Thursday, December 18, 2014

Back Spasms

Despite multiple massages over the last few weeks, Licorice's back continue to have spasms.  When the vet initially looked at it, she thought it was due to him coming out of consistent work into no work.  She recommended lunging with a neck stretcher to get him to round his back up.

However, the current path that I'm on is one where I'm starting over to build trust.  Without any gadgets if possible.  And from what I can tell, a neck stretcher 'forces' the horse into position by limiting his movement.  So, instead, we've been lunging Licorice and working hard on building relaxation cues and head down cues.

The good news is that he's getting much better and is now able to lunge quietly with his head down more and more consistently.  However, his back isn't much better and it's been three months.  The vet had said to lunge in the neck stretcher and it should get better in a month.  I know the road I'm taking is very much the longer road, and I'm trying to not be in a hurry but it's hard.

It's hard wondering if my horse is going to be ride-able again.  It's hard not to just put on the damn neck stretcher and rehab him without worrying about our 'relationship'.  It's hard for my pea brain to wrap around the long term benefits of this kind of training versus getting Licorice better faster.  It's also hard for me to believe that without the neck stretcher, I can actually teach him to round up his back and lower his head.  It's painfully slow going.

I'm DETERMINED to not have an agenda until next summer at the earliest, which means I spend a lot of time trying to come up with an agenda or find some answers.  The answers I'm looking for are ones that only come with time and lots and lots of patience.  So, I'm off to meditate now and learn how to just be in right now and not worry about tomorrow.

Happy Trails!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Three Months

Hi people.  I know it's been a few months since I've updated and I can't promise regular updates yet.  Here's what I can tell you:

Licorice moved to his new barn, which is actually just someone's house with a few paddocks and an arena.  Our plan was to get some good outdoor riding in, including trails.  Of course, best laid plans have a way of not working out sometimes and this was one of those times.

First - I hurt my leg and was told not to ride.  I was finally diagnosed with hamstring tendonitis from having overtight deep gluteal muscles.  I'm betting that lots of Type As have this problem, as it could loosely be translated into Tight Ass.  My new mantra is breathe and un-clench.

Second - Licorice was off.  So he got some x-rays done on his right hind.  They found some arthritic changes, but nothing serious.  So he got a shot and that helped.  However, since then, his back has been sore.  It's the lower back, where the rider would sit.  We ruled out saddle fit and since he hasn't had a saddle or rider on since August, we're not sure what's going on.  He's had two massages where she found very tight hamstrings and that his back was spasming.  He gets one more on Wednesday and we're going to re-evaluate after that.  I am currently not working so our budget does not have much in the way of extras for pony rehab.

Licorice enjoying some fall pasture for the first time.  Don't worry, we took his halter off after we made sure he was chill.  It's also a breakaway halter.

So, here we are at this new barn and we can only do lunging and ground work.  Theoretically, this is a recipe for success.  And it sort of has been.  I don't want to get too much into what I'm trying to accomplish, but I've been trying to break down my confidence issues into tiny baby steps and figure out how to be a better leader for Licorice.  I've been re-studying and re-reading Mark Rashid and have watched some interesting videos with Klaus Hempfling, who is kind of out there but also very interesting.

I'm working on building trust with Licorice.  Moving him out of his 'known' environment has given me much more insight into his personality.  He was much calmer at the other barn, but he was also more checked out.  As we've worked on trust and done some groundwork, he seems much happier.  But all of our work is outdoors, which mean the environment is changing.  We're surrounded by tall trees, wildlife and all manner of things.  Though he doesn't full on spook very often, it's clear he's nervous.  His head is up a lot and he still tunes me out.

It's only been three months, so I'm trying to acknowledge that this things can take time.  I am working on dropping any agenda I might have had and just going with it.  I read somewhere that Mark Rashid, who is an excellent horseperson, didn't move his new horse out of a walk for months.  Not because he was scared or 'trying to go slow' but just because he didn't need to.  He was building a relationship and training the horse with every ride.  There was no need to increase the speed until he needed to.

This is generally not accepted for dressage riders.  In fact, I think most english disciplines and maybe western ones too (I don't have much experience with western) frown on just walking your horse for months.  But it occured to me, that once I get back to riding it would be a beautiful thing if I just walked Licorice and didn't worry about riding.

I like just hanging out with this dude!

Hanging out with Licorice has given me more insight into his personality.  He's pretty worried about things and likes to be near other horses.  He likes a strong leader so that he doesn't have to worry, but he doesn't really trust that people will be strong leaders.  I'm trying to build trust and not just 'do exercises' but it can be hard sometimes.  Especially when he gets anxious and just barrels through me.  It's challenging not to get angry or let my heart beat out of my chest with fear.

I still think about trying a calmer horse.  There are lots of highly non-reactive Quarter Horses out there that I could hop on and trail ride on immediately.  Do you think it's true that if you have an issue within yourself (my anxiety) that it will just make all your horses react at some point?  So Tessa was spooky because she needed a leader, Licorice is getting more anxious because he doesn't have a leader (though the woman who is helping me is working with him and even she says he has a high level of anxiety...not spookiness, but anxiety) and that if I get a little quiet QH, that horse would be anxious and/or spooky too.  I don't like this constant trading of horses.  I want to fix me so that I can ride the horse I have, but I also want to make sure that it's not like a bad relationship where you keep trying counseling to fix it and there are some things that no amount of counseling or self awareness is going to fix.  

Sorry for the long post, but I wanted to catch you guys up.  I could go on for days with ramblings about ground work and trust and all sorts of things but I'm swirling so deep in it that I'm not ready to put it ALL out on the internet.  If I don't blog again soon, have a happy holiday season and kiss your ponies.  I still read ALL of your blogs even if I'm not saying much, I'm absorbing like a freaking sponge these days.

Like a sponge.  On a spooky horse.  Only I would be wearing a helmet.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Failure is The Answer

Sorry I've been gone so long.  It's been a busy summer and I'm not even sure I could sum it up in a blog post or ten.  I took Licorice to a week long horse camp at a nearby farm and learned a ton of stuff.  I'll sum it up rapidly, because I have bigger questions and bigger news.

Things I Learned at Camp:

1.  Licorice is more uptight than I'd like.
2.  He's still not spooky, but he's uptight when he's nervous.
3.  I'm not afraid of wind, storms, birds flying up, bears etc.  I'm afraid of horses hurting me.  Hmmm.....
4.  My riding needs work (doesn't everybody) but I'm a pretty decent rider.  I have quiet hands and a good seat.  Mostly what needs work is my fear.
5.  My horse doesn't like dark trailers.
6.  Licorice is VERY sensitive to his handler, which shows up when trying to get him to load into a trailer.
7.  I can ride Licorice the first day at a new place and be just fine.
8.  Ground work.  Ground work.  Ground work.  Since putting more boundaries in place, Licorice has been happier, calmer and easier to handle.  He's learning how to just stand around and do nothing like a good horse should.

Bigger News:

I am moving Licorice at the end of September.  I am leaving my current facility to pursue something different.  I need to fix my relationship with my horse and with horses in general.  My facility is marvelous in many ways, but this is not their strong suit.  The riders at this barn already have this in place and are working on their riding.  I need to start at the beginning.  I need to be free to fail in order to learn confidence.  REALLY learn confidence, not just learn how to get someone to hold my hand.  The new place is a place where I can try things, possibly fall on my face (hopefully not off the horse) and step outside my comfort zones.

Bigger Questions:

The new place feeds Timothy Hay.  Currently Licorice gets Alfalfa Hay.  I am struggling to find information about the two hays that isn't skewed or so scientific that it makes my brain hurt.  The barn I'm at feeds alfalfa because the horses are mostly Thoroughbreds and are in consistent hard work 5-6 days a week.  The new barn is much more laid back and says that Timothy is better for calcium/phosphorous ratio and to help with Licorice's uptight nature.  Any thoughts?  Good, clear articles on feeding?  It seems like horse feeding is so loaded and controversial!

Licorice also currently gets 1/4 cup barley and 1/2 cup beet pulp.  I will be weaning him off those after a while most likely.  I don't need him to have more energy and since the new place is much more low key, we will probably not be working as hard.

And finally, our new home does not have a covered arena (eek!).  I will also desperately miss the wash rack.  I will need new equipment.  Like a waterproof jacket, better gloves and a waterproof quarter sheet.  I wish I liked shopping better, but I get overwhelmed by choices and colors and should I buy the $100 quarter sheet or will the $50 one work just as well?

Anyways, I will try to update more often but it's challenging with all my other life changes and I also want to be sensitive to the fact that this is on the internet and I want my transition to be as smooth as possible.

I hope you all have had great summers with your ponies!  I will leave you with a picture of my daughter and I taking a riding lesson together.  Her little pony is called Muttley and he's hilarious (and a handful!).  She's working up to half leasing a different pony at the barn so we can ride together.  Yeah for mommy-daughter riding!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Junk in the Trunk

I promise I will get pictures this week or next so y'all can see what I'm talking about, but Licorice is going to be tested for a few things this month.  The main problem is that although his belly is not fat, his butt continues to increase in size.  I wish that I could say it's all muscle, but he now has a ridiculous butt crease.  This, along with some random fat deposits along the crest of his neck has us suspicious that Licorice may have insulin resistance.  Or it could be early, early signs of Cushings.  Or possibly something else entirely.

However, combine this with the fact that he foundered the spring before I bought him and it does look suspiciously like EMS.  Licorice is not fat AT ALL and we have continued to monitor his hay intake.  He gets worked 3-5 days a week, so that's good for him.  Otherwise, I will admit that I know NOTHING about this disease.  From what I've read, it's the first 10 years of feed that will do it and since he's 12, there's not much I can do about that.

Does anyone have experience with this?  Supplement recommendations?  I'm calling Smart Pak today to ask them about his colic supplement and another supplement they carry called SmartMetabo-Lean pellets.

Also, the vet has NOT actually diagnosed this condition yet so this is just me and Dr. Google, which is probably a dangerous combination.  :)

In other news, Licorice is doing awesome in his lessons.  Our canter to the right continues to be a bit of a train wreck, so I've asked for a training ride for him so we can see what I can do better.

I'm also participating in the 30 day Ab Challenge for June.  I'm only on Day 4 and I can't laugh because it hurts my abs too much.  Hopefully, this will help my core strength so I can get my pony to actually half halt without it killing my arms.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Feelin' Groovy

Licorice got his back adjusted and my farrier changed his back feet up a little bit.  I gave him a day off and then did a light work out and he is all better.

We're working now on keeping him from curling under and contorting his neck.  Want to know what the fix is?  Of's forward!  I swear one of these days I'm going to get a tattoo of that word.  Horse is crooked?  Forward!  Horse feels a little off?  Forward!  Behind the bit?  Forward!  Everything must start with forward.  You would think I would know this by now.  Really, I'm starting to wonder if I have a learning disability with forward.  It's almost embarrassing.

In other news, we went back down the driveway and down the trail with Licorice's best buddy, Fallon.  Fallon is a young thoroughbred who hadn't been worked in a few days, so he was very up and dancy.  His rider, Katie is fantastic though.  She rides and rehabilitates race horses so nothing phases her.  And Licorice, though a little high headed a few times, just moseyed along.

Barking dogs running at us from the yard?  Licorice turned and looked but kept walking.  Man with wheelbarrow behind a tree?  Licorice looked a little harder and was a little tense, but kept walking.

I chattered the entire time, hoping that would keep me breathing.  This was only my second time on this trail and I'm hoping that I can get out to do it often enough that eventually it will be (drumroll, please) fun!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Horse Hypochondriac

I'm a bit of a horse hypochondriac.  I worry so much about 'reading' my horse that I tend to always think he's got something wrong.

Yesterday while I was brushing him, I noticed some bumps on his back.  Could be bug bites or could be from the nibbling/grooming he's been getting from his pasture mate.  She's currently in season and spends her time nibbling on Licorice and hoping he'll nibble her back.  Mares.  :)

Then, while I was riding his back legs gave out.  This normally happens at least once while we're warming up and sometimes after we have cantered.  He's still figuring out how to use his rear end and I'm still figuring out how to help him.  However, this time it happened twice in a row at the trot and kind of freaked me out.  And his contact was inconsistent, so I worried that he was lame.  I cut my ride short since I didn't want to make things worse if he was off and I couldn't tell.

Then, while he's hanging out in the crossties he had one nostril flared and it was just stuck there.  Like he had a horsey stroke.  It stayed there for a good five minutes, completely flared and wrinkled.  Then it went back to normal.

What I want to do is figure out how to get an education on these things.  Sure, I can go ask my trainer if he looks okay.  I will have her check him over on Wednesday.  When I put him back in turn out, he drank some water and ate some hay and looked happy enough so I wasn't concerned about him right then.  But what about my education?

I want to know how to tell if a horse is lame.  I get it in theory, but I can't actually tell.  How do you tell when a horse is sick?  Can horses have strokes?  How do you tell if it's bug bites or love bites?

Does anyone know where you can get an education on this?  I know my trainers will answer my questions when they can, but I also know they don't have time to go over all of this with me and they're usually teaching lessons.  I wonder if anyone has come up with an online course about this.  Like an online Pony Club course.

I'm off to Google it now.

Also, though I was pondering what life would be like at this barn five minutes from my house, I'm not looking to make a change yet.  I think instead I want to focus on my goals of 1. getting off the farm  2. getting outside  3. getting more confident and to do those I don't need to switch homes.  And don't tell anyone because I don't want the pressure, but we've started practicing Training Level 2 and might consider showing next year... Streeeeetchy circle!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Hand Holding and the Magic Feather

Sorry for the lack of posting.  There has also been a distinct lack of riding.  Licorice now has a summer cold, which has him coughing and wheezing.  Our canter is improving rapidly.  Our walk....well, our walk still sucks.  In fact, our rides still start off sluggish and shaky with me doing too much and Licorice doing too little.  It's a work in progress.

I met a woman at the barn where my daughter is taking riding lessons (yes, my child is finally showing some interest in horses!  And yes, she's not riding at my barn yet.) and we were talking about the Oh Crap strap on our saddles.  I jokingly referred to it as my Magic Feather.  In case you haven't seen Dumbo recently, Dumbo was convinced he could fly because he held a Magic Feather in his trunk.  As long as he had that Magic Feather, he was fine.  Then when he dropped the Magic Feather, he thought he could no longer fly.  Thankfully, his little mouse buddy yelled at him that he didn't need the Magic Feather and that he could fly all along.  And so he did.

My Magic Feather is my Oh Crap strap (also known as a bucking strap and other names).  How many times have I needed it to actually stay on?  Zero.  But how many times have I just touched it or put a hand over it...just because.  Lots and lots.  I'm not ready to give up my strap, but it just got me thinking about how my riding isn't nearly as bad as I think it is.  Also, I was explaining to someone about what a chicken I was and she said "Do you ever canter?".  I realized then that what I tell people and how I ride are pretty different.  I walk, trot, canter at every ride and without major fear issues.  Apparently the way I talk about myself is as if I'm too scared to do much besides walk.  Ha!

The other thing on my mind is hand holding.  The barn I'm at is fantastic but they hold my hand a lot.  They schedule vet visits, farrier visits.  They cut back on my pony's food if it's too much and increase it if it's not enough.  Everyone is in the riding program, so there isn't any different disciplines.  If it's hot out, they take off blankets.  Raining?  They put on rain sheets.  If your horse looks funny, they notice right away.  If your horse is being a spaz in turnout, they check on him.  There is always someone there to answer all my questions and if I'm having a hard time with my horse, there's almost always someone there to assist me or offer advice.

So, what I'm wondering is if any of you have been (or are at) a barn like this and if you moved to one where you had to take more responsibility, was it challenging?  When I was in my 20s and had a horse it was easier because I didn't have a husband and a house and a child and everything that comes along with it.  Now that I'm older, I appreciate that I don't have to be involved, but there's a part of me that thinks I'm not growing my relationship with my horse as deeply because there's always someone else who knows better.  It almost feels like I can't make a mistake.  Does that make sense?

I have a whole other post that I would love to get advice on, but the last time I tried to do a private post it totally didn't work.  Sigh.  Internets.  Here are some pictures of Licorice.  His body is changing!  Yeah for muscles!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Spring = Springy Pony!

Licorice might be wearing a blanket, but he doesn't mess around when it comes to mud.  He had mud crusted over his entire face yesterday.  I couldn't get a good picture, but you can see the big mud chunk over his eye.

Spring in the Northwest means two things.  Rain and mud.  Then we get a few sunshine days in between where it's warm and everybody feels good.

This is a challenging time for our barn because in order for us to have grass in the late spring/early summer, we have to cut our turn outs in half.  If we don't, they are just perpetual mud pits.  So, the horses are feeling good as the weather warms up.  But they are restricted to smaller turnouts that are just not big enough for getting a good gallop in right now.

Which is why sometimes, like in my lesson last night, they feel the need to take forward to another gear.  Licorice was fine until we picked up the canter.  He stuck his nose up, grabbed the bit and tried to stretch his legs a bit.  I'm so proud of myself because although I was nervous, I simply sat deep and half halted.  I ended up having to do a full halt because he wasn't listening at all.  Then we did walk, trot transitions.  

They were ugly.  It was walk and then OMIGODI'MGOINGTOTROTASFASTASICAN and then me saying STOP RIGHT NOW AND LISTEN!!!  And my trainer yelling "Hands down!  Keep your hands down!"  Because for some reason, nerves dictate that your hands should be up near your eyeballs.  Maybe they're just trying to match my shoulders, which under duress end up stuffed directly under my ears.

We just kept working at it and working at it and in the end, we had some lovely canter.  Going down the long side of the arena was not very successful, but I did manage to get him back under control after only three crazy town gallop strides.  And though I was nervous and sometimes a bit frustrated, I was never terrified.  

I'm planning on going out today and letting him bomb around the arena.  Or at least lunging him if there are other people riding.  He just needs to get out and get crazy.  As spring hits and I'm stuck indoors working, I can totally relate.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Field Trip Update

Loading Licorice into the trailer - Check
Riding at a different arena without dying - Check
Riding an actual dressage test - Check
Taking pictures - Not even one!

We started on Friday with hooking up the trailer and working on Licorice's loading skills.  After water-skiing out of the trailer, down the ramp and thirty feet on the mud, it was decided he needed the chain.  This meant that when he changed his mind, I only water-skied out the trailer and down the ramp.

Licorice was reluctant and it was POURING rain.  But I have a very patient trainer and I stood in the trailer coaxing Licorice in, while she stood outside asking him to move forward and keeping him somewhat straight.

We enticed him with his favorite thing in the world, hay.  Even carrots are no match for a flake of hay.  It took about twenty minutes, but we let Licorice take his time.  As long as he was facing the trailer and not pulling me out, we sat quietly.  He was a bit worked up when he got in, but he got in.

Then he shoved me into the wall and spun around, trying to get out.  I was able to (with a whole lot of yelling and cussing that was totally not effective but made me feel better) get him turned back around and backed him out quietly.

Then we asked him to go in again.  This time, his hesitation was only about a minute.  We let him stand and eat some hay.  Then we backed out.  Rinse and repeat.  The fourth time, he marched right in and grabbed his hay so we called it a day.

Saturday I got to the barn bright and early.  Though it probably didn't change much, I lunged Licorice at home for a few minutes to make sure he didn't have any crazies built up in him.  Since he got so hot last time, we left his blanket off for the trip.  This time, he got to go in the trailer with two other horses.  He quickly made friends with Keiron, who was first in the trailer. 

The trip was uneventful and Licorice unloaded easily.  I walked him around and he was very high headed and stiff, but otherwise okay.  I did have to remind him to not walk in to me please.  Seriously, we still have much work to do on ground manners when it comes to pushing people around with his shoulder!!  I've got a rope halter and though I'm not super awesome at it, I'm going to try to do some work with him next weekend.

Licorice and I were the first to ride, so we tacked up and went into the small arena/round pen to lunge.  Again, he was totally fine.  Then we went to the big arena.

The whole barn was gorgeous and the arena was huge.  We had to put out ground poles to mark out a dressage size arena because this arena is longer and wider than a dressage arena.

I hand walked Licorice for a few laps and was trying to take some deep breaths.  I heard my trainer tell one of the girls to go get her helmet so she could get on Licorice first.  Something snapped and I thought "Oh hell no.  My horse is not even doing anything.  I'm getting on first!"  So, I did.  And he was tense and looky and had a few moments where his back dropped out, his head went up and I thought he was going to go for it...but he didn't.

For most of the beginning, what he did do was call for his friend.  He whinnied and whinnied and whinnied and Keiron whinnied back.  They were pathetic.  Later, when Licorice had to wait in a stall while Keiron was in the arena, Licorice screamed without stopping.  Until I gave him some hay and then he was perfectly quiet.  I knew the minute the hay ran out because Licorice went right back to screaming.  I'm going to have to bring more hay next time.......

We had a lesson and though it wasn't our best work, we held it together.  Then we rode Training Test 2 and you know what?  We wouldn't have scored great because our circles were sometimes half triangle, half oval and Licorice was above the bit, behind the bit, looking to the left.  BUT, we got EVERY transition in time.  When it was time to trot, we trotted.  When we were supposed to canter, we cantered.  When we had our halt, he may have drifted five steps to the right and flipped his head up, but he halted.

Someone asked me afterwards if I had a good time.  The answer is no.  Which seemed to surprise my friend, but for me 'a good time' was not my goal here.  That's asking too much.  I feel satisfied with our progress and proud of myself for doing it.  I know that the more we do it, the more I will move from satisfied to having a good time.  I also know that's not likely to happen right away and I'm okay with that.  In the meantime, I'll ride the high of knowing I successfully rode my horse in a dressage test in a strange arena.

Side note:  I must have been gripping the living daylights out of Licorice with my calves because I have hardly been able to walk the last two days.  My calves are just aching, which is a part that has NEVER been sore before.  

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Post Lesson Re-Cap

It turns out I was pinching with my knee all the time, it just became more noticeable once I started sitting.  So we focused on keeping my knee pointed out while I'm posting.  I had to over-exaggerate a bit at first.  I was fine on a straight line, but as soon as I had to multi-task my knee pinched in with a death grip.

Licorice was a very good boy for my whole lesson (when is he not, I mean really....) and tried his best.  We had some really nice sitting trot and even a few decent half halts in the trot.

I also added in stretching up tall and pulling my shoulders back during the sitting trot.  It's so easy to want to just slump there and absorb the energy, rather than sitting tall and adding to the energy.

Then we went to canter and though our falling apart is less...spectacular, we still fall apart.  Licorice gets all revved up and doesn't listen to my half halts and my hands come up, my legs and arms freeze and we circle around at Mach 10 until I can get us back under control.

Once in the canter, we actually did some lovely work.  We're still finding the balance between half halting within the gait and moving to trot, so when I half halt we usually end up trotting because I'm just not as organized as I should be to keep him cantering after a good half halt.

Saturday is our outing.  I'm trying not to think about it too much and when I do think about it, I'm just trying to think about it in positive terms.  It WILL be fun.  It WILL BE FUN!!!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

So Many Little Things

Sorry I'm so behind on my blogging! I'm hoping to catch up soon, but life is crazy busy and hasn't left much time for blogging. In no particular order, here's where we're at.

 Sitting trot: Looking good. So much that more people have asked me if I'm showing this year. SHOWING!!? However, my left knee on the inside has begun hurting after every ride where I do sitting trot. The last time I brought it up I was told that I was gripping with my knee. Ummm. Thank you Captain Obvious, but I need more direction than that. I have a lesson tomorrow and I'm going to be asking for specific exercises to work on not gripping with my knee. If you have any, let me know. At this point, riding without stirrups is out of my comfort zone. My barn doesn't do lunge lessons, so that's not an option either. Sigh.

 Spooking and Attention: After my ride on Sunday, someone was cleaning out their tack trunk. They had left their stuff hanging in various places in the aisle. I was dismounted and was attempting to lead Licorice through the arena gate. He looked. And froze. And the whirled away, almost knocking me over and backing up into another horse. Not cool. I made him back up and listen to me and then we went back to the gate. He took a look and walked through and then was fine. But I still struggle with keeping his attention and what to do when he freezes. In the middle of a ride, he'll see a horse outside and go all giraffe necked on me. Then he'll suck back. I kick him forward, but we usually are going slow with him dragging his head up to look. So then I revert back to grabbing the inside rein and hauling his head around. I really need to have a better plan and I'm frustrated that we regress so quickly. I will have a chance to work on all of this on Saturday because.... 

Going Off The Farm!!: We are actually leaving the farm on Saturday. We're taking the horses to a local arena where the show team is going to take lessons and do practice tests. And where I will attempt to not die of a panic attack or get run away with. I hope Licorice loads okay. I hope we have a good time. Can you ride with hip flasks in dressage? :)


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Private Post

Is there a way to make a password protected post in Blogger?  I'm wanting a little feedback, but needing to keep it private so I don't hurt any feelings.  So far, the only thing I've come up with is to create a separate blog that is completely private and make a post there and give a link to it??


Monday, March 10, 2014

Clinic Recap

I had another great clinic this weekend.  Saturday we worked on not tensing up and asking Licorice to move off my leg.  Brooke pointed out that as a hunter school horse, Licorice probably was taught that when a leg is put on it means go forward.  For him, forward meant either walk, trot or canter.  The end.  So now, we're asking him to go forward but then we're also asking him to move off the leg laterally.  The poor guy is kind of clueless.

We did some leg yields at the walk, or attempted to.  Licorice freaked out and would try to trot off.  Then he would fling his head in the air.  Then he would stop and back up.  Finally, he started to get it.

Brooke reminded me that I'm his teacher through this process of learning about lateral movement and then different speeds within each gait.  Poor Licorice.  Sorry you're stuck with me for a teacher.  On the other hand, though I may not be the best in terms of timing, I am always willing to give my pony the benefit of the doubt and I'm not prone to over punishing.

Which leads us to Sunday's ride.  We worked some on his shoulder bulging issue and I was reminded that you MUST correct it EVERY time or it will remain a habit.  Ride forward and push his shoulder away from me.  Most of Sunday we were working on that.  I was a little frustrated that the thing I wanted to work on (our crazy freight train trot when I try to canter) didn't seem to be showing up.  Saturday our canter transitions were magical rainbow transitions, which was fun but not productive for teaching me how to work with what usually shows up when I'm practicing.

The last fifteen minutes of Sunday, all hell broke loose.  In other words, a trailer showed up and unloaded a giant mare and Licorice COULD NOT FOCUS BECAUSE THERE'S A GIANT MARE OUTSIDE THE ARENA!!!!  Finally, his spastic trot showed up complete with giraffe neck and dropping shoulder.  When I asked for canter, he went into his grab the bit and trot the fastest circle ever.  When I tried to move him off the leg, he just got faster.

Believe it or not, I was excited that we finally fell apart.  THIS is what I wanted help with.  Brooke had me halt him, no matter what it looked like.  It was one of those moments where she had to yell "There is a cliff in front of you.  DO NOT LET YOUR HORSE GO OVER THAT CLIFF!!!"  I ended up having to really sit deep and pull hard, but we did halt.  Then we trotted.  Then HALT RIGHT NOW!!! RIGHT NOW!!!!  Another ugly halt.

I was reminded that even though I needed to halt exactly at that moment, that I should try not to tense up my entire body when I did it.  That just created tension for Licorice to pull against.  So the next time, I tried to halt immediately but without tension.  No surprise, Licorice reacted by halting without throwing a tantrum.

From there, she would tell me to think halt and if Licorice didn't immediately react by slowing down she would have me halt.  By the second circle, we were half halting and having a decent time of it.  By the third circle, we got a lovely canter depart.

In the end, the big reminders for me are these:

1. - Correct and half halt without tension.  When you get tense, so does Licorice.  Relax your body while still staying firm in the aids.

2.  - Half halt MUST mean something.  If it doesn't mean something, HALT.  Licorice needs to learn what a half halt is and if you don't get an IMMEDIATE reaction you must get stronger right away.  Halt means stop RIGHT NOW.

3.  - Do not wait until everything completely falls apart before you start to do something.  I am so guilty of this.  I wait until it's a complete shit storm before I decide maybe I should half halt.

I was way less exhausted this time and my sitting trot is getting better which is nice to know.  And Licorice is just so honest about where he's at; I really appreciate it.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Notes to Self

Super busy day today.  Great lesson last night.  I want to jot down the two most important things before I forget them.  Sorry for the weird, short post.  This is mostly a bookmark so I don't forget when I practice.

If he doesn't move off my leg, irritate him.  Don't use force, just ask lightly.  Same with whip.  It's not to be used to punish, just to irritate him into moving away from.

Praise by petting with inside hand when he does move over.

Keep the outside rein so he has a place to go.

If he's rushing in the trot, do walk/trot transitions while moving him off the inside leg.

There was probably more last night that I've already forgotten, but I think that was the main point.  Also, my trainer pointed out he's not so much 'running away' with me so much as he is 'barging around the arena' with me.  Details, details.....

Clinic again this weekend means I'll be cleaning and polishing tack and boots again on my Friday night.  Wheeeee!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Practice Doesn't Make Perfect

"Practice doesn't make perfect.  Perfect practice makes perfect."

I don't have anyone to attribute this quote to because it's attributed to everyone.  However, I would like to point out that if this is the case, Licorice and I will never, ever be perfect.  We had one of 'those' days yesterday.

Basically, we just bombed around the arena all tensed up and hyped out for 45 minutes.  At one point I called out to my trainer (who was giving another lesson) that I was looking forward to my lesson on Wednesday because my ride was not going well.  She laughed and said that it did look like we were having a hard time keeping it together.

So, I wrote yesterday off as having a good aerobic workout.  At the end, we were both sweaty.  I know some people will say I should have gone back to the walk, but our walk work is even worse than our trot work.  And there were a few non-embarrassing moments in our workout.  Probably five minutes in total, but I'll take it.  Some days are just like that and I refuse to feel bad about it.

I'm trying out a cheapy Wintec western saddle this week.  I would like to use it for trail rides and for when I feel like blowing off dressage and doing something different.  If I don't end up using it, it's cheap enough that I won't feel bad.  If I use it a lot, I may consider purchasing a Western saddle.

I tried a Western saddle my trainers have at the barn on Licorice.  He looked adorable and it fit him okay from what I could tell.  But it was about three sizes too big for me and felt like riding a cement slab.  Ugh.

Tonight is lesson night and I'm looking forward to doing something besides bouncing around trying desperately to establish some sort of rhythm and bend.

Mom, what IS this thing?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Lesson Recap

When I take up contact from the free walk, it's time to work.  Do not let Licorice fuss and balk and generally screw around.  Use inside rein and inside leg to move him into the outside rein and tilt his nose in.  Then straighten.  Then do outside bend.  Then straighten.

If I ask Licorice to move off my inside leg, I MUST get a reaction.  I'm totally guilty of just doing it and then going ahead with whatever I'm working on, without checking to see if he 'actually' moved off my leg.

We worked a lot on bend and straight lines and we got way better about not falling apart when we change directions.

Then it was time to work on sitting trot.  Ugh.  I told L that I had been practicing my sitting trot and that it wasn't working.  That I was stiff and Licorice was stiff and we were a hot mess.  She had me start sitting the trot and gave me some pointers.  Sit taller.  Allow your hip joints to go down and up when Licorice goes down and up.  Relax you arms.

But mostly she said that I look fine and that sitting trot is best learned by sitting the trot.  And then sitting the trot.  And then sitting the trot some more.  And realizing that you ARE going to bounce because it's a bouncy moving gait and that the trick is to go WITH the bounce and not fight against it.

We then moved on to working on canter transitions.  Licorice still wants to run into the canter and I fall apart.  So every time I asked for canter, if he sped up we went back to moving off my leg and coming back to a reasonable trot.  If he was tense, I would spiral in and then spiral out until he came back to me.  Then ask again.

It took about four times but then MAGIC!!  A lovely canter transition EXACTLY when I asked it and with NO tension!  Yipeee!

I still am having a hard time finding the elusive spot between crazy ass canter and crazy ass trot.  Licorice doesn't believe me when I tell him that he can canter balanced and prefers to barrel along.  When I half halt him, he just goes into a spastic trot.

Since I'm riding again with Brooke in a clinic the weekend after this, I think I will spend some time trying to work that out.

Licorice was a very good boy for our lesson.  After our lesson, when I took off his bridle, he was a pig.  He turned his head and walked off, so I had to grab him with just the reins around his neck.  Then he turned his head and lifted it to look at someobody else.  Because all the horses were eating dinner and Licorice wanted to know why HE wasn't eating dinner.  I finally managed to wrestle his halter on, but it was practically a workout.  Phew.

Tonight, I'm going to see Cavalia. If you haven't heard of it, it's like Cirque Du Soleil but with PONIES!!!! It's supposed to be amazing and I have VIP tickets which mean free food, free wine and fantastic seats.  So excited!!!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Stop Yer Bellyachin'!

Yep, Licorice had another tummy ache.  He was out with his buddy and started rolling, so they took a carrot out to check on him.  He didn't want the carrot, so he was brought in, hand walked and given some Banamine.  This one was minor and we think it was a gas bubble, but this is the third time since October that he's had tummy problems.

Currently, he's on Smart Pak SmartDigest Ultra.  Before that he was on Succeed.  As far as I know, at his previous barn, he was on nothing.

It could be that he gets sick when the weather changes.  He got a gas bubble the day the weather went from rain to snow for a hot minute.  At this point, we're just trying to figure out what the cause might be and what the best way to manage it is.

He got sick on Saturday, so he got Saturday off.  I gave him Sunday off too, just in case.  Tonight, I'm going to go ahead and ride him.

What am I going to do with my sensitive boy?
Mooom - Stop it.  Stop trying to take my picture!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Let Goooooo!

Last night in our lesson, Licorice and I were KILLING IT at the posting trot.  He was listening so much that I had to be reminded to not over ask.  He was doing every little thing I asked.  He was bending and forward and when I thought about walk, he would come back to me.  If I could have,  I would have patted myself on the back.  Yeah, you know where this is going.  Don't pat yourself on the back, especially while in the middle of a ride.  Save the congratulations for when your pony is safely tucked back into their stall or pasture.

Thankfully, this isn't a horror story where Licorice loses his mind or anything like that.  It's more like an endless re-run of a bad television show.  We went from posting trot and leg yields, to getting ready to canter.  The idea was to not change anything.  To just quietly sit, think 'walk' to get the half halt and then canter.

I sat.  That was where our train first edged off the track.  Licorice immediately sped up.  So, I sat and sat and tried to relax and get back our happy, soft place.  Many circles later, there it was.  Okay, we can do this.  And, canter!  Head goes up, feet go spastically forward into his Standardbred racing trot.  Wheeeee!!  My arms stiffen, my legs stiffen, my breathing gets shallow.

Stay with it, stay with it.  I'm chanting this in my head.  I might even be chanting this out loud.  First my legs let go and Licorice slows down a tiny bit.  Then I breathe, think walk and shake the tension from my arms.  Licorice slows down more.  I remember to tilt my shoulders a little forward and look between his ears and not around the circle.  I'm bending him, he's listening again.  Okay, we're okay.

And, canter!  Licorice responds with 'Okay Mom!  FASTEST TROT EVER!'.  It's like a game of Can You Sit THIS Trot?  Oh, how about THIS trot?  L is yelling HALF HALT! HALF HALT!  My elbows are flapping, presumably to help me fly since my butt is so tense that I'm hovering over the saddle.  I grunt and groan as Licorice dives into my hands.  I feel like Scotty from Star Trek "I've giv'n her all she's got Captain and I cannae give her no more."

L tells me to breathe and to insist that he bend and then LET GO.  Oh right.  Let go.  That's always the trick for me isn't it?  To let go.  Let go of the breath I'm holding in.  Let go of the tension.  Let go of the inside rein.  I let go and then ask again and it's a tiny bit magical how Licorice responds so quickly.

I would like to end this post with how we then had perfect canter transitions and Licorice pooped rainbows and glitter, but we actually spent most of the lesson trying to work the frantic out of the trot and Licorice had anxiety poop instead of rainbows and glitter.  Licorice just really wants to run into the canter.  It's what he's always done before and he doesn't see anything wrong with it.  Seems we both have issues about letting go...

The lessons I'm learning are super valuable (aren't they all, though?  After typing that I realized what a stupid statement that is.  ALL lessons are valuable, even if they seem insignificant).  We may not be making progress in leaps and bounds to the outside eye, but we're in it for the long haul.  Also, I'm taking a bit of the cheaters way out and having a few training rides put on Licorice so he can learn how to canter from a regular trot with a normal person on him.  Then we'll work out how to have him do it with ME on him.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Mini Lesson

Despite my fantastic realization that I don't have to improve anytime soon and that any pony time is good pony time, I found myself on Sunday bouncing around on Licorice like I was on a pogo stick.  I was super focused on keeping my shoulders forward and lifting my upper body up, which meant the rest of my body was ramrod straight and stiff as a board.

Licorice took this opportunity to let me know that this was unacceptable and even after I relaxed a little bit, he took the bit, put his head in the air and just plowed around on the rail in a super rushed trot.  I was trying to wait him out, like I was supposed to but I was getting thrown around a lot and it was getting uglier and uglier.  Poor Licorice's only escape was to try to outrun my bad riding.

Thankfully, one of the women from my barn (who also gives lessons but is not one of the owners) helped me out.  I was getting frustrated and asked her if she had any tips about how I could get past this.  My BIG weak spot right now is that I don't know how to practice and I get off topic and frustrated super fast.

At the clinic, Brooke had told me to make sure that when I pick up the reins, Licorice is ready to work.  He picked up the bad habit of fussing with his head and trying to trot as soon as you pick up the reins.  She said to pick up the reins and make him walk into the contact.  Once he's going nicely, give him a long rein again.  Repeat this until he understands that picking up contact does not mean trotting.  So, this was my plan when I went out on Sunday morning.  It was a good plan, but I accomplished my goal in the first five minutes.  Huh.  So I had to move on.  I chose to work on sitting trot because neither Licorice nor I are particularly good at it.

First we worked at making sure Licorice was listening.  Much like T.Meyers had suggested, it involved coming back to walk or even a halt if necessary.  So when I tried to half halt, if Licorice was in another zone I would bring him back to walk.  Then we'd walk a few steps, pick up the trot again.  Right away, the minute he decided to start zooming off, I'd bring him back to walk.  Over and over and over.  After a dozen times doing this, I was then able to almost come to walk but keep on trotting.  Licorice may be a brute sometimes, but he is a quick learner for which I am grateful.  He got it right away and we had some lovely trot steps.

Once he was no longer rushing around, it was time to work on myself more.  I tried dropping my stirrups but I was not effective at staying balanced and keeping Licorice from reverting back to his runaway trot.  Mostly I worked on keeping my core engaged but relaxing my arms and letting my hips move.  For every twenty crap steps we got a good one.  So that's progress.

Then, we did the same thing with cantering.  If he's blowing off my aids, bring him down to a walk and rebalance.  Then, right before I ask for canter, think walk.  Licorice threw his head up at the last minute BUT his body stayed underneath me better and our canter was more of a canter and less of a gallop.

Once again, I'm so grateful for the barn that I'm at and the support I receive there.  And K (the woman giving me tips) said it was nice to teach someone who was far enough along to actually be able to fine tune things.  She usually teaches raw beginners, so for her I was an advanced student.  :)

I hope you all had a great weekend with your ponies!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Going Nowhere....Fast

Today was warm and windy and Licorice was in another world.  We had about five minutes of good stuff and about thirty minutes of head above the bit, choppy trot, me stiff as a board with my arms straight out in front of me.

But you know what?  It was good.  It was good because I rode.  It was good because we had five minutes.  Alright, they weren't even five consecutive minutes but they were still good!

It was good because I like my horse and he likes me.  It was good because when he got tense and above the bit, I focused on relaxing all my tension.  Which takes twice as long to get through to him, but I've got time.  TIME.  I HAVE TIME.  Not time to ride every day.  Not time to put in hours of riding.  I mean that I have time because I don't have any goals that require me to fix anything by a certain time.  In fact, I don't have to fix anything EVER.

This blew my mind.  I'm drunk with power over this realization.  If I NEVER learn to sit the trot without bouncing around like a giraffe with rigormortis, it's okay.  If I never learn to canter without hunching and slouching and throwing my arms out like crazy chicken wings, it doesn't change anything.  If every day I have rides where we don't accomplish anything, nothing about my world is different.  I don't have to improve.  I really mean this.  If I don't have anywhere to go, then I'm right where I want to be.

If I have a great lesson once a week and progress in millimeters instead of miles, I will still have a great horse and a great barn and great people to work with.  If I can't afford lessons, I still have a great horse and a great barn.  If I never jump anything every again, I can still enjoy my pony.

If my life with horses is one where I own a horse I adore and we ride really terrible ovals in the same arena, day after day, with my stiff arms and his stiff trot and only 30 seconds of correct what?  Licorice doesn't mind and as long as I'm grinning from ear to ear about how fun it is to ride a forward trot, I can let the rest go.

Sometimes, not having goals is a beautiful thing.

p.s. this does not mean that I don't want to improve or that I won't keep looking for ways to get better, it just means that where I am is exactly perfect at any given moment.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Runaway Train

Finally got back out for a lesson last night.  Licorice was not happy to have his dinner interrupted and tried to hide in the corner of his stall with his head buried in hay.  I found him anyway.

We did lots of good trot work, trying to maintain even contact in both reins.  It's nice that he's going forward.  BUT (there's always a but isn't there?) Licorice has a new trick up his sleeve.

When Licorice canters, he likes to go along the rail  in a long, flat frame.  His canter has no jump and he doesn't do much in the way of steering.  At the clinic, we started working on getting more jump and making sure I'm steering.

At my lesson, we were trying to do some spiral in using the outside rein and leg at the canter.  Licorice was barreling around the circle while I ineffectively tried to half halt using my outside rein.  There were two other horses in my lesson AND a young horse being lunged.  Our arena is NOT big (70x120) and Licorice is not balanced or very adjustable at the canter.  So at one point, there was no way for us to continue trying to circle so we headed down the long side.

Licorice felt like this would be a good time to show me his racing skills.  He barreled down the long side like he was headed towards a cross country jump.  He took the bit firmly and went for it.  It wasn't scary, just flat and fast.  I tried to half halt by sitting up straight and engaging my core.  He flew around the corner and headed to the next long side.  It wasn't a complete runaway, but he was large and in charge.  I sat deep and used a strong half halt on my outside rein.  Instead of slowing his canter, he fell into his speediest trot complete with hollow back and dragging hind legs.  Ugh.

I relaxed my arms and took a few deep breaths and within a few strides we were back to a lovely working trot.  Then it was back to canter.  We managed to get a reasonable few strides in canter on the circle, but again, it suddenly got crowded and I had to take the long side.  It was like a racehorse seeing the finish line.  For Licorice, the long side on the rail smelled like freedom and he was going to go for it.  This time, my half halt got him into his awful trot much faster.

We weren't able to completely work out the problem.  Though I was able to consistently bring him back to a trot and I got much quicker about getting him back to a good trot, I was not able to get his canter back to me.  I know a big problem is that my insides turn to marshmallow when we canter.  I'm trying so hard not to be stiff in my legs and butt that I just sort of slump there.

Today, I'm going to try to find the happy medium between relaxed and effective and useful.

Licorice was steaming and dripping sweat when we were done, but that was perfect because I got to try on his new cooler!  He's so handsome.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Hot Potato, Hot Potato

The weather here has been arctic (for the PNW) since Sunday so not only have I not been out to ride Licorice, but turnout was limited again due to the mud freezing over in the pastures.  When I arrived this morning, Licorice shoved his face into the halter and stood in the cross ties with his body trembling, his head straight up in the air and his tail up like an Arab.  I didn't bother brushing and just pulled off his blanket, clipped on a lunge line and went into the arena.  He was hot, hot, hot.

We had to have a brief discussion of why we don't run over our humans, even if we are super excited.  Then he took off on the lunge line and we had to have another discussion about why our human doesn't want to water ski on the arena footing.  He cantered and cantered and cantered.  Then he would try to buck, which was hilariously cute.  He would hunch his back and bring his back legs up a tiny bit while shaking his head.  He did manage to get a back foot up on one buck.  I think he surprised himself with that because he dropped back down to trot for a few steps.

After about fifteen minutes and both directions, I figured he was okay to ride.  But once we got in the grooming aisle, he let me know by spooking and throwing his head that he still had extra energy to burn.  Back into the arena we went, where he threw in some more attempts at bucking and generally had a good time on the lunge line.

Finally, I got on to ride.  It had been a solid five days since the clinic.  The thing that is frustrating about clinics or any kind of lesson is that I have the capacity to only remember three things.  So, though I know we did some sort of work off the rail that had to do with the proper bend, I can't remember what it was.  More inside leg?  More outside leg?  Counterbend?  Next time I will make sure my video camera is fully charged so I can re-watch it.
Even though it's blurry, you can totally see his funky knee on the left side.  When he stands it looks like he's completely over at the knee because he has a capped knee.

I did remember to tilt my shoulders more forward in the trot and the sitting trot.  It worked like magic and Licorice was nice and forward.  I also remembered to steer him and not let him pick where he wants to go.  And finally (the third thing) I remembered to soften when I came out of the canter into the trot and to soften in the sitting trot.  We had a great ride.

Every time I finally get my warm clothes on and make myself go to the barn, I am rewarded with a fabulous ride on my fabulous pony.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Clinics Are Exhausting In A Good Way

I was trying to explain to some non horsey friends about why doing a 45 minute lesson at a dressage clinic is exhausting, both physically and mentally.  The best description I could come up with was that it's like a private Pilates/Yoga lesson with an instructor asking you to adjust different aspects of your pose....while jogging on a treadmill that your body adjustments control the speed and direction of.

My lessons were fantastic and both days we worked a lot on position fixes.  It was exactly what I wanted.  The basic gist of what I took away from this was this:

We need more jump in the canter and then I need to steer.  Licorice is used to being a hunter lesson horse.  He will canter a flat canter, on the rail for hours and hours at his own speed.  I need to ask him to jump in his step and then I need to make it clear that I'm the one driving the bus.

I actually need to tilt more forward.  I think this is left over from years of being told SIT BACK and from having a horse that scared me.  My default position is leaning back with a death grip.  B had me tilt more forward with my posting which instantly freed Licorice up to move more forward.

Don't change my position when moving from posting to sitting and vice versa.

When I go from posting to sitting and everything goes to hell in a handbasket, do not give up.  I need to out wait Licorice who will use this opportunity to speed up, throw his head up, go sideways, slow down and generally try and get me back to our safe spot of posting.

Relax, relax, relax.  In sitting trot, let myself relax with the motion.  When Licorice gets fast and strong think about doing a walk transition by relaxing my entire body.  So much more effective than trying to pull him!

We also worked on how fussy he is when I take up contact.  She said that I need to fix that before moving on to trot.  I usually would just get frustrated and would trot right away and then go back and work on the walk later.  B said Licorice needs to learn that contact isn't scary and that he can settle right into it.  She had me take up the reins and then do nothing but sit there while he walked.  His walk got slow, but she said for right now to just leave it (unless he tries to seriously stop) until he stops fussing.  From there I can ask for a better walk.  As soon as he was walking well with contact, we dropped the reins and started over again.  In five minutes, I was able to easily take up contact without any fussing.  Again, I need to wait Licorice out.

There were also the usual body fixes for me.  Drop my knees.  Relax my forearms.  Look through his ears rather then into the turn for the jump.

I'm excited to go try out what I've learned at my lesson tonight!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Pre-Clinic Cleaning

So I am riding in the clinic after all.  Both days.  Friday in the early afternoon and Saturday at 8am.  Which means a 6:15 am wake up call.  Ugh.  I actually volunteered for that slot though because then I won't have time to be nervous.  Genius!

I spent today cleaning my tack and I will try to get pictures of us all cleaned up tomorrow.  Licorice even got his mane pulled and I'm hoping to get out to the barn early enough to give him a decent clip job tomorrow.

Note to self:  clean your damn tack more often.  It was a three hour job to take apart and scrub all my tack.  It was four different bowls of water and a scrub brush for my stirrup irons.  Everything is sitting in my living room with a good coating of Passier Lederbasalm on it for the night.  Tomorrow I will degrease and put everything back together.

Now, I'm off to wash breeches so I have a clean pair to wear.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Lesson in Contact

I had my first lesson in three weeks last night and it was good.  We worked on how to get Licorice stretching down through his back right away.  I have a tendency to go from swinging free walk to pulling Licorice into contact.  He gets choppy and tense and behind the bit and I nag and pull.  We're a hot mess.

First, L had me bend him with just one rein.  I kept my reins long and used the inside rein, keeping my elbow close to my side and gently bending him.  As soon as he 'gave' to the contact by lowering and stretching his head, I straightened him.  This isn't dramatic bending with his head to his hip, but more of a gentle tipping of the nose.  If he didn't respond to that, I moved his head.  It never needed to get farther than that.  Once was giving on the inside, I made sure he was giving on the outside rein.  Then I shortened the reins and repeated the process.  I did this until we were walking on a nice contact with the proper rein length.

Then we moved to doing it in trot.  It's funny how you can feel like you've got something and then you add in trotting (or cantering if you've got it down trotting) and the whole thing falls apart.  Our main problem was that once we got in to the trot, someone pulled in a horse trailer and went about unloading their horse.

Our arena is open on both sides, so you can see the parking lot, grazing area and back turnouts.  I ride at dusk, so it was full on dark outside when the trailer arrived.  Licorice couldn't seem to focus and kept popping his head up, which then resulted in me falling back on pulling on my inside rein without any results.

Once we got past that bit of nonsense though, we had a great ride with lots of good consistent contact.

We did have a funny moment where we were joined by S and her bay mare.  Every time they trotted towards us and got close, Licorice pinned his ears and tensed his body up.  S doesn't keep her horse on the property, so I'm not sure what Licorice's deal was.  He didn't do it to the other horse in the arena, it was only when S rode her horse close to us.  He did NOT like that mare!

Also, on a chickenshit note, my trainer has me doing my warm up on a completely loose rein with a forward, marching walk.  My warm up is the scariest part of the ride for me.  It made me laugh that such a simple thing incites such anxiety!  It's the long rein, forward walk thing.  I feel like I have no control.  It's been good for me to get that out of the way in the beginning of our ride.

Since I don't have a recent picture of Licorice, here's a picture of a toy I found at Target.  Seriously?  Poopsy Pets?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Weency Bit Behind

Sorry I've been MIA the last few weeks.  I got hit with the flu.  And then I recovered for one day, only to be walloped by the stomach flu.  So, I have been in pajamas and in bed for about the last three weeks.

On a good note, all of the holiday weight I wanted to lose is now gone.  My only job now is to keep it off.

I finally did get to go ride my sweet boy yesterday and today.  And I love him.

Also, I'm riding in my first clinic with a local instructor next weekend.  I'm kind of nervous to be riding in a clinic after having three weeks off (and of course I'm out of town this weekend as well), but I'm also excited to have a horse that I feel comfortable enough to do that with.

We tried taking selfies today.  Licorice kept putting his big nose on the camera so they didn't really work out, but they're kinda cute anyway.

Hopefully this week will be full of catching up on the blogosphere and getting back in tune with my fabulous pony.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Ready to Learn

First, sorry about the spotty blogging.  I just haven't had the same amount of free time that I've had in the past and between the holidays, the winter colds and flu and just too much to do I haven't been riding super regularly.  Licorice continues to be a good boy.

It's finally officially official.  Tessa has a new owner.  She and her boy will be competing in their first pony club show on the 18th.  I'm so excited for both of them and so relieved that I was able to find her such a great home.

So, my trainer posted this article on her Facebook page  This paragraph jumped out at me.

First and foremost you must come to the lesson ready to learn. You must listen with both ears and leave your ego on the mounting block. You will be surprised to find it is sometimes difficult to do. Coming to a lesson with a mind that is ready to learn, without preconceived notions of what should and should not happen, is essential to learning. 

I don't disagree with this at all.  In fact, what I want to talk about today is how I am TOO much this kind of student.  I have a negative ego when it comes to horses.  I have confidence that dips below the radar.  I have a hard time developing my 'feel' because I know that I don't know anything.  Beginner's mind is good for a lot of things, but beginner's mind mixed with fear makes for an owner who will un-train her horse.

Licorice came with bad ground manners.  I've been trying to work on them, but I flounder, not knowing if I want him to stop *here* or *there*.  I use 5lbs of force when I should use 15 and then none.  Or I use 15lbs of force and swim in my guilt of wondering if I even gave him a clear signal.

I took Licorice for a trail walk the other day.  I was too chicken to ride out by myself, so I led him.  Not my best plan.  By the time we were down the driveway, my heart was thumping out of my chest.  Licorice picked up on this and started getting tense and nervous.  Which meant his head went up to 19 hands and he froze.  Then he spun.  We managed to make it a little ways down the road anyway and then we started back.

I had to stop and circle him to keep him from barging over me with his shoulder.  He wasn't paying attention to me at all and I was doing a poor job of being a leader.  I get so concerned about being overly harsh with him that I allow behavior that is shit.  Which is funny because I don't do that with my own kid.  Yes, sometimes I look back and realize I could have been kinder and gentler with my child, but for the most part she respects me because she has VERY clear limits.  I KNOW I need to do this with my horse.

BUT I go back to being an empty vessel.  Which means that I am often AMAZING in a lesson.  You tell me to lift my wrist 1/2 inch and tilt my pelvis and pull my shoulders down and I will.  More trot?  Ok.  Half halt?  On it.  But left to my own devices, I'm like a robot waiting for instructions.

Most of this is just food for thought for me.  I need to find the balance between open mind and empty mind.  Sounds easy enough, but I need to practice this.  My goal for 2014 is to allow myself to make mistakes.  Even BIG MISTAKES with my horse.  I need to experience failure in order to build our success.

Also, I think my horse is cute.  Not related, but it's nice to be in love with my horse without any 'buts'.
My pony loves the goat.