Thursday, August 29, 2013

Dry Spell

Sorry for the lack of updates.  Between work and getting everything ready for Back To School next week, I have only ridden once and that was two Sundays ago.  We had a good ride and even finished up with a little bareback walk around the arena.  I may have even blogged about it, but I'm too lazy to go look.

Tessa went on a trail ride with one of her young riders this weekend.  She did WTC out on the trails and was totally controllable.  She crossed bridges.  She was a superstar.

I still haven't connected with my trainers about what their 'plan' is with Tessa.  I did send them an email outlining my biggest concerns.

1.  I want a horse that does not kick out or buck when asked for forward.  I don't care if it's because I'm gripping.  I want to work on my gripping on a horse that doesn't buck or kick out.  There are lots of them out there.  If my horse can be trained out of this behavior by the end of the year, I will commit to that.  But she needs to not kick out or buck when I'm on her.

2.  I want a horse that I can (insert activity here).  I want to be able to but front and hind boots on without worrying I'm going to get a foot in the face.  I want to wash her whole body without it being an exercise in patience and keeping my horse from trying to spin around in the cross ties.  I want to wash her in both wash racks.  Or outside.  Or in the aisle.  I want to ride down the driveway.  And out the side door.  And ride bareback.  Again, if my trainers feel this can be trained by the end of the year I am game to try it.  A combination of me riding different horses and them training Tessa would be fine.

I have owned Tessa for 2 1/2 years.  I will be okay committing another few months to her.  But I want to make sure my trainers take a HARD look at what Tessa needs and what I need and want.

I will let you guys know when I have *actual* news, hopefully later this week or early next week.  I'll be glad for back to school because it usually equals more barn time.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Building Confidence

I'm a little bit of a holding pattern right now.  I sent an email to my trainers about selling Tessa and I got back a brief reply saying they would like to talk to me about some ideas.  It's the last two weeks of busy time for them, with the championship dressage show next weekend so I'm not surprised that we don't have time to talk it out yet.

Also, though I feel good about deciding to sell Tessa, I also am open to ideas that change things.  What I know for sure (for DAMN sure) is that the status quo is NOT working for me and I won't let it go on any longer.  I will be interested to hear what their ideas are.

I also met up with a friend of mine who is quite talented with horses and asked her opinion.  She was of the 'devil you know' opinion and felt like I should stick with Tessa.  But she didn't really have any solid ideas on how to make that work, so I'm taking that with a grain of salt.

I went out yesterday for a ride and Tessa was mostly pleasant, forward and non spooky.  Since I'm reasonably sure my trainers are going to have ideas about Tessa that don't involve selling her, I thought I should push the envelope a bit and try doing the things I want to do with my new, well-broke horse.

So I took her outside.  I didn't ride (I wasn't brave enough to ride this time)  but I did make her go through the gate and part of the way down the driveway.  The good news is that we walked.  I carried a dressage whip and when she froze up, I simply waved the whip around behind me without touching her. We paused a few times, but mostly we marched forward.  She was tense.  I was tense.  But we did it.

Then we went on a walk around the barn.  There was a section where she tuned me out with her head high and started spinning.  It's that sort of behavior that I don't want.  It scares the daylights out of me.

My fantasy horse would take new things in stride.  I could ride or walk and my fantasy horse would walk next to me, mellow and happy.  My fantasy horse would be Tessa minus two major things - her spooking/tenseness and her not wanting to go forward and feeling the need to buck/kick about it.

So, since we probably have a few weeks before I will get a chance to sit down with my trainers, I thought I would work on building confidence for Tessa and I.  Are there specific exercises you can do to build a horses confidence?  If you send a horse out for training with a confident trainer, will it be able to come back and handle less confident riders?  How long does it take to build confidence?  Have any of you had to build up a horses confidence?  Nature or nurture?  Books I should read?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Some Decisiveness Finally Appears

I've been waffling the last two years about my pony.  You can see it clearly in most blog posts, sometimes as an underlying theme and sometimes as a big punch in the face.

I had a wonderful talk with a friend of mine who knows nothing about horses.  In fact, she's only met my horse once and she's never seen me ride.  But she knows ME.  She's known me for 18 years.  So, I feel like she may not be an expert on horses but she IS an expert on me.

What it came down to is that my pony is not the right pony for me.  Here are the main points:

1.  I want to do a variety of things with my horse.  It's possible that Tessa could learn to do these things and be a trustworthy partner.  This would take time, money and training.  It's also not a given that we would be successful.  It's an unknown.

2.  I want a horse that isn't spooky.  And please, please don't tell me that it's because she's an Arabian.  I know that some Arabians are spookier than others.  Tessa is my third Arab, but my first spooky, insecure Arab.  I had hoped that with time and training this trait would calm down some, but either she needs a different rider or she's just always going to have more spook than most horses.

3.  I want a horse that doesn't buck or kick out.  Period.  The end.  It's one thing to have a horse buck once in a blue moon because of something like saddle fit, pain etc.  It's another to spend every single ride having to work through the 'I don't wanna' phase.  Again, this is something that could likely be resolved with training.  I'm listing this more for what I want from the next horse.

It makes sense to sell the pony to someone who doesn't mind that she's not a solid citizen yet.  There are lots of people who would be able to work through her quirks without any problems.  She's a lovely horse who just wants you to spend time with her.  She nickers when I come into the barn and will keep calling me until I come over to her stall and say hi.  She's easy to catch, easy to load (except that one time with the teeny, tiny two horse after a trail ride), super easy to clip.  There are lots of things that are good about her.

I'm going to talk to my trainers today.  In the past they have tried to talk me out of it, but I think things are different this time.  I'm not afraid of my pony.  I'm not angry at my pony.  I'm just realizing that even though I adore her, she doesn't have the temperament or skills I want right now.  I don't have unlimited money or time, so I can't keep more than one horse.

Did I miss anything vital?  Is there something I'm not considering in this decision?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Lazy Days or is that Lazy Pony?

Tessa has been doing great since I changed my warmup and took contact on a long rein from the moment I get on.  She spooks less and goes into corners better.  She's more focused and attentive.  It's been lovely.

This weekend most of the barn was at a show, so after my ride I hopped on bareback.  This made two things immediately clear for me.

One - my balance is horrible.  Terrible.  Craptastic.  I felt all cattywompus (how do you actually spell that word??) at the walk and when I got her to trot (okay, it was more of a jog) I had to ask her to walk again after only three steps.  Okay, that's also not true.  She didn't want to trot so she jogged for three steps while I bounced around like a sack of potatoes.  Then she walked without me asking because who wants to trot out with a sack of potatoes on their back?

Two-  my pony is a chubster right now.  She has this tiny little chest, no withers and then this belly.  Her back is comfortable if you sit far enough back, but boy does it feel like you're coming off the front because her front is so......tiny.

In other news, I've hit my limit with her kicking out/bucking issue.  We haven't been able to jump in a month, so maybe it's from that.  I'm going to look at past posts and see if I can find one where I say she didn't buck at all in a lesson.  Her bucks and kicks aren't bad and they don't scare me anymore, but I don't WANT to ride them out EVERY SINGLE TIME.

My trainers are pretty busy with shows this month and through September, but I'm planning on talking to them about this.  If it's a matter of training, then I want to pull Tessa out of use for lessons (they use her a few times a week.  One is with a ten year old girl who looks so cute on her it makes my heart hurt.  I kind of want to give her my horse they're so adorable.) and have them put the training on her.  I want this problem fixed.  Done.  Solved.

The other issue is that it could be that she's bored and she just really wants to do something else.  There isn't an opportunity to do 'something else' on a regular basis at my barn, so that would require moving which as I've said before is a really big deal because the care I get at this barn is amazing.  

I've had a few people tell me that it's just the way she is.  That you have to have the argument in order to get her to work.  It's true that once you work through the pissiness, she gives you a lovely ride.  But I don't want to have to do that every ride, every time.  To me, it's a warning flag that something isn't working for Tessa.  

I know that in the past, I took it all on me.  But I've noticed that she does this with every person that rides her.  It's just the better riders get it out of the way faster, but it's still there.

Also, just in the spirit of information....she still was pissy when I trailered her to the outdoor arena and asked her to move forward.  And, she has been chiropractered, saddle fit checked, supplements reviewed etc. so I don't believe it is a physical issue.

At any rate, I have given myself an end date of December to figure out what to do about this and see some progress or make some decisions.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Long and Low

I had a great lesson on Thursday with the pony.  I asked my trainer to give me some help on my warm ups.  Currently my warm ups look something like this:

Tessa looks around like a llama while I wiggle in the saddle and take deep breaths.  After a few laps, we go ahead and pick up the trot which also resembles the above pictures.  Then we have a struggle over forward, while I alternate throwing the reins away (maybe I'm pulling too hard on her face!  We should be just warming up on a loose rein!) or holding her face with an iron grip (we're working here! You WILL submit!).

If I have a lesson, this is usually the start of having to work through some 'issues'.  In my head the issues are that my horse won't go forward and lift her back and stay on the bit.  In Tessa's head, the issues are what the hell is wrong with my rider?  What is even happening?  Quit giving me conflicting cues already!

So, with some guidance we have made some changes.

L showed me how to keep contact on a really long rein, without it being loose.  Tessa is so easily distracted that a totally loose rein is just an invitation to gawk at things outside the arena.  So, we started with a nice walk and working on bending just a little and going into the contact and the outside rein.

From there, we moved into a trot, still with the long reins but asking Tessa to come into them.  It was amazing how quickly she shifted into a lovely trot since she was already using those muscles in the walk.  Over the course of the next fifteen minutes, we slowly shortened the reins while keeping the contact the same.  Then I focused on keeping the contact even in both reins for the whole circle.

For me, this part was like scratching my head and rubbing my belly.  I would get it, then I'd lose it.  Then I'd get it.  Then I would catch myself sticking my tongue out of the corner of my mouth with concentration.  I'm sure that was pretty.  But maybe nobody would notice my tongue because my pony looked so pretty!

We moved up in to the canter, where things were a bit more complicated but we still had some good work.  Going to the right continues to be an issue an we had to have a little discussion about it.  After a five minute argument about bucking and kicking out and staying in the working frame, we did have a nice canter that way.

I do hate that we seem to have to get into a shoving match before she feels like she can listen to me.  I don't want to always have to have a battle in every ride, even if it's a minor one!

 Sunday, I went out for a ride and used our long and low warm up.  It was brilliant.  Amazing.  Perfect.  All the way until we got to the right lead canter where she threw a hissy fit.  I'm not as confident working her through a fit going to the right because I can't always tell when she picks up the correct lead, so we ended up turning around and cantering to the left again.  Besides that, it was a wonderful ride.

Also, I gave some more thought to the truck and trailer thing and even priced some options out.  But then I realized that I don't have time to trailer my horse places.  Maybe I could do that one day a week if I'm lucky, but my horse time is a precious three hours (one hour of which is commuting time) squished in between work and husband and child.  There's no way I could hitch up a truck and trailer, take the pony somewhere and come back and unhitch in only two hours.  Even if I was streamlined, it would still take me twenty minutes to get everything up and loaded, and then twenty minutes to my destination and then I'd have ten minutes to ride.  Ha!  Nope, doesn't work.  Oh well, back to the drawing board.  Thanks for putting up with my persistent questions over and over and over and over.  One of these days, I'll come up with the *right* question and the answer will make sense.

In the meantime, I'm just going to enjoy the crap out of my pony.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Rambling Man

After seeing the comments and doing a quick peruse of my post, I realized that it was a bit rambly and vague.  This is probably why other people proofread and edit posts before hitting the publish button, right?  I'm terrible at that.  I have a thought, I type it out, I hit publish.  I'm the same way in person.  I have a thought, I open my mouth, I start talking.  I'm lucky to be married to a very patient man who knows that talking out loud is my way of thinking.  I think that also makes me an extrovert according to some internet tests.

Anyways, here are the few clarifications I want to make.

1.  I don't want to get rid of Tessa in favor of the 'perfect' horse.  She could be the perfect horse if I would just RIDE MORE OFTEN and DO WHAT I WANT.  She's only been on two trail rides and she was not crazy or dangerous or overly spooky on either one of them.  If I really want a trail horse, I just need to put some time getting Tessa out on trails.  If I want her to learn how to sidepass over poles like a good 4-H pony, I need to teach her how to sidepass over poles.  I think the reason I brought up the perfect horse, was to point out that it wasn't the horse.  That even if I had the perfect horse who could already do all those things, I don't have the facility/means to do them.

2.  Though my barn is an eventing barn, there is no cross country.  Everyone trailers out to cross country courses and lately, most of the folks are doing dressage.  We don't have pastures to ride in, just large turn out paddocks that aren't suitable for riding around in.  Sadly, even the outside of the barn isn't a great place to ride. You can ride around three sides of it, but it's all gravel parking lot stuff except for the trainer's front lawn.  I will occasionally ride down the front lawn, but I'm pretty sure they don't want a bunch of horses tearing it up and it's a short line.  There are no trails at my barn.  Which means the only option I have is to ride in the small indoor arena.

3.  There aren't any set 'rules' that you can't ride Western.  I actually borrowed a Western saddle and rode Tessa in it.  One of my trainers mentioned as I rode by that riding her Western was the fastest way to ruin all her dressage training.  Since I have ridden Western before, I disagree with her.  I know horses can do multiple jobs and know what you are asking depending on tack and leg and hand cues.  But this is a barn that has a program and you're either in the program or you leave the barn.

4.  I AM putting off this decision because I love the people at my barn.  I have people that I like, people to help me ride the pony if she's too sassy (though this could also be used as a crutch!), people to ride the pony if I can't make it out (again, could be used as a crutch and maybe it would be good for me to not have this to fall back on).  My trainers handle scheduling her trims, shots, dental work.  They keep track of all of that.  They adjust supplements, hay and grain as needed.  She might get great care at a different barn, but I doubt that it would include all the extras I'm currently getting.

So....what it seems like the most valid answer is, is to buy a truck and trailer.  I am going to look into that option again.  But just the storage alone would run me about $100 a month.  Then you add in payments for a truck and trailer and the cost goes up even more.  I wish there was some sort of 'lease a truck and trailer' program where I could just lease on for a year and see how it goes.  :)  Anyone know of someone in Washington that wants to lease me a truck and trailer?

Thanks for all of your input and I hope this post is less rambly.  Though I still didn't edit or proofread and I'm just about to hit publish....will I never learn?

Thursday, August 1, 2013


 I read this and it got me thinking about my situation, my horse, my riding.  Not that I'm not already obsessed about all of that junk and over think it anyway, but the timing was right for me to really think about it.  I mean, stay up ALL NIGHT thinking about it.  I want to have the kind of experience Mugs talks about with everyone and their horses.  I want to say yes when someone asks if Tessa and I want to come along and do something.  I don't always want to be the weakest link.

I have been looking at horses for sale.  I have been putting in criteria to try to find THE PERFECT HORSE.  A gelding who is older than seven but younger than seventeen.  Taller than 15 hands but shorter than 16.2 hands.  Temperament should be a three or below and price needs to be under $10,000.  Way under, preferably.  I'd like a horse that I can do everything with.  I'd like to take a trail ride, pop over a jump, ride a lower level dressage test, ride in a Western/English show including showmanship and trail, ride bareback, dress up in silly costumes.  I have seen a few horses that I think might fit this bill and they were even in my price range.  Which has led me to point number two.

So I buy the perfect horse.  He's now sitting in his stall at my barn.  And guess what?  I still can't do most of the things on my list.  Why?  Because my barn is an eventing/dressage barn.  There is no Western.  There is no trail.  There isn't even an outdoor arena!  I would have the same option I have right now which is to take weekly lessons in dressage and/or jumping and to ride in the indoor arena.  Hmmmmm....

So, maybe it's not the horse right?  Yeah, quit rolling your eyes and saying I told you so.  I know I'm a stubborn SOB who needs to come to things on her good time.  And my time is finally here.....  So, here are my options.

1.  Give up on my list of what I want to do and focus on what I have available and AM doing.  This would mean, continuing to take dressage and jumping lessons and enjoying the fabulous trainers and care and barn community.  It also likely means never going anywhere unless I decide to show, which is a highly expensive endeavor and not one I want to do with any regularity.

2.  Buy a truck and trailer.  Problems with this include, I would have to purchase a truck and trailer (expensive!) and maintain a truck and trailer (expensive!) and pay for somewhere to park my truck and trailer (expensive!) and learn how to drive a truck and a truck and trailer (terrifying!).  Plus, when you take your horse somewhere it becomes an all day 'thing' and I don't have 'all day' very often.  So it just might not get used as much as I would want to get out.

3.  Move the pony.  There is a barn that is closer to my house and has an indoor arena.  It is down a dead end street and five hundred feet from the park with an giant outdoor arena, round pen and trails.  As far as I know there isn't  a resident trainer, so I could ride without one or maybe find someone to meet me at the park to give me lessons.  The owner of the barn's mom is also a HUGE Buck Brannaman fan and they have attended multiple BB clinics, which I find interesting.  The owner herself used to be a hunter jumper.  Every year there is a show at this park, so I could do my Western/English/Trail show without needing a trailer.  In fact, I could do most of the things I want without a trailer.

Here's the downsides to fabulous choice number three.  Downside One is the doozy.  It's $400 more a MONTH than my current barn.  Four.  Hundred.  Dollars.  They are THE MOST expensive place in the area by hundreds of dollars.  And you don't get anything extra for those hundreds of dollars.  The care is great, but I doubt it will be on part with what I have, where my horse is part of the family and they do what needs to be done for her.  Also, this is one of those barns where they charge extra for every blanket change, hoof wrap etc.  My current barn has teenagers that they have help out with all these to keep costs low.

Downside Two is that I won't have money for regular lessons, which could be a problem since I'm still anxious around my horse.  On the other hand, maybe this my chance to JUST WORK THROUGH IT.  Buy myself a Western saddle and just toodle around for a year, learning how to be with my horse.

There are other potential downsides that I won't know about until after I go visit the barn.  The price tag makes me choke, but would it be worth it?  It would certainly answer the question of knowing if my pony and I are a good fit.  It removes our comfort zone and gives me access to everything I want.  If after the move (and a good six months to a year of trying) I'm still not able to just get out there and take a trail ride or anything, then I think it's time for me to find a horse I CAN do that with.  But it's not fair to make that judgement until I've done everything I can.

Also, if I were moving to the expensive barn I might send Tessa out for some 'trail' training for a month or two with someone else.  That way she could get some confidence out on the trails and in new situations and the new barn might be less stressful.

What do you guys think?  Crazy or crazy good decision?