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.