Sunday, July 28, 2013

Making it Hard

For the past few days, Buddy has been making life hard.  Thursday Jen used him for a beginner lesson, the girl has only ridden maybe 3 times, and he kept trotting off with her.  Jen eventually put him on the lunge line and he calmed down.

Friday I went to get him and he was minus a shoe.  The other was missing a nail and loose so I pulled it the rest of the way off.  It was the first time I've ever pulled a shoe off myself, and boy do I have more respect for my farrier!  It took me about a half hour to work it off and I was pouring sweat by the end.  Luckily Buddy was due to get redone this week anyways so he'll only have a few days barefoot.

I was a little worried how ouchy he'd be because Saturday we were scheduled to ride in a cutting clinic. I've been to the barn where it was held before and knew they had really nice cushy footing.  It was the walking on the gravel/hard pasture that worried me.  I gave him a little preventative bute Friday night and Saturday morning and he was fine.

It's been six months since Bud's been on cows, so I figured he'd be pretty excited.  Wrong.  He perked up a bit when he first saw the cows but then promptly lost interest.  We started by practice moving the herd and then being "herd holders" for the person cutting.  Basically the herd holders keep the group of cows back while the cutter cuts their cow out and works it.  There are two herd holders, one in each corner of the short end of the arena.  Buddy and I were actually pretty good at holding the herd, we got compliments and didn't get yelled at as much as some of the real cow horse people.

At least he's cute, right?
Unfortunately Buddy's lack of interest in the cows killed us when it was our turn to cut.  He wouldn't focus on a cow and was dead to my leg.  We couldn't keep a cow separated from the herd and it was pretty frustrating.  The clinician called me off and said that Buddy was loosing confidence because he couldn't get a cow. He then said to go somewhere else and work with just one cow till we could get it. In the moment I was pretty hurt, no one likes being told their horse is loosing confidence and to be called out like that in front of the group was pretty humiliating.  I walked Bud around for a few minutes, then got off and went back to the trailer.

By this point I was trying my hardest to hold back the tears.  My barn owner who had come to watch came out to talk to me and said the clinician was wrong, that Buddy was just being incredibly lazy and wasn't loosing confidence.  He just couldn't be bothered to care. She also offered me her spurs that she had in the truck if I wanted to get back on him. I thought about it as I untacked and groomed him and she was right.  Buddy normally locks on to his cow and is pretty enthusiastic about moving them.  He just didn't care and wasn't paying attention.

One of the clinic organizers came out and talked to me saying they were sorry I had a bad go and offered to have me work one on one with a cow. She said she'd been in my place and she knows how hard it is to be called out in a group setting. I stared getting teary eyed again and that set her off and the two of hugged and cried it out.  I got Bud tacked up again, put on the spurs, and headed back to the arena. 

There were only two cows in the arena this time and we worked on just following one and moving with it.  Buddy woke up after a couple jabs with the spurs and was his normal cowy self.  He was locking onto the cow and moving with it.  The clinician was having me go slow and emphasize moving Buddy's shoulders when the cow moved.  At one point he told me to move Bud's shoulders away from the cow, and thanks to the spurs, Buddy did almost a 180 spin.  That got everyone laughing and saying that when he wakes up he could move.  It ended on a good note, I felt that I had redeemed us, and that Buddy at least remembered how to work cow.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Schooling the School Master

Even though it was 95* last night, I finally got my lesson on our barn's school master Tia.  The lesson was supposed to be focused on me and us jumping bigger fences, but didn't go quite as planned.  It was still a great lesson and hopefully in a couple weeks we'll do it again.

Tia is a 14yr old, 16.3 hand Oldenburg/TB hunter mare that came from a big H/J barn outside Portland.  From what we were told, she won a lot in the 3' but couldn't stay sound for the 3'6".  It sounds like she was jumped too much, too young, and now had lameness issues.  She has had at least one foal but we were told she can't get pregnant/hold the pregnancy anymore.  The big barn donated her for a hefty tax write off to the OSU Vet School to use as a research/testing horse but OSU felt like she could still be used, as long as her lameness was managed correctly. She bounced around to a couple different places before coming to our barn as a lesson horse.  She'll never pass a pre-purchase, needs pads on her front feet, joint supplements, and the occasional bute after hard work but is as push button, point and shoot as you get.

Tia and one of her leasees
I've notice over the past couple weeks that Tia's been lacking a lot of top line muscle, so I warmed her up for our lesson in draw reins.  She tends to trick her leasees into thinking she round, and in frame because she'll put her head down but really she's false framing.  It takes a lot of leg, and spur, to get her really round and soft, and she'll do this hoppy/head toss thing to show her displeasure with it.  As soon as I put the draw reins on she gave up the fight and settled into a nice frame.  I still had to use more leg than normal, but I wasn't fighting her and could focus on her bending/falling in issues.  Jen had me spiral in and out in circles to loosen her up as well as making her march out in both the trot and canter.

She tends to have a nice rhythm in the canter, and because of that people don't push her up as much as they should.  She's pretty long backed, and tends to get strung out because she isn't using her body.  In our warm up fences Jen was having me focus on getting a forward pace and marching down the lines.  It was hard for me since she has a much bigger stride than Buddy to adjust my eye, but Tia's such a good girl she'll jump from anywhere.

Good example of how she jumps when left to her own devices.  Long, hollow, and strung out
We focused most of the lesson on a single outside fence set about half way up the long side.  Tia's main issues is that she really over bends right and drifts left.  I had to counter bend her in the corners going right and think of having a strong wall on the left side with my leg.  It went pretty well then we switched to the left.  Her issue going left is that she falls way in and motorcycles around the turn.  We took a couple circles to fix that but then ran into the problem of too much bend and drifting right.

Jen had me think about what I needed to do (inside left leg to hold her up in the turn, then outside right leg to prevent her from drifting) when I had an epiphany like Jen at Cob Jockey did.  I was using too much left leg after the turn and no matter how much I pushed with my right leg, she wasn't going to listen to it.  As soon as I thought about relaxing my left leg after the turn we found a beautiful, straight line to the fence.  Tia even landed on the left lead (she likes to switch to the right) and cantered off nice and quietly.  I had to go do it again to make sure it wasn't good luck and while the second time wasn't quite as good as the first it was still miles better than normal.  Jen said that for Tia, that's a huge accomplishment and something she needs a lot of work on.  I'm going to try and work her a bit on my own so that by the time my next lesson on her comes we can move on and focus on me instead of me fixing her!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Trail Adventures

I hauled out with my barn owners and K and A this morning to the western trainer's place about 30 mins from us to go trail riding.  The trainer has access to 200+ acres in the Cascade foothills and does a lot of trail riding.  Everyone else has gone before, but it never worked for me to take Bud till today. I wisely decided it would be more comfy to take the western saddle and boy was I glad!
They have this really nice little carry bags to put over your saddle horn to carry water.

We started off on a gravel road going up, up, up. Buddy was pretty forward and wanted to be in the lead the whole way.  Normally he tends to be the slow poke in the back of the group.  I was fine with leading, other than not knowing where we were going.
 Sandy, the trainer, has made little detours off the road to practice going up and down banks and over logs so we did some of that.  Buddy was too interested in everything but his feet and after a couple stumbles we had a little discussion about slowing down and paying attention.  He got better as we went along, probably because everything kept getting steeper and steeper and he was getting tired.
We came to one section where we veered off the road and went up this incredibly steep hill.  The path was like a goat track, along the rock, straight up the hill.  I put Bud in the middle of the pack, gave him his head, and grabbed the saddle horn.  I think I remembered saying "Oh, shit" about half way up when I felt Bud slip a bit and gave him a big kick. He powered up the rest of it and was breathing hard when we got to the top.  Both him and I didn't expect that much hard work today! There was no way I could have made it up that hill in my jump saddle.
We rode around the top of the hill a bit, then came down a different path that wasn't nearly as steep. It still had me leaning way back, and grabbing the back of my saddle with one hand though! We had been riding for about an hour at this point and Buddy was still going strong and had figured out we were headed back "home".  He got way out in front of the group so we stopped a couple times to let them catch up.  He got pissed about waiting so we did some leg yielding and turn on the haunches to work some energy out.
Going in
When we got back to the main road we turned the opposite direction of the barn and went towards the Santiam River.  Buddy took a look at it, sniffed the water, then marched right in.  We mostly walked along the shallow bank, but also went into some pretty deep water.  It was up to his belly, and the bottom of my boots were getting wet.  Bud was having a blast and I was pretty much letting him go wherever.  I guess there's a spot a little further up that the horses can actually swim in, so next time we're going to try that.
Of course going back from the river, the trainer wanted up to go up one last pretty steep hill instead of the easy slope we rode down on.  To me it looked like a giant wall of grass, but again there was a small path up. Buddy made it half way up then decided it was too much work and cantered the rest of the way.  Again, I gave him his head and grabbed the saddle horn. We rode for about two hours in total, and both Bud and I were exhausted when we got back to trainer's barn.
A and her pony up the last hill

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Good Times All Around

Despite the tension/drama in the barn after 4H Fair, both Anna and I had great lessons yesterday.  Anna's still nervous about cantering/jumping Phoenix since she was bucked off a few months ago but is slowly making progress.  They worked on transitions, trot poles, and finding a rhythm. Jen was having Anna count out loud while cantering around and relaxing into him.  It worked because by the end of the lesson Anna was cantering cross rails!! 

I love how soft and relaxed her hand is!

Buddy was convinced he shouldn't have to work for my lesson and was pretty lazy during our warm up.  We had to do the same 3 stride line from last week, but they jumps were tiny.  Bud put no effort into them and I was chasing him down the line. We almost took out one of the barn cats too, she kept walking around the jumps and at one point was winding herself around Buddy's legs as I stopped to talk to Jen.
His not impressed face

We then worked on a triple Jen had had me set up; a two to a two.  We started with the first two fences and once we got that Jen added the third.  Again, Buddy lacked motivation coming into the line but it still flowed really well.  Jen had me take a single fence before going to the line to help with our rhythm but I don't think it really did that much good.

Jen took some video with her phone, and of course that time Buddy decided to forget about his lead changes.  We went back and fixed them then called it quits.
We're going to try again to do a lesson on the school horse mare next week since the farrier wasn't able to get out to do her feet in time.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Good Ol' 4H Fair (Or Damn Horse Show Drama)

Spent the last three days helping the girls from our barn at 4H Fair.  I'm pretty sure I'm more tired than they are.  At least they didn't have to deal with the dreaded horse show moms and associated drama.  I spent most of the time helping one girl in particular (A, aged 12) as her 4H leader (L) can't stand her or her grandmother (K, who is a wonderfully sweet and kind woman) and couldn't be bothered to do more than grunt at A.

K and A live about a mile from our barn, and haul in/use our lesson horses for lessons.  K just wants to trail ride and have fun, but A is 12 and fearless.  She's been taking weekly lessons from Jen and does wonderful.  She has an adorable Welsh pony, Owen, and does a little bit of everything with him.  This is her first year in 4H.

The 4H club at our barn was started last year by L,a boarder who now has 3 horses for her and her daughter. They mostly ride western, with some "English" thrown in. They were in a different club, but L felt like her daughter wasn't getting enough attention and started her own.  L can be your typical show mom; rude, insensitive, and insisting that her way is the best and her daughter is always right.  For the most part I tend to ignore L and let most of what she says roll off my back. 

L has been going through a divorce for the past six months, and her priorities have majorly shifted.  She started cancelling 4H meetings/rides to go hang out at the bars and meet guys. Her daughter stopped riding for a few moths and you could tell that both of them had lost the will for 4H.  But the show must go on and they pulled it together for fair.

Since L can't stand K (I'm not sure why, except jealousy that K has $$ while L doesn't) she told me that I was in charge of K and A for fair.  Fine by me as I get along really well with both of them.  A has some issues, but as long as you focus her and give her something to do she's a great kid.  Very smart, very intuitive and a great rider.  They got blues in showmanship, trail, and English eq with a red in western eq.

 A was pretty upset about the red and was crying. Her grandmother and I got her calmed down and while she was untacking her pony L walks up and starts in about what she did wrong.  A had very obviously been crying, puffy/red eyes, runny nose, and here's her "leader" verbally beating up on her.  It took everything I had to not loose it at L.  After she walked away, A lost it again and we had to calm her down.

L couldn't be bothered to congratulate A on her blues, and actually slept through one or two of A's classes. Since there were only 2 girls from our club competing at fair (Anna didn't take Phoenix since she didn't feel ready) it wasn't that hard to watch both of them go.  L was incredibly rude and tended to ignore both K and A for most of the 3 days, unless they could do something for her.  K had brought her very nice motor home to use as a base, cooked breakfast, lunch, and a dinner for everyone, and bought snacks and drinks.  I never heard a "thank you", or "can I help with anything" from L.

I've reached my limit with L and told K and A that I will help fix things for next year as L told me that she needs to find a way to "get rid of K and A".  Unfortunately there isn't another 4H group close by, so that leaves me the choice of trying to perform a coup and take over the group or start my own.  My barn owner and K support my decision either way. L normally helps with chores to offset her board but has (shockingly) been slacking lately and pissed off the BO.  I'm going to let everything sit for a while then decide what to do. 

Why do horses involve so much drama?!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Time Off All Around

After my marathon 12 days at work, I'm off for 9 days!  I will be helping out at the 4H fair Mon-Wed but sleeping in yesterday and today was glorious!  Add in lots of pony time and I'm already feeling back to normal.

I managed to make my lesson on Thursday.  Buddy has had basically a week and half off with just a couple quick rides after our last show.  He felt lazy warming up, but was great when we started jumping.  We've moved the jumps out to the grass field and it's so nice to have so much space to ride in.  There's a couple slick spots, even with studs, but we didn't push it or try to take any crazy tight turns.  The few little issues we had were minor and easily fixed; like closing my hip angle to encourage him down the line, or committing to a straight line when taking another fence on an angle.

Bud will probably get some easy rides this week, depending on what the fair schedule is like. I am going to take a lesson on Friday, probably on one of the school horses who I can jump up a bit.  Jen suggested riding her since she's so push button and I can focus on me over the big 3'+ fences and not worry.  The only catch is that the mare lost the pads on her shoes but the farrier is supposed to come on Wednesday to fix that.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The End Is Insight

Today is day 11 of 12 in a row for me at work...and most of those days have been 8+ hrs. Needless to say my pony time has been greatly reduced. Hopefully I'll get done in time today for an afternoon lesson. 

I did take the boys out on Sunday. I wanted to play with both of them, but didn't have the energy to ride two. So I ponied Phoenix off of Buddy in the grass field. I did opt to use the western saddle but they were great. We even did some trotting around the field. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

8yrs and Counting

Eight years ago I rode Phoenix for the first time. He had been dropped off at my old barn and was in for training to be sold. He was terrified of people on his right side, hasn't been worked much in 4yrs, and moved totally sideways. It took me less than a month to fall in love. 

A pic of every year from 2005-2013. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Compliment of Sorts

Not much has been going on since the show.  It's been super hot, I've been working tons, and Buddy needs some time off.  We did go for a mini trail ride today with my barn owners and one of their friends to check the black berry bushes at the far end of the field.  They're not ready yet.

A few months back at the Arbor Grove show a former coworker of my BO's was there and saw the farm truck that I had hauled with. She rides with one of the bigger "A" circuit barns in the area and was the former owner of one of the lesson horses at our barn.  She talked with a couple of the girls from our barn for a bit but didn't talk to me.  I guess their barn is looking for intermediate lesson horses and she and the trainer saw Buddy and liked him.  She emailed my BO and asked about him, if he would be available for a lease as a lesson horse for them.  Obviously the answer is no, but I think it's kinda cool that they liked him.  They have a bit of a snobby reputation and I'm taking it as compliment that they want him.