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.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My Five Bits

I owned horses for twenty years and I've only ever owned five bits. That must be some kind of record! I am planning on doing a few posts on bits in the coming month as I navigate through this vast new world of kimberwickes and Mullens, Argentinian and Weymouths and other such wacky doodle names! I want to understand the intended purpose of the most common and how to find the right bit for the individual hrose's mouth shape. It all sounds a little daunting when you've only ever owned five bits...

The first bit I ever owned was a Tom Thumb exactly as pictured below. I inherited this bit with my first horse Rocky. I knew nothing about it except that it "worked' for him and I had been told not to change it.... and so I didn't for the next four years. I cant say whether it worked or not, Rocky and I spent countless hours riding down roads, in to the bush, through rivers and up mountains. I didn't know the first thing about picking up a shoulder or vertical flexion. Rocky went where I pointed him, most of the time. It was that simple.

Weaver Tom Thumb

In 2003 I bought a very green broke horse named Tonto. I thought that was the most embarrassing name for a horse I had ever heard. If you had told me that one day I would own a mare named Princess (ha!) and that I wouldn't change her name in the first year let alone the first week, I wouldn't have believed you. But by the time Princess came around (now Ella-Blue, thank God) I had figured out that a rose by any other name does in fact smell as sweet... or in the case of Tonto, as sour. The first day I owned him I dropped the name Tonto in favor of Cheekeye. I wish I had dropped the whole damn horse rather than just his lame-ass name, but hindsight is twenty-twenty. I was told I needed a nice plain snaffle for Tonto/Cheekeye/Loachan. If I only I had been told I'd also require body armor, a bottle of whiskey and a world title in bronc riding... but unfortunately I only bought a snaffle. It served me well over the next ten years with various horses in the arena and on the trail. This bit is now all rusted and coppery and apparently delicious as every horse I've ever put it on has licked and chewed and sucked on it like it's made of candy, all except Marmalade, which is also another story for another day.

Weaver "Offset D Ring Snaffle"

 Late last year I bought a bit to use on Abby. I wasn't ready to put her all the way back in to a solid bridle (curb) but I wanted something with some leverage rather than a plain snaffle. I noticed a Myler come up on a local used tack site that seemed to fit the bill. It was a Myler HBT Shank with Sweet Iron Low Port Comfort Snaffle MB 04

I thought it would be the prefect in between with the ultra low curb and leverage but independently hinged shanks allowed the rider to pick up on either side. I knew I didn't like that bit the second I put it in my hand. The entire bit was loose 'n goosey (a highly technical description!) as it hinged in various places and rolled around in the mouth. I could see how a more experienced rider could use that bit to their advantage but for me it was just way too much communication.  I rode Abby in it one time and we were both confused. I sold the bit a week later.

So I continued to ride Abby in my old snaffle which was fine as I was allowed to ride her two handed in a snaffle in the beginner reining class I had entered that July 13th weekend. Knowing I would eventually need a NRHA legal curb, I began to research and look for the right bit. Even with the specific requirements of port height, bar thickness and shank length in the NRHA handbook, I was still lost as to which would be a good entry level bit. I decided that I would look for middle ground, nothing extreme, nothing that claimed magical powers or had complicated mechanics. I looked for a old fashioned grazing curb bit with a moderate length shank that met the NRHA restrictions and my limited budget. I found the Bob Avila Rio Collection Copper Port Bit by Professional Choice.

Bob Avila Rio Collection Copper Port Bit by Professional Choice

I was planning on ordering this bit online but actually found it at a local tack store and decided, on a whim, to just pick it up so that I had a bit at home should I need it. Little did I suspect that I would need it just one week later. While packed up the trailer to go to the AQHA show I threw in this bit (loose not on a headstall) just in case. When I went to the office to enter a reining class I discovered that there was not AQHA reining class that allowed me to show in a snaffle. I rode Abby in a curb for the first time in five years just one hour before we went in to the show pen. It wasn't perfect but it was damn good considering. She didn't fuss over this bit and I felt like when I picked up my hand we both knew exactly what I was saying, the communication was simple and to the point.

The last bit I bought a few months ago for Marm. After years of my good and trusty friend telling me that I needed to try this bit she had on Marm I finally listened. B had used this bit on her tough mouthed old barrel horse and said that it was the only bit she ever had on that horse that actually made her soft as it was comfortable in her mouth, passive when left alone and enough bit when you needed it. I had huge reservations about using any bit on Marm, let alone a more "severe" one but one day, in the store, I just thought "screw it!" and bought a similar bit to the one she had recommended, a Reinsman Jr. Cow Horse Sweet Iron Small Chain Mouth. When I got home I tried it on but it didn't seem to fit so I took a pic to send to my friend for clarification and took it off. When she said that it looked okay I tried the bit once more for about ten minutes just to see whether Marm would freak out about it. She didn't. She sucked on that bit and didn't want to spit it out. I still wasn't sold on the idea of using it as I had all sorts of prejudices against bits in general that I still hadn't gotten over so I decided that I wasn't going to use it. This whole saga, again, is a post for another time. Last month I had a professional barrel racer ride Marm. We started out in a snaffle. About ten minutes in to that ride she asked if I had any other bit because a snaffle was about the worst thing I could be riding her in. I bashfully said that I did have this bit in the trailer but it wasn't on a headstall. She actually got off and had me put that bit on. What I saw next forever changed my opinion about bits. Before Marm went to her new (and fabulous) home I had two rides in that bit. They were the best rides I ever had on Marm. I only wish I had not been so thick skulled and had tried something many, many months ago. Life lesson learned.

Reinsman Junior Cow Horse - Sweet Iron Small Chain Mouth with Copper Pacifiers
I have spent less than four hours total in last three bits I've mentioned. I've spent the past ten years riding in that tasty old snaffle or a rope halter.

Those are the only five bits I have ever owned.

But I am now a believer in the power of the right bit for the right horse. I wasted so much time by refusing to consider that a more severe bit might actually make for a less severe ride. More on this, next time.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Bridling Passion

Over the past 20 years a significant portion of my time has been spent in indulging my passion for horses, as such, it is little wonder that being a horseman is huge part of who I am. How many days have passed within those twenty years wherein I did not dedicate at least some portion of my day to horses whether it be at home reading about horses, shopping horse sites or watching training DVDs, or in the barn, cleaning up after, caring for and riding horses. Even my social life is largely comprised of friends whom I either ride with or speak with about our horses. So much of my life comes back to horses from my clothes, to my truck to...hell, even the length of my fingernails. It all amounts to a tremendous amount of time, hard work, worry and yes, joy. It also resulted in stress on my personal relationships, my body and my bank account. It is a constant effort to limit the time, energy and money I put in to horses because, if left unchecked, I would be at the barn all day and I would spend every dollar I had. And it still wouldn't be enough. Some say horses are an actual addiction and no different than any other addiction, it can be detrimental to your health, relationships, responsibilities and financial security. It is easy for me to call to mind women I know who have neglected their responsibilities, endangered their children, frustrated their husbands to the point of divorce, and placed tremendous financial stress on their family all for the love of horses. We use the term "Horse Crazy" flippantly. This very blog is named "crazy horse woman" and "horse crazed mind". What if horse crazy is actually just crazy... At what point does it become an emotional dependence or mental instability? I knew a single mother who couldn't afford to buy winter jackets for her children but managed to pay board on her four horses. That isn't right. Of course there are undeniable benefits, it has now been scientifically proven that horses are an effective tool when used for emotional and physical therapy. However, there is science behind the health and emotional benefit of having a glass of wine in the evening too... just not for an alcoholic.

A few weeks ago I listened to an interview on the CBC with a novelist who had written a book based on her struggles with alcoholism. She said something that really stuck with me. I cant recall her exact words but it went like this: "If there are consequences to your drinking, drink less. If you cant drink less, don't drink at all. If you cant not drink, get help." I have to admit that my life is negatively impacted by my obsession with horses when I have made poor decisions and allowed myself to get "out of control". To be clear- while I am using alcoholism to draw parallels between addiction to alcohol and "addiction" to horses, I fully recognize that these are two vastly different issues and I in no way mean to belittle the seriousness of substance addictions. I make a choice to indulge my passion for horses. Learning to make that choice deliberate, measured and responsible is what I have failed to do in the past and what I am determined to do in the future.

How much time do I want to spend at the barn on a daily basis? How much do my horses actually cost once I have accounted for all the direct and indirect expenses (boots, tack, vet, shows, lessons, alternative treatments, supplements, trailer insurance, barn supplies, gas to and from barn, jeans etc..) How much money do I want to spend on horses in a year? What can I afford? What other activities have always wanted to try but never have for lack of time and money due to horse costs and time. Would I elect to spend all of my time and money on horses if it meant that I would not be able to pursue any other interests? Other interests like...

More than anything else I want to travel the world. I could write a book about all the places I want to visit and things I want to do but closer to home I really want to: Kayak, canoe, boat and sail. I grew up boating, fishing and crabbing on the Ocean and it is apart of soul. I want to get back on the water. Take some martial arts class and go to daily yoga classes. I also want to learn to paint and have always wanted to sculpt bronzes. I would also love to take classes at the local college in woodworking (furniture building), art, and photography.  There are many trails in our Provincial Parks that I have always wanted to hike and I would also like to do some 4x4ing trips to provincial  historical sites and BC's many spectacular vistas. I also grew up in a family that renovated and decorated homes (mainly kitchens) and have a passion for decorating which has gone painfully and obviously unexpressed in my own home. I would love to do a room by room reno. All of these are recreational activities that I don't do in a large part because horses take up so much of my expendable time and income. Traveling is the only single activity that really competes against my passion for horses. All of the rest, individually, just don't compare but collectively they make up an entire lifestyle which I find really appealing. All of the above are relatively affordable relative to horses and require far less daily commitment.

Can I have some part of that "other" life and horses? I believe it is possible but only with a plan, self discipline and some sacrifices along the way.

In this post I have tried to summarize some of the internal debates I've been having with myself, and frankly, with my DB, over the past year with respect to my life plan going forward and how horses fit in that equation. The biggest hurdle I had to overcome was simply admitting to myself just how much time and money my horses require. Second was admitting that I need to make some serious changes in my behavior, decision making and time management and that it was going to be a process, not an overnight change. Third was deciding that I was unwilling to cut horses out of my life entirely. Horses need to be apart of my daily life no matter what the cost with this proviso- so long as I can effectively manage the time and money I put in to horses. I find it very difficult to say that I am no longer going to invest my time and money in trying to become a better horseman. I spend a lot of time on the internet reading about health issues, training and watching videos. I also constantly want to improve my tack and saddle fit which requires research and shopping and I am often sourcing and researching any supplementation or alternative therapy for my horses soundness and health. It makes me feel like a lesser person to say I am not willing to take the time to actively learn about horses or maintain my horses to best of my ability. So much of my self worth is tied up in being the best horseman I can be. And even that comes with its pitfalls. Because I am no where near the horseman I want to be despite all of the time and effort I put in to it. My self respect flags when I am not successful at horses, which is more often than I care to admit. I am so wrapped up in horses that it defines me. And by default, it also then controls me. I needed to change.

That process began with taking stock of current situation, setting a goal for the future and finally devising a successful plan. At the time I owned two horses, Abby and Hola but I actually "had" three as I was 100% emotionally committed to Marmalade. In no way shape or form did maintaining three horses fit in to any kind of life plan. I decided that the horse that was least likely to take me where I wanted to go was Hola simply because of her size and her current state of training (or lack thereof) so I found her a great home and let her go. For reasons unrelated to her, she came back three weeks later. In the time that she was gone I realized how much I love that little horse and that letting her go was the wrong decision- The very reason Hola exists is because I decided to indulge in a bucket list item which was to breed, raise and train a horse that I could keep for its lifetime. Hola is that horse. She isn't big enough for me so I am going to have to get smaller. It is that simple. Ultimately I can only keep one horse and I decided that horse was going to be Hola.

That left Abby and Marm. Because of Abby's breeding and training (she is bred up the ying yang and was a finished reiner) I don't have to sell Abby to eliminate the cost of her maintenance. I can easily let Abby go back out on a breeding or riding lease and leave myself the option of getting her back when or if I am in a different place in my life. Given how much I have invested in that horse I just don't feel it makes any sense to sell her so my focus will be to get her leased out in the New Year.

Which left Marmalade, whom, technically speaking, I did not even own. I was incapable of walking away from that horse. I love Marmalade with all my heart and soul. She is the horse that carries me away when the world gets to be too much. She is the horse who makes me laugh and makes me crazy. She was mine. And I was hers. Only I didn't own her... yet. The only way I could let Marm go was to own her. That sounds conflicting right? Her current owner, my good friend, needed to sell Marm if I wasnt going to continue leasing her. I know that L would have tried to find Marm a great home but I needed a home I knew and trusted. And, if I owned Marm, I could take the time to find her the right home and I could also have a contract in place that should make sure she would never be lost to me. There were also a few other things with Marm, physically and in the saddle that I needed to figure out before letting her go but it was next to impossible to justify spending time and money on a horse that I wasn't going to keep. I know a good number of horse people who could provide Marm with a good home but few who would be a good match and fewer still who were looking for another horse. Knowing it as a long shot, I contacted one of the best horsewomen I know who I thought might like untangling the Marm puzzle knot. With full disclosure on what I knew of her, I asked her if she was interested in Marm. Unfortunately, it didn't work out. I went to DB and told him that I needed his blessing to buy Marm and after that I needed to spend some significant money getting her physically right (this on top of all of the money I have already spent getting work done on Marm) and then I needed to spend some time and money getting her started at a job and then, I promised, that I would find her the right home (but would keep her as long as it took to make that happen). I told him I needed to do this and it was more important to me than anything else. Bless his heart, he gave me his blessing. I bought Marm and had a soundness exam done (not for purchase, just to help me figure out what was going on). She vetted sound. The problem was that she had thin soles and he suspected she was chronically bruised from being barefoot but without xrays there was no way to tell. So we did xrays and they came back clean. He recommended shoes and pads so I had her shod. I then left her off for a good chunk of time as I wanted to give her time to physically adjust as the shoes and pads eliminated those compensatory muscles and posture. I then got really busy between my back issues, getting Abby ready to show, showing her and then trying to give myself a break while going through physiotherapy. Once my back was strong enough I turned my focus to Marm. I knew from the rides I had gotten in and from seeing her move around the field that the shoes made a significant difference in the way she moved and in her topline. I had decided to see whether or not I could run some barrels on her or maybe rope. I also wanted to take her out and try her on an extreme trail course, on the flag/cows and I wanted someone to try jumping her. I also went out and watched some penning and even the drill team. I needed to find Marm a job, the problem was that I wasn't experience in any of the above. Finding the right people to help me introduce her to those things proved a challenge. I knew Marm could potentially be a fair prospect for any one of those sports but which one? I became really frustrated and daunted by how hard it was going to be for me to get out and started and the cost of just maintaining all three horses was overwhelming but I was determined to keep trying. One night, just a few weeks ago, I popped over to a friend's blog and read that she was contemplating what her horse future might hold and whether she should look for another horses. My heart stopped. This was a woman I knew to be experienced, knowledgeable and compassionate and one I knew looked after her horses very well. Everything I knew, and I felt I knew enough, was that this could be a fit and this could be a great home. I wrote an email and attempted to paint a brutally accurate and honest picture of Marm. In order to do so, inevitably it all becomes about the negatives and I often put up cautions in front of the positive. I sent the email. The next morning I re-read it and decided that I was the worst horse seller in history and that it was highly highly unlikely that I was going to get a positive response. When I received a reply from saying, "Yes, I am interested" I literally had a panic attack. A few days later we had a long telephone conversation and from that moment on everything just fell in to place like it was always meant to be. One week ago today I put Marm on a trailer. I knew the depth of my love for Marm and that it was going to be hard to let her go but I didn't expect the physical response I had to the actual act of letting her go. I had multiple panic attacks. I have stress rash. I found myself struggling to go to sleep and to wake up, I had absolutely no energy and even at the barn I just wanted to lay down on the concrete floor and bury my face in my arms. I tried to stop crying but found I couldn't. And all of this when I could not be happier with where she went or to whom she now belongs. I realize there is no way she could have gone to home I didn't know and trust. I cant stress enough how perfect of  home she went to and how grateful I am that she is where she is... It is still just hard to not have her within reach. I only hope that her new Mom falls as hard in love with her as I did. Luckily she was kind enough to send many emails which allowed me to focus on the positive- just how excited I am for Marm's new and bright future. Marm lucked out, big time and I did too.

So where does all of this leave me? I have decided not to show Abby this Fall. I got to tick off a bucket list item this summer when I showed her at that is more than good enough.  To show her is going to take too much time (to get her fit), too much work (to get her tuned up) and more money than I am willing to spend. If there are any cheap and local shows where I can run a pattern I will go but I will not be going to any of the big shows. I will ride her enough that we both stay in shape enough and then lease her out for next year. I am going to continue working on my weight and get Hola broke this Fall. Next year I want to do a ton of trail riding on her which, thank god, is very accessible to me and highly affordable. Away from the barn I am going to stay as non-horsey as possible. No perusing the internet for tack, horses, or even training videos and such. I plan on being at the barn most days and I still want to chronicle my time with Hola here as it actually helps keep me on track but my goal is max of three hours a day total and my horse budget will be kept to a minimum too which means that I need to prioritize what my horse actually needs vs. what is optimum care. I have a certain standard of care that I will not compromise on but it will be the bare minimum of that standard, not the top.

I have committed myself to making a change. It has been hard and I still have days where I dont know that I am making the right decision by limiting just how much I am willing to indulge my passion. Should a passion as deep and profound as mine be given carte blanche? I have no children. My responsibility is to myself. But at the very least I want to make a deliberate decision. To give myself over completely, as one does in young love, or to give myself over in measured does after careful consideration as one does later in life, when the unbridled passion of youth has proven too costly a price.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Hola GW- Day 18

August 19th, 2014
Saddled and put her on lunge line. Took her in field and had her move around some and worked on having her turn back out on the line. I am really having a hard time finding the right ground to work on. Man this girl loves to use her hind end. Her name should be scoootch. Went back to water tub and laid over her some more. Lots of rubs and scratches. Today when I started to lean on her she moved her feet to balance herself. I had tried to encourage her to do this before but she didn't think she could move around. I was really happy that she did it on her own.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Hola (barely) works 16-17

Sometime between August 12-15th-
Saddled Hola and walked her to a upturned water tub (large and sturdy rubbermaid). Stood above her, patted on her, bobbed in stirrups, leaned on saddle, laid across saddle, let her have my whole weight, patted, bobbed, stepped back to tub. Maybe 8 minutes total.

August 18th-
Saddled, walked her down road and let her graze. Repeated above exercise on water tub.

The past week has been... FULL... as in, filled to the brim and over... I am not going to beat myself up for loosing momentum. At some point I will explain but for now, let's just say, my mind was not in any place to be training and my body is just plain worn out. My hope is that tonight is the start of another two week run with much more sweaty saddle pads.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hola GW Day 11-15

August 4th, 2014
I wanted to get Hola worked but didn't have much time and needed to get Marm rode. I saddled up that eve quite late and had Abby and Hola loose in the pasture where I was going to ride. Most nights, when the bugs come up, Abby freaks out and chases Hola. That night, when Abby started up, because I was busy riding, because both Abby and Hola needed the work, and because they were in a big safe pasture I decided to just let them work themselves. For probably 15 minutes they were ripping around the field. I was going to saddle Hola still but when I caught her she was soaking wet and breathing hard and I needed her to cool out so I could feed and go home.

August 5th, 2014
I didn't get to barn until late and had to get Marm rode so I tacked Hola (took off back cinch) and tied her to the trailer while I rode Marm. She stood there for a good half an hour very quietly while L and I rode in the field. I then asked L if she would pony Hola around to get her some work which she did. When I was done riding I took Hola and walked her around the field driving from behind. She is starting to get that she can go straight when I am behind her even without having the second line to guide her away from me.

August 6th, 2014
Again I didn't get started until late and ended up ponying Hola off of Marm. Abby was loose in the pasture which made for a challenge as she was having her nightly "I'm dying!!! Attack of the (two) mosquitoes! Help me!" freak out. She really wanted to put the chase on Hola and after getting driven off a few times decided it was really fun game to get me all twisted around. I went and got my lunge whip and rode with that (while ponying Hola) and Abby still thought it was fun to stay just out of reach. Finally, after about ten minutes, she got bored and went back to grazing. What a brat! Hola and Marm were chuggin' along just fine when I looked over and noticed that Abby was rolling. Distracted for that second I didn't notice that Hola had stopped. The line snapped me back and I turned to find Hola on her side having a great roll. We had been trotting! Thankfully I had decided not to saddle her that night as I wanted to work on having an outside long line without it getting stuck in the saddle. Hola had no idea why I was getting after her to get up. She looked at me like, "What?! I just rolled! Whats the big deal?" I finished ponying and put Marm away and came back out with Hola. I lunged her briefly and worked on transitions from the trot to lope and back to trot. She is really listening beautifully to voice commands. Feeling successful and like my horse was relaxed, confident and happy I called it a night and didn't work on the off side long rein.

August 7th, 2014
That afternoon I "lost" my cell phone. It mysteriously just disappeared and by ten that night it was going to straight to voicemail. Because I was hot, sweaty and "horsey" from getting the alfalfa I did decide to get a quick work in on Hola despite everything going on. I threw on a saddle that I have never used on her before (one that has no back cinch).  I sent her out at a trot on the lunge. The back half of that saddle went to flopping up and down by a foot with every stride. No word of a lie! And you know what, my little filly didn't so much as hump her back. I let her pack it around like that for a few rounds as it had the whole of her attention but she relaxed some and continued to move out no problem so I stopped her and pulled it off. Needless to say I dont think it fit! I just lunged her after that and was listening to voice commands beautifully and transitioning between gaits with confidence. She was relaxed and happy to work. After ten minutes or so I started getting behind her and working on a single long line again and then had her drag the line around on the off side. She didn't bat an eye.

August 9th, 2014
I didn't saddle but threw her on the lunge and asked for transitions. She is now loping with so much more balance and confidence and seems proud of herself for having such nice transitions. I clipped a line to the outside and had her drag the inside line while I guided her with the outside. She was a little confused about whether when I added pressure to the outside, thought she should turn all the way around but quickly figured out the game. I kept it really short... like less than five minutes and then gave her lots of scratches. Tonight or tomorrow I hope to have her on the long line.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Hola's GW (Ground Work) Day 1-10

Hola, my dear sweet "baby girl,  has finally grown up...well, I use "up" loosely, she has actually grown outward- her hip, back and barrel have filled out significantly in the past two months and all of the sudden, seemingly overnight, she became a horse. Most importantly she has developed a much more mature attitude which has me thinking that I need to get her started right quick before I loose that malleable baby brain.

I have done a lot of ground work over the past few years. She bathes, ties, loads, stands for the farrier, stands ground tied, is good in traffic, loads in a straight haul and angle haul, and has been hauled out to new arenas and trail both alone and with a friend. She has also been saddled at least 30+ times in the last year and will take a bit. While she is certainly not lacking for "ground work" what I haven't done with her is make her work... She hasn't been round penned, long lined or made to do any serious work on the lunge. All of my sessions other than our trips "out" have been short, sweet and positive. The biggest "hole" she has is one that I had intentionally left untouched- she hasn't been sacked out. My #1 goal has been to make sure that Hola retained her really light "feel".  I tried really hard to make sure that she was still very willing to move off any driving pressure. If I swing a rope at Hola she will scooch her bum and hustle out of the way. Hola is highly reactive when you ask her to move. What I learned the hard way is that you need forward motion to train. When, ten years ago, I started my colt Keo, I tried really hard to make him "dead quiet"... what I got was "dead". It was nearly impossible to put that lightness and drive back into a horse. Mind you, I talked to his owners a few years ago and they said that horse has never spooked at anything, ever, and you could literally ride him down the middle of the freeway and he wouldn't so much as bat an eye. Keo also won the High School Rodeo championships in breakaway roping... so I guess he didn't get that bad of a start! I am off track:)...

Hola is snappy... like, freakily quick footed and as light as feather when you get her working. I took a lot of time getting her ready for that saddle and even so she did get to bucking pretty hard the first time she trotted and felt it bounce on her back. That is my biggest issue. Hola likes to buck and rear. She has never reared or bucked on the lead line, ever... but in the field she will hop up and buck and fart like a new born foal. All. The. Time. She also loves to run hell bent for leather and fence herself, leaving perfect ten foot 11's (sliding stops) in the grass. Oh, and bonus, she falls down. No, she isn't "out", I've had her looked at by vet and chiro, she just thinks that she can roll back over 180 degrees and not get her legs tangled up. And she doesn't even hit the ground hard, she will wipe it, roll with the momentum, hop up, crow hop, shake and then walk off like nothing happened. She is so athletic it scares me. Why I am starting her?

I don't know if I will start her. It depends on where I get in the next 30 days. My plan is to get her "sacked out" mentally and filled out physically before getting on. She is bigger but still slight and very lean muscled. I want her to pack some weight around to develop some muscle in her back and get her working on the line. We will see.

My biggest issue with her so far has been that Hola has had a really hard time accepting the back cinch (which I have buckled up to her belly).I have done prep work from day one with ropes on her belly and girth line to prepare her for the cinch. The front cinch really wasn't an issue when I finally cinched her up. The first few times she trotted with the saddle she did get to bucking a little but it really didn't surprise me because Hola L.O.V.E.S to buck but with the front cinch she really got over it quickly. Late last year I prepared her for a back cinch again with ropes and the day came where I finally cinched up that back girth. I wasn't surprised that she got broncy on that day but was surprised when she got broncy pretty much every time after... not when you cinch it or even when you walk her out but as soon as that saddle moves around a lot (up and down hills, trot, lope etc.) she will go bronc. My response in the past has been to just pull her around to a stop and send her back out again and usually after a one or two times she quits but if she is wearing that back cinch and something spooks her she will get to bucking again. I cant seem to get her passed it. I don't know what the right answer is... give up and come back to it later or work her passed it.

Here is a summery of our work so far.

July 25th, 2014
Day One!
Quiet and easy saddled lunge. Bucked when first trotted not after.

July 26th, 2014
Worked with ropes coming off the saddle/dragging behind her. She was pretty reactive which surprised me as she has done this before but never saddled. Started to realize her reaction to things saddled was much greater than unsaddled.  Started to get behind her and drive forward rather than stand at center. Bucked when pushed.

July 27th, 2014
Worked with plastic bag/sacking out. Had a panic attack about the bag disappearing from vision around her chest. Found that she wanted to blow up if I encouraged her to stand and look rather than walk forward. Went bronc if standing still when bag goes to blind spot but if I got her moving before putting it there she only bucked a few times and then moved on.

July 28th, 2014
Worked with plastic bag again having her move and follow it rather than freezing. Walked around the field waving the flag under and around her legs while having her move. Threw ropes around, at her. Drove her from behind a little. Small buck, just a couple hops. Moving seems to be the ticket.

July 29th, 2014
Used lunge whip without bag and had her recognize my body intention and move forward/not react to the whip moving rhythmically around her. Threw lines around her body. Had her swing around from pressure on the opposite side of where I was standing. No buck.

July 30th, 2014
Worked with ropes around saddle, swinging at her and having her follow the feel to spin around.
Lunged. No buck.

July 31st, 2014
I cant remember this work or if I gave her the time off but I think I might have driven her around the field and tried to see if I could get her used to the line on both sides of her so that I could long line her but she was pretty reactive about it and my line kept getting hung up in my saddle so I decided to wait and try without a saddle. But this might have been the day before. Grrr! THIS is why I need the journal!

This eve I took Marm out to be ridden by a professional barrel racer. More on that in another post.

August 1st, 2014
Our worst day. I took her out saddled and the first time I threw the line over her back she wanted to go broncy but this time I didn't just pull her to a stop and start again. I decided that enough was enough and that every time she bucked I was going to drive on her hip until she flattened out. It wasn't pretty. She tried to pull the line through my hand but I held (have blisters to prove it) and once she got moving out I also went to fixing the little pull she has had going on by giving her a hard bump inward to get her off of the line. She really didn't like that either.

I also really set her to work this day. She got really worried about it but I didn't lay off after a only a circle or two. She was really worried about having to canter three or four circles in a row and kept trying to quit but I wouldn't let her. I stayed with her until she completed a circle without having to be told and then just waited until she settled down and looked less stressed before quitting entirely. I then went back to some things she knew (following the lead through) and gave her a long in hand walk around the field followed by a 15 minute cold hose of her legs. This was the day I needed her  figure that she in the real world she was going to have to suck it the fuck up. Short, sweet, low pressure baby training is over. She is going to have to learn to work. I knew she wasn't going to like it but she needs to figure out that she working doesn't mean she is in trouble. I realize that is my fault...  I work her when she is naughty until she quits being naughty and then I quit. Now she thinks moving out means she is in trouble and get's stressed when I make her work for a longer period of time.

Hola after The Hardest Day

August 2nd, 2014
Day Off. I would have liked to give her a nice soft low pressure work this day but I wasn't able to make it to barn.

August 3rd, 2014
Didn't saddle. Notched down pressure level to make for a nice quiet no pressure 15 minute lunge. She loped on her own and didn't get jazzed. Going to work back up to some hard works mid week.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Showing Abby

Two weeks and two shows later I think it is official... Abby is the best horse ever. I want to write about everything that happened before I forget but it is hard to find the time right now.  I want to remember it... like for-eh-ver ...

Where to start... well, it started on my birthday...

On my birthday I could feel that my back was "twigged". That Monday night I rode but tried to keep it really light and easy. The next morning that twig was pretty flared up and I knew that if I rode I was going to be flat out so I decided that I had to be a little proactive-

I went to physiotherapy for the first time since I was eighteen (I've been told to go to phyio about dozen times for my knee and back but just never got there.) That Wednesday the physiotherapist examined me at length and looked at the CT scans I had last winter and concurred with the doctor that it is my SI joint that is the issue. So he used some ultrasound therapy and some dry needling and showed me some exercises he wanted me to do in order the strengthen my core. I told him that I needed to ride on Thursday, Friday and Sunday for sure but I could take Wednesday and Saturday off. He laughed before realizing that I wasn't joking. "You cant ride", he said. I just smiled and said, "If I can find a way to get on, I will ride."  He clearly hasn't had much experience with horsemen.

And then I woke up the next morning and knew I was in BIG trouble. I had paid for a warm-up in the big arena. Because Abby has been out so little I really felt it was important to get her to the venue on a day that was quiet and get her in that big pen with the grandstands, waste barrels, signage, and people bustling around behind curtains. I managed to get my trailer hooked up and down to the barn. I got my tack loaded and haltered my horse. By that point I wasn't really walking so much as gingerly shuffling along. Abby loaded easily enough, I checked the trailer and I hauled myself up in to the drivers seat... but just couldn't quite sit down. I leaned against the door and propped myself up on the steering wheel and started down the road. I was hurtin pretty good by then. Half way down the road I stopped and had a little pity party. I have waited FIVE years to show this damn horse. I had been trying to prepare for this show for 2 months but had lost the first six weeks to my Very Bad Mistake and then half of the two weeks I had left to my back issue. I honestly felt that if I didn't show Abby that weekend I might never get the chance again. I know that sounds crazy but it just seems like for so many years the stars just wouldn't align and once again I was going to miss my opportunity. I phoned my good friend Barb because I knew she was the only one who's opinion would fall somewhere between sucking it up (I've seen Barb run grand entry with a broken ankle) and playing it smart so I had a hope in hell of riding that coming Sunday. She told me to go in to town and buy some good muscle relaxant/anti-inflammatories and then head out to the show grounds, if by the time I got there I could move a little better then get on but don't work her, just walk her in to the big arena and let her get a look around then walk out. So I took her advice and popped some pills. Sure enough I got out there and was just able to move around just enough to get Abby out of the trailer and tacked. I had parked as far out as I could so that no one would see struggling like a total pussy while getting ready but the flip side was that I had a longer walk to the arena. I wasn't going to go shuffling along like some demented cowboy Steve Urkel and I sure the hell wasn't going to let anyone see me try to mount once I got there. Luckily, Abby is only 14.2HH. I was able to drop my stirrups a few inches and after making sure she was cinched up extra tight and basically crawled on chin-up style. Why did woman have to get the short end of the upper body strength stick? The problem was that I still couldn't really sit down but I figured out that if I leaned on the pommel and took my weight in to my (by then) shaky arms I could kinda-sorta ride. I stood on the sidelines for ten minutes watching everyone else school their horses in the big arena, spinning, running down, stopping and galloping around. When my name was called I slowly walked the perimeter of the arena, letting abby stop and sniff the trash barrels and ogle the stands and then slowly walked out and back to my trailer. I heaved a sigh of relief that I had somehow managed to "get 'er done" and could take my time getting home. I thought I was in the clear right up until I went to pick up the ramp of my trailer. I huffed and I puffed but there was just no way I was going to be able to pick that sucker up. I stood up and looked around. There was a man wearing a cowboy hat (I wouldn't call him a cowboy for reasons you will shortly understand) sitting on the lawn chair just a few trailers over. I took a breath to ask him for a hand but stopped when I realized that he had been watching me struggle my way through untacking Abby the whole damn time and had certainly seen me fail to lift the ramp. Now I wouldn't expect someone to come offer a hand when I obviously trying to suck it up but he saw me look around for a helping hand and he didn't see fit to stand up. I would be damned if I was going to ask him for help. I got that ramp up on my foot, then slid it up on my knee and managed to shimmy it up until it was at a height that I could reach and pull. I closed the door with a thud and resisted the urge to turn around and flip him the bird. Later that night I realized that I probably over-reacted- I should thank that lazy ass bastard as it spiked my adrenaline enough to get the job done and I went home hurting but satisfied.

The next day I couldn't get out of bed.

My DB said there was no way I was going to be able to show by that weekend. I looked him dead in the eye and told him that come hell or high water I was showing my horse and I didn't want to hear another word about it. Of course that didn't stop him. Every time I had to get on my hand and knees to get out bed or had to stand to eat supper he would give me the eye and I'd just say "shut up".

On Friday and Saturday I had my friend and neighbor ride Abby for me. She is very handy with a horse and got Abby tuned up a little and that really helped my confidence that at least Abby was thinking about being a reiner again. By Saturday I was walking and able to sit and drive again. I was about 50% better, enough that I knew I was going to be able to ride, maybe not well and maybe not enough to actually ride a pattern but I was going to be able to get in the show pen even if I had to zero my pattern intentionally. The best thing about what happened was that it completely changed my attitude about showing. Previous to my back going out I was nervous about how unprepared Abby and I were, I was worried about the crowd, the judges, what I was going to wear and if Abby was going to be fitted out respectably. Absolutely none of that mattered by the time I got to Sunday. I didn't care if I had to ride in there naked on a highland pony. I didn't care who watched or how badly we did, I just cared that I was able to go. So many people in this world face a lifetime of disabilities, I knew I was going to be okay, I knew I as going to be able to walk, ride and drive again. What right did I have to complain about a stiff and sore back?

On Sunday morning at 5:00AM I headed to the barn to pick up Abby. The sun had just risen and the mist over the river glowed pink and golden. The pale sky was cut in half by a ridge of dark blue mountains and the damp fields glistened with dew. I was humbled by the beauty of that morning. I recognized that in that moment I was living my dreams. I continued to live out my dreams for the rest of that morning. I showed Abby. My friends and family were there to watch. I smiled at them. I smiled at the judges. I thanked my horse. And I rode my pattern. I didn't zero. I didn't score well either:) But I didn't zero which means that what we did resembled reining enough to grant us a score. I cant begin to say just how highly I think of Abby, she packed me through it. What horse packs a rider through a pattern after FIVE years of standing in a field raising babies?

Of course I wasn't even out of the pen before I was plotting how I could get her fit and ready to show again! Little did I know I would get that chance just one week later.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Mosquito on my Ass

I last posted on the 24th of June. I had just taken Abby up to a club arena and had started to think that maybe I might just make that July show I had set my sights on back in May before having to leave her off due to my very Big Mistake. Other than a handful of very short, very slow rides on very soft ground Abs didnt get any riding until that ride in the end of June. Actually, Abby has had very little riding, period, in the time I've had her since she got pulled off the broodmare field where she had stood for over five years. I got Abby home in November of 2013. I didnt ride her at all until January and those rides were very short and sweet and I remember being so happy and shocked with how much she still remembered. But that Spring I never did really get it together and actually start working her. I would guess, all total, I rode Abby about 30-40 times coming up to the last week in June and nearly all of those rides where walks in the field and on the trail. I rode her twice at the neighbors, once at a local indoor, and a few times at a half I can safely say that I did not have more than ten arena rides on her or any kind of serious work. So when I decided to, (at the end of June) try to get her fit and ready to rein for that July show, I knew that I was going to have to keep my expectations low... but I decided to bite the bullet and just go ahead and enter. I wasn't going to be "ready" but I really just needed the experience under my belt. I paid my fees. I was entered to show on July 13th!

That last week of June I dropped in three times at the neighbors arena, hauled her over to another big arena and had a very short ride in the gravel paddock. I had avoided stopping her at all in that week because I didnt have sliders on her and the neighbors arena is deep and stick- I didn't want her jamming up her hocks but on July 3rd I got a set of sliders put on and the next day I went over to a local indoor with good loose footing. We had a really nice ride at that arena. I am always so impressed with this horse and how totally relaxed she is wherever we go. New horses, new arena, a mirror, jump standards- none of it phases her. It was exciting to finally get to ask her to run down (a little bit) and stop. I was a little surprised that she was wanting to really break down to a soft stop rather than slide but then I realized that I have done nothing but break down to a stop since I've had her (because I didnt have the ground or sliders on her). I didn't want to overdue do it and make her sore so only stopped her four or five times. I really wanted to get her stopping better but thought it was better to error on the side of caution. The crappy part was that during that ride I had asked her to gallop out a little and she had popped her lead and when I picked up on her to bring her down and switch back she kind of jammed to a stop on me and I could feel a little twig I have in my back get tweaked.

I've had chronic issues with my lower back since I was eighteen. Most of time it will just be a little "twig" and if I baby it for a little while I can get past it but every year I will randomly make some motion that will spontaneously set it off and leave me barely able to walk, stand, sit or even lay down comfortably. When Abby stuck that stop suddenly I felt that stab of pain and later that night I definitely felt that inflammation come up but I just took an Advil, went to bed and hoped it would be gone in the morning.

And wouldn't you know it, the next morning was my birthday. You know, that special day wherein the world is obligated to lay off the bullshit and cut you some slack for 24 hours and maybe even grant a few wishes? More than anything I really just wanted to take Marm to the park and go for a nice little trail ride by myself. I felt some tenderness in my hip/back but not enough to not ride. I hauled up to a local park and hit the trail feeling like all was right in the world... for about three minutes until I felt the sudden prick of mosquito on my neck, my thigh, my wrist, the back of my hand, my upper arm, shoulder... everywhere! Marm was tossing her head and swishing her tail like crazy. I had doused us both in repellant but it was no use. Right by the parking lot there is a large field of tall grass so I decided to just pick up a trot and see if I could get out of that infested area. Marm thought this was a great idea and we were quickly hustling down the trail. Five minutes later I slowed to a walk and waited to see how many mosquitos would land on Marm's neck. Within thirty seconds a dozen or were greedily sucking her blood and I was slapping bloody streaks off my own neck too. I stubbornly refused to admit that my morning, my birthday morning no less, was going to be ruined by a mob of vampire bugs! Oh no! So off Marm and I went again. We long trotted that trail for twenty minutes or so before I stopped to turn around. For half my ride my bladder had been protesting that it needed some relief. For half my ride I had been telling it to shut up!  The morning was hot and humid and my jeans were damp with sweat and stuck tight to my thighs. The trail I was on, while not busy that morning (no one else was crazy enough to dare the bugs) was not entirely abandoned either and there was no deeply wooded area in which to step. The idea of exposing one more inch of my skin to the hordes of lurking bloodsuckers was needless to say, unappealing...however,  only slightly less so than the idea of long trotting all the way back to the trailer with a full bladder. I resigned myself to getting off to go but I knew I had to do it as quickly as possible to minimize the time my butt was exposed to the pariah like mosquitos and maximize my chance of missing a fellow rider or walker. I think actually mumbled to myself, "ready, set, GO!" I hopped off, stepped two feet off the trail, peeled off my pants and sat my ass straight down on to a stinging nettle bush. Happy Fucking Birthday! Oh! And it's not like the mosquitoes had any sense of sympathy! Oh no! They sensed my vulnerable state and pounced on my posterior with their greedy little fangs. I told my bladder to stop! Stop quick! We had to run for our lives! But it ignored my desperate pleas in it's own quest for relief. Finally, finally, I was finished. Surely the worst was behind me. But no, oh no, the best part was yet to come- I couldn't get my pants back up. I was hopping up and down the trail, yanking on my jeans and trying to unfurl the tightly bound roll my underwear had become with my backside stinging like the dickens and my horse threatening mutiny if I did not get her moving before she was drained of every last drop of blood in her 1000 pound body all the while I'm craning my head over my should certain that at any moment some tender eyed group of boy scouts would walk around that bend in the trail and catch me with my red spotted behind on full display and cussing like a sailor. But alas, I was granted some small mercy and managed to get my jeans back up... though my panties were quick literally and figuratively still in a knot.

I got back on. We hauled ass back to the trailer. I took this video just as we were getting back the parking lot.

That afternoon I headed across the line to find me a new pair of blue jeans. By the time I got to the Bony Pony in Mt.Vernon my back was feeling more than a little tweaked but I just went slow and kept moving hoping it would loosen up. I did find a nice pair of Wrangler Q-Baby jeans in a dark dark blue that I planned on showing in the following Sunday. My fun purchase of the day was a pair of good ol' fashioned Wranglers that are so old school they are back in style! That night my man took me to an amazing Italian restaurant and then we did something I've been begging him to do since we met... we went bowling! By the time we got home my lower back wasn't just protesting... it was threatening an all out strike. The next morning I took the bull by the horns and made an appointment with a physiotherapist. Come hell or high water I was showing my horse... that is if I could get my foot in the stirrup.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Back to Work We Go

I hauled Abby out last night and let her lope (and even gallop) a few circles in the deep loose ground of a big ol' arena (which was blessedly empty). She really had to dig deep in that ground and was sweated up pretty good. I kept it short because obviously she isn't fit enough to really handle the work but she was really jazzed and seemed to want to open up so I let her go. I always worry about doing too much and so I take it slow but in reality, if I had turned her loose, she would have worked twice as hard and twice as long all on her own just having fun and ripping around. I walked her out in hand on the firmer ground for a good 15 minutes and rubbed her down until she gleamed. This evening she didnt seem at all sore. I wanted to work her again tonight but I couldnt get my truck to haul out and there was no ground available so I stuck to the little gravel arena/paddock at my barn and just asked her to do a lot of bending/counter bending and then loped a few very small circles (which is hard work and gets those ab muscles engaged!) I am starting to think maybe, just maybe I might enter that show in July just for the experience. She needs to get out and I need the experience every bit (actually a lot more) than she does... it would be a good thing for us... I just don't want to make an ass of myself and this show is the biggest of the year. Go big or go home? I just about pee my pants even thinking about it!

Oh and I needed a new saddle pad for months now and was looking to see if maybe one with very little use would come up used locally. Last week a barely used (but very dirty) "tough enough to wear pink" ProChoice pad came up so I bought it for $40. Then this afternoon a damn near brand spankin' new ESP wool pad came up that still had a new looking price tag from a local tack store ($179.99) which I got for $82. Both pads are not even broken in and between them both I paid less than I would have paid for one alone. The Scott in me is smiling:)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Not a Lotta Nothing...

I doesn't feel like I got a whole lot accomplished with my horses this week but in fact I did quite a bit! The reason why I don't feel productive is because I didn't stay on track with my training goals and instead went out and just kinda winged it.... but in a good way. I hauled Abby and Marm out on Monday night to an arena and I ended up working both of them to a sweat in the deep soft ground, the first work they have had in almost a month. Abby was surprisingly goosey that night, I ended up asking her to do more than I planned just because I needed to get and keep her attention. Then on Tuesday morning I actually hauled out again to a trail and had a really nice ride on Marm.  On Wedneday night I hauled Marm and Abby up to the little arena on my other property and had a nice short ride on both. I worked Abby to a light sweat again and she really was light and fresh from being tuned up a little on the ride a few days before. While I haven't worked with Hola specifically I do like that she was left twice at home "alone" (not really because a boarder's gelding is there and Ella too but not her every day herd). I feel bad that I didn't get to get Hola out in the trailer this week but still hope to get that done tomorrow night. On Thursday night  I got on Marm with the intention of riding out on the road/trail on both mares but the mosquitos were just too bad so I roped a little off of Marm but after missing ten times in a row I was so frustrated I knew my aim was unlikely to improve and so called it quits. That night I rode her in a halter with just the lead rope (one rein) and she was guiding around beautifully. Finally this evening I went to the barn with the intention of riding but again the bugs were horrendous and I just didn't have a mind to do much of anything as I had done yoga followed by gong bath meditation (which was weird, cool and just a little annoying) that morning and found that rather than being energized and centered as I usually am by practicing yoga I was actually irritable and flustered. I think it may be because this was the first time I had done yoga in a group (not at home to my favorite DVDs) and had a really hard time concentrating and finding my inner zen. I think I will try it again (the yoga not the gong bath) as I do believe that finding my center while in a group setting could actually help me in my everyday life. But that is another post for another day. Namaste!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Chaste Berry and Raspberry Leaf

Three weeks ago I started Abby and Marm on chaste berry (vitex) and Raspberry leaf. For Marm my hope was that it would improve her mindset under saddle. For Abby I hoped it would help her loose some of the fatty deposits she carries (IR type symptom) and help her not have her notorious super raunchy 3 week heat cycles. Unfortunately, one week after I started supplementing I had that whole incident where I left the gate open and the horses were out on lush green grass all night long. While trying to keep them from foundering (and helping Abby through the resulting colic) I changed quite a few other things in their diet/environment in an effort to reduce their sugar levels and keep them on soft ground and to help re-establish their gut flora. Before my Very Big Mistake the horses were given access to a very sparse pasture for the better part of the day. I am going to be keeping them off of pasture entirely for another three weeks (4-6 weeks total). They used to get a few flakes of low sugar local hay morn and night in a slow feeder net. Now they get one flake of local and a small or half flake of alfalfa. Abby and Marm were on a joint supplement before as well as Hoffmans Mineral mixed in a little beet pulp with a sprinkle of low sugar/high fat grain to make it more palatable. I had just started them on 1tsp of chaste berry and 2 heaping tbsp. of raspberry leaves about a week before. To this I have now added SmartDigest Ultra by Smartpak which has psyllium, probiotics, prebiotics, and digestive enzymes. Both mares were on an NSAID for about a week and I know this also affected their gut/digestion. The good news is that I haven't noticed an raunchy heat cycle on Abby and she has lost almost all of the fatty deposit she had behind her shoulder. Marm has been going beautifully under saddle (but I've only been walking her) and seems more relaxed in her demeanor and even in her conformation. The bad news is that I don't know whether it is because of the lack of grass/turn out, the digestive upset, the digestive supplement, the chaste berry, the raspberry leaf or the alfalfa (and less local). Both mares have dropped weight in all the right places. Right now I am just going to keep the status quo and hope that they continue to get happier and healthier.

From Bottom up- Mineral, Flax, Joint Supplement, Raspberry Leaf, Chaste Berry, Grain
I did get to ride both mares tonight, Abby just bareback for a minute or two. Hola was also as such a good girl tonight, she stood tied for twenty minutes and then (for the first time) laid over her back a little. She was like "what the hell are you doing you weirdo!" but didn't take so much as a step. Good girl. We had a wee discussion the other night about her being sticky and bratty. This afternoon she was like "yes ma'am".

I took Marm over to the neighbors arena and she was AWESOME. She was relaxed, she listened, she guided beautifully, she stopped when asked and drug a pole around the arena like it was the most important job in the world. On top of that she looks freakin' awesome. I will try to get pictures in the morning.

Riding the Individual Horse's Mind

Last night's ride went very well indeed and, ironically, not because it went according to plan. My plan was to work creating softness in the back up.  I got on Abby and after walking for a few minutes went to turn her around so that we had room to back up. That is when what should have been a turn on the hind quarter to the right (because I was sitting down and had picked up my rein, laying it against her neck, opening my inside leg and closing my out) was instead a small circle to right. I went to correct her and found that she really didn't want to drop back on her hock and turn unless I circled her first. I realized that over the past month I have not asked her to turn around (spin), even a half a turn without first circling around to it. Every day I have been practicing standing still and having her actively wait for my cue. This time was no different, I made sure that I was giving her a very specific cue to turn around without walking off (moving forward slightly to set up her legs so she can step around smoothly is okay but not actually moving off). In less than ten minutes I felt like I had made some headway as she was really tuned in while waiting and put a lot of energy in to her response. Most importantly I really felt her listen.

So I got on Marm and thought I would get back on to my "game plan". I sat on her for a moment and worked out in my mind what I was going to do and how when suddenly it just hit me that as much as Marm could really benefit from that kind of softening and flexion work, that is specifically the kind of "work" that makes her so frustrated. On paper it sounds like the right thing. But in reality Marm just wants a job. Any job. So I got off and went in the barn for my rope. I roped the fence post for about five minutes and felt her relax and soften when I went forward and backed up to get my rope. Event that tiny bit of purpose to my intent changed the way she felt and thought. So I took it a step further and looped my rope on to a heavy piece of firewood which I then had her drag around the arena. I think we both realized that this wasn't a real job but it still put my attention and focus off of her and gave her something to think about. And she just gobbled it up. I could feel her relax even as she became more alert. It was awesome. I am hoping to get over to the neighbors today to rope a dummy (rather than the much too high fence post).

As for the little Princess. She spent another half hour tied to the wall tacked. Once I finished with the mares I was trying to figure out what short and sweet little task I could set her too and decided that I was actually already engaged in it... because I had turned the mares loose and was in the barn stuffing a hay net to feed them all lunch and I could hear Hola getting restless. I felt reeeeeally evil putting out hay for the mares and tying a net near her (but well out of reach) while she was still tied but what is the point in practicing her tying and patience if it isn't ever challenged? She did move around and jerk on her lead a few times but within a few minutes settled back down. I went over, untied and untacked her and then turned her loose. It was another great day with the my ladies.

Monday, June 9, 2014

3rd "Short" Ride- Not a Success

So last night I tacked up with the intent of having another very successful "short" ride. I was confident (bordering on cocky) that my horses were going to go just as good as they did in the previous two rides. Not so much. Starting with Abby, my finished reiner, the horse with the stop so deep and hard it'll knock your ovaries out... well, I had no stop at all. I sat down, exhaled, picked up my rein and got... nothing. No response. How is that possible?!? So I backed her up 15' or so and sat there for a minute and tried again, focused on really engaging my seat and pushing forward then dramatically sitting down, exhaling and keeping my hands still until I felt her stop... but no stop came. I backed her up another 20' and went again. No stop. I stopped and thought about it for a minute and then decided that the problem was simple. I had been standing holding her for twenty minutes or more before getting on while talking to L. and in that time she had been doing her own thing, playing with the lead, playing in the water and lollygagging around in LaLaLand. Then I got on and said "Okay, let's work on this" and she was like "La-de-dah-de-dah"... So I woke her up. I backed 20' but gave her some good bumps, sent her in to a roll back and then kicked her up to a trot before sitting deep and saying "whoa". And she stopped. Like, stopped stopped.... And stood there, her ears flicking to me listening and saying "Okay! I'm awake! What now?!? I'm ready when you are?" I got off, dropped her cinch and pulled her saddle. Good girl.

Then I got on Marm and found I had the exact same issue- Not awake, not wanting to stop and just not engaged or listening but with Marm I know my job is to get more quiet and more soft or she will just get more resistant and listen less. So I tried to do that but my patience was already worn thin. I decided to back her up a little and get off because nothing good was going to come of me continuing that ride.

On reflection I realize that the problem was my own. In the first two rides I was alone and when I stepped in the saddle my attention and intent was 100% focused on my predetermined objective. When I got on last night my mind was still rolling over my earlier conversation, I didn't have a specific plan and I was "present" until after I had already gotten annoyed. And we all know nothing good comes of getting mad. My bad.

So tonight I hope to get to the barn for another short ride. My goal will be to have both of them back softly off of a light feel. I will give
them 100% of my attention the entire time (even if it is only five minutes) I am in the saddle. And I will hope for a much better result.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Two VERY Successful Rides at a Walk

On Thursday night I went to the barn with the intent of working with all three of my horses in under an hour. Because I'm only riding for ten minutes, and only at a walk, it was shockingly easy. I grabbed Hola and gave her a good brushing over the saddle/cinch area. I popped on a saddle, cinched it up, walked her outside and tied her to the wall. I took a single brush out and did the same quick brush of both mares (Marm and Abby). Abby then got tied to the wall and I had Marm tacked in just a few minutes. I rode Marm for less than ten minutes with the idea that I was going to simply work on having her move forward when I pick up my energy and stop when I exhale deeply and sit deep. I was so relaxed and so specific in my intent that she responded instantly. We only did it a dozen times before I decided to call it a success and quit. I dropped her cinch before walking back to the barn. I took her right up beside where Abby was tied and slipped the saddle off of Marm and right on to Abs. I tied Marm to the wall and cinched Abs up. The same exercise on her (for less than ten minutes), the same dropped cinch while she stood from that last stop and I was back to the barn. I let both mares loose and took Hola for a short walk down the road to where I know there is another horse in a neighboring pasture. I wanted her to stay with me while that horse ran the fence line. After a few minutes of turning left, right, back, forward, stop, back, left right (just changing directions every few seconds so that she had to focus on me) she settled down and started ignoring that other horse. I walked her home, slipped the saddle off of her an called it a night. Less than an hour and I felt like I had total success on all three horses.

Last night I tried to run the same play with pretty much the same result only this time I worked on having them ride straight until told to turn (not allowing them to turn at the corners on their own). This meant having to either ask them to turn before they hit the end of the arena/corner or having them stop straight looking that the fence and asking them to weight there until I actually ask for the turn. Less than ten minutes for each and it felt like I really accomplished something. I love that I had one very simple objective in mind and I rode until it started clicking and then quit rather than moving on to something else. I could get used to this kind of riding in a hurry. Both night on both horses I quit with my horses licking and chewing. Love it. And last night with Hola I just tacked her, tied to the wall while I worked the other mares and then walked her over to the other side of the barn (where we rarely if ever go) and asked her to move in a narrow space between me and the tractor without bowing in to my space. Again my focus, intent and task was so specific that we had almost immediate success. Love it!