Saturday, January 31, 2015

Hola's 4th ride of 2015

Yeah okay so maybe trotting yesterday wasn't the best idea. Hola stands at just 14HH, however, yesterday, I can pretty confidently say her back was sitting at about 14.3HH. She was one pissed off little filly. I figured I could either get off and put her to work (the pussy option) or I could give her supreme shit and then carry on like she had been a perfect angel the whole time (the cowgirl up option). Being that there were no men standing in the peanut gallery, the pussy option sounded pretty tempting. But I had myself to answer to so i took option two and bent her around and asked her to disengage her hip, pushed her off and then did the same the other way. I yelled at her to "quuuuuuit it!" And then forced myself to go all soft and calm and asked her to walk on. For a few steps she still felt ready to  cause trouble but then she took a deep breath, relaxed her back and walked forward calmly. We circled some pylons and I bent her to a stop (softly) both ways. I then sat quietly on her for a few minutes before working on having her give vertically and laterally. I even got her to back up a step. All in all it was a great ride, about 15 minutes long. I took a pic of our shadow. I have taken photos of the shadow cast by my horses and me for as long as I can remember. I was kind of excited to get the first of me on Hola. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Hola's 2nd & 3rd Ride of 2015

On Tuesday I got on Hola for about five minutes. Such a short ride and yet we made a significant step forward... "forward" being the operative word. I introduced Hola to the crop before getting on to make sure she wasn't started by it's appearance. Ha! To Hola, that stick meant absolutely nothing except for maybe the mild amusement of having something new to smell. I wiggled it around some and then scratched her body with it but she really could care less. I say this because I really don't think that the crop was what made a difference when I got on as she didn't know what it could do and she didn't care that I had it in my hand (had no association with it). So I got on her and asked her to walk on. And she WALKED ON.  Hola has been walking but she has lacked forward motion because she constantly feels like she is still trying to figure out how to balance my weight, she just doesn't stride out. But from the minute she stepped away from the step stool she really just moved out like I wasn't even up on her back. I did disengaged her hip to stop first right then left and guided her left and right a time or two and then had her walk out for maybe a minute more. I did tap the saddle gently with the crop a few times when I asked her to go forward again but more to just get her used to the idea of that crop. My goal for the day had been met in the first minute of the ride so I decided to quit and drop her saddle off in the middle of the arena.

On Thursday I accidently got Hola a little rattled before getting on. I was waiting for a friend to come out to the barn so that I could ride (I still am not comfortable getting on when no one is outside) so I started up with Monster but I guess I was in a hurry and I didn't give her enough time to get used the idea before winging under the lead. That horse jumped from spot to another, about ten feet away, in the blink of an eye. "Why am I getting on this creature?", I thought. But before I could get her in a more relaxed state of mind my friend J came out and I needed to get started (I told him I needed ten minutes of his time, max). So I hop on. And Hola walks off with more energy than even the day before. But she dropped her head a little and kind of said "Okay, this I am cool with". I had set up some cones to give me something to focus on in my turns which really helped. She guides really lightly (even though she stalls sometimes mid turn). About three minutes in to my ride another man (a friends husband) came out to the barn. His presence, combined with that of the young man watching me gave me this sudden surge of bravado! Weaving between some pylons didnt seem too impressive. I needed to show these boys that I had some cojones! So I thought... let's see if I can push Hola up to a trot. So I did!.... for about a stride and half. Hola was really uncertain. She seemed to say "Ah... hell no! I cant trot with your fat ass up there!" but she tried so I let her quit. I asked again and she went three strides before quitting. She was a little pissy about it but she tried and didn't throw in any monkey business so I decided to quit while I was ahead.

Not bad. Not bad at all for our third ride back!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Hola's First Ride of 2015

Yesterday I got on Hola for the first time in 2015!

In August of last year I put a solid 20 days of ground work on Hola and then in October I put 15 very short, very simple rides on her with my last ride being November 1st.

Last week I started up doing ground work with Hola again including sacking her out with the terrifying "MONSTER" (flag). After our ground work session yesterday I decided that she was in the perfect frame of  mind for her first ride back. I put on my helmet and stepped on her. She stood quietly and was completely unconcerned. She remembered how to guide left and guide right but as like in our last ride, she still lacks impulsion which I believe has to do with a lack of confidence in balancing my weight. I am going to have to start using a bat (very very lightly) to help her understand that when I ask her to move forward she needs to move out (the bat so that I dont have to wear out my "go" button before it is even installed) but I am hoping I might get ponied on her a few more times to help her gain confidence in moving out before we work on installing that "go" button.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


Schooooools innnnnn for WIN-TA *sung to the tune of "Schools out for Summer" Yah! Schoooooools innnnn for WIN-TER!

Poor Hola. Someday she is going to get a real job and boy oh boy, will that ever be a slap of cruel reality.

On Tuesday I cut a piece of tarp from the bottom of a big grain tote and sewed it on to a dressage whip with baling twine. When I picked it up and gave it a shake the white flap of textile crinkled, crackled and twitched to life in my hand. In that moment, "MONSTER" was born. (MONSTER is fuckin' frightening his name can only by written in cap locks!!!)

On Wednesday Hola met MONSTER for the first time. The rest of the horses on the farm also got an eye full of the flapping, crackling, crinkling, waggling MONSTER and did their best River Dance impersonations at the far side of the field while carefully keeping both eyes on the offending flapper and shamelessly abandoning Hola to her sad but inevitable fate. Bastards.

On Thursday Monster made another appearance. This time Hola's friends quickly decided that they were safe enough at the far side of the fence and settled in for some afternoon entertainment. After twenty minutes of having MONSTER flap about like some demented pigeon Hola decided that animated bit of fabric may not, in fact, be attempting murder upon her person. Thus MONSTER became Monster. With this revelations the show became much less entertaining and the Peanut Gallery dispersed which allowed Miss Hola to focus on the task at hand. By the end of session two monster had impressed Hola with the notion that if she stands still and/or walks forward calmly, the flapping, waggling, crinkling monstrosity of a tarp will also become quiet. She looked at me as if to say, "Its like, magic! If I stop, it stops!"

On Saturday monster and Hola came to a truce of sorts. She allowed him to ride her back, touch her legs, and even (briefly) wiggle along her tummy. Like a shy young woman on a date with an aggressively persistent and overly feely man, Hola submitted unhappily to the contact. Tomorrow morning Hola will once again come up against monster but I believe that their relationship may have come to a timely end by Monday. Once Hola's fear has been overcome I will create a new Frankenstein to rouse the rebel in my sweet filly. Just call me Victor!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy Happy Joy Joy

This year my goal is to be less sarcastic and less pessimistic...

Yah right, like I'm totally not going to screw that up right away.


Get it? ha. ha.

Happy Happy Joy Joy in the New Year to each and every one of you.

My New Years goal:

Drink water and peppermint tea.

Do Yoga.


Cut out all of the sugar I use in my tea.

On the Horse Front:

I want to cut on Abby.

And Hola is going to get broke broke. Not green broke. Broke broke.

Now the big question is... am I going to get that job done myself, am I going to get it done while in a lesson program or am I going to send her to be trained by someone else.

The first option is affordable but scary as shit. This filly is so freakin fast footed I am guaranteed to get dumped on my ass at least once... or twice. Or god knows how many times.

The second option is actually the least affordable on a per hour basis and the longest time wise. A lesson will cost me $50+ an hour and I will only be able to take one or two a week.

The third option would be a no brainer if I had a trainer that really fit the bill... but I don't... and if I were prepared to spend $3000 on training, which I'm not.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

One Year with Abby

Abby, my dear sweet girl, is slowly but surely becoming my horse and this week marks our first year together as partners....kind of....

Abby has been my horse on paper for just a month shy of seven years. Seven years!!! Whoa!! I just did the math. I cant believe I have owned her for that long and yet we have only just begun our journey together. Over the past few months I have been riding Abby fairly consistently and actually taking her out for a few lessons and some sessions on the flag. Up until September 1st I was still considering whether or not I would keep her and had not really committed to her being my horse. Don't get me wrong, I did NOT want to sell Abby, not for a second, but I had sworn that I was going to get down to one horse (I had three) and selling Hola was not an option. Hola is my pet, my baby, my love, my.... my horse. Abby is an absolutely AMAZING horse but she was not my pet. She was my reiner. A horse I invested in (financially not emotionally). Don't get me wrong, Abby is impossible not to love. She is the cutest damn mare, so funny and sweet but I hadn't ever had her at home where I could spend the time with her to become truly attached, at least not to anywhere near the degree to which I am attached to Hola. So I kept myself just a little aloof from her while I was still undecided. I had to either lease her, sell her, breed her, or keep her. Or I could lease, sell, breed or keep Hola. One or the other. Not both. I promised myself that I would make a decision by September 1st and stick with it. On September 1st I found myself unable to chose. Hola, my heart. Or Abby, my dreams. It was impossible. So I broke my promise and my rule and kept them both.

From that day on I opened my heart to Abby and I started riding her like she was my new partner. We are really starting to develop a partnership. She has helped me find confidence in my ability to ride. Riding a finished horse (or a least a horse that was finished and is still really damn broke if a little rusty) is so freakin' cool. And Abby on a flag is the coolest thing ever. She is so loaded with cow she just buzzes. My goal for the new year is to get her going on cows and then hopefully cut or do some reined cow horse in the Spring/Fall.

I am so blessed to have Abby and blessed again to have her daughter, Hola. I can live my dreams through them but I also get to go to the barn every day and spend time with two mares who are so full of love, good sense, kindness and oodles of goof-ball antics.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Ride #14- First Ride Off Farm

On Thursday night L and I hauled all the horses to ride at a local indoor arena... and when I say "all the horses" that includes Hola! While I've hauled Hola out quite a bit it has been a while and I knew she would be jazzed. The idea of getting on Hola in a big arena and in a new place scared the living bageezus out of me so I lied to myself, (a really helpful tool that is- being able to lie to yourself). I told my cowardly chicken shit brain that I was just going to pony her off of Abby and that way she would be familiar with the arena the next time I hauled out. Ha! I'm so gullible.

There is a big tie rail inside the cover-all (but just outside the arena) so, as it was raining, we hauled our tack inside and tied the horses to the rail. Hola was JACKED. It is so nice to have a steady-eddie horse to bring along, Abby just cocked a hip and ignored her daughter's bug eyed pacing. I figured that was a good approach so I did the same, just tacked her up like it was no biggie. L then took Abby and Ella in to the arena (which is behind a tall wall). Well, Hola went from restless and worried to full panicked. So I just stood in one spot and moved her feet around every time she tried to look over the wall. After five minutes she was a bit more settled but still far from relaxed however, I needed to get in and take Abby from L so that she could get riding so I had didn't get her as settled as I would have liked. Ideally I would have been able to just leave her tied while I rode but this place had no ties inside the arena (only outside the wall where I couldn't see her). I tried not to let Hola rest too long beside Abby when we went in (less relief at being with the other horses). I quickly got up and started trotting circles. Hola didn't like it much when I put her on the outside of the circle and long trotted Abs. LOL. Working that hard was not in her repertoire. So being the evil woman that I am we kept at it until she looked too tired to be pissy.

After our good work I spent quite a while standing and walking around (on Abs, ponying Hola) talking to L. When L was done riding I lunged Hola for a minute to get her mind on me and off of being stuck like glue to her mom. On the lunge Hola went sooooo soft and light. I just love watching that horse move. The upside was that the time ponying had made her much more confident and relaxed, the bad side was that she had aired up and found a second wind, so she wasn't not tuckered out at all. Oh boy. I walked her around and checked her cinch. I went to mount. Just then, somewhere nearby, firecrackers went off. Awesome. She raised her head and went bug-eyed but stood solid. I waited a few minutes till her eye went back in to her head and then got on. She stood. And didn't so much as turn a hair at the idea that I was on her. We stood for a few minutes, I bent her around left and right and then I asked her to walk off.. and found that while she didn't much care that I was on her but she did very much care about walking away from the other horses. I had to really think then about what I wanted to achieve. My goal was to get her to move out on good footing in a new place and to stay relaxed. So, I asked L to get on Abby and walk up beside me. Rather than have her pony me I just asked L to walk ahead of us. Sure enough Hola followed. She really stretched out and within a minute I was able to ask her to walk up and past Abby. So long as Abby stayed within fifteen feet or so she guided and moved out beautifully. No matter how far i got from Abby I was able to bend her to a stop and have her stand. On one hand this felt like a cop out as didnt have complete control. I wasn't comfortable with the idea that half of her mind was still stuck to Abby.... however, when I looked at the picture as a whole I realized that I had set us up to have her glued to the other horses the entire time and that asking her to move away was far beyond where we were at in her training. I had my horse moving out, guiding, stopping and standing still. I didn't have 100 percent of her mind. But she was confident, relaxed and pretty soft. In that respect I couldnt say the night was a complete failure... but it reminded that I need really think and plan ahead. I was so stuck on whether or not I had the nuts to get on Hola, that I didn't stop to think about whether I should have gotten on Hola. If I had stopped to think I would have easily been able to predict what would happen, (that she would be unhappy about leaving the other horses).

I knew going in that I was not going to be perfect... or anywhere close to it. Hola could do much better. Because I'm a total amateur, I cant afford to make the mistakes that are so foreseeable. I am going to be making enough mistakes that I cant see or avoid. I am going to have to be better next time.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hola Doctoring and Rides 11, 12 & 13

Last weekend was Mane Event (horse expo). I was able to watch almost all of the Sandy Collier clinics (awesome!) but only a little bit of the colt starting challenge which was disappointing because Dale Clearwater had a long record of winning these type challenges and I really wanted to see him in action. I also had a friend riding in the Dee Butterfield barrel racing clinic and wanted to watch her and on top of that another friend was looking for a saddle and so I missed most of the day Sunday helping her try a saddle. All in all I found Mane Event as inspiring as ever and I was really keen to get back to work on Hola on Monday (her fetlock is all healed up).

So Monday afternoon I tacked Hola and decided to put some trust in her and not give her a work before getting on. I really wanted to know how she was going to react to being ridden again after a week off. I thought that if I got on her and she felt squiggly I would just get off and lunge her out. I also decided to go ahead and throw a snaffle in her mouth. I've asked her to pack a snaffle a handful of times before but never under saddle. I started by asking her from the ground to give both ways. Unfortunately, the right rein snagged up on the breast collar attachment and she had gotten her face bumped really hard when I released that side. I was really choked that I had let something like that happen, you only get one chance to get it done right the first time and she was really worried on that side after that painful bump. I decided to work on it once in the saddle so that I could make sure that rein didn't get snagged again. I stepped up on her and she stood quietly. I asked her to walk off and she walked off quietly. I asked her to guide to the left and she went. But then I asked for the right and her feet got stuck and she braced up. Dammit! So I went to work on her having give her face to the right and stuck with it until she relaxed. I thought that I had only been on her for five minutes but in fact that was our longest ride to date (ten minutes! lol) Aaaaand, I got on her in the gravel paddock! (up until now I have avoided it as it is the hardest place on the farm to land). I was really happy that she was really relaxed about walking out. It was a good ride but...

I still worry about whether I'm going to slow. Every time I get on her I have an objective that is slightly different than the time before and she is progressing... so I cant be totally off track, but I have 13 rides on her (most less than five minutes long) and we are at the same place that most people get in one ride. I have all the time in the world but I also want to challenge Hola and I know that my biggest fault to date has been not instilling in her a desire to work and she thinks her life is pretty damn easy. She really can get a pissy attitude about things and I just hate that.... but if I get after even a little bit that "Yes, Ma'am" attitude is right there, I just have to demand that she be better and then stay consistent about it and I have to start challenging her more.

On Tuesday I had a friend come with me to the barn. It was raining hard and there was a real bite in the air so we had brought some tea with us and planned on having a little visit in the barn after saying hi to the horses. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to work with Hola and so tacked her up, put the snaffle in her mouth, tied off the reins loose and parked her in the barn isle. The goal was for her to stand patiently while I visited. Ha! She was happy to stand quietly... she just wanted to be sucked up to my side, not standing eight feet away. We sat for a good half hour and I kept just getting up and putting her back to where I left her. Because she has had so much time tied to the wall I expected her to give up and go to sleep but she didn't, she insisted on being right there in the middle our conversation. What can I say, she is social butterfly. She was all tacked up and I had my friends eyes there for safety so I had to get on if for only a minute. The rain was stinging cold, the wind was up and there was water all over the paddock. Not a recipe for success. I stepped on her and she stood but when I walked her out I could feel her back was tight and she was a little jazzed about walking through the puddle. I bent her off both ways and did a few loops but she was eye balling the puddles and I knew I was asking for trouble so I hopped off and set her to work. My saddle got soaking wet but she was trotting through the puddles when we were finished. I didn't get back on (didn't want a wet ass!) but I felt like we accomplished something for the day.

Yesterday, Wednesday, I ponied Hola off of Abby in the hay field rather than lunge her... or at least that was the plan. Apparently Hola has decided that her mom is a pushover. I, however, am not. Unfortunately, I didnt get her going as well as I would have liked on the pony line as I ran out of time, (I had my DB coming to barn to be my safety). I threw Abby in her stall and took Hola out to the paddock for a talk. Five minutes later she was in a much better frame of mind. I had her disengaging her hip for a one rein stop (on the ground) and then I got on her back in a rope halter and did the same thing. She went beautifully. A successful five minute ride.

Oh! I forgot to mention... During the week and half that Hola was not being ridden (due to an infection from a cut to her hind fetlock) I tried to set a high standard for her behavior during doctoring as to keep moving forward in our overall training. I expected her to stand quietly for a ten minute cold hose (twice a day for the first 4 days and then once day thereafter) and to stand parked (not eating or tied) while I cleaned and wrapped her leg. By the end of the week I was really happy with how patiently she stood and I felt good about not wasting our time "off".

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Ride #10 & Ouchie

On Wednesday I happened to be at the barn when another boarder was there and so was able to get on Hola briefly while she was lunging her horse (I don't wan to ride Hola while alone on the farm). I decided to try this old light (not high quality) saddle L. has had hanging around the barn forever. I got on her just inside the round pen and the second I sat down in that saddle I wanted to get right back off. It SUCKED! I felt like I was sitting three inches off her back, my feet were behind my hips, the stirrups were slippery and I was being pitched forward. It was awful. I didn't get off. I instead asked her to step forward and out of the round pen. We walked two large circles of the small field outside the round pen (short grass). I didn't guide her a lot as was pretty impressed that she was walking forward so freely and felt so balanced. It was our first alone ride outside the round pen. The saddle sucked. My horse rocked!

On Thursday night I took Abby out to work the flag. My horse rocked! She is super cowy. More on that another day. That night we got home late and so I barely spared a glace at Hola when I brought her in from the field. On Friday afternoon I grabbed her from the field again and brought her in to tack. When I went to pick her back left I noticed her leg was swollen from fetlock to hock. I took her out and cold hosed it for ten minutes and found that what I thought was mud on the inside of her fetlock was a crusty wound. I wrapped it with a wet warm pad and left it for ten minutes then gave it a wash and found an 2" cut that was clearly a day or so old and clearly infected. She was sound but in no shape to ride. The next morning I picked up some antibiotics from the vet. This evening the swelling is almost entirely subsided. I am hoping that by Wednesday I will be able to get back in the saddle.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Ride 9- *YAWN*

I have been sitting on the sofa sick for three days. I am DONE with being laid up so I hauled my sorry carcass down to the barn and saddled Hola. I put her on the lunge line and discovered that I may have made a bit of a mistake... I gave her three days to think about the ass kicking she received on our last work. While I appreciated her "Yes, Ma'am!" attitude, I was a wee bit nervous about her over sensitivity to any kind of pressure. I had enlisted my Mom to come stand as my safety and so didn't have as much time to get her relaxed as I would have liked. I spent a good amount of time hopping around beside her and mounted and dismounted twice before really sitting down on her but apparently I had no cause to worry as she relaxed nicely once I was mounted. Once again I found myself in that bloody round pen with the shitty footing but we did manage to make a little circuit and the second time around she stopped. I asked her to walk on but she wouldn't and she seemed to be thinking about something... You know how babies get a look of concentration on their faces when they are filling a diaper? Yah well, Hola moved her bowels for the first time while mounted. I hadn't thought of that as being an event but it clearly was in her mind. She gave a big sigh, yawned once and then really relaxed.

Another short circuit around the pen and off she went yawning again...and yawning... and yawning. In my experience Hola yawns when she accepts and processes a lesson. I have noticed this as her "tell" since she was a yearling... I just hope I am not being naive in taking all that yawning as a sign. She is such a funny duck!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Hola- Rides 7 & 8

I picked up a nasty cold from my sister over the weekend but I was determined to keep on track and so went to the barn Tuesday evening with the goal to at least get on her even if for just a minute. I am just so pleased that when I step up on Hola she seems happy, relaxed and just totally comfortable with the idea. My DB came to watch and so I sat on her and talked to him for a good three minutes or so and stroked her neck.We were back in the round pen and the footing is just not ideal so I didn't bother asking her to do much besides move forward (even a few steps) when asked and to follow the inside rein a few times. I sat on her for another few minutes while talking to DB and she dropped one hip and stood relaxed. One day Hola is going to discover that an actual ride involves working... and they generally last more than three minutes. What a rude awakening that is going to be!

On Wednesday morning I had the farrier out and pulled Abby's shoes. She has been shod since Jan  of this year and so I just about have a whole new foot (since I got her home in November 2013) and want to try her barefoot for the winter but needed to give her time to acclimate before the ground freezes so they came off. By the time I finished with the farrier and cleaned up I was just physically wiped and feeling feverish.

Thursday night (tonight) I dragged my sorry ass to the barn and wanted nothing more than to just get on Abs and go for a nice quiet walk in the field. I felt like a zombie. Instead I went to the field and got Hola. *pout* I didn't have the mind to ride but I could saddle her, lunge and then maybe take her for a walk and then, once I had done my duty, I could maybe jump on Abs bareback for a few minutes and go for a nice little wander in the hay field. Hola had other plans. I brought her in from the pasture and parked her in the barn isle to tack. She has been a little bit cranky when I go to cinch her and I have even had to bop her a few times for turning and nosing me when I am doing up the cinch. I don't crank on her and have been more than considerate when cinching so she has no excuse. Well! That spoiled little brat. I am just about pull up on the cinch when she turns her head around goes for it! I had my elbow half way up and so was able to catch her just as she started to nip the back of my arm. Oh, no... that is not going to fly. Hola has never nipped me. Ever. Aaaaaand I am going to guess that she will never try again after the 'come to Jesus' talk we had. And then she got an ass whoopin' on the lunge line. And then she got to do a bunch of circles around me as we walked in the hay field. I went down to the end of the road to wait for L. to come back from her ride. I wore my helmet and took an extra line. I figured it I was still feeling aggressive (riding the wave of my angry bravado) I would get L. to pony me the last few hundred yards home. By the time we got back towards the barn the adrenaline had worn off and I had I was damp with a cold sweat. Damn. I decided to send Hola out on the line to see what kind of frame of mind she was in... I asked her to roll back on my left then my right... and she responded with more than her usual snappiness! She dropped on her hocks, snapped back over herself and launched herself off in the other direction. I asked a half dozen times expecting her to chill out but she was just getting faster and snappier. It was near full dark by this time and she was obviously feeling fresh and a little spooky. I was not getting on that horse! No way, Jose! Not gonna happen! But then I could practically hear Biff (Back to the Future) saying, "What's wrong McFly! Chicken?" *cluck cluck cluck cluck* Dammit! Nobody calls me chicken! (even myself)... well, actually, everyone calls me chicken (especially myself) but not this time Mister! This time I was going to get. 'er. done mo-fo! So I got on. I may have been singing, "Hoooly sheeeeeet, this is a baaaaaad idea. Followed shortly after by "HOLY SHITBALLS" and a high pitched slightly hysterical giggle. But I got on. And I sat there for a minute or two. Hola's eyes were huge as she looked out over the field at something I couldn't see. Her whole body was taunt. I talked to her and (I may have been saying, "please don't blow, this is a bad idea, who's idea was this anyways?" but I was saying it in a nice calm voice and I managed to keep my whole body relaxed and centered. When I got her attention back a little I asked L. to walk us forward. We went a mile or so... HA! No, not really.... we went twenty feet or so when I asked L. to stop. Hola was staring hard at something in the far field and was obviously getting more worried. The crazy part was that she didn't feel like she was going to blow up, at all... like not even a little bit. When L. lead her forward she didn't hump her back, didn't brace up and moved forward freely. When I got off and started leading towards the barn her body stayed in the same posture and her expression remained alert but not spooked. It may have only been a few minutes... and twenty odd feet but it was really successful in that she was very much awake, not relaxed and fresh but still totally unconcerned with the fact that I was on her back. It probably wasnt the smartest decision to get on her. But it was more about me finding my nerve than it was about training Hola.

I am SO ready for our first real ride. And I know she is too. *big smile*

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

HOLA- Ride #5 and #6

On Friday (October 3rd) I got on Hola for the 5th time, however, this was mark the first time that she was asked to move out under saddle. I keep telling myself that with Hola I have the luxury of time, I can go as slow as I want and give her all the time she needs to learn and accept this new stage in her life... but... I also have to be careful to not baby her and to make sure that I am asking her for enough that she learns to work and doesn't become bored and spoiled. I also really felt that I needed to give her time physically to adjust to my weight as she is still small for me and I don't want her to end up with a super sore back. When I looked back on the last ride in the round pen I realized that Hola was not stepping out as the footing in there is really rough and she wasn't confident enough to balance my weight when the wood was rolling under her foot. I knew I needed to get her out of that footing but to where? My options were a gravel paddock that is rock hard (Yikes!), a grass pasture that is slick footing (Eeek!) or a unfenced multi-acre hay field (Ehh!). I weighed all the variables and decided my best bet was to have L. pony me on Hola off of Ella in the hay field. It was time to pull up my big girl panties. Big time.

First, I established the same routine as in our previous rides. I brought Hola in, saddled her, and then tied to the wall for a good fifteen minutes. I then lunged her very briefly to get her focused and tied her back up while I set up my ride.

When I stepped n Hola in the hay field she didn't move or tense up. The idea of someone sitting up on her is NBD (no big deal). I asked Laurie to take a few slow steps forward... which was a great idea in theory. But Ella doesn't really know how to walk slowly. Hola has been ponied a lot. She knows the drill. As Ella stepped away from her she went to step forward and I felt her body go, "Eeek! Ella!! Hold up!! I got this crazy thing on my back! Ella, wait! Help!". And my body went, "Eeek! Ella! Hold up!! I 've got this crazy thing under me!! L, wait! Help!". For the first time I felt Hola's back hump up. I felt her bum scooch. Her neck scrunched up. Her poll tensed up. I thought, "Holy. Shit. She's gonna blow!" Before she could follow through with her threat I pulled my only defence....

I yelled at her. Well... I didn't yell so much as growl. One thing all my horses learn is that when I shout, "HHHHHAAAAIIIIRRRRR!!!!!" (yes, I said "Hair!") shit is gonna get real, fast. My good friend's Mom, Nancy, is a born and bred Wyoming cowgirl who would growl, "Haaaaaaair there mare" when any of their horses got naughty. I picked I up as a teen and have found it surprisingly effective. My quick growl stopped Hola in her tracks. She didn't relax and her back did not level out but she didn't blow. We did a small loop of the field. Every time Hola was able to walk beside Ella she relaxed a little and leveled out some but when she lagged behind at all I could feel her back start to hump up as she thought about having to trot to catch up. A few times, when she felt like she was ready to blow I would growl at her again and she would quit and I would ask L. to slow Ella up and allow us to catch up. I then asked Laurie to walk straight forward out into the field and to try to keep Ella at as slow of a walk as possible. We went a hundred yards or so and I felt Hola start to stretch out and relax. I asked L. to stop and we sat there for a moment. Hola yawned. Yawning is Hola's tell, she will yawn a dozen times in a row when she learns something new. So I sat for a minute, relaxed my whole body, pet on her a little and then got off. It felt like we had ridden for about ten minutes. In actuality it was less than four minutes. Four minutes wherein I did not get bucked off and my horse learned something. Success, no matter how small, is sweet.

I went to my sisters house to celebrate Thanksgiving over the weekend so wasn't able to do anything with Hola. This evening (Monday) I went to the farm and found Hola dripping wet with sweat. I had a moment of panic before B (a boarder) said that the horses had just finished ripping around the field and that Hola had been the ring leader. Sweet! She worked herself! I brought her in and let her cool out a little before tying her to the wall and tacking. I noticed that she is in season and acting pushy so I did school on her just a little on a lunge line to get her brain working. I planned on having L pony me in the hay field again but I really don't want her thinking that the horse in front of her is the one leading the show. Ponying was the safest way for me to get her moving but I didn't like that she was so sucked on to Ella and I was just a passenger. However, because there is no small area for me to ride in (with good footing) I don't feel confident enough yet to just get on and go... so I split the difference. I had L put me on the lunge line. This was the first time I have stepped on Hola from the ground (rather than a stool). No reaction. I sat on her for a moment. No reaction. None at all. I clucked to her to walk forward and she went. Not once did she hump up and she while she wasn't totally relaxed she felt pretty damn good. The only problem was that she was really wanting to cut in and suck up to L in the middle and stop.  I was trying not to guide her at all but was trying to be in the one in charge of her forward movement. I rode her for maybe three minutes or so before her head dropped, her neck stretch out and I felt her relax. I stopped her, waited a minutes or two and sure enough she yawned again. I got off and dropped her cinch.

I feel like I am doing too little and yet Hola is clearly learning to accept a rider. I need to start guiding her some in my next ride... I just need to figure out where to ride her. I can make things work for now but eventually I need to get her in an arena with proper footing. If I think too far in the future I get stressed so I will continue to just focus on the tiniest of baby steps and take it one ride at a time.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ride 3.5

On Monday I wasn't able to actually put a leg over on Hola (just laid over her) so this evening as more like ride 3.5 than ride 4. When I asked her to step up to the mounting block L. and I immediately got the impression that she was less than impressed to find herself there once again. Her expression read something like "Again!? Really!? F*%$." So I started by laying on her again but I knew that I was just stalling and probably annoying her and I needed to cowgirl up and swing my leg over. So I did. I tried not to hold my breath or tense up. She didn't tense up but she did seem to be holding her breath. I waited there and told L to stand by and until she chewed. I didn't like how tense that poll looked but before I could even finish my sentence she chewed and dropped her head. *wipes sweaty brow*.  For the first time ever (on her back) I asked her to step forward without being lead (L. went and stood against the rail). She was confused and took a few halting steps. I asked again and she went a few steps and stopped. She had her ears on me and she was clearly confused that she was being asked to move without being lead or driven. But she did move, if in halting steps, and her body just didn't feel tight or locked up. L. said she could believe how much she seemed to be trying to figure out how to balance my weight. I asked again and got another few steps. I really wanted her to move her feet and free up her body some but after five minutes of getting only three steps at a time I resolved that I would quit when I got five steps in a row. Not a minute later she gave me five so I stopped asking for forward and she stood. I wanted to wait for her to chew again but her poll and jaw didn't seem tense and her head was level. I waited. And waited. And waited. It seemed like forever but it was more like 3-4 minutes. .The sun was getting low in the sky and it was a nice warm day after a few days of rain. If I were not on her back it would seem that she was just sleepy and soaking up the sun... but I was on her back so I thought she might be internalizing everything and maybe overwhelmed. When her eyes half closed I bumped and rocked a little to try to get her to pay attention to me up there. I asked L. what she thought and she said that her back leg was resting and her hip was cocked and her eyes were half closed. So I got off and pet on her face a little. She didn't move. She didn't lick and chew and she looked the picture of relaxation. I was stumped. Could it be possible that she really was that relaxed? Was she zoning out? I stood for a while longer and then asked her to step forward. She just moseyed along back to the barn and when I turned her loose in the pasture she did run, buck or roll...she just quietly walked out to graze. When I brought her in that night she was still really quiet. I noticed the night before at feeding that she was in heat. Could that play in to it? I shouldn't question such a good thing but my brain wont stop warning me to not count my chickens just yet! I think that tomorrow I will see if L. cant pony me off another horse. I want to get her walking out some. I also need to get out of the bark mulch round pen, the footings deep and makes for a soft fall but it is hard to move in. The idea of riding her on the gravel is terrifying. I have come off on that ground and it is like hitting cement. Maybe the small field right outside the round pen would be a better option.



Torn calf muscle be damned I got on my pony and got 'er rode! Hot damn! WHOOP!!!

(I'm obviously a wee bit excited to deliver this news!)

What a journey! Four and half years of waiting!

When we bred Abby back in Spring of 2010 I hoped for filly that I could raise and train myself. And from that first photo I knew my dreams had come true...

That sweet eye stole my heart. The day after she was born I flew out to Spokane, WA to meet my little red girl. She stepped forward from Abby's side and everything about that bright, open, and honest expression seemed to say, "Hello!". Hence the name "Hola".

Do you know how agenizing it was to watch this filly grow up in super slow motion? I had hoped to start her as a two-year-old. I had hoped to put some light rides on her in the Spring, some work in the Fall and then really get riding her in the Spring of her three-year-old year so we could show in the Fall. I didn't want her pushed at anywhere close to a competitive level but if I had even some simple/basic maneuvers on her I could take her in a few beginner/novice classes to get her that exposure. That was not meant to be.

In the Spring of 2013 Hola came two. She was 13.2HH and 700 pounds. And fine boned for all that. I was *most definitely not inserting my weight here* about 25 pounds heavier than I am today. There was no way. Even if I could find a light weight trainer to start her, she just wasn't ready mentally. To wait for her was not a prolem...the much bigger problem (pardon the pun) was the reality that Hola was probably going to finish at 14HH and 800 pounds, much too small for me.

In the Spring of 2014, when Hola turned three, I gave up hope. As a child I had wished for a pony. Twenty years later, I got one. There was no way I could get small enough for her. And so, I contacted a trainer I know to be an incredible horseman, a woman with a big, generous and spiritual heart, who just happened to be really tiny in stature. I asked her if she might be interested giving Hola a good home. The stars seemed to align. It killed me to give up my dream but to see such a talented little filly sit in a field unused was just not an option. When I put Hola on the trailer and said goodbye I thought my heart was going to burst. I missed her horribly and wondered if I had made a huge mistake but every time I came close to emailing my friend and asking for her back, I would think of all of her energy and talent going to waste and I would remember why I had let her go. Hola had been gone for two weeks when I received an email saying that her new "Mom" had come off one of her training horses and fractured a vertebrae and done some damage to her tailbone. As a professional trainer this meant being out of work. As she had not yet even started working with Hola and as she knew I was missing her desperately, it was an easy decision to send her home. Not three weeks after she left, I got Hola back. And I resolved that, come hell or high water, I was keeping Hola for good- I would do what I could to loose weight, I would wait the extra year for Hola to mature more physically and if all else failed I would learn to drive and put her to work behind a cart.

Fast forward 6 months. Hola grew. I shrank. She is now 14HH and 850 pounds. I am *most certainly not inserting my weight here* considerable smaller. I didn't think I would be able to get on her this Fall after I tore my calf muscle but...

On Saturday I got on Abby and my leg felt good. I threw a saddle on Hola for the first time in a month and ponied her out in the hay field. She was full of piss and vinegar. So I came back to the barn and tied her to the wall and left the little brat there for a good half hour to think about her attitude. Sure enough, she was in a better frame of mind so I turned her loose in the round pen and sent her to work. I expected her to buck and fart and act like an idiot. She didn't. Hola was soft, light, respectful and just had this beautiful and relaxed energy. I realized that she was just so happy to be back at work. I told L. that I was just dying to get on her. She said, "If not now, when?" I said, "When I don't have a torn calf!" I knew I was going to get in BIG trouble at home when K found out but the extra naughtiness made it all the more tempting! Rebel without a cause, I am!

So we brought out a stool and I laid over Hola's back. L. lead me around while Hola got used to packing my weight. I then stood up in the stirrup and put on hip on her. She stood. I stepped down. I stepped back up and swung my leg over. She looked back at me like "what the hell are you doing!?" and tensed up in her poll a little but didn't hump her back and didn't move forward. I stepped off. Stepped back on again and swung over. I asked Laurie to (carefully) lead her forward a few steps. We went maybe eight feet forward and stopped. Hola dropped her head, licked and chewed. I stepped off. I dropped her cinch. And, remembering my damaged calf, resisted doing a happy dance.

The next night I repeated the process only this time I had L. lead me around a few laps of the round pen. Looking at the video of that day, you would think I was the one getting my second horsey-back ride ever! She looks like a broke old kids pony and I look like an excited little girl with a, "Hey Mom! Look! I'm riding a pony!" smile.

Of course, I recognize my mistakes only after the fact. On the first ride, when I stepped off all at once she was just a little startled so the second time I wanted to go slow and lay back over her. I should have had my foot out of the stirrup as I pulled that saddle too much off center. I also made a big mistake in not having a rein myself. If L. had lost that lead I would have been left with nothing and if she had gotten to bucking I wouldn't have been able to pull her head up. 

Last night I went to get on her the third time. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find anyone who was free to come be my "safety" and I wasn't going to get on her if I was alone at the barn so I compromised by laying over her a few times so she got my weight on her back again and spending some time at the mounting block just petting on her... so she was nice and relaxed last night when I dropped her cinch. This eve I plan on getting on her again but this time I will have the reins and hope to have her move forward without being lead.

My plan is to get on her every day this week for ten minutes and then give her the weekend off. I will keep it simple, all I will ask her this week is to move forward to a walk and to one rein safety stop. When I think about how long of a road it is to getting her broke I am daunted. So for now I will focus on one week at a time. And I will savor every moment.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Okay, I Need a New Plan

One bad step. That's all it took. Not for my horse, thank god, but for myself. Of all things, I was doing a happy dance. You know, a little bouncy jig like a leprechaun over a pot of gold, and just like that "bam!" it's like someone's just stabbed me in the calf with a wee leprechaun dagger. I tore my inner calf muscle. Estimated recovery is 10-12 weeks. And there goes my plan of getting Hola started before the end of the year.

Hola needs started. Last year, as a two year old, she wasn't ready, physically or mentally. This Spring she was ready mentally if not quite physically. By early this summer I knew she was ready to be go but between my back issues, showing Abby and lack of time, I just didn't get it done. Last month I put in twenty days of ground work and was thinking I would get on her in early September. On September 2nd I tore my calf.

I may just have to send her for training this Fall. Mentally she maturing so quickly I really want to make sure her young and malleable mind of a filly learns the important lessons of how to be a good equine citizen before she that I-rule-the-world mare brain takes over.