail was perfect for this outing.  It was a nice, short loop and there were no bikes allowed.

Sticky spot number one was right when we got started.  There was a bit of a marshy/muddy/wet area.  BayBay went right through it, but Tessa said no thank you.  I actually stopped being nervous after a little while because I started getting frustrated instead.  I was kick, kick, kicking and tap, tap, tapping and my pony was stuck, stuck, stuck.  I turned her head this way and that way and tried to disengage those hindquarters, but she was not having it.  When she got tired of me kicking and tapping, she would kick her leg up at her belly and shake her head.  But she wouldn't move.

I finally got a few steps out of her.  Then she started sinking and decided to just stop.  Sarah ended up getting off BayBay and leading us while backing BayBay (BayBay is not a fan of other horses so ponying was not an option).  This worked out fine and thankfully, Sarah is still young enough to mount BayBay from the ground.

The next sticky spot was the sweet, old couple in their sun hats taking a walk.  They saw us coming and decided to step off the path BEHIND A TREE.  The horses hadn't spotted them yet, so they had no idea until we rounded the corner.  That was Tessa's only major spook and it involved jumping three feet to the left.  She gave those people the look that someone gives you after you've jumped out of a closet and scared the bejeesus out of them.  It was kind of cute.  She went "AAAAHHH"  and then "Ohhhh, damn you!"

The trail then opened up into a field.  On our left were play structures, children, picnics and a random little farm.  On our right was a field with a horse in it.  Tessa marched right along.  BayBay stopped to chat and had to be goaded forward.  There may have been some cursing involved.

The last sticky part wasn't so much sticky as it was a little scary.  The end of the loop, the trail opened up into a wide gravel road going down a steep-ish hill.  The wide open made Tessa high headed, snorty and suddenly forward.  Luckily, Sarah is an instructor and just calmly said "If she wants to leg yield sideways down this hill, let her."  So, I  did.  Tessa really wanted to go sideways and there was plenty of room so we went down kind of sideways.

After our ride, we hosed both of the ponies off.  Tessa was not a fan, but by that time it was over 80 degrees and both horses were drenched in sweat.

We had parked the trailer in the shade, so it was nice and cool when we got back.  We went to load Tessa in and she said no.  Fifteen minutes later she was still saying no.  We put BayBay in first to show her that it was all good.  She still said no.  We did finally get her in, but it involved a lot of tapping, tapping, tapping.  She kept going off to the side, which was annoying.

At one point, Tessa was clearly hot and tired (and so were Sarah and I) and I had been tapping her on the hindquarters and Sarah had been putting pressure on the lead.  Tessa put her front foot entirely in the trailer (past the ramp and right in the trailer) and Sarah and I immediately let off pressure and praised her.  Poor Tessa put her little head right down next to her foot and just laid it there, breathing.  Sarah scratched her forward and told her she was good girl.  Tessa stayed there for a good minute or two.  Five minutes later, we had her loaded and got her back home.

Hopefully the trailer issue will get better and not worse.  She's fantastic about bigger trailers, but this was her first experience in a little two horse.


Yes, folks.  That sound you hear is called Progress.  And it's a good, good sound.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Not much exciting happening these days.  I'm only riding about two days a week and I'm just focusing on keeping my rides forward and short.  It seems to be working because forward is happening faster and faster.  As we settle into a forward going way, then we will start working on keeping ourselves even and keeping our rhythm as we go forward.

I had someone show me how to do polo wraps on Friday.  Tessa was great about her front feet but kept waving her back foot around.  Then it was my turn to do the other side.  She stood like a rock and didn't even try to lift her foot at all.  What a good girl!  When she took a step forward, she kept kicking her back legs behind her to get the wraps off.  I walked her around and lunged her for a few minutes and she quit doing it, so I got on and had a good ride.

A friend of mine just sold her mare and acquired a gelding and was getting rid of a bunch of pink stuff.  Score!  So we now have a new sparkly browband (I'll work on getting better pics of it soon), hot pink dressage boots and hot pink jumping boots.  So pink!

I put the dressage boots on her on Sunday.  I got three feet done and on the last one, she lifted her leg to kick.  I should have held on to her leg and asked her to hold still, but I panicked and let go.  So the boot was only half on.  Tessa tried to kick it off and since it wasn't secure, it spun around.  That freaked her out more and she began frantically kicking.  Then she spun around in the crossties (small horses in large horse crossties aren't always the best combination).  I got one side undone, so she spun completely around.  I got her calmed down and someone came over and helped hold her and get the boot completely secured.  She did her usual kick, kick, kick at the boots but was fine once I got on to ride and didn't try to kick when I took them off.  Silly girl!

I will be riding in boots now for every ride until we get the hang of it.  Tessa doesn't really 'need' boots, but I feel it's part of her education to be able to wear them.  I can't have a horse that is kicking out at things around her back legs, even if it's not intentional kicking AT someone, it's still dangerous.

The weather here has been sunny and hot and I'm sad to say I have not had time to bathe my horse!  She really needs it and her tail (as usual this time of year) is a hot mess.  She also still needs more time in the scary wash rack, so I really need to bump that up on my pony to do list.

I hope you are all having a great summer!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


I have been crazy busy the last few weeks.  Sorry the lack of updating.  I'm going to try to catch up blog reading if I can.  I've had work deadlines that have been eating up all my time!

However, I did manage to get out to the barn yesterday for a jump lesson.  While I don't have time to write a full report, I do have something!

The quality of most is bad because our arena is really dark, so it's hard to take action shots in there.  Especially when it's super bright outside.  My husband was the photographer and didn't quite know when to take the pictures, so there were lots of landing shots.  I did my best to lighten up the photos.  When I initially downloaded them, you couldn't even see there was a horse in it.  Then I would lighten and brighten and take out shadows and like magic, a horse would appear!  Ha ha.  However, it made for pretty grainy looking photos.  :(

Pictures really are worth a thousand words some times.  Even though we've been working on not leaning forward and not sticking my elbows out like chicken wings, I can REALLY see how badly I do it in these pictures.

But whatever...look how cute my pony and I are!  And look at us jumping!  In the end it was a four bounce grid!!!  And I've never even done a bounce jump before, so go us!!!!  Phew, that's a lot of exclamation points.  Here are the pics and I'm back to work!
We look pretty good here!

I just love how focused I am in this picture!  I am looking for the jump!

This is visual proof that we aren't *always* on the forehand.

Okay, I'm jumping this like I think it's three feet, but my eyes are up and elbows are at least in same realm as my body, which isn't always true.

Grown Up Pony Club Picture!  Though we were pretty sloppy about it.  Next time, I will make us line up like soldiers.  Calypso (horse on left) is sticking his tongue out at Tessa.  Tessa just wanted to say hi to both the other horses.  She's so social!

This one shows me looking for the jump and my horse going "WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?" as she spots my husband with the camera.  We had a few diving in moments, but no actual spooks, even though my husband was popping up in different places to try and get better pictures.  Proof that if my mind is in the game, my horse is less spooky.

The grid at three bounces.

This is WITH a running martingale.  I was too far forward and she doesn't like it when I'm unbalanced.  She would have flipped her head over and bopped me in the head without the martingale.


I like this one because even though it's a landing show, we look semi balanced.  I'm looking up and we're ready to keep cantering.

This picture sums up the pony's personality.  She's tossing her head and is about to use that left hind leg to kick up at the girth at me and tell me what for.