Sunday, January 27, 2013

Knowing your limits

After my lesson on Thursday, Jen and I were chatting about a couple past friends and some of the girls currently in the barn.  Our talk centered around how each of these girls don't know their limits.  They want to ride something bigger, better, flashier, etc...then what they have or are currently capable of riding. They don't see their problems, and how that's affecting their horses. To their way of thinking it's never their problem; it's something wrong with the horse. Jen tends to be fairly conservative about what she'll have her students do/ride, but she has never hesitated to push me if and when I needed it.  And I've never felt as if she's putting me in a situation that I or my horses couldn't handle. I know I tend to underestimate my abilities and Jen pointed that out to me during our talk.

Friday night I had a banquet about two hours away and spent the night at a friend's house after.  We went out Saturday to ride her horse and stopped on the way to pick up some blankets she had at a training barn she had her horse at over the summer/fall.  While at the training barn, one of her friends was clearly upset over a bad lesson and Jess took her aside and talked to her for a bit while I watched some lessons. On the way to where Jess has her horse, we talked about what was troubling her friend.  Same thing that Jen and I talked about on Thursday; the friend wanted to be able to ride perfectly now, and was frustrated that it was taking her and her horse longer to get a concept that she thought it should.   Jess mentioned that the girl was a decent rider, but was very impatient and her horse wasn't the smartest or most athletic.

Now Jess has seen me at my worst with Phoenix, when we would get into huge fights, usually ending with my crying and wanting to sell him. I told her that it must be like old times, her talking me down and convincing me to give Phoenix another shot.  She replied that not only is Phoenix a much nicer horse than her friend's, but that I'm a better rider than her.  Me being me, I brushed it off, not trusting in my abilities. 

When we got to Jess's barn, she had me hop on Garth, her gelding, and hack him around.  She said he had been heavy on her hand, and not wanting to bend.  I looked at her bits, and chose a Waterford. It's a good bit for horses that lean on the rider's hand, but can be harsh if used by a hard handed rider.  Jess is pretty soft handed and she used to jump Garth in this bit.

After a quick lunge to get his bucks out, I got on and tried to work on some more dressage-y movements with Garth.  We tried some leg yields, shoulder in, and spiraling in and out at the walk and trot to loosen him up.  It wasn't great, but by the end he started to give and soften and Jess said he looked good.  She set up a crossrail and we trotted and cantered it both ways. To the left was awful, he really wanted to drift right.  Since it was the same problem I had with Buddy on Thursday, I felt confident in my ability to fix it.  I held a counter bend thru the turn and slowly let him straighten on the approach.  Better, but we were still slightly to the right of the center of the fence.

Jess had gone back into the barn to put away a horse she had been lunging and I reset the jump to a 2'6" vertical.  Jess has schooled courses up to 3'6" with Garth, so I know this fence wasn't going to be a problem for him. We cantered around and while our distance was pretty long, I didn't freak, just closed my leg and drove him forward.  No big deal.  Came around and did it a few more times and it was easy peasy.  Went to the left and had to focus on not letting him drift, but again it wasn't a big deal.

 As I was walking him out I was proud of myself for getting on a horse I've only ridden a couple of times years ago and jumping him like it was no problem.  A few years ago, I wouldn't have been able to do more than the crossrail.  I would have let my insecurities about my riding to cripple me.  Thinking back about what Jen and Jess had said, I'm staring to agree that I'm better than I think I am, and that I'm a rare rider....the one who doesn't think I'm better than I am and able to see and ask for help when needed. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Where did my pony go?

After our great ride on Saturday where I had a forward, willing pony our lesson last night was a but of a let down. I gave Bud Sunday and Monday off, as I had to work and do barn chores and had no energy left for him. Tuesday was an easy bareback hack ad Bud was forward and willing. Awesome! Wednesday he got lunged and my thought was that I would have a forward, ready-to-work Buddy on Thursday for our lesson.

Nope not even close. He was totally behind my leg, cranky, and crabby. We started over a large X at the trot to the left, working on counter bend in the turn then keeping him straight and on the track on our approach. We got a couple decent ones before we moved on.

Jen had me do a couple rollback turns to 4 single fences. The first two fences were awful then we found a bit of a motor. Our second attempt wasn't much better. He would get pissed every time I sat deep and asked him to go forward and when I popped him withy crop he actually bucked. We went to just schooling the big X to the second fence, a vertical till we got a turn we were happy with. I opted to take a more hunter turn, going out more and loosing the rollback. It made Buddy happy and at that point that's all I cared about.

From there Jen had me school a single oxer on a circle to the right. It was slightly uphill and 90% of the time I found a waiting stride that I wasn't comfortable with. Holding Bud when he's not forward always makes me feel like we won't make it over the fence and I usually chicken out. But we worked through it and I'm glad we did. I need to get comfortable with those situations, I know at some point at a show he's going to be backed off and I will have fences I'll need to hold him too. If I can't do it at home, no way will I be able to do it at a show!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Love my boys

After our walk on the western side Friday night, I originally wanted to do an easy flat school with Bud on Saturday.  The low wide oxer I set up earlier in the week was still up, and someone had added a cross rail.  The two jumps were sent on opposite diagonal lines, so you could school a figure 8.  They were calling my name, so we ended up jumping instead. 

Buddy was surprisingly good.  He marched forward right away and was not nearly as pissy about my left rein.  We didn't do a lot of flat work, as I could tell he was tired.  We did a couple warm up trot fences over the x, then I hopped off and raised it to a big X, about 2'6" in the middle.  I made sure to have a nice forward pace and tried to leave Buddy alone as much as I could.  He was great!  We ended up doing the two fences only about 3 times each before he got really tired, but they were 6 very nice fences.  And the best thing was we nailed our leads over the fences every time!  Since he has been so the past couple days he got today off.

Since Anna doesn't ride on Sunday, and I had given Bud the day off I hopped on Phoenix today.  He felt great!  We've stopped giving him bute and started him on turmeric root powder.  It's an anti-inflammatory and is supposed to work well on bony arthritis.  Considering it hasn't gotten warmer than 40* in the past two weeks, I was expecting Phoenix to feel pretty stiff. But nope, he was moving great.  We schooled leg yields and transitions.  Anna's been having some problems with them; nothing major just Phoenix needing a reminder. 

At the canter I did a little bit of lengthening and shortening as this is usually where he gets stuck.  It's harder for him to move out in the canter when he's sore.  Since he felt so good I threw in a couple lead changes.  He got them no problem!  I was expecting a buck or two, but got nice quiet changes.  We walked for a bit then I decided to pop him over the cavalletti.  Again, he trotted it calmly and gave the change if he landed on the wrong lead.  I only did the jump a couple times each way since he was being so good.  I'm so happy he's feeling back good and I think I'll try to school him over fences a couple times a month.

Love love love them!!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cow Pony

Last night my friend L and I took Buddy and her mare Dar to a 3 man ranch sorting.  For $20 we rode for 3hrs and were able to get 5 runs in with the cows and a wonderful home cooked meal!  We partnered up with two different women for our runs and managed to do pretty well.  The goal was the move the 10 cows in order from one pen to another in less than 2 and a half minutes. The 90x200 arena was divided into thirds; the far end and the middle were the two pens for the cows and the last third was where everyone waited to go.

When we first got there, we had about 10mins to warm up while the cows roamed around the arena.  Buddy immediately perked up and wanted to see the cows, but we were able to have a decent warm up with a little w-t-c each way. We watched a few other groups go and when we went in for our turn Buddy took off trotting down towards the end and the cows.  He was amped!  The first few runs went ok. Bud was pretty excited and wanted to keep chasing the cows so we had to have a discussion about what it means when I asked him to stop.  L's mare hasn't been on cows much but she's starting to figure out how to chase them and cut them out of the herd.

We took a break for dinner and let the horses rest for bit.  Dinner was pulled pork sandwiches, pasta salad, and an awesome blackberry cobbler. Seriously I would pay $20 just for the food!

When we got back on, the managers had put up a heater where everyone was waiting. It was hovering around 30* and it was very appreciated.  All the horses didn't seem to care about it and L's mare really loved standing next to it.  When we went back for our final couple rounds Dar didn't want to walk away from the heater. 

Pic of the heater shamelessly stolen from the farm's FB page.  The paint in the background is L's mare Dar.

Our final couple rounds went really well.  Buddy started really listening to me, and would lock on to the cow I wanted.  He was flying down the arena, but was tired enough at this point to stop when I asked.  I still think that next time I'll use a bigger bit.  I usually use a short shanked plain snaffle, and since I'm not real familiar with Western bits I'll ask Connie what she thinks would be good for him. I think they are doing cows almost every Friday and I would love to be able to go once a month.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


It's been freezing here for the past week.  Like the lows in the 20s and the highs in the 30s.  Over the weekend it didn't get above freezing either day.  Way to cold for me to ride!  I turned the ponies out in the indoor so they could at least move around a bit but couldn't convince myself to do much more. 

Monday I lunged both Bud and Zoe, and while Buddy was very good Zoe was very naughty. She took off bucking and spinning and ended up yanking the line out of my hand.  She ran around the arena then took of down the barn aisle before going into an empty stall.  Needless to say, she went back out and worked her little tail off!

Tonight one of the other girls had set up a couple cavalettis and I added a low wide oxer, about 2'3" by 3'.  Buddy was cranky during our flat work but once we started jumping he was great.  I think I'm going to have to work him a bit in the draw reins again to remind him that my left rein isn't evil.  He wants to brace and fight it no matter what.  I have a lesson with Jen next week so hopefully we can get some help. 

The first time over the oxer, I felt him really reach. He wasn't expecting how wide it was (compared to what we normally jump).  The next time thru he sat back on his haunches and powered over it.  Bud tends to have a flat jump; he's never been super scopey but our recent gymnastic work has gotten him to starting rounding over the fences more.  I had the oxer set up on a right to left diagonal (his harder way to get the flying change) and every time he landed on the left lead!  That's pretty rare for us.

Friday we are going to play with cows again and I'm hoping that it warms up so I won't freeze to death waiting for our turn.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The curious case of the open hay bales

Not much to report on the pony front.  It's been a killer week at work, big project, coworkers leaving early/not helping/me doing 90% of the work. I haven't had the energy to ride much, just a couple of quick bareback rides. 

My barn owners are on vacation, and have been since right after Christmas.  I was doing morning feeding last week, doing stalls, working the arenas, some night feedings, and will be doing mornings again next week.  I don't really mind the extra work (and really like working off most of my board); in fact I really like going out first thing and feeding in the morning.  When I was feeding last week, I noticed a few bales open in the stacks, in places I wouldn't open a bale.  I always climb up and push down from the top, not open in the middle of the stack.  Didn't think much of it at the time.

One of the other boarders, L, has been doing most of the pm feedings and did the am feedings this week. Tonight she noticed two open bales in the middle of a full stack, with flakes missing.  No one who knows anything about stacking hay would open a bale there.  L and I talked, and couldn't think of anyone in our barn who would do that. We feed mostly high quality timothy.  We have a few horses that get alfalfa and some get just a plain grass mix.

The two open bales with missing flakes.  That's about half way up the stack.

There's a barn next door that not nearly as nice as ours, that does mostly self care.  They have a high turn over rate of boarders.  We think that one of their boarders might be stealing our hay.  I called our barn owners, and they are going to talk to the owners of the other barn.  The wife is home all day and can easily watch the hay barn as it's directly across from their house. I'm also going to park Rick's truck as close to the hay barn doors as I can so no one can access it.  You can still access it from inside the barn, but it would a lot less convenient for someone to steal from.  Hopefully this stops our hay thief.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Lightbulb Moments

We had a great lesson last night.  Considering I really haven't done a lot of jumping in the past 6wks I wasn't expecting a lot.  Jen had us start by trotting a couple fences and we almost immediately ran into trouble.  The approach we took to one diagonal fence had us go through the one deep part of the arena.  Buddy would slow way down and when I tried to put leg on he would jump forward and rush the fence.  I was having to really hold him the last few strides and it was ugly.  Jen had me ride it on a circle and come in on a short approach.  First time thru we nailed it!

From there we went to canter a single on the outside, again trying to ride it on a circle.  I was really having to ride him forward and make him keep the bend.  It flowed well and it's a lot easier for me to see my distance from a shorter approach.  Both Jen and I agreed that for now I should ride like I'm on a circle to help me find the distance.

We ended with an outside line, big crossrail to oxer.  It was on the left, going up hill; our lest favorite line. Buddy was tired so I really had to push him forward.  The line was a forward 5 and Jen told me in no uncertain terms that I wasn't allowed to get a 6.  Again, she had me ride the first fence off a short, turning approach and drive him up to it.  As long as I did everything she said it worked! I had to keep my leg on down the line, but the 5 flowed well. We did have a couple times where I had to circle after the first fence because we either weren't forward enough or over bent.  I'm glad that I was able to see when we had problems and could fix them.  Who knew doing what your trainer said would work so well?!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year, New Tradition!

I've decided to start a new tradition: New Year's Day Gymnastics!  Yesterday the sun was shining, the footing in the outdoor was awesome, and I only had a half day at work so I had all afternoon at the barn to play.  I set up a simple gymnastic; a bounce to a one stride.  I set it vertical, vertical, oxer with a trot pole in front.  I've decided that for gymnastics its easier to start with a vertical with Buddy since he doesn't try over crossrails.  A vertical going in sets us up better for the rest of the line.

I started with the just the bounce and only had to do it a few times before Buddy felt good.  I put the third fence as just another vertical at first, but after a couple times thru made into the oxer.  The distances were a little tight.  I'm hoping that Buddy will start to get the concept of really sitting back on his hind end and I think he's slowly getting it. 

I got one of the other girls to video one of our last time thru. 
I was able to get a couple good still shots from the video.  I really like how fierce and focused Buddy looks.                                                                                                                                                         

After I rode, Anna got on Phoenix, and I convinced her to start with just an cross rail then do just the bounce.  She was pretty nervous but Phoenix handled it like a champ. The first time thru he seemed a little confused that there was a second fence and trotted over both.  The next time he figured it out and jumped both nicely.