Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Lessons in Love

Not really a lesson in love, but a lesson and I'm in love.  Ha!  Monday was our lesson night and Licorice was fabulous.  So fabulous that I heard Linda say "He might be ready to go to a dressage show in a few months."  Wheeeeeee!

We started with making sure he was marching in the walk and moving forward into contact.  He's a long horse, so its super important to make sure he's pushing into the contact.  He would rather pull into it.  We did the same thing with trot, adding in some bend and pushing him off my inside leg.  Going to the left he falls out and going to the right he falls in.

Then we did sitting trot.  I have not sat the trot in uh.....fifteen years?  I didn't sit the trot with Tessa because she would spaz out when I would try.  I just gripped too much with her.  And before that I had a looooong riding hiatus, so it's been ages since I've sat the trot.  Let's just say that I am feeling the burn today.

It was clear that Licorice hadn't had folks sit the trot much on him, as he kept trying to rush into canter.  But I stayed focused on bending him and relaxing him and we had some lovely sitting trot.  Then we worked on going into the canter without throwing his head up and scrambling with his back feet.  This was hard for both of us.  For Licorice it was hard because he became very flustered when I asked for canter.  We ended up asking and if he didn't go into it right away and using his hind end, we just went back to getting him relaxed and bending.

It was hard for me because I tend to hear 'canter' and fall apart.  Suddenly I have chicken wing elbows, I'm leaning forward and my leg is coming so far up and back I could kick my own behind.  So, having to go back to the trot helped me get my self organized too.  Then I worked on not waiting TOO long before I asked again.  The second he was pushing off with his hind legs and coming into contact, I asked.  We had some lovely canter transitions.

At one point, I was cantering to the right and working on maintaining my outside rein and letting my hips swing from inside hip to outside ear and I was grinning like a fool.  It felt so good.

In other news, I finally ordered a winter blanket for Licorice.  I got the Smartpak blue plaid even though it was not the best deal out there.  Tessa had the pink one and I LOVED it.
My giraffe pony in a too small cooler last night.  He was so sweaty!  I really need to buy him a cooler that fits.

Also, if you haven't seen it, there is a contest going on over at SprinklerBandits blog for some amazingly cute boots.  Of course, I want to win so maybe I don't want you to go over there after all.....but seriously, you should check it out.  It looks like a little company just getting started and I love supporting little companies.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Boundaries and Bad Behavior

I posted something similar to this (I think) about Tessa, so forgive me if I'm rehashing old stuff.  I would really like to know your opinions on this.

Where is the line between a horse showing you his opinion and expressing bad behavior?

Here's what brought this up.  I went out to visit Licorice yesterday.  It was super dark and gloomy in the morning, with a cold wind blowing leaves off the trees and a light drizzle.  The barn was empty.  I was already feeling reluctant about being there, as a giant pile of laundry was beckoning me to come home and be productive.  So I decided to just take Licorice out and groom him.

I put him in the crossties and ran my hand down his neck.  He was so soft and fuzzy and smelled like warm horse that I wanted to hug him.  So I did.  He was not a fan.  He pinned his ears and nipped at the air.  Or maybe at me but he didn't get me.  I couldn't see exactly clearly.  I backed off.  Then I moved to his shoulder and simply touched his shoulder with my body.  He pinned his ears.  I stepped back and put just my hand on his shoulder.  No reaction.

I tried it on the other shoulder.  Putting my hand on him as fine, but if I put my body up against him he pinned his ears.  If I kept my body close while putting my hand near his girth, he pinned his ears.

I didn't push the issue, but instead brushed him (with no pinning of ears during the process no matter where I brushed him) and then let him wander around the arena for a few minutes.

I want to get Licorice and I off to a good start and I'm wondering your opinions about what to do in this situation.  Here's my first thoughts:

1.  He's pinning his ears because he doesn't like being crowded that way.  Do I respect that?  Or do I tell him "Sorry buddy, it's not your choice if I crowd you."?

2.  Do I discipline for expressing his opinion or only if he actually tries to nip?   I'm trying to allow him to be himself, but I also want him to be a safe horse.  He was a beginner lesson horse at his previous barn and did not display this at all.  Though I don't think I crowded his shoulder there either.

3.  Is this unhappiness due to something else?  I don't think I can answer that without giving it more time.  If it escalates then it could be because his turnout is different at this barn and he doesn't get as much trail riding (his other barn had AWESOME trails and he went out  a few times a week, my barn has one sort of trail and we haven't even found it yet, so we've just gone down the driveway and we've only done that twice because I haven't found the courage to trail ride alone yet.)

I will be double checking the usual stuff like saddle fit, looking for signs of pain etc, but my instinct is that it's not those things since it was specific to me putting my body against his shoulder (not even leaning, just being there) and he wasn't sensitive to my hand.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Three week-aversarry

Happy three weeks to my new pony, Licorice.  I have only had Licorice for three weeks and already am head over heels for him.  I feel like a different person with Licorice.  I feel like we can accomplish so much and I'm super excited for the things we can do in the future.

I rode without stirrups today for a few minutes.  I'm sure my body will be feeling that tomorrow!

Licorice has a pretty hefty winter coat and I'm not sure if it's winter coat or if it's the vitamins they give at the barn, but his coat is SO SHINY.  It's also really soft.  It makes me want to snuggle with him.

Licorice has not been a snuggly horse.  He's mildly interested in me, but not the way Tessa was.  Licorice often stares off in to the distance while I brush him.

I have noticed his eye changing.  I'll be curious what it looks like in six months or a year from now.  It might be that he just has permanent sad face, but maybe some one on one bonding and attention will change it.  It looks to me like his eyes already have more life and depth than they used to.

The weather has been relatively dry here and I really want to go back out and do some trail riding.  I'm not quite ready to go out on my own yet, so I'm hoping to con a friend into coming along with me and just walking with us while we go down the trails.  Sometimes Licorice and I stop at the outer edges of the arena and just breathe in the fresh air.  I think we both want more variety.

It's so refreshing to be thinking in terms of a team and all of the things we CAN do.  We're on the list to join Horsemasters, the adult version of Pony Club.  A woman at my barn has a truck and trailer and is also interested, so it looks like that will be happening.  I also may want to do a few schooling shows this next summer.  And I want to do some jumping on Licorice.  I haven't jumped him yet and I'm excited to try it!  Everything is different with the right horse.  Everything.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Follow The Nose

Last night was my lesson on Licorice.  This is only the second lesson I've had on him since I bought him so I was excited to work on some things.  L asked me how things were going and I told her about how his hind end still feels like it's falling behind me and slipping.

She had me dismount and brought over some rubber tubing.  She held one side and I held the other like reins.  We worked on how to ask for a turn using the inside rein.  I have tendency to open the rein and move my hand out, so I got the practice just moving my elbow and then just my wrist and then closing my hands.

Then it was back up on Licorice to practice what I learned.  To get him started, we simply worked on bending his nose to the right and doing nothing else but asking him to go forward.  The idea is to get him following his nose, a pretty basic premise when horses first start out, but one that L said a lot of them lose as we get busy with our legs and our outside reins.  So, we just turned his nose slightly, wanting him to follow it.  It was harder than I thought and took Licorice and I a good fifteen minutes of walking to figure it out.  As soon as he followed his nose, he got lots of praise.

We then moved to trot where he got pretty bracy.  My goal was to post quietly and keep gently asking with the inside rein.  In the beginning, we didn't use any outside rein but as Licorice got the idea, I closed my fingers around the outside rein.  It was hard for Licorice because when he gets frustrated he likes to go lateral with his head up.  We had some good work in the trot, though (as usual) I could use more forward.

Then we tried some canter.  Our transitions are pretty terrible still, but I worked hard on waiting until I had the good trot before asking.  If he fell completely apart, I went back to working my trot until he relaxed.  Once we were in the canter, we actually had a few good strides.  Spending the time working at the walk really paid off.

After our last canter, we finally had the trot we're looking for.  He was reaching with his head and neck and his back was up and his hind legs were going forward instead of just up and down.  It was so forward that there was a breeze on my face.  It was forward enough that had I asked for canter, it would have been instant.  It felt incredible.  I'm still on top of the world with this horse.

I really need to take some better pictures of my man.  Cell phone pictures in the cross ties when he's standing on and off the mat are just not particularly flattering. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

It Keeps Getting Better

Oh Licorice.  Sigh.  Swoon.  Flutter.

He's just such a good horse.  Every ride, he tries his hardest.  We're still pretty discombobulated in our arena work and we've decided to hold off on more training until he gets his teeth done.  I'm hoping to have that done in the next few weeks.

In the arena, Licorice is very strung out.  His back end actually slides out from underneath him or he'll trip.  I was told to push him forward and shorten my reins.  I have tendency to let the reins slide through my fingers and to ride on a rein that is ridiculously long.  Still, any exercises you guys would recommend for helping a horse use his hind end and back better would be appreciated.

On the trail, Licorice is perfect.  With a capital P.  Okay, we didn't actually ride on 'trails' this time, but we went down the driveway.  Licorice stood while I opened the gate from his back.  He walked down the driveway without batting an eyelash.  At the end of the driveway, we did a short loop through some houses with flags fluttering in the wind.  Licorice enjoyed looking at them.  We turned and went up the road.  Licorice took note of the horse in the pasture ahead of us, but that was it.  He just kept walking.

Turned and headed back to the barn.  Same walk.  No slower.  No faster.  Just interested in being outside.

Suddenly a whole new world is open to me.  I feel like we can go places, try new things.  Like riding at the ocean, going to a show, exploring the neighborhood.

Me, my majestic pony, and the trash can.

In other pony news, I have worked out something for Tessa.  The family that has her LOVES her, but we all agree that she needs more exposure.  They are putting money down and taking her on a six month lease.  For three of those months, she will be getting full time training and exposure with my trainer's daughter (who is a trainer in a different area of our state).  After six months, they will have the option to buy her at an agreed upon price.  Even if she comes back to me, she will have had so much more exposure that she will be way ahead of the game.  Either way, it's a winning situation.  Tessa loves their little boy so much and they love her, so I'm really hoping it will work out for all of them!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pony Jammies

It's supposed to be a glorious week here with lots of sunshine.  The mornings are definitely starting to get a little chilly, which has me thinking about blankets.

Currently, Licorice is wearing an ancient, ripped, stained Pessoa blanket.  It seems to be a medium weight from what I can tell, which is actually a little heavy for him since he has a fuzzy coat already.

I'm trying to hold off on buying anything for him until Tessa sells, but I have started the blanket search.  It seems like a thousand new blankets have come out in the last few years.  More likely, it's that Licorice can actually fit a wider variety of blankets.  With Tessa, I had to be careful the blankets didn't hang on her like a mumu.

Licorice is 16 hands at the withers and not the picky princess that Tessa is.  If you turn Licorice out into a muddy pasture, the first thing he does is drop and roll.  Though he hasn't been in the big turnout with his new buddy, they play kissy face in their stalls all the time, so he may  need a tougher blanket also.  And the third consideration is that Licorice has giant withers.

So, tell me what blankets are best.  I'm definitely on a budget so a Rambo is not in my future at this time.  I need a medium weight turnout and will eventually need a sheet.  Licorice is a true black, so most colors look good but y'all know I dressed the Princess in Pink Plaid and I will not hesitate to dress Licorice up in ridiculous  ridiculously awesome blankets.

I like the Smart Pak light blue plaid, but it fit Tessa pretty well and she has NO withers to speak of so I'm concerned about it rubbing on Licorice.

There's also this brighter blue one from Weatherbetta.  It looks like it fits a little better to me.

This one is from Rider International and is only a hundred dollars!

There are so many to choose from!  What's your favorite blanket for your high withered, hard on blankets horse?

Monday, October 14, 2013

It Will Work Out As It Should

I'm a firm believer in things working out the way they should.  Fretting does you no good.  Worry is just borrowing trouble from tomorrow, so what's the point?

Tessa is off on a trial period and I've bitten my fingernails down to nubs.  Not literally, but my brain has had a hard time letting go.  Mostly because financially it makes a BIG difference to us if she comes back at the end of this month.  So, we're in this holding pattern where we can't buy anything in case Tessa comes back.

Tessa was an angel for her trial ride, but reverted to her insecurities on her trial.  She has been spooky and even ran through a tape fence when she got scared (for a moment, I will climb on my soap box and say that horses and dogs need real fences, not just electric ones.  A real fence doesn't get shut off if you lose electricity and takes a lot more effort to run through.  I think electric fencing is a great addition to fencing, but not a replacement.  Okay, climbing down now....).  Anyway, Tessa brought out her Ay-Rab and has had a hard time settling in.  The mom wanted to bring her back.  But then she said her son is in love with her.  Tessa follows him around like a puppy and they love her.  So, they're going to try schooling her cross country with an older rider to see if getting her some confidence would help.

It's frustrating because we both know that with more mileage, she would be perfect.  If Tessa comes back to me at the end of this month it will be Operation Mileage for her, which will probably mean sending her out to a different barn/trainer that travels a lot.  I'm not sure how I will afford this and my new pony, but....back to the title.  It will work out as it should.

Licorice continues to be Mr. Awesome.  He's super steady.  He goes down the driveway alone or with other horses.  Barking dogs?  No problem.  He's not a deadhead AT ALL, he's just not reactive.  I'm able to work on my position while we tool around the arena.  I can ride him outside.  Inside.  I can stop and get off and get back on without argument.  On Sunday, poor Licorice had me ride him, then my friend Jill tried him just to see, then my friend Sara hopped on him for a few minutes, then I rode him again.  He was a perfect gentleman the whole time.

Also, his black coat makes me kinda swoon.  It also makes me obsess about dust.  Oh, it's gonna get bad I can tell.  I want to see him EVERY DAY!  I just came down with the first cold of the season though (thanks to my second grader) so I will miss my lesson tonight.  But I will try to visit him as soon as I'm feeling better.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

I've Heard Patience is a Virtue

It's not a virtue I have though.  So, without much back story except to say that I tried a bunch of other horses and the first horse I didn't even want to see ended up being Mr. Right.

I am now the proud owner of two horses.

Meet Licorice.  11 year old gelding.  1/2 Thoroughbred, 1/4 Quarter Horse, 1/4 Percheron.  Ground manners of a bulldozer but heart of a Golden Retriever.  Measures 16 hands at the wither, but is probably 15.3 at the back.  I expect his body will change a lot as he gets fitter and starts using himself.  I have before photos but I haven't downloaded them from my camera yet.  It will be fun to see the changes later on.

Don't worry, the chain is NOT connected the cross ties at all.  I do have a rope halter for him as well.  He just plows right over you if he wants to go elsewhere, so we're working on that.  Also, he is relegated to wearing pink stuff until Tessa sells.  Writing a board check for two horses pretty much killed our budget.  We'll be eating lots of Top Ramen this month.

I brought Licorice home for a trial and he never left.  The first day he came in, it was a stormy day with lots of wind.  And the shavings truck showed up.  And he was screaming his head off for his friends.  But I rode him.  Walk, trot and canter.  And he did it, even with his head in the air calling for his peeps.  Then he passed his vet check and the deal was done.

It's been a week now and I've ridden him every day.  On day three, I rode him outside the arena.  On day four, I hand walked him down the driveway and up the road and back.  I had my first lesson with him last night and it was amazing.  Took him out to graze on Sunday and there were people re-roofing a trailer.  He didn't even look.  He just wanted to eat.  The goat?  Licorice loves the goat.  Mounting?  He stands like a rock.  He looks around at stuff, but he keeps doing his job.

I just...I had no idea.  I was so busy trying to make it work with the princess pony that I didn't recognize how unhappy I was.  I learned so much and for that I am grateful.  But it's an entirely different world with Licorice.  I absolutely adore him.  Every ride has been fun.

He's got a lot to learn about contact and using his body, since he's been ridden by beginning hunter jumper riders he pretty much knows how to go around on the rail on a loose rein.  His jumping is perfect as long as you want to trot into the jump and canter away from it.  Twenty meter circles?  Contact?  Not so much.  But he's a willing guy and tries his heart out.

I.  Love.  Him.  So.  Much.  This just can't be overstated enough.  I grin from ear to ear while I'm riding and can't stop smiling at the barn.  I can't wait to go out to the barn to ride him again.  To get us off on the right foot, we're starting with 30 days training but he doesn't really need it.  He's a solid citizen already.  And I'm already head over heels....

I Give Up

I can still easily search for my name and Tessa's name and this blog comes up.  So screw it.  The right person for Tessa will love her for the horse she is now and how she is with them.  If this blog scares them, they are probably not the right owner for my silly pony.  I am just too technically challenged to spend more time worrying about this.  :)

So......back in the real world, stuff has been happening.

Tessa leaves tomorrow for a two week trial with a family that has a 9 year old son in pony club.  The little boy LOVED Tessa, who was on her very best behavior.  He was so small that his feet barely cleared the saddle, but Tessa packed him around at walk, trot, canter and even popped over a crossrail a couple of times.  He had to stand on a stool to brush her and Tessa just stood there like a rock.  It was amazing.  I think Tessa is one of those horses who is just super intuitive and good with kids.  I guess we'll find out while she's on trial.  I am calling to get insurance set up for her this morning so that we are covered, just in case.

I went out last night and gave Tessa kisses and carrots and scratches.  I really hope that this family works out and that she finds a home that will give her the kind of attention she wants.  She would get to do lots of different things since she would be in Pony Club, so she wouldn't be nearly as bored as she is going around in circles.

Fingers crossed.  Prayers sent up.