Saturday, March 31, 2012

Saturday Ride

80's shouldn't happen in March.  Not even on the last day.  Not this far north.  And tomorrow is supposed to be in the 90's. April 1st - no fooling!

I had a good ride on Buddy today.  And I even got pictures :)  Two of the moms were nice enough to snap some shots for me.  Going through the pictures I wished for video - if the still shots are anything to judge by, we have a lot to work on.

Dusty trails

We had a good ride, working on walking without jigging, and trotting without getting hollow.  It was hot. The young woman riding with me made me want to want to cry, her seat is so pretty.  She rides Pete, the pinto half-Arab, and the two of them look amazing. She has no problems keeping her shoulders back or her legs where they belong. She's also doing reining on a cute little rose grey Arab.  I hung out after I got done with Buddy to watch most of her ride.

No cantering today.  We stuck to basics and worked on cadence and staying round.  Buddy got a bath when we finished up.  He has that baby fine mane that turns into tangles in the slightest breeze, and a penchant for shaking his head, so he gets to wear braids to keep the elflocks to a minimum.  I am once again thankful that Sunny has low maintenance mane! 

Shoulders back!

I brought home the entry form for our first show.  It's the South Dakota Arabian Spring Show on April 21st.  The Region 10 qualifier.  We'll see how that goes....

 I checked in on Amyra before I left.  That's (I think) Zeus next to her whose head I cut off.  They're buddies.  She's looking slick and shiny, and she's apparently forgiven me for the shots and sticking a plastic tube up her nose (strangles vaccine).  She even left the bale to come get her belly rubbed.  Of course, so did Zeus, a short, but very wide, buckskin, and a little bay mare.  I had my hands full doling out scritches there for a minute or two.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Lesson Day(s): Buddy, & a Canter "Fail"

Last night was SO not pretty.  I hadn't had a chance to ride since last week, and I could really tell.  Plus I forgot and wore looser jeans than I should have.  They kept bunching and creeping up, and I couldn't get a good grip on anything with my calves.  Poor Buddy - he was so confused. 

Despite my jeans, we were doing fairly well at walk and trot.  Eric had me go ahead and ask for a canter transition.  I hadn't cantered Buddy yet, and it wasn't a good night to start.  Wrong lead.  I wasn't getting him set up well - and to be fair, he was anticipating. But eventually we got coordinated enough to get the correct lead. 

The actual canter was a lot springier than I was expecting, and again, I couldn't keep my leg steady.  I'd get my legs in place, he'd interpret it as a cue to speed up, and I'd automatically release and lose my leg position.... Yeesh!  Plus, he likes to GO!  Which isn't the most comfortable feeling when your seat doesn't feel as secure as it should. 

Of course, eventually we had to come back down.  Getting to trot took four laps (we were using just half the arena).  Not completely Buddy's fault - he definitely wasn't running away or going faster, he just thought I wanted him to collect.  His canter kept getting rounder and slower and rockier...  Which would have been fantastic, except that wasn't what I was asking for....

Thankfully, today went much better.  In breeches and half-chaps, I had some extra stick-um and I could hold my lower leg where it belonged much better. Walk and trot weren't noticeably better (but they were pretty good yesterday, so that's okay).  But with my leg on and staying in place, canter was greatly improved.  I need to remember to prepare by sitting deep, leaning back, and being really be firm about moving his hip over.  And to close both legs on him when I ask.  I was taking my inside calf off completely - which Eric could see, once I didn't have flappy pants legs getting in the way. 

Getting back down to trot went better, too.  Just like going up, I need to sit deep, stretch up and back with my shoulders, close both legs around him, and say "whup-trot!" while I half-halt.  And just like going up, I need to keep my legs closed on him until he trots.  When everything's coordinated properly, he really sits down.  As in right NOW.

We didn't do a full, formal lesson either day, really.  Last night I shared my time slot with one of his junior riders, and tonight he worked a couple of different horses while I rode so he was in and out.  Which is fine with me - I get his undivided attention during the stuff I'm having more issues with, like canter and canter transitions, and I can work on the basic, quiet stuff more on my own.  When he sees something he wants adjusted he tells me, or if he's handy, I ask.  A lot of it is a matter of Buddy and I figuring one another out and getting comfortable with one another. 

That being said, I'll ride Buddy tomorrow, as well.  Since it's Saturday, a bunch of the kids will be riding, too so chances are I'll get to watch a lesson or two, which is always a plus. And I'm hoping maybe I can convince one of them to take some pictures.  

The extra ride this week is because next week all Eric's horses get their spring vetting, which means vaccinations, Coggins, hock injections for those that need them, and I think the show farrier and a chiropractor are coming, too.  They get two days off after all that, so since my schedule is bad for the end of the week, I'm going to take Sunny over for a lesson Wednesday.  Which works out well, because I think it's time I got more homework for the two of us.

Monday, March 26, 2012


Horribly windy today - hope it blows in some rain. But what a waste of a perfectly good weekend.  I spent two very nice riding days mostly sick with a nasty cold and spring allergies.  Not sure which was worse.  But the cold medicine wasn't touching the allergy symptoms. Even the cats didn't want to share the couch with me. Two boxes of kleenex and lots of hot tea and vitamin C later, I'm feeling almost human again.  I think the cold is passing, and the allergies on their own are manageable.

Note to self, though, don't ever decide to trim bridlepaths while on cold medicine.  It sounded like a good idea at the time.  Sunny needs a corrective clip, but that will have to wait for a less windy day.

G had the boys locked out of the top lot so that they could fill the corn bin today.  They'd been when I got there, but the delivery guy didn't close up the bin when he left.  I have climbed up to do it a time or two, but with the way the wind was gusting, I decided today wasn't going to be one of those days.

The boys were waiting at the gate to come up to drink, though, so I haltered them and led them up to the waterer.  Or I tried.  They were both a lot more interested in angling over to the spilled corn than in drinking, but I could just picture the ladder tipping over and landing on us, so I nixed that idea. 

After they'd both had an opportunity to wet their muzzles and dribble down my front, I locked them back out, to their great disgust.  They resumed their post by the gate, since it also happens to be a good spot to tuck in out of the wind.

G's been working on the electric fence, and it was clicking loudly away up by the barn.  Hoping that meant it was fixed down below as well, and that I could turn off the portable, I grabbed the fence tester out of the truck and hooked it carefully over the wire by the barn. Carefully, because I swear G sets the voltage on STUN!  It does discourage the sheep and the calves from ducking through it - but I've seen sparks shoot out clear out the bottom of the tester on occasion.

Unfortunately, I think I may need a new tester.  When I touched the ground on a handy stake, not only did the tester not shoot sparks, it didn't light up whatsoever.  One more thing to add to the TSC list for my next visit.

Off to check the weather and see if there are any rain clouds headed in our direction.  I sure hope so!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lesson Day: Buddy, with a dash of rain and music by forklift

Dreary and grey, with on and off drizzle that I kept hoping would turn into actual rain.  It was just wet enough to make the pasture too soft to ride (don't want to dig divots in the new grass), so I didn't ride, just checked on the boys.  Their heads popped out of the bale as soon as I turned into the driveway and they headed up to meet me at the gate.  I think they were hoping for another grazing session, but unfortunately I was running behind.

At Eric's I pulled in and parked to the sight of a big red dump truck half full of rubble and the beeping, revving sounds of a forklift's back-up warning competing with the crack and crunch of concrete at war with hydraulics.  Apparently it was time for the old barn foundation next to the outdoor arena to come out.  It wasn't dying easy.

I must have spent half an hour or better just brushing Buddy, who enjoyed a couple of days off and is completely back to sound.  He's shedding drifts of ruddy winter coat.  He leaned into the rubber curry wriggling his nose and sidling toward me whenever I paused to clean balls of hair out of the brush teeth.  Shedding is itchy!

I dug my 48" girth out of storage after last week's lesson, and was pleased to find that it's just the right length.  Much better than pulling Sunny's 52" clear up to what feels like his ears.  I also set him up with a bridle of his own: an old plain leather headstall with an copper-mouth, eggbutt snaffle bit and split reins - I can always use one of Eric's, but this way I don't have to dig through the tack rack and readjust to fit his tiny little head every time I ride him.

Since it wasn't actually raining and the indoor was pretty muggy, I opted for an outdoor lesson even with the added challenge of heavy equipment in close proximity.  What doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right?

I was encouraged by the fact that neither Buddy, nor Jackson - beautiful black stallion with long flowing mane & tail that Eric was riding - seemed particularly put off by the commotion.  Nevertheless, Buddy was definitely UP.  I don't think he's ever going to do a believably steady-Eddy impression, but I'm taking some comfort in the fact that he doesn't feel nearly as hot on top as he looks from the sidelines.  I just need to ride him, not look at him.  Initially he was Mr. Antsy-Dance-y complete with head-shaking and flying slobber, but overall he was also much softer and more consistent than he's been.

We did a lot of transition work.  English Pleasure horses are encouraged to do every thing BIG, so Buddy's gradually learning not to BURST into a trot.  We did lots of collected walk to sitting trot to working trot and then back down through sitting trot to walk.  We also practiced stopping softly and then walking off calmly on both a loose rein and a collected walk.  And gathering up from a loose-rein walk to a collected walk without charging off into a big trot.  (I figure, if Sunny can learn to reach down for the bit and collect as soon as I sit up and squeeze my legs around him, before I even start to gather the reins, Buddy should certainly be able to.)

I rode through three big spooks brought on by the BOOOM! of concrete hitting the dump truck behind us.  Assuming Eric's correct that they were typical of Buddy's response when he's badly startled, I shouldn't have any problems staying with him.  He doesn't do that nasty drop-a-foot-and-simultaneous-sideways-levitation spook that leaves riders hanging out there in mid air, and he comes back right away, so it was all good.  Rufus is MUCH worse.  But definitely good to find out in a lower stress and less potentially embarrassing location than the show ring.

We finished on a couple of rounds of working trot that Eric said he couldn't find a fault with.  Whee!  Next week I start riding Buddy twice a week.  Eric's going to keep working him a couple of days to continue getting his canter backed down, and I'm going to concentrate on more of what we've been doing at the walk and trot, building muscle strength and reinforcing consistency.

Happy Ponies

The spring grass isn't very tall yet, but it is tasty - at least the boys think so.  As a post-shot reward I took them out along the driveway to graze for 20 minutes.

Unfortunately, they aren't quite done with their shots.  I messed up and got just flu andWest Nile instead of the West Nile combo I thought I was getting.  And of course I only discovered it after I got the boys done.  After some running around, Amyra got the correct combination, and I have Rufus's ready to go.  Sunny and Thunder still need sleeping sickness and tetanus.  And I now have the correct vaccines saved in my shopping list for purchase next year.

They'll all get the nasal strangles vaccine and a rabies shot yet, as well, but I don't like giving them everything all at once, and since the mosquitoes are already starting to arrive, West Nile was a priority.

On the plus side, Sunny and Amyra took their shots as nicely as usual.  Thunder was good, too.  While he's not as relaxed as the other two, he has come a very long way from the panicked response of previous years.  He took a whole two steps when I gave him the first shot, and was completely stationary for the second.  Good boy!

And this morning we have rain!  Not a lot of it yet, but enough to get things wet at least.  I'm hoping it continues all day and gets everything completely sopping.  Which is something I NEVER thought I'd be saying again after last spring!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring Maintenance

No, not fences, although those are definitely due for some attention after a winter of deer-induced trauma; last night the boys got their feet trimmed, and today they get their vaccinations.  I'm sure they'll be thrilled.

I was very happy to hear from the farrier that she'd be able to squeeze Sunny and Thunder into her schedule on such short notice, and after a cool, cloudy, grey and rain-threatening morning (it never materialized, unfortunately) the sun came out and the temps rose into the low 60's.  It was a gorgeous evening.

I got to the farm in plenty of time to get as much newly-loose winter fuzz brushed loose as I could.  They've reached the point where it's coming off in big handfuls, although neither of them look like they're molting yet.  They were quite content to doze while we waited, and I think Sunny actually slept through most of his trim, as well.

L didn't actually take much off Sunny's toes at all - between the drier winter and more frequent riding, the ground has kept his hooves worn down pretty well.  And working on getting the muscles in his topline built up and trying to get him more collected and balanced has impacted his feet, too:  he seems to be traveling more evenly and wearing his feet more evenly than he has in the past.

Sunny post-trim

Thunder stood well, but was less relaxed than Sunny.  He "talked" to L, nickering when she picked up his feet and snuffling her sweatshirt when she paused to tell him what a good boy he was.  He's still much less suspicious with women than he is with men.  But hauling him hither and yon with Sunny has been really good for building patience and increasing his comfort level with strangers.

Wow... bow-legged much?
Poor Thunder - he's not nearly as crooked in front as that picture makes him look.  I really should have squared him up before I took it.

I was going to clip bridlepaths tonight, but I forgot to plug the clippers in, and apparently they need to charge a full 16 hours.  Grrrr!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

That's a wrap!

The weather here has been freakishly warm the last few days.  There are crocuses popping their heads up in the back yard.  Think I'm kidding?

The first two appeared Thursday, and I now have a whole line of them, along with what I think might be snowdrops.  Or maybe they're not crocuses or snowdrops.  Short, purple and white flowers of some variety, at any rate.  And it's March.

I'm sitting here in a tank top and shorts with the windows cracked, sweating.  I'd have them open wide, but the house might take flight! A high in the low 80's with winds gusting to upwards of 45 mph... it's hopefully blowing us in some rain tomorrow.  And let me tell you, we can use it.

I didn't ride - between the wind and the boys' coats and more importantly, they both need their feet trimmed....  But since my polo wrapping technique needs practice and neither of the boys have ever worn wraps, I figured that was a nice stationary activity we could all benefit from.  After a good brushing to get rid of some more loose winter fuzz, I started with Sunny.

He's never had wraps on, but he has worn bell boots, so he got the basic concept of leaving his feet planted while I monkeyed with them.  The front feet were easy. 

First Attempt
Please excuse the long toes - 
I have a call in to the farrier.  
Hopefully her schedule will be open this week.

Well, easy in the sense that Sunny didn't make my job harder by moving around.  I still need more practice getting them to come out even and without lumps.  Once I had all four wrapped I lead him around a bit so he could get the feel of them.  He didn't seem fazed.

I wrapped and unwrapped Sunny three or four times.  He went to sleep.  Then I moved on to Thunder. 

He's never worn anything on his legs, period, so first I had to convince him no, I really didn't want him to pick his feet up.  After that, the fronts went fairly smoothly.  The backs... he wasn't quite as thrilled about, and he kept wanting to stand with his legs tight together which made it a bit tough to roll the wrap around. 

But ultimately he had all four on and we went for a walk.  He might have picked his feet up a little higher than normal for the first few steps, but beyond that the wraps didn't seem to bother him.  Of course, he had tried to stand with his back feet tucked together again when I unwrapped him...

Here's hoping the forecast is right,
the rain comes, and so does the farrier,
the fire danger goes down, 
and the temps go back to normal!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

(Not a) Lesson Day: Three sound, one off

The South Dakota Horse Fair is in Sioux Falls Friday through Sunday this week.  Eric's headed over, which meant lessons got juggled.  My lesson ended up on Wednesday rather than Thursday. 

The weather's holding beautifully, and since I'd have my lesson on Buddy I figured I'd get Sunny in prior to.  It's good to have goals.

Horse 1: Sunny was in the mood to be a pill today, but I persevered.  It took him half the time I had to ride to finally settle, but once he decided I wasn't going to put up with nonsense he gave up and behaved.  Unfortunately, I spent longer on him than I'd planned, which left me with no time to work with Thunder before I had to pack up and head for my lesson, so he ended up a lick and a promise brushing and tomorrow I'll start with him.  Sunny can go second.  And hopefully he'll have his mind on business.

Horse 2:  Eric had the farrier there when I got to his place.  Luckily Buddy got shoes two weeks ago, so he was good to go - but there was a steady stream of horses in and out of the cross-ties, and it did make for an interesting time in the aisleway.  What with one thing and another, Eric was running behind on his horses, so he was just heading out to the arena with Pride when I arrived.  He asked me if I wanted to long-trot Pete for him again after my lesson.  So not a problem!  I collected Buddy, brushed him off and tacked him up and headed out to meet Eric coming back in to answer a question for the farrier.  He wanted to warm Buddy up, so we hung out and enjoyed the spring sun while we waited.

Horse 3:  When Eric reappeared from the barn he still had Pride in tow.  He's gearing the stallion up for open reining this season.  He had me hop on and walk him around while he started Buddy off.  It wasn't a long ride, but it was fun to see where I could steer him with just my legs.  I did my best to keep Pride's nose pointed in Buddy's direction so that I could watch what Eric was doing.  Buddy appeared to have taken the same caffeine pill as Sunny, because he didn't want to settle and behave, either.   But after a few high-stepping, snorty rounds, he decided cooperating was less work, and Eric and I traded.

Horse 2: Back on Buddy,  we started off at a walk, working on collecting and keeping a cadenced walk without dashing off in all directions. Forward momentum is so NOT going to be a problem.  Eric worked Pride and called directions at me - mostly reminders to pulse my inside heel and remember to release as soon as Buddy rounded and stretched into the bit.  We were getting along quite nicely when Eric headed in to swap horses.  I offered Buddy a break to stretch, then did some more collected walk.

When Eric came back he had me step up into the trot... Buddy rounded up for me, but it felt odd in back.  He was off  on his left rear.  We changed directions and tried circling right, and he was still off....  He hadn't looked sore with Eric on him, and we hadn't done anything but walk....  But his trot was noticeably funky feeling, so, that was it for him for the day.  Back in the barn I checked hooves and legs, and didn't find rocks or anything warm or swollen.  Eric'll check him and give him a day or so off if he needs it.

Horse 4:  Since Pete and I would be long-trotting, Eric said I'd be fine to use my saddle on Pete and I could work on my two-point.  Whimper.  We warmed up with some bending and spiral in/out, then settled into a nice loose-rein trot on the rail. 

Eric headed in to swap horses again.  Pete and I chugged along.  Although he rolls his eyes so that the white shows and looks sort of big-eyed on the ground, once you're on top Pete feels nice and solid and not spooky at all.  Even with the dog charging hither and yon and the wind rattling and flapping things, Pete was unfazed and I was comfortable with my relaxed reins. He did one bounce-and-dive spook at something only he could see midway through our ride, but since he didn't add a bolt to the end of it, I just went with him and sent him back to the rail again.

Pete has a really looooong neck, but very little throatlatch.  His head is just sort of stuck there, which gives him a kind of different look, to say the least.  My goal was just to keep him moving along evenly in a semi-round frame.  I wasn't asking for any kind of collection, but I did want him driving from behind and moving around the corners without dropping his inside shoulder, so I kept just enough contact that I could supplement inside leg with a little "rein"-forcement if I needed it. 

While he bobbed along, I alternated two-point and working trot, doing my best to catch my diagonals, interspersing walk-breaks when they felt right.  When we'd worked for 40 minutes or so, Eric had me do some collected walk before I let Pete relax and cool out.  Pete's a Country English horse, so it was head in my lap time - he may not have a throatlatch, but he certainly does get TALL when he's collected.

So I didn't get a lesson, but I did get to ride four horses - which was fun, but I can definitely feel my legs tonight.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Say Hello, Buddy!

Eric had a show-season kick-off pot-luck this afternoon.  Lots of yummy food, and a chance for everyone to get to know one another.  So far so good - most of the riders are kids, so lots of show parents, but everyone I've met so far is really nice. And I'm not competition for anyone's kids, so hopefully it will stay that way.
Waiting our turn to ride
The afternoon also offered another opportunity to bond with Buddy.  What I've already learned:

He's kind of a clown

Some of the girls were doing lessons, and Eric had me saddle up as well.  It was a good opportunity to work Buddy in traffic - and outside - and practice some of what we'd worked on Thursday.

And he loves to be fussed over

 When we were done, he was more than happy to be thoroughly curried, get a full body rinse and have his mane and tail shampooed.  He made ooh-itch-me-there faces and then took a nap while I finger-combed his tail to get every last bit of sawdust out..  He's shedding like crazy, as you can tell from the clumps of hair on the floor.  I expect the rinse felt pretty good.

Tomorrow it's Sunny's turn - although I don't think his ride will finish with a bath!  I haven't quite gotten over the feeling that I'm cheating on him with Buddy, but on the whole I think riding Buddy will help me with Sunny, and the opposite is probably true, as well.  At least I hope so.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lesson Day: Sunny canters, meet Buddy, and a bonus ride on Pete

Despite the strong north wind, I really wanted to get a ride in on Sunny today.  Yesterday was cold and icky, but today it was sunny and bright and the ground was quiet underfoot for a change.  Sunny was also bright and not so quiet, but given the wind I expected as much. 

I switched it up a bit, and after walking some spiral in/outs to warm up, sent him off into a sitting trot and then cued him for a left lead canter departure.  He surprised me by stepping right up into it and rocking around really nicely.  I didn't push for more collection than he gave me, just kept my hands nice and quiet and my legs on.  Four rounds without breaking, and without flattening out or bracing - I think it's a record! 

We went left twice more just as nicely, then switched directions and tried right on for size.  It was rockier, but far from the worst it's been.  He only broke once, and didn't try running out or throwing his head which is definitely progress.  After that we did some collected walk/trot transitions, I practiced two-point on a loose rein trot, and we finished up with some half-passing.   He was fabulous, and I couldn't be happier.

With Sunny brushed and turned back out, I headed over to Eric's for my lesson.  I've been waiting for today all week - I was finally going to get to ride Buddy.

Buddy is an elegantly put together seven-year-old, copper-penny-red-chestnut Arabian gelding with a wide white blaze and two high, white front stockings.  He has a sweet disposition to go along with his height. Yes, it's true - Buddy has both the height and the long, curvacious neck that Sunny lacks.  And he's mine for the show season.

For today we stuck with walk and trot.  Buddy hasn't been shown (or ridden much) in two years, and he's a) out of shape, and b) still flashing the strut and snort that made him competitive as a Country English junior horse.  Eric got on him first, not because Buddy was hot and apt to be silly (he actually seems fairly laid back in spite of his forward way of going), but because he wanted to demonstrate how he's been asking Buddy to change his frame.  And it's a pretty big change from really upright and reachy to the rounder, lower hunt seat carriage.  

What's also crystal clear is that Eric likes this horse a LOT, so I'm doubly flattered to have been offered the chance to not only ride, but show him.  And based on today's lesson, I think Buddy and I are going to get along just fine.  I'll be working at first on building up his topline - he needs conditioning in general, and he also needs to develop the muscles in his neck differently than he did for his former discipline. 

I've already learned that with Buddy the challenge isn't to keep him from going hollow, it's in asking him to bring his shoulders up.  He needs to learn to roll over more toward the middle of his neck, rather than just breaking at the poll.  He, like Sunny, needs to be encouraged to find his own balance, that spot where he carry himself rather than hanging on my hands for balance.  And it's my job to help him do that, which means I have to be able to feel when he's right and reward him for being there.  We spent a lot of time on rate and feel. 

Buddy has a BIG stride, and unlike Sunny I don't have to work for forward.  The challenge is more in rating the impulsion down.  The two of them are going to be a nice juxtaposition - and, since Sunny's a half-Arab and Buddy's full, they won't end up in the same classes if they happen to end up at the same shows. :)

Pictures of Buddy to follow - I'm supposed to give him a bath on Saturday, which I'm sure will be entertaining...  But it should provide a better opportunity to take my camera.

Eric only had two horses left to ride when my lesson was done - one of them, Pete, the saddleseat gelding I rode once previously, just needed a conditioning ride (basically, long-trotting), and Eric asked if I wanted to do that while he schooled the other gelding he had left western pleasure.  Gee, I don't know... twist my arm - LOL!   I used the opportunity to practice my two-point and watch what Eric was doing. 

All in all, a great riding day - hope everyone else had a chance to get out for some pony-time, too!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

New ground

Love that view!
The snow we slushed through Monday was a thing of the past by yesterday afternoon.  At close to 70', it didn't have much of a chance.  A few white traces lingered in the low spots, but for the most part it was the squish underfoot posed a challenge. 

Our usual pasture was snow-free but muddy and slippery.  None of my remaining options were great, but I picked the field to the east as the best of the lot - I don't usually do more than poke around if I ride there, as it's considerably more sloped and the ground is rougher.  But it does have better drainage so I was hoping it would be drier.  And it was - but there were still plenty of spots that went "squish" under Sunny's hooves.  Still, he wasn't actually sliding, and as long as I kept the pace moderate he wasn't cutting up the field, either.

So no loping, which has been a familiar theme while riding at home lately.  And not a lot of trot, either.  But even slow we could do lots of bending, yielding and flexing and work on collected walk and sitting trot.  I'm still struggling with half-passing.  I get my rights and lefts mixed up.  But side-passing is getting easier.

I'd hoped to get another ride in today.  Unfortunately, it's back to being seasonally drippy, cold, dreary this morning.   But 50's for tomorrow and 60's by the weekend means more great riding weather is only a day away.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Snow be gone!

Put in just over half an hour with Sunny yesterday - 50's and melting slop had me shedding layers and keeping things slow.  I came home liberally splashed and splotched with mud, but completely happy.

The snow is disappearing quickly, soaking right in - which is great, considering how dry it's been.  I don't want to see a spring as wet as last year, but some moisture is welcome.

Didn't saddle Thunder, but I did take him out and do some groundwork with him. If/when Sunny and I head for the show ring this year, Thunder will be going too, and since we haven't reached the point of under-saddle classes, I'm going to see if we can't at least do some halter.  It's not my favorite thing, but it will broaden his horizons which is the important thing.  

One goal yesterday was just some separation time for both boys - breaking up the normal routine a bit.  They're both copacetic when it's them that's leaving, but they don't like being the one that's left behind. 

There are tiny spring green grass shoots poking up among the dead brown winter scruff, and Sunny was eager to snatch a few so once I had his saddle off I let him nibble for a bit.  The best spot was out of Thunder's sight, and that had him racing and whinnying.  Sunny wasn't concerned.

I offered Thunder the same opportunity when I had him out, but he was content to stand, soak up sun and let me brush him.  Unlike Sunny, Thunder assumes that when he's attached to a person he needs to focus. Good boy!

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Well, not actually, but the potential is now renewed.  Sunny is much too prone to oozing his way into what he sees as greener pastures. The ground was finally thawed enough that I could get the ground post in, so I put new batteries in the portable fencer today and hooked it up.

It's making noise...

The boys were jazzed anyway - the wind was whipping around out of the northwest, and the fence clicking made a great excuse to kick up their heels and bounce around.

Run away!

Run back!
Time was also spent sniffing and staring at the fence accusingly.

And staring at me accusingly.

That's bad!
And making faces.

We do not like it!
I couldn't get the fence tester to register, but since I could hear the fencer clicking - and so could they - I think I may need a new tester.

Just to be sure, I did the hand to fence test... zap!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Lesson Day: Dancer, and riding in the passing zone

Checked on the boys before I headed over to my lesson yesterday afternoon.  The plows were out blading the 6"+ worth of slop off the even the gravel roads, but after the nearly 2" of rain we had before the snow started, the roads were awful.  It was a mandatory 4-wheel-drive trip.  The boys were happy to see me, and didn't seem to be any the worse for their drenching. 

At Eric's there was a horse trailer in the driveway and when I went in I got to meet the owner of another horse Eric has in training.  A nice down-to-earth seeming woman, she'd brought another of her horses over to work a bit. I didn't get his details, but a really pretty-headed, petite, but nicely put together sorrel paint she has listed at an upcoming sale.  Sharp markings, lovely white face, dark eyes, and initially a bit of an attitude.  He hadn't been ridden in a few months, and was not that enthused about the prospect. 

She longed him lightly both directions before she got on, and while he never offered to buck, there was a definite hunch to his back.  He spent the first half hour wringing his tail and grinding his teeth.  I could hear him from all the way around the corner by the cross-ties where I was saddling Dancer.  But once being annoyed didn't work, he settled down and cooperated more willingly, thank goodness.

Eric was finishing up with one horse when I arrived, and switched to the next at the start of my lesson.  His victim was a stretchy, long-headed bay with mounting issues.  The gelding arrived with extensive training, a show background, and a panic-stricken response anytime someone puts weight in a stirrup.  Eric spent the entire hour just calmly stepping into the stirrup, leaning over, and then quietly swinging on while the other rider and I did circles around the outside of the arena.  Finally the bay was calm enough to stand on a loose rein when he mounted.  When he dropped his head, licked and chewed Eric stepped off and on one more time.  The bay heaved a big sigh and relaxed - it was like a balloon deflating, you could see the tension drain away - and that was his ride for the day. 

I had a great view of all the action from the rail, because once Dancer was tacked up Eric had us join in the fun.  Since Dancer's stride covered quite a bit more ground than the paint's, not to mention she was working western pleasure slow to our more forward hunt seat, I lapped them fairly frequently.  It was good practice for the show ring - and good to be on a horse with show seasoning.  Neither horse paid the slightest attention to the other, but practicing invisible steering around traffic at the canter was a new challenge.

Like last week, the name of the game at all gaits was finding that sweet spot where Dancer remained collected, in frame, and neither too low or too flat.  Kind of like Goldilocks (but absent the bears), I was looking for the spot that was just right.  Unlike Goldilocks, three times was not always the charm. 

The majority of the lesson we went left, which is Dancer's stiffer direction.   Right he floats along without much more than minimal maintenance on my part, but left he finds it easier to go hollow or heavy on the forehand, so left was a workout for both of us.  We were both plenty sweaty by the time Eric allowed us to switch directions.   

My two-point is improving.  After watching lots of hunt seat classes both during the Scottsdale show and on YouTube, I've come to the conclusion that the two-point I was taught was NOT show-ring two-point as practiced by the hunter under saddle competitors.  I learned two-point for jumping.  By going over jumps.  We were taught a much crouchier style with a more forward release.  The two-point for hand-gallop on the flat feels much more upright and less exaggerated.  Of course, it's been 15 years, so I could be misremembering because heaven knows I've certainly forgotten lots of other things I learned that long ago!

It was interesting to have something of a group lesson for a change - although the paint's rider wasn't getting an official lesson, Eric would occasionally offer a comment or suggestion to her.  She was considerate about keeping to the same gait and direction that I was going, so even though I still had to pass her a lot, it really didn't interrupt the flow of my lesson.  Since Eric was basically stationary in the center, it wasn't as if he was really splitting his attention that much, and I think both of us were using the comments to the other rider as cross-check on our own riding. I know I was, at least, so it was certainly helpful in that respect, as well as for the passing practice.  

I didn't get formal homework for the week, but what I heard most frequently this lesson was pretty much the same as it's been: lower leg position (more two-point) and better posture.  Guess I can't expect the bad habits of a lifetime to be corrected overnight!  Not sure it will be nice enough to ride this weekend, but I have high hopes for next week.

And speaking of next week... this will, I think, be my last lesson on Dancer.  Remember, I said Eric had a proposition for me?  Well, it involves a gelding with a previous career as a Country English horse.  He's Eric's solution to the showing dilemma that my improved riding and Sunny's size presented.  Stay tuned for more details and hopefully pictures.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Side by side

Since it's too yucky outside to ride, and I was stuck inside with housecleaning, of course I spend my evening poking around in my old pictures...

See this neck?

Compare it to this one:

I love my boy. 
 But he's not exactly long and stretchy.  
He's the compact model.

Thunder's not a lot taller, but he has a longer, leaner build...

And withers.

The boys have the same genetics on their sire's side - I can't find his picture at the moment.  But the mares?  If you've been reading for a while this won't be a challenge, but see if you can guess which foaled which....

ASA Copper Pennie

ASA Sauds Mariah
 I really can't wait to get Thunder working this summer and see how he moves from on top!