Monday, July 30, 2012

Tuck and Roll

"Wow!  His neck's gotten even better!"  Eric hollered to me as Sunny and I worked out way down the long side of the arena.  He was retrieving another pair of horses for the farrier working in the barn.  I hopped aboard at 10 AM, with my lesson on Buddy scheduled for 11.  Well, at least the ride started on an up note.

Sunny was snorty, rolling his eyes at the sound of the sprinkler flicking off the greenhouse, and bouncing sideways at the familiar yellow flags flapping in the pasture across the rail.  I did my best to put that energy to work, asking him to really stride up and stretch.   Big circles, small circles, counter-bend reverses... I was curious to see if I could get Sunny stepping under himself as precisely as Trinity had for C.  It felt good, but who knows.

When he was soft and a bit less inclined to gawp and swerve, I clucked him up to sitting trot and repeated the exercise.  Some head flipping and some lugging, but for the most part not too bad.  Working trot, ditto.  When he was willing to carry himself for stretches at a time without hanging on me, I pushed his hip over, squeezed and kissed him up into a right lead canter.

My goal was to work on rate - I wanted to see if I could rate him back to a steady, slow canter without breaking.  It was actually working pretty well.  I was using the center of the arena, not the ends because one end hasn't been worked recently and has some crust issues, and the other end has ground poles laid out. 

We were on the top end of the arena on the edge of the crusty stuff when... well, I'm actually not completely sure what happened, but one minute we were moving around at a nice easy pace and the next he was flailing around and tipping over.  It felt like he tripped, and then when he tried to recover couldn't get traction behind or his feet back underneath him in front.   I was no help, since the saddle - and my weight - was in the process of sliding forward over his shoulders - round horses don't have withers to hold the saddle when things go south nose-first.  

An eye-blink later, I somehow had my feet out of the stirrups, and when he started to tip right, I just let myself roll left over his shoulder in the opposite direction.  When I hit dirt, I just kept rolling, making sure I didn't end up under his feet.  We both stood up at the same time.  Sunny shook himself off, and nickered at me. I told him "whoa" and he stood there quietly while I checked him over and brushed the sand off of the two of us (well, except for the coating that ended up plastered to the mix of sweat and sunblock I had smeared on anything not covered, and the handful that came home in my bra...). 

Once I had the saddle loosened and repositioned, I walked and trotted him - no apparent hitches in his giddy-up, so I got back on.  We walked some until I was sure he was four-square under my weight.  He seemed fine, so I cued for a lope again.  Two easy rounds, staying well off the spot that tripped us up, then down to the trot and some nice serpentines and figure eights with Sunny still moving well and freely.

Wrap-up for the ride was walking the ground poles and some slow motion "spins" - basically, just asking him to yield his shoulder so that he's pivoting around one step at a time without moving his back end.  He's starting to really get the hang of it.

When he was untacked and snoozing at the trailer, I took a minute or two to stretch, swig some water, and breathe a deep sigh of relief.  Okay, maybe more than one

A few hours later, I can safely say that I'll more than likely feel the left side of my back tomorrow, but other than that and a spot on the back side of my upper arm/shoulder that feels a bit sunburned - I think the sunblock rubbed off when I landed and then brushed the dirt off - nothing feels off.  I'll head out and check Sunny later to see if he's stiffened up anywhere. 

Details of my lesson on Buddy later - it wasn't nearly so exciting, thank goodness!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Lesson Day: Buddy, and that post-ride achey feeling

Eric had me warm up slowly, asking for gradually increasing collection and bend.  He wanted to see Buddy really stepping up and over underneath himself.  Buddy was reasonably amenable, but very fresh. Thankfully over the past few months I've gotten comfortable enough with his level of energy that having a wound-up ball of this particular horse under me didn't completely freak me out.

Good thing, too - the next step was sitting trot.  Buddy does NOT glide.  He's bouncy.  Very bouncy.  (C volunteered to tape me, since she was handy and had her video camera, and I'm curious to see how that looked!)  There are times being not-so-well endowed is a very good thing.  A bra with less compression, and I would have been in pain....

On the plus side, the extra time I've been taking to stretch my calves and hamstrings out ever morning is paying off.  Not only was I able to keep my heel well down and my lower leg wrapped solidly around Buddy's barrel, I could actually roll my heels up as needed and still keep the ball of my foot pressing into the stirrup.  Hooray!

Moving to working trot, I still had a lot of horse.  For the first half of the lesson it was a definite struggle to keep him from hanging on the bit and foraging ahead.  The initial few passes of working trot I was posting much too enthusiastically, which didn't help matters any.  Guess Buddy wasn't the only bouncy one!  But after a reminder to stay low and controlled, he started to settle.  Amazing what a difference being deliberate with your seat and weight makes.

Working trot in both direction Eric had me reversing continually across the circle, working on keeping Buddy's rate and frame consistent.  I think I maybe managed one (two?) direction changes without a) letting him drop a shoulder, b) having his head pop up, c) looking down, or d) slowing down or speeding up and e) forgetting to switch my diagonals... Oi.

Finally, we moved on.  Going right, Buddy is stiffer, particularly cantering.  I think additional time walking and stretching would have helped loosen him up, but eventually his gait smoothed out and committed to carrying himself for longer periods rather than hanging on my hands. 

Left is his preferred direction, but I have to be careful not to let him over-bend.  He tends to want to bulge out with his outside shoulder, so I need more outside leg than going right.  While left was better for Buddy collection-wise, it wasn't as good for me position-wise.  As usually happens, when I roll my heels up, I didn't keep enough pressure back and down into the balls of my feet, and my stirrups slipped back.  Phooey.

On the plus side, I'm getting pretty good at recovering the correct position once we're trotting again, but downward transitions end up being a complete hash of hollow horse and bouncing rider.  Not pretty.  Still, the first direction was good, so... progress.  Back to the stairs and more stretching for me!  

We called it quits after a last, semi-decent downward transition series from canter > working trot > collected walk.  Buddy was sweaty and blowing.  Likewise, me.  I walked him for twenty minutes or so and finished up with a nice long rinse with cool water.  Buddy' favorite part of the process.

Have to say, I'm not sure how Buddy felt post-ride, but I could definitely tell I'd had a workout.  I'd happily have joined him in a soak and a nap!

The day's bonus was getting to watch/tape C's lesson with her lovely bay gelding Trinity.  Her style of choice at present is western pleasure.  The whole lesson was spent on a very small circle. (In comparison, I was using either half or the whole arena with Sunny, and half with Buddy. Eric had C using one corner, about 1/3 of the half I used.)

Eric had her spend a long time warming up, isolating Trinity's shoulder and hip and asking him to move each in while staying on the same size circle.  Trinity has a tendency to attempt to spoof collection by rolling over in front, but taking baby steps with his hind feet rather than rounding up through his back and really stepping under himself.

Using this process, not only was she getting Trinity to isolate and free up each body part as she asked, improving her control, but Eric was also asking C to feel when he was using each properly.  When C ultimately asked him to lope off, he was bringing his hip over, lifting his shoulders and back, and using his whole body more correctly.

Honestly?  One of the few times I've ever seen a western pleasure lope executed in such a way that the horse is moving oh-so-slowly and actually didn't look crippled in the hind end.  Even though Trinity's feet were moving at a snail's pace, the effect was one of lift - suspension - landing.  C's lesson wasn't super long, but it was definitely educational.

Sunny Pre-Lesson Ride

No complaints about the weather on Friday - a few fluffy clouds, temp in the upper 70's, a light breeze to keep the bugs away... if only all my riding days were so lovely! 

A slight change of plans resulted in Sunny and I having the arena to ourselves for an hour before my lesson.  No complaints about that either - although Sunny may have expressed some if I'd asked him, LOL!

I saddled him western, and after a couple trips back to the trailer to retrieve my spurs and apply more fly spray, started warming him up.  A series of medium circles in both directions, first asking him to shoulder-in and then for haunches-in, and then some half-passing.  When he was striding well under in back and I'd gotten good bend in both directions, we moved on to collected walk on a larger circle.

I focused on looking out and ahead, staying rocked back on my seatbones, trying to really feel each hoof land and his barrel up and round under me without looking down at his head.  Not sure how successful I was, but at least I was thinking about it.

I went right first - his good direction.  When I cued trot, his head popped up.  Not surprising given the dearth of riding time he's had lately, so I spent the next umpteen laps working on getting him to roll over and round up and commit to carrying himself.  Eventually we managed a full round in fairly nice form, so I gave him a breather to air up and stretch.  Then it was on to canter.

He took the correct lead when I asked him - not a surprise to the right, though.  Was it pretty?  Eh...  Canter is improving incrementally.  He's still dropping his inside shoulder, and he's definitely not collected by any stretch of the imagination.  But... rate is getting better, and he's staying in gait better, too.  There were a few moments of definite roundness, and at no point did he stick his nose way out and fling his head, so... progress.  Downward transitions are still heavy in front, but that's as much me as it is him.  Overall, I'd say it was satisfactory.

After another walk-break I reversed and we went to work on left.  Walk was good.  Softness and collection at the trot was steps above where he was going right.  Canter?  Pffft.  No dice.  He was back to flinging his nose up and throwing that outside shoulder forward into the wrong lead.  It didn't seem to matter how far over I'd put his hip, he was bound and determined to take the right lead, not the left.

He may very well need to be adjusted again.  Maybe it's a saddle issue. As round as he is, I don't have a single saddle that fits him well at present.... Or possibly he's just anticipating something is going to hurt, even if it doesn't.  He certainly doesn't seem sore anywhere, and running my thumbs down his back and pressing post-ride didn't prompt any reaction.    At any rate, it's a problem to be solved before we can move forward.

Rather than push the issue - but not wanting to reward him for refusing to take that lead by stopping - I finished with some serpentines at a working trot using the whole arena, and then cooled out with spiral circles at the walk and some backing using the pole-defined L someone had left set up.  Altogether about 45 minutes of solid work.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Happy Riding Face!

As one of my friends said on FB, "84 degrees, now where did I put my jacket???!!!"  The coolest evening we've had in nearly a month.  Relief from the slow-cooker may be only temporary, but it sure is welcome!

We even had a sprinkle of rain Tuesday - unfortunately not enough to do any good, but the clouds were nice.

I have a lesson on Friday and Sunny/Thunder are going so I can use the arena afterwards.  I wanted to check Sunny's leads on the lunge line in the western saddle, so after both boys were brushed & sprayed I wrapped his legs and tacked him up.

I fully expected to have to push him. 

Imagine my surprise when he flagged his tail and practically rocketed into a left(hooray!)-lead lope as soon as I sent him out.  In three strides he was galloping. Huh...  guess he was happy for the cooler weather, too. 

He was so determined to blow off steam, I let him go, offering him the option of slowing down occasionally but sending him on if he didn't respond.  He eventually came back to a high-stepping, snorty trot with his tail still in the air.  He was blowing when I asked for whoa, but still ready to bounce forward when I switched directions.

Right lead was smooth and just as quick as left, but he wore down faster. He looks so funny with his feet going that fast - patter, patter, patter!  He was one sweaty boy when I stopped him.  Since he wasn't at all inclined to walk on the line, I took him back to the trailer for his bridle and we walked the tree grove and worked on collection and bending until he stopped blowing. 

After Sunny's enthusiasm I wasn't sure what to expect level of boisterousness to expect from Thunder.  Turned out he was the one I had to push.  As always, left was smooth - like most horses, he's been ponied and led so much from that side that learning to work on the line to the left was easier for him.  He trotted around in a business-like manner, taking cues to slow and speed up, and even coasting smoothly into a lope when I kissed.  No sign of a hunch in his back, despite the stirrups banging and the back cinch (on the last hole) on the snug side of loose.  They both need to lose a few pounds!

Right... we have walk and trot down, but lope isn't there yet.  He gets the idea that he's supposed to speed up, but when I push him he tends to want to make the circle bigger.  If I resist, that pulls his head around, which he interprets as stop....  Here's where a round pen would make a HUGE difference.

Rather than continue until we were both frustrated, I concentrated on what he is getting - changes in rate and gait from walk to trot.  I think I'm going to see if I can use D's round pen and iron the wrinkles out that way.

Happy Riding Face

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Heat advisory 'til Saturday at 9 PM

They do have shade...
Not that they seem disposed to stand in it.  It was 103' when I checked in on them at 4:30 this afternoon.  They were dozing on the hill in the sunshine.  I had the windows down on the truck, and I could hear Sunny's high, squeak of a whinny peel out as soon as I shut the engine off. 

One coating of fly-spray later Sunny shifted himself enough to start grazing.  Thunder leaned his head against me while I rubbed his ears, then followed Sunny's example, both of them still in the sun.  There's perfectly nice shade, complete with what little breeze was blowing, available, but will they stand in it?  Of course not.

C called me a few minutes ago to offer me an extra ticket to the rodeo tonight.  She's in the queen contest.  The temp is all the way down to 102'.  Much as I enjoy a night at the rodeo... I'll be crossing my fingers for her from here, but I'm just not up for it. 

Much as I loved having a beautiful, warm winter without a single month I couldn't ride outside in, I'd happily go back and trade it for several feet of snow and sub-zero. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Too darn hot!

Sunday, 103'.  Monday, 107'.  Today was a mere 101'.  Yes, it's a dry heat, but still...

The fields are getting pretty crispy.  The weeds continue to be green, but that's about it.  We really need rain - us and a lot of the rest of the continental United States!

Even if it was cool enough to ride, Sunny would be getting a day or so off.  He apparently walked into something he shouldn't have and took several large strips of hide off his back legs. 

No blood at least.  The heat made telling if there was additional warmth anywhere kind of tough, but he does have a small amount of swelling above the fetlock on the inside of his left hind.  He wasn't favoring anything, and didn't mind me picking up either foot or flexing joints.

I'm not certain what he found to tangle with.  Best guess?  It looks as if G was moving panels around up in the lot last night or this morning and either one fell partway over and Sunny decided to walk through it, or he tipped it over and then decided to walk through it.  At least I couldn't find anything else to pick up that looked like a potential leg grabber.  But given Sunny's penchant for sticking his nose places he doesn't belong in search of something edible... who knows.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Lesson Day: Buddy

Bonus lesson this week.  I wanted to see if I could work some more on the progress I made Wednesday, and since it's supposed to be over a 100' here again for the next while, I checked to see if Eric still had an hour free.  Lucky me, he did.

Unfortunately, his opening was at 1 PM, so it was already pretty warm.  Buddy was calm and almost sleepy in the crossties, and I was sweaty and hot by the time I had him brushed and tacked up.  Eric elected to perch on the fence rather than riding, so I had the arena to myself.

With almost no air moving, we took plenty of time for warm-up. In addition to the usual, Eric had me ask for an exaggerated inside bend in both directions, encouraging Buddy to stretch along his back, stepping under and getting his hip underneath him, moving his shoulder in so he was almost turning on the forehand but still moving forward in a circle.

Once he was bending and giving softly, I widened the circle, still keeping him off the rail but asking him to stay collected and really round his back up.  The slow, suspended walk they're asked to do for the show ring still seems slow and over-controlled to me.  But we're starting to get it.

Moving on to trot, I concentrated on keeping the ball of my foot in the stirrup, really stretching down into my heels and keeping my hips rolled down.  Watching the video that my mom took while she was here, I have a tendency to over-post, so I've been trying to just let Buddy's momentum give me a boost, instead of pushing up myself.  And then there's keeping my shoulders back and my ribcage and chin up...  Hopefully all of this stuff will eventually become automatic!

Cantering left went okay, although Wednesday's ride was better.  It's my roughest gait.  When I roll my heels up to ask Buddy to lift his barrel, I can't keep the ball of my foot pressed down and my stirrup ends up sliding back too far.  Then, when Eric has me hand gallop in two-point, I end up tipped too far forward and balancing on his neck.  It's better when I have tall boots or half-chaps on, because I get better grip with my calves.

So... I asked how to fix it.  Apparently, the answer is more practice.  And more stretching.  I'm to spend some time every day on the stairs stretching out my hamstrings.

We didn't spend as long going right - Buddy was getting tired and hot, and the heat was getting to me, too.  I walked him for quite a while, and he was still blowing and sweaty - there was just no air moving to help him cool off.  Back in the barn, I pulled his tack and wraps, took him back to his stall to pee - which he doesn't like to do in the cross-ties, and who can blame him! - and then rinsed him off in cool, but not cold, water until he was cooled down.  His stall has a fan, and he was more interested in cleaning up his hay when I turned him loose than his bucket, but when I checked on him a bit later his bucket was lower and he was dozing peacefully in his own personal breeze.

I hung out for a while, helping C hang some additional fans and chatting, then headed for the farm to get the boys checked on and fly-sprayed.  They were dozing in the shade of the grain bin, content to greet me and be petted.  I talked to Eric about working Sunny in the arena this week, but if it gets as warm as they're predicting, I'll give it a miss.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Lesson Day: Buddy, and Sunny gets some arena time

I gave Sunny the night off last night, but Thunder and I did the tree weaving thing again.  We even ventured out into the road a ways and checked out the mailbox.  He would have continued quite happily down the gravel, but I chickened out.  I'd started having visions of him suddenly realizing he was all by himself and deciding to head for home.  Maybe one day soon I'll catch D going by on the pretty black and white paint he's starting, and fall in with him.

Sunny stood on the hill and watched me hook the trailer up this morning.  When I walked out to catch them, he very deliberated turned and walked about twenty steps the other direction, glancing over his shoulder to check if I was really serious about collecting him.  Then he heaved a big sigh, turned around and waited for me.  Silly.

Getting them fly-sprayed and loaded up was the usual non-event.  Every time I watch someone deal with a poor loader I say a little thank you that it's not an exciting part of my riding day!

Arriving at Eric's, I unloaded, made sure they were both securely fastened, and went in to get Buddy ready.  There was a big palamino gelding raising a ruckus in the indoor when I cross-tied him.  Not a restful horse.  He'd back off from the gate twenty feet or so, then run at it sliding to a stop an the last second letting his nose or chin bang against the gate and setting it rattling. Thud-a-da-thud-a-da, thump! clang! bang! SNORT! followed by spin and kick whang! 

Buddy was not amused, and wanted to crane around in the direction of all the activity, shaking his head and dancing accompaniment.  Thankfully, O swapped out horses before I got to the point of polo wraps, and the next horse wasn't nearly as energetic.  Once the palamino was gone, Buddy stopped fidgeting. 

Slightly cooler temps and a nice breeze, not to mention an earlier start, made for a more energetic horse, and Buddy was definitely alive underneath me as soon as I settled into the saddle.  Eric had me working on channeling all that extra horse into getting Buddy's shoulders lifted and his back up.  We had a few moments today that felt close to brilliant. :)

Moving on to sitting trot, I focused hard on keeping my lower leg solid and not bouncing all over the place.  Sitting trot is usually not a problem, but Sunny is a lot less bouncy than Buddy!  Eventually we made a sufficiently good round of it and Eric asked for working trot.  Hooray for posting! 

During Saturday's lesson I spent a lot of time working my outside hand, attempting to shake Buddy off of it.  He'll hang and get heavy or run through you if you let him.  Today, however, the spirit of cooperation appeared to be at work and he was willing to carry his head and balance himself without too many reminders from me.  Maybe I'm getting better at catching him before he pops up, too...  At any rate, after some working trot/sitting trot transitions, it was up to the canter.

That was far and away better than Saturday.  And hand gallop didn't make me feel quite so hung out on the edge of a cliff today, either.  I know what the problem is - I lose my lower leg, and then it's 'Hello, cliff!' But I think I'm improving - I wore jeans again, rather than breeches and half-chaps, and my leg stayed pretty much where it was supposed to despite having less grip than the half-chaps provide.

After a breather for Buddy - and me - we switched directions and tackled the same program to the right.  Right was better then left.  Woo-hoo!

Buddy got a rinse-down in lukewarm water and a cookie - not sure which he enjoyed more, and then I watched the last half of Eric's next lesson while I tacked Sunny up.  A rodeo junior queen contestant with a roping horse and a reining pattern to do as part of the queening contest next week... Let's just say "GO!" will not be a problem.  Neither will stopping.  But finding the lope in the middle?   Pony was initially frustrated and confused, and by the time they finished up the little gal was very red in the face, but his ears had started to come forward and he was getting the hang of the program. 

Eric had her doing what was basically a half-halt and release as soon as the gelding hesitated and slowed even a smidge.  They were both trying really hard, so hopefully they'll get things sorted before their deadline.

A lot of go is definitely not a concern with Sunny - thankfully I remembered my spurs!  We warmed up at a walk in both directions with bending, leg yields and some counter-bending, then started walking a big circle to the right; his good direction. 

He rolled over at the poll and I could feel his back come up under me.  Sweet.  We made several circles at a walk then moved on to trot and eventually canter.  Transitions to the right were steady and solid.  He stayed relatively light and didn't try to poke his nose out too often - but I didn't want to get too excited, because we hadn't gone left yet. 

After a pause to air up, I revered him and we started left.  Nice round walk, check.  Working trot with an inside bend, check.  Canter transition... right lead. Darn it! 

I dropped him to trot, waited for a corner, made sure my hands were correct and his hip was pushed in, and... right (wrong) again.  The third or fourth time he took the left lead and stayed in it until I asked him to trot.  A break to air up again, and I asked him for left lead again.  No dice. 

So.... Either he's sore again, although he seemed perfectly willing to flex his neck in either direction, and his back didn't seem ouchie when I pressed on him post-ride, or I'm doing something wrong (always a possibility), or... who knows.  He is taking both leads on the lunge line, and since he's willing to bend for me, I don't think he's as sore as he was before, so that's something at least.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


Melissa of Melissa Lynn D Art (go check out her stuff - it's neat!) commented a couple of posts ago on how nicely Thunder is coming along.  Thanks, Melissa!  Her compliment actually made me chuckle - given that he's eight, it's only taken me five years to get to a point it would have taken a good trainer about a week to achieve...

(Riding pics from the last day my folks were here.)
Thinking and listening
The short story is, Thunder isn't actually mine.  The long story?  Thunder belongs to the farm owner, (who's also the one who bred Sunny and who I bought him from).  She doesn't ride, and hasn't been very interested in having him started.  She's stopped breeding and he's the last horse of her horses, so she's reluctant to see him go even though she's not really doing the horse thing any longer.

Last year, when we took Amyra for training that left just Sunny and Thunder at the farm. I was doing a lot of trail riding at the time, and not being keen on leaving one frantic horse behind fences that are electric, but wouldn't stop anything really determined to get out, I started hauling Thunder with me to lessons, trail rides, etc.  He'd never really been off the place before, but with big brother - did I mention, he's Sunny's half-brother? - beside him, he took to all the strangeness with only a snort or two.

Since that went so well, and I was ponying him beside Sunny on rides anyway, I figured he might as well go saddled.  We tried that out at home first with no fireworks, and other than some crowhopping the first time he actually loped alongside, he's never show any desire to buck. 

I'm no trainer, but Thunder's been handled lots, it lovely to work with on the ground, and his behavior out in public has been impressive given his previous lack of exposure.  Since I've almost given up on the farm owner providing him with a real trainer, I decided to see how far I can get.  So, we're taking baby steps.

Itchy ears - Darn bugs!

Tonight we practiced steering around trees along the driveway.  It was shady and there was a nice breeze, and after some initial trepidation at passing the camper he was great.  We wove in and out, back and forth through the knee deep grass, stepping over the occasional fallen limb.  

I pushed him a couple of times and managed a few steps of jog.  He's not quite sure what I want yet, but he was willing to listen and try.  That's one of the things I really like about him: he's a thoughtful horse  His ears aren't constantly pointed forward scanning, they're usually tilted back toward me waiting to see what I'm wanting him to do.  He pays no attention to Sunny, who fusses and hollers whenever we move out of sight.  He doesn't get sulky or obstinate.  He's just a nice, nice boy. 

Fingers crossed I can eventually convince the farm owner to part with him...

My other accomplishment tonight - a real braid in Sunny's mane.  You know, I actually think the fact that it grows on the left side of his neck (which is apparently wrong for some strange reason) makes it easier to braid.  

I rode Sunny, too - he was a bit stiff and bracy and it took him a long time to soften at the trot.  I really, really need some arena time with him on good ground with an even surface.  I hate to keep pushing when the ground is hard and the footing is uneven.   I ended up working him along the driveway in the shade as well, and that went better.  Maybe tomorrow we'll try going down the road, just for something different.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Lesson Day: Buddy

It's sort of sad when 80' feels cool...

But it was a lovely day today.  The flies thought so too, as they were out in force.  I'm trying Pyranha fly spray this year, and it seems to work fairly well... for about 10 minutes.  But it's (slightly) less expensive than the Endure I used the last two years, and it works just as well, so...  It has citronella oil in it, which smells good, but it surely does attract a lot of dust.  I'd definitely recommend against using it on any white bits you want to stay bright and shiny..

At any rate, Eric was running behind when I got to the barn, so I hung out and chatted with C while I waited.  Not sure where my head was today, but when Eric sent me to retrieve Buddy I returned with his next door neighbor (who I'd just returned to his stall minutes before after his turnout).  Sheesh!  My only excuse is the barn lights were out to cut down on heat, and Buddy and Fancy both stick their heads right in their halters.   

We'll ignore the fact that Fancy's head is several inches longer than Buddy's. he's a good hand taller, doesn't have high white socks, and he's a gold chestnut, not red.   Doh!  Eric gave me a funny look and asked me if I was planning to ride Buddy, at which point I actually took a good look at poor Fancy who I'd removed from his dinner.   It was dark over there, darn it!

Once I had the right horse in the crossties, grooming, polo wrapping all around and tacking up went smoothly.  In the outdoor Buddy stood patiently while I got on... and realized I'd forgotten to refresh his fly spray.  Thankfully one of the lookers-on took pity on those of us on horseback - I wasn't the only one whose pony needed a second spritz - and made the trek back to the barn for us.

Eric had two of us riding and C was also working her lovely bay gelding.  It's a big arena though.  And having a joint lesson actually meant I rode longer and Buddy got several nice breathers.  It may have only been low 80's, but that's still warm when you're working.  And if sweat means anything, we were working!

Buddy had a week off after Region 6, and with this past week in the 100's, I'm pretty sure all of the horses that aren't gearing up for a show in the near future, and/or being started had a break from riding, as well.  We warmed up, then spent quite a while working on achieving a collected walk.  Eventually he decided it was easier to cooperate than to continue going hollow with his nose stuck out, and we moved on to trot.  Where we had the same discussion.  He'd commit for long enough to get a release, hold it for a few strides, then pop back up.

Canter on Buddy's part was probably our best gait.  On my part?  I kept losing my lower leg - lack of practice showing up.  When I had him nice and round and cantering evenly, Eric had me move up to hand gallop.  Which was kind of a hot mess.  If he'd tripped, I'd have gone right over his head.  Half-chaps would have been a huge help.  Guess what I wasn't wearing.

All in all, not our best lesson ever, but not a complete disaster.  Our last couple of transitions were decent, and Buddy definitely enjoyed his bath.  I have another set for Wednesday, and I'm taking Sunny/Thunder along so I can use the arena after my lesson.  My poor pudgy pony has no idea what's in store for him. :)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Straight lines and circles

It was 100' here at noon, 98', at 4 PM, and by 5:30 it had dropped 15'.  A stiff north wind, clear blue skies... gorgeous.  The boys had sweaty marks just from standing around, but they were loafing in the shade enjoying the breeze.  Turning up the driveway with the windows down I could see Sunny's head pop up and hear his welcoming whinny.

They met me at the gate, and as I juggled halters, leads, fence panel and electric wire I missed having my folks here all over again. 

I set up the ground poles and tacked Sunny up western.  We cruised around the field on a loose rein for a while, then walked the poles a few times before I asked him for any collection.  The breeze felt great, and he had a bit of spring in his step.  We bent, counter bent and half-passed at a walk, then picked up a trot... and up popped his nose. 

So we worked on rounding and softening at a trot for a while until he was rolling over and I could feel his back come up and stay there.  Then back to a walk and some more bending and stretching for cool down.

I was debating riding Thunder at all - the farm owner pulled out while I was pulling Sunny's saddle off, and no one else was home, and there was some random shooting going on to the north that had both of them looking - but I wanted to at least lunge him. 

I expected he'd be at least a little snorty given the wind and the gunfire (fireworks?), but he circled in both directions without expending any extra energy on nonsense, changing gaits and directions politely.  And whoever was shooting stopped.  At which point I figured what the heck and took him back to the trailer for his bridle.

One thing we haven't quite conquered yet is traveling in a straight line.  It's interesting, because he's not wobbly like a young horse learning to balance the weight of a rider.  But he does tend to want to ease his way over toward the gate and the trailer.  He'll turn on request, we're still working on where the turn stops.  Small turns are easier to do than the large arc of a circle.  Of course, thus far I've worked a lot on turns and asking him to give his face and bend, so that's probably more my fault than his.  But tonight I was very deliberate about asking for straight lines and nice wide curved turns.

I'd pick a clump of weeds, a fence post or some other target and ask him to walk straight to it and then arc around it and head for the next point.  It worked for the most part.   Still haven't been brave enough to trot, but soon.  I think just walk is getting a bit boring for both of us! 

Nothing but Sunshine

This last week, with both bathroom projects wrapped up, house painting completed, and only a few minor odds and ends of projects left to accomplish, it finally got hot.  Really hot

For those of you that routinely experience temps in the triple digits, I can only say... I really, REALLY don't envy you! 

I convinced my folks that since home for them was also experiencing unusual highs, and they don't have AC, they should stay a bit longer and enjoy ours.  Mornings being semi-cool were designated pony time

I rode Sunny a couple of times, but since the extra hands were available and Mom was having such a good time riding Sunny, the last few mornings I tacked up Thunder and joined her.

Waiting with my dad while I finished getting Sunny ready.
At first I think the boys were a bit in awe of all the hands brushing and petting and fussing over them.  With three of us working they got lots of attention.  Which they thoroughly enjoyed.

I initially thought that since Thunder's been ponied so many miles beside Sunny, he'd want to just fall in and walk right along with him.  Not so.  He was fine with being solo right from the start. 
 We stayed at a walk, doing lots of bending and circles.

Yesterday morning we laid out some ground poles to walk over for something new to do.  Sunny's been-there-done-that, but Thunder stepped through gingerly at first.

He's still figuring things out - which is pretty clear in most of the pictures.  But he listens and stays focused on me, chomping away at the bit and doing a lot of slobbering, which is good.  I have him in a mid-weight copper-mouth eggbutt snaffle which seems to suit him.

We did have one "interesting" moment when he swatted at a fly on his chest and managed to get one of the running martingale straps in his mouth, but neither of us panicked, he stopped and I got off and readjusted

Sunny was quite pleased to be doing big circuits of the field, and my Mom was thrilled to be back on a horse.

It's been fabulous to have them here, and I'm so glad we got to play a bit at the end of their visit.  They say you can't pick your family, but I couldn't have asked for a better one!