Monday, May 30, 2011

Getting Visual.


So it appears that my camera cord is at work, hence no pictures. I know, I know.

But, I did finally download a video from 2 weeks ago of Tuesday morning when I went for an AM practice ride on Moon.

I watched it a few times over, and it was good since last night I rode him after we changed our approach to getting him on the bit. I could REALLY see in the video just how resistive he was, AND I could really see that I struggled to get his head down. Even then, it didn't last long, and it wasn't particularly low. I'm hoping that I can clean up my camera and take some new video tomorrow morning to compare our progress. Hopefully!

Pardon the quality of these images as well, since they're screen shots of the video. It's all I've got, and I PROMISE, I'll look for that cord tomorrow!

You'll notice that I've changed the header on the blog too. The old image (a video capture as well) was from last summer, when I tossed Moon over his first jump. I guess, a part of me feels like that was us before we started focusing on the quality of our riding. I admit, I'm still chomping at the bit to get to the 'exciting' stuff, but I know that as long as I am, so will Moon. And I REALLY don't need him chomping at the bit anymore!

This new picture, is from the very end of our Tuesday ride, and I don't know. I just think it's cute. And check out my little crop! That was a gift from H, and I just love it. So cute.

So, our first picture, is of the "standard" Moon head carriage. I shouldn't say standard. We're changing this, and I'll now call it, our 'old' head carriage. Mouth a gap, head high...


Then we have, what we managed to achieve two weeks ago. I think we might even be doing better now, but I don't want to be too optimistic...


I'll admit, that I find a lot of my own errors in looking at these. Many Coach W has already pointed out, but sometimes I'm soooo focused on Moon that I forget about correcting myself! My right leg is AWFUL for toeing out. Just horrible. Overall, I think I really bad for having my toes pointing outwards, which makes it look really awkward. I've also got 'chair legs', and in trying to 'grasp the bit on either side of his mouth', I think I have chicken arms, they're REALLY far apart, my hands are turned, my fingers are open, and I tend to ride falling on his neck. But we'll fix me later, right ; )

Here's Mr. Wide Nostrils...


This last one I find interesting, as when I look at it, even though we're at a trot, it kinda looks like he doesn't have any feet on the ground...I'm sure it's an illusion thanks to the quality, but still...


So that's our current image. I'm HOPING the weather continues to surprise, and I get our morning practice in. That'll be two between last class and this one, and hopefully I can get the camera out to that one as well.

One of these days, I need to get around to finally transfering his ownership...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday Stretches

We managed to get everything finished around the house before the afternoon was up, and since the weather was still holding up, I decided to head out to the barn to vaccinate Mr. MoonSox. I'd been putting it off long enough, and just wanted it finished. Technically, it's still not!

I rubbed down his neck with some peroxide to "try" to make it a sterile dose, and gave him 1 mL of Tetanus on one side of his neck, and 1 mL of West Nile in the other. Apparently, he gets his flu in two weeks too. He was an awesome boy, giving me nothing more then a slight flinch on either side. No rearing, nothing crazy. He's wonderful.

I gave him his usual grooming, and am DREAMING of giving him a proper bath with a garden hose. Never gotten to do that with him, and am wondering how he'll take it...

I went to tack him up, and since my purple pad was still at home, I used the white pad again. And thought...hmmm...it'd be nice to use the matching girth again. So I first taped him, to find he's about 1123 lbs. Not sure if that's up or down, but I wrote it down anyway. Maybe someday I'll track it properly : P

I also tried again to see how tall he is. I do believe, that he's either 15 hh, or just a hair under 15.1. CRAZY. I suppose the height feels perfect for me after all the hours I put on the polo ponies. It's just something about a small horse, that I can hop on and off of, that I just take to. Heck, I can bounce onto him from the ground. Which is a lot closer when I fall! I really can't explain it. I know the current 'fashion' is to have great tall skinny horses, but something about my short thick Moon is just perfect for me. Maybe it's because I'm tall and skinny myself. We balance one another out this way!

Anyway, I pulled out the black girth, which is a 50" and was pleased to find that it once again fit him, with minimal effort to get it buckled. One hole on the far side, 2 holes on the near. Is my Moon losing weight??!

I snapped a couple pics of him in his cooler (still can't decide if I should sell, as I think it's snug on him), and a few in his pretty black tack. Silly goose kept following me around making it hard.

We went into the ring, and he stood pretty well for me to mount. I tried briefly to work him on the ground before hand, but am not nearly co-ordinated enough! Figured at least from the saddle I could focus on what I knew (kinda).

At first it wasn't going so well. He was resistive, and while at times would lower his head in response, his mouth would be open, and I'd be leaning up on his neck. I'm feeling VERY twisted in the saddle lately, and know I need to get that fixed.

After awhile of being frustrated, I decided I needed some guidance. Since no one was there to serve that purpose, I jumped off Moon, and while he grazed, in his bridle which is COMPLETELY against my rules, I grabbed every pole in the ring. I used a barrel and a cavelleti too, and made myself the outline of a circle. Then I remounted, and was able to use this 'circle' as my guide. I focus on it, instead of Moon's head or neck, and was able to use my legs better to guide him around, pushing him out when he was coming close to stepping on a pole.

Something about this change, allowed him to really get focussed too. While our stops were still crappy (he just HATES direct rein pressure back, and starts dancing everywhere), we were getting really good forward movement. To the right, he was moving beautifully at a walk. Carrying at times, his head lower then ever before. He was even moving with his mouth closed, which was perfect. We moved out to a trot slowly, and managed it without him lifting his head. Which meant it was fluid and not the slightest bit jarring. Beautiful. Granted after awhile he was head tilting or slowing down, but even then he kept a nice low head carriage. I was soo proud of him. He was chewing softly, and I knew I was able to maintain contact as I could FEEL him chewing. It was incredible.

Going the other way, I managed some lovely low carriage at a walk, but unfortunately our trot just wasn't there. Headed left he could still lower and move out to the trot without raising his head, but after moving into trot he'd brace against the bit and open his mouth. Ah well. We made and were making such excellent progress, and I decided let's end on a great note. We did a few more laps at a walk, and then I called it a day.

Actually, I'm one of those people who doesn't understand 'ending on a good note', and decided we needed to practice opening a gate from horseback. So I remounted outside the ring, rode him over to the large gate, and got it open. And swung it wide, rode through, and got it put back. Could just NOT quite get him to move close enough for me to relatch it. Dang! But he had done so well, that I figured I should appreciate what I have.

So he got a handful of treats, and I once again, wasn't content to let our success lie! I mean, we vaccinated, we rode on the bit, and we got the gate open. Why NOT try to see if he'd stand the fly mask I bought him? I mean, we're nearing that time when he's going to need it, and the last time I tried it, he was REALLY nervous of the thing. No surprise, after one ear-back moment, he accepted it, so I took him handgrazing to make sure he was okay.

And he wandered off on me!

Chasing him down, and vowing to not be so trusting of a hungry horse next time, I watched as a galloped across the paddock. He's such a pretty mover!

So when he finished his antics, I removed the mask and bridle and let him go back to his hay. After he stopped for a quick snuggle and treat. That's my Moon!

Unfortunately, tomorrow is supposed to be rain, so we MIGHT get one more practice in on Tuesday morning...not sure, but here's hoping. Also, T might not be able to make it to my Wednesday lesson, so I might be solo on that one too. Which kinda sucks.

Is this going to be lesson #4 already? It seems like time is just flying by!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

No Reason to Doubt

After driving half-cocked around the city buying supplies for the camper repair, I managed to get out to the barn around 5 pm, and find that when I got out of my car, Moon was standing in front of the gate, staring at me. Hmmm...does he ACTUALLY know it's me when I pull up??

Brought Mr. Muddy over to be groomed, and in no time he was back to being shiny. T hadn't arrived yet, so I filled all the water troughs and buckets for the other ponies, and prepped everything in the trailer and truck. Finally, needing SOMETHING to pass the time, I grabbed my 'roper' reins (the type that clip on) and attached them to Moon's halter. He actually stood reasonably nicely to mount (maybe last week's tantrum had an affect), and I climbed aboard bareback.

At first he just wanted to GO, but before long he had settled down nicely, and much to my chagrin...or pleasure...he was lowering his head and stretching out. WHY can't he do that in a bridle!

We did some nice turn-on-the-fores and some very sloppy trot work (MUST learn to relax!), and I decided it was well enough. He was moving and listening well, including giving me nice stops.

When T showed up, we headed out to Coach W's, and I always enjoy the conversation along the way. Coach W was her usual spunky self, and complimented Mr. Moon in his new saddle pad, claiming that white and black looked very sharp on him. Why was he in a new saddle pad? Because SOMEONE forgot to wash his purple one (yes, my boy horse wears pale purple), and it was the only other one kicking around the tack room. Okay, the old blue "Griffin" one is there, but I HATE that pad. It's not shaped, and I've found with his prominent wither and dropped back, it tends to pull down at the wither which to me looks rather painful. So I've decided it just won't be used anymore. I wonder if someone would be interested in it?

Anyway, Moon looked fabulous, and we got tacked and headed into the arena to start working. I told Coach W all about my frustrations and Mr. Head-in-the-Sky, and how I felt like our practice sessions were WORSE then anything before. As she is wonderful, she decided we'd take a different approach...

She started by working with the bit in her hands, encouraging him to lower. As she worked him into it, she slowed moved back to using the reins and finally, told me to mimic what she had done to get him to lower his head into the bit. At first I couldn't figure it out. She pointed out one big issue, was that I was narrowing my hands, and Moon really needed them further apart. It really did seem like when I took this wider approach (felt awkward to keep my hands so far apart), he was more willing to lower.

I worked and worked and worked on it, trying to get the right feeling to get him to drop his head. Coach W suggested doing it at a stand still where I was a lot more able, and then moving out into a walk, getting him to keep that head position. And if he didn't, trying for a lap to get him to regain it. Should we fail, bring him back down to a walk, and get it there.

At first it was difficult. W sometimes would come over when we were stopped and work his head down herself. Sometimes he'd resist, throwing his head up or opening his mouth. Sometimes he'd try to back-up, or throw his haunches over. Sometimes, he'd stick his nose in the ground.

Slowly, bit by little bit, he would drop his head sooner. And with less rein pressure. Eventually, he would move from stand still to walk without raising his head, and keep it there as we went around. We did it in both directions, and I was a little taken aback by how quickly he seemed to be grasping what I wanted of him. Yes, he still would open his mouth at times, but he was quicker to close it and chew.

After awhile, W suggested I try moving out to a trot, and still maintaining the lowered head carriage.

Our first go, by some miracle, he kept his head low, and for once, I wasn't popped forward in the saddle. It was awesome! Of course, it didn't last long, and I couldn't get him to come back to me. We stopped, fixed it, walked on, kept it, and then trotted. Once or twice he'd throw his head up, or shoot me forward, but after awhile, I could get him to lower in the trot too. That was super special to me. W said you could see him really start to round, and he looked so much better. Not only that, but he was moving better, and some day, despite being the stocky, thick necked horse that he is, he'll achieve some beautiful movements. Which is the whole purpose of this.

We worked in both directions, ironically, going to the right was actually BETTER for him. Sometimes he'd lose his balance, or fall on his face, or stick his nose in the dirt, but it REALLY felt like we were actually starting to achieve what we wanted. And he felt a lot less resistant!

W called the class to an end, and Moon got some sugar lumps (which he spit out) and some peppermint treats. Mmm, he loves those peppermint treats. She gave us some ground work to do, such as from the ground while he is bitted, to work on getting him to lower and move out. It was great, as he was now standing with his head lowered, and really did seem a lot more relaxed.

I told W about how some people were suggesting we try a different bit, or dropped noseband, etc. The thing that hit home to me, was that we're working towards acceptance of the bit. She assured me that we could get him to lower in any number of harsh bits or clamping their mouth shut, and achieve something that looks very similar to what we want. You can 'fake' acceptance. But you're not going to have a relaxed, calm and willing horse in your hands. You're not going to develop that bond that we so desperately desire. My choice is either to focus on achieving a certain "look" as quickly as possible, or to focus on creating a certain "feel", which might take two, three or twelve months. Some people want to go fast. That's okay. But you have to decide what you want.

Moon and I, we want to do it right. I want him to trust me wholeheartedly on the bit. She said, someday, we'll be so in-tune, that on days when I'm off, he'll cover for me. And I for him. THAT is equine partnership. That's what we're going for. Yes, this is new and awkward for us both. Yes, it's tough, and we'll have struggles. But my Moon'er is ALWAYS trying, and always wanting to give me his best. Sometimes, yes, he has a tantrum. So do I. It's hard to change, and he's been moving in that way for so long, developed those muscles and behaviours for so long, that this is difficult. And I need to give him the time to redevelop. I'm changing how he moves. That takes time.

So I think, despite my "new year's resolutions", that we'll forgo the competitions for this year. This year, will be all about movement. We'll spend the time developing a relationship and a way of going that is relaxed, flexible and balanced. For both of us.

I actually think, that I'm going to love dressage more then jumping in the end. It seems you have to work a billion times harder to make the slightest change. You could probably whip a horse into popping over a jump, but let's see you whip a horse into a piaffe!

Now to find some practice time. : ) Mr. Moon and I are re-focused!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"Patience is waiting. Not passively waiting. That is laziness."

I'm leaving shortly to head off to my next, and third lesson of this set, of ever for Moon, and am a little anxious again. I'm thinking perhaps I should overthrow "Diary of an Overanxious Horse Owner", and make her blog my own. Seems we are but two peas in a single pod.

Regardless, I'm trying to still my nerves, as our practice session last week is still weighing heavily on my mind. I really am a silly duck that way, as it was one ride, it's the start of progressing towards something better, and we're getting help to improve it. We WILL get there, if only we have the patience and perseverance to get there.

Of course, I was foolish enough to google "avoiding contact" and "open mouth", leading to a rash of fears that this is going to be a forever problem, that won't ever dissipate and my poor horse will never learn to have contact, we'll never make it into the competition ring because of it, and he'll be more and more miserable every time I get on him.

Yup, clearly, I'm a worrier!

Of course, the internet suggestions, which are a plenty as everyone has an opinion, tell me to change his bit, clamp his mouth or start elaborate jaw mobilization techniques. And check the fit of everything, including every spinal bone in his body. Let me state now, that's not about to happen (though saddle and bridle fit are important to me). A close relationship with a number of physiotherapists and a lot of education makes me a strong believer in physio, stretching and the gradual improvement of ones flexibility and muscling. Snap-Crackle-Popping your way to good health just isn't logical to me, and hence, Mr. Moon will not be getting a visit from the Chiropractor. All of you are welcome to if you so wish; I never think my answer is the only answer, but it's the only one Moon gets to hear. ; )

So I'm leaving the video camera at home (forgot to bring the vaccines, dang it!), and will ride this lesson without any eyes. I'm trying to envision what I want to see, instead of focusing on what I don't want. I'm also trying to have patience, since we're what? 3 weeks in? Seriously, I need to learn that it takes YEARS to develop a soft and supple horse, not just 2 lessons and a couple of practice rides in the back field.

I love quotes, and found a couple of meaningful ones for myself:

“Faith is not simply a patience that passively suffers until the storm is past. Rather, it is a spirit that bears things - with resignations, yes, but above all, with blazing, serene hope.”
- Corazon Aquino

This one, to me means that I have faith in my horse, and his ability to move forward and learn. It means, that even though we are struggling, we shouldn't just sit there and resolve to suffer. Instead, we must press onward, and believe that we can and WILL get where we're going.

“Patience is waiting. Not passively waiting. That is laziness. But to keep going when the going is hard and slow - that is patience.”
- Unknown

This quote is nearly perfect to me. It just screams "Having patience for Moon to get on the bit doesn't mean showing up and riding in circles. It means ACTIVELY working on it, whenever the opportunity arises. And even though sometimes it seems like you've taken a step backwards, or it seems like you're not moving forwards, you keep on pushing yourself. Patience is continuing when others gave up.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions”
- Rainer Maria Rilke

To me, this is about not focusing on getting Moon to accept contact. That's not the focus; that shouldn't be my focus. It's about the journey we're on, in this coaching program, where we're trying to become more then we were. Yeah, we're struggling, but we need to LIVE the struggle, as that's the adventure.

“The keys to patience are acceptance and faith. Accept things as they are, and look realistically at the world around you. Have faith in yourself and in the direction you have chosen.”
- Ralph Marston

This one is about sticking to my goals of improving my riding, and improving how MoonSox goes. Yes, we're not perfect, but hey, everyone and every-horse has its hang-up. That's okay. What we're doing is a great thing, and we need to believe in what we're doing.

So yes. Those are my quotes du jour, and I'll probably come back and re-read them in the near future. Tonight will be good; we'll make some improvements, he'll be my special boy again, and we'll keep on keeping on. He is, truly, a special horse to me, and I know I have just as many faults as he does. Chicken elbows and all that! Only I can blog and rant about them, and he can't!

We try. : )

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Myself to Blame.

So I had hoped Tuesday mornings would be my extra ride in the week, but unfortunately, today it is not. The weather is bleary and I have to buy some stuff for the camper overhaul before spanish class, so no riding today. Which means MoonSox and I only got in one practice since our last lesson, and that is likely to be it.

Which makes me upset and a little sad. I want him to be improving, but when I'm not riding him that can't really be happening, can it?

We're hopefully a week or two away from completing the camper overhaul project, and then I'm in Ottawa for a week. No riding there. My hope, is that I'll at least have the rest of the summer to get some proper riding in, since I won't be rushing off to fabric stores, Home Depot's or home to sew, glue or cut wood. I hope...

Okay, so we've had next to no practice. What else?

Well, our one practice, last Friday evening, was AWFUL. I'm not even joking when I say that, which makes me that much more upset.

Remember the video of Moon and W? Well, that was us on Friday, as I tried to get him to stretch and bend. Our turn-on-the-fore were AWFUL. He wouldn't bend his head in the slightest, which mean he moved backwards when I tried to get it. Which frustrated me, and I'm sure forced me to be heavier on his mouth.

Add to that, he WILL NOT close his mouth! And suddenly, as I'm asking for his bend, he's refusing to give it to me, throwing his head high and riding open mouthed, pulling on the reins and being a complete brat. Then whenever I applied leg aids to assist in our circle (push him out), he would speed up. Which in frustration, I'm sure I'd be stronger on the reins (and my seat), and he'd get more resistive. Just a nasty, nasty mess in all.

In both directions, we absolutely sucked. I got nothing remotely resembling a nice ride out of him, and probably was riding WORSE then before we went into training. Both of us.

I know I was so focussed on getting him to close his mouth, that I was uneven in the saddle. Add to that, when he was dancing around for mounting, I finally got soo pissed off, that I gave him a smack in the rump with my hand. And felt AWFUL when he stared at me wide-eyed. Which made me even more pissed off, more at myself then anything, for being so impatient.

Impatient. That's me. I just wanted to beat myself for not being able to give him the softness of hand and body that he needs to get him to ride on the bit, with his mouth closed and head down. I felt like I made things worse, and that's the last thing I want to do. I WANT him to start flexing and feeling better, and like he can trust me on the reins. But that's not there, and I'm irritated with myself for not being able to create that.



We rode for about an hour and a bit, and I felt further behind then when I started. We were both SWEATING since it was hot and humid out, and his chest and neck were soaked. I kept him at a trot for most of it, and managed that without a crop of any kind. At least that was a bit better.

Untacked him and treated him, still feeling like crap. Just wished I could tell him what I needed and he'd understand...but that doesn't happen.

The positive note? He nickered at me for sure this time. Suppose even if I can't ride him, he still loves me in his own horse-y way. I just want to do well by him, and feel like that's not happening. I suppose we've only done 2 lessons and practiced maybe 4 times, and one would think these things take time. But I just miss the forward progress I was hoping to get. And I just don't want to be messing him up.



Tomorrow is lesson day. Let's see what Coach W has to say...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Mr. Head-in-the-Sky

Mr. Moon moves with his head held high. He's evasive. He's not big on bending, and he's really stiff. But we're working on it, and as promised, here's two short clips from Wednesday's lesson.

Video #1 is of me, working him at a trot, trying to get him to stretch and lower his head. We're making okay progress, but it's a lot of work. I'm also working on improving my leg position and not posting so high.

video

Video #2 is of Coach W riding him, and Moon being a brat. That's his 'open-mouth' movement that we're trying to correct. She's really trying to encourage him to bend and stop being so resistant. Note that he also threw a big temper tantrum and was being a brat.

video

Thursday, May 19, 2011

With Great Strides Must Come Great Bends

Yesterday was riding lesson #2, and as is to be expected, it was significantly less eventful then riding lesson #1.

I stopped by McDonald’s for a $1.39 bacon cheeseburger (I can afford the calories, as they’re all worked off in the first 10 minutes of the lesson), and made it to the barn by 4:45 pm. Not too shabby, and it was the best I could do. Moon’er was waiting out in the field and after bringing all my gear in, I went out to greet him.

I’m not 100% sure if it was him or not, but there was a loud nicker when I walked up to the herd…hmmm…

I stopped to place the new post caps on the jumps I had made, and then went back to grab him. As his usual himself, he followed complacently and I had him tied and groomed in no time. He’s dappling out beautifully, which a google search and a conversation with Coach W told me meant he was healthy. Well of COURSE he is!

He’s got a small chip out of his front right hoof, more on the surface then anything. Ger. They’re getting pretty dry as well, since there’s hardly any standing water anymore. Of course, there’s rain for the long weekend, which means an end to that.

Loving him dearly, I pulled out the finishing brush I bought earlier this year, and went to work. In no time, he was SHINING like crazy, looking probably more beautiful, stud-ly and showy then I’ve ever seen. He’s sooo attractive, though unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture!

T and M showed up, commenting on my shiny boy, and then we watered the horses and threw some hay. Into the trailer Moon went, like an absolute gentleman. The haul out was uneventful, and just good conversation between T and I. Arriving at Coach W’s, we pulled in and off-loaded, Mr. Moon being well behaved and not nearly as worked up.

Into the cross ties, and he was quickly tacked up. We spoke a bit about his ‘estimated height’, W thinking perhaps 15.1hh, and my guess was 15.2hh. He’s nearly a pony!

Out in the ring, he was a misbehaver again while mounting, something I’m losing patience on. W held him still and pushed him over as needed, and off we went. She said our walk was much improved, which is a difficult gait to change.

He was calm from the get go, and we started working on our trot bends some more, which are less spectacular. Add in that my right leg tends to move forward to a ‘couch’ position and my toes curl out on that side. Both Moon’s and my bad sides are on the same side, though watching us for awhile, W thinks that I have a harder time maintaining good position on that side, b/c Mr. Moon is bracing or leaning on that leg. As we improved him, we saw some improvement in me as well. It really is difficult and strange to change you body position. She had me reduce my huge posting rise, which I knew looks exaggerated. Again, his tight muscles make the momentum greater, forcing my further from the saddle. As we worked on him, we saw an improvement in me.

I have to really focus now on bringing my leg back, turning my foot inward and also, to not rise so high.

Add to that, Mr. Moon REALLY needs to be told to continue in a gait until asked to stop, since I was having to put my leg on at every post beat. W said this is silly, since there’s no reason to work this hard. It should be like cruise control, once I set it, it stays there. What does that mean? No more letting Moon get away with changing the gait without my permission.

We worked and worked and worked. To the right, he falls in and leans, so I need to use my outside hand to draw him back out the rail, while staying with the inside hand to keep his bend. Because he braces against the bit at times, it’s important to never maintain solid contact, but rather play with his head and mouth. She encouraged using and elevated rein so that the bit doesn’t put pressure on his sensitive tongue, encouraging him into it more.

Oh, and do all this while pushing him out with my inside leg, applying leg pressure when he braces, and posting at a correct height, maintaining rhythm and impulsion, and winding up with something half decent. We tried.

Looking back at the video, it certainly wasn’t exactly what I imagined (his head wasn’t as low as it seemed), but we did alright. Learning curve…

Somewhere around this point, Coach W asked if I’d mind if she rode him. Got a feel for how he’s moving and why and where he’s resisting. I was totally game, as I want him to be comfortable with other riders, and also because she’s very capable. That’s valuable insight into him, especially coming from a professional trainer and coach.

Wow.

I’ve never believed that horses have any real preference, trust or relationship with other people in their lives. I thought it was a novel idea, sweet, but really? Even the nickering thing, I thought was an imagery from books and movies, meant to capture people’s hearts and dreams. When I *thought* I heard Moon nicker at me, I scoffed. Wasn’t him or wasn’t specific to me.

Now, sitting on the sideline, watching him go around the ring with W, I started to second guess my beliefs. His mouth was gapping open, making him look like a rabbit as he pulled his top lip back, exposing ‘buck teeth’. His head was high; very high for a dressage or even QH.

Granted, he opens his mouth or raises his head for me as well, but it was more of a constant with W on him, then with me. Add to that, he started throwing a bit of a temper tantrum, calling out to the other horses in the area (and the geese!), refusing to move or listen to W’s cues. Now, she’s a pro, which meant she kept on him, working hard to get him to listen to her and really accept the cues and pay attention. After 10 minutes or so, she had him going nicely in both directions, and I’d argue she had him moving and lowering better then I did. But he still threw the occasional fit.

Both W and T lamented that he goes so much better for me, trusting my presence. An interesting concept, one I’ve moved over onto the fence about.

Back on Moon again, T told me to stay on him (I called it ‘nagging’) as he’s used to bracing against the bit and pushing through, instead of accepting it with soft contact. She suggested really using my hands in an un-constant way, so he constantly has to soften and move. No steady object in his mouth for bracing. It’s a ton to do while riding, but we’ll practice and see how it goes.

Another suggestion she had was to add in turn-on-the-fore in both directions between our bending exercises. Bend right, turn on fore, bend left, turn on fore, at both walk and trot. Fun, fun! We started working on that for the remainder of the class, finding he turns right much better then left for the t-o-f. No surprise.

The COOL thing from the class was as W was working him, she was actually able to get side-passes out of him. And when I got on him afterward, I took got (mini) side-passes. How cool is that?! Since he’s had no previous training in this sort of thing.

She also made a comment, that what we are doing now, trying to bend Mr. SuperTightMuscles, is the foundation to everything we will do in the future. And more then that, we will find that once we achieve this, be it a month or two from now, everything else we learn and build on that foundation, will come faster. A nice concept, though we have plenty of time to get there.

The other thing she mentioned, was his beautiful long trot stride. She's certain that once we really get him loosened up, he'll be able to achieve some lovely movement and really trot gorgeously. Despite his long back and short neck (poor fellow). She added that we need to achieve this softening rather then just push him into fast gaits, as then he'll be moving on his forehand all the time, causing unnecessary stress and potential lameness. We don't want any physical problems for my boy.

Lastly, we had some great downward transitions, and improving upward transitions. He already feels that much better to ride. She also made a great statement about his open-mouth riding, in that some people, many people, would change the bit, or add a drop or lowered noseband, in an attempt to close the mouth and prevent this type of behaviour. However, the bit and the nose band are NOT the issues here. The issue is that he's not accepting and softening, and THAT is what we must work towards. The rest is just a short-cut, and the horse will simply find a different method of evasion and remain tight or unhappy. We want to do this right, not fast. That's important to me.

By the time we finished the class, everyone was sweating. Moon was even getting ‘butt butter’, and was wet under his saddle, down his chest and on his neck. I love a sweaty horse after a practice, as to me, it means we really worked.

W gave us extensive homework on bending and flexing and reaching, which I hope to find a chance to fit in. We NEED to practice if we have any hope on improving in these areas. I want to show improvement!

Oh, and Mr. Moon had some really sweet moments with W’s dog, reaching down and sniffing each other. Totally sweet and there was no fear or concern from MoonSox. That’s special to me.

Groom T (she’s been awesome that way, and I totally want to return the favour), helped me get everything back in the trailer. Including me, who was so tired and mentally focussed on the ride that I walked right into a tree branch.

Loaded great, drove home, and forgot to grab his lead from the truck when I went to grab him. So I just let him hop out, and caught him once he had hit the ground. And then let him have a good roll, as I’m sure he’d been wanting since I brought him in and spiffy’d him up. Typical Moon.

Couple of treats later, a quick brush to remove the sweat stains on his coat (Mr.NoLongerShiny), and I let him go back to his paddock for a drink, second roll and to tell his herd-mates what a terrible day he had. That’s my Moon!

So tonight, no riding. Tomorrow….maybe. I have to drop off some vaccines for T (‘cause now I have to pick them up myself), and REALLY want at least two rides between lessons. Fingers crossed, as the BF really wants to be working on the new camper (so do I, but I’ve only so much time!), so it’ll be a battle. The fun never stops, right?

Hopefully one of these days I can shorten today’s ride on my videocamera, and post it. Certainly an interesting watch.

One more thought, is that I've noticed how desperately people want to rush through their training. Everyone wants to be showing or competing or jumping or winning ribbons. I see it in young children, adults, long time riders and new riders. Everyone. I admit, I'm no better. I dream often of showing MoonSox in a Autumn, or taking him to fancy clinics or competitions. I do. When we're going around the ring at a walk (okay, well then I'm thinking of all the things W wants me to do!), but before the lessons, I'm thinking about how much I WISH today was a jumping lesson! Or we'd learn turn on the haunch. Or canter a lot.

But after the lesson, the practice ride, the video watching, I realize just how important and valuable this 'slow' stuff really is. What is the rush everyone is in? Why is our ability, our talent, our success, all measured by the number or color of the ribbons on our walls? In beating others in the show ring? In jumping higher or faster or sooner than everyone else? And is it the best thing for our horses, our companions, who haven't been given the opportunity to build the balance, the muscle and the skill to perform to their fullest? Under riders who lack the same necessities, yet when pointed at a fence or stuffed in a dressage ring, perform anyhow?

It's not fair. It's probably not right. But it's done. A growing fad, that I wish would slow. Some day, Mr. Moon and I shall jump. Maybe this fall. Maybe next spring. Maybe in 2015 will get to a show. But I can PROMISE that he'll learn all of the basics, he'll be muscled, prepped, and ready, before we get there. He means more to me than any fancy ribbon, competition or bragging right. He's my Moon'er (or "Bucky" as I'm calling him after his open-mouthed, high headed running for W!).

Take the time, for your horse.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Prepping for Lesson #2 and Looking Back

A couple things on my mind this morning.

For starters, the weather is BEAUTIFUL. I'm wondering if Coach W has an outdoor ring, as days like today are MEANT to be ridden outdoors. On that same note, I'm desperately wanting to jump, which we're really not ready for. I have to contain my desire to pull out the new jump standards I made and go for a run. TOTALLY not where our current training is at, and while I've done it before and he's capable of it, this is about doing things properly. Patience must be found, even though days like today are MEANT for jumping your way across the ring in the sunshine and breeze.

On a good note, I purchased some black post toppers, to finish off the jump standards. Should look pretty snazzy, if we're ever ready to actually jump.

Moon has been doing well with his bending, though we've a long way to go. I watched the video I took of him yesterday, or more so, I watched the video of me riding him yesterday. Wow.

For starters, I'm gangly. I was CERTAIN that I've finally reached the age where I've filled out a little, but watching the video I felt like I was still looking at that gangly all arms and legs version of my teenage self. An old instructor I had used to yell at me: "Most riders DREAM of having long legs like yours! So start using them!".

It's true. I'm pretty much all leg, standing 5'9". Unfortunately, I'm scrawny. So watching the video, I just felt soooo awkward! Add to that, I think I still have the arm flap that's been haunting me since my first lessons. . I noticed too that my leg muscles are weak, as they move quite a bit as I ride as well. Granted, my sitting trot looked pretty darn good, and my inside arm looks strange because of my open rein.

Really, it wasn't so bad. You could see when and where Moon was getting his head down, and I'm really glad that it's visible on the video as well. I'm not sure I'll be able to get out between today and next Monday to practice with him again, but I'm sure with enough practice he'll be working there all the time.

I wonder what tonight's lesson will be like? And if T will be joining me again?

...hmmm....I should see if we can start putting Moon'ers KoolCoat on him during the day now...since I need to be back to drop off the vaccines for T tomorrow anyway...


Okay, other thoughts.

An acquaintance of mine sold her horse a little while ago, and I recently had the opportunity to see him with his new owner, whom I'm friends with. She'd always been a nice horse, cute and with good potential to go into an english discipline. The last time I saw the horse, it was the dead of winter, everyone was wearing their thick fur, and it was hard to really make any judgements. When asked what I thought of her, I noticed two things. One was that she had deep back (almost sway), which I'm sure was due to lack of use (unfortunately, the girl had suffered an injury last spring, and while she hoped it would resolve, it hadn't. Thus, her horse was for sale and she'd never had the chance to break her. She was bought to be a brood mare, never worked and in the end, never bred). The other thing I noticed, was that she seemed disproportionate. Not really sure how else to describe it, but I was still "new" to judging horse body condition and the like.

So she sold, and as spring rolled around, the fur came off and we could really see how she looked. And I have to say, I was taken a bit aback. I knew that the horse had been well fed through the winter, with grain and hay. Granted she's an arab, which are typically a bit more wimpy and harder to put weight on, but she never seemed skinny. Now however, she seemed...even more disproportionate.

Her neck seemed to be set too low on her shoulders, making her wither extreme, and her back appear very hollow. She seems built well downhill, her back legs almost looking too long for her body. Her wither actually seems to be 12 or 16" LONG, which seems crazy, since it should visually run into the neck and disappear. Her loin seems thin, her hip severely angled and quite pointed.

Add to that, her pasterns seem too far ahead of her cannon bones, and her coat, even now, seems patchy and thick.

At first, my friend thought the horse was malnourished, and started her on an extensive feeding program, with supplements galore. After a couple of weeks, she seemed fuller, but the odd body shape remained.

Some research today, makes me believe that it's not a low body condition score or lack of fat that's the issue here. Instead, I think that this little arab, for not ever been in training, actually lacks MUSCLE development. An overall lack of topline gives the appearance of the long wither, narrow neck, sway back and sharp hip angle.

What does that mean? My friend is in for a LOT of riding, conditioning, lunging and hills with this pony! Makes me feel like Moon and I are already a step ahead, since he's at least got SOME muscle on his tubby little body.

Here's a pic similar to my friend's horse's body condition...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Morning Rides are the Best Rides


Thanks to some work schedule jiggling to accommodate an evening class on Tuesdays, I now get to start work at 8:30 once a week. Which turns out to be a wonderful thing, as this morning, being the first Tuesday of this new arrangement, I woke up, dressed and headed out to Moon by 7 am. I gave him a quick grooming (little guilty that it wasn't a full out grooming, but at least he was relatively clean and mud free), saddled and bridled him. Even managed to bring along the video camera to capture some of our ride.

7:15 am I was on his back, and we were doing some walking warm-ups in the ring. I really focussed on getting him to bend, but he just wanted to trot. So instead of trying to force him to hold the walk, I moved up to the trot and worked on our left bending from that gait.

Two awesome things...

1. At the trot, he actually reached down and began stretching out like we practiced last week in my lesson. Not only that, but he was starting to do it consistently when I asked. What I need to remember, is that I have to OPEN my inside hand, not just a little bit, but a bit exaggerated (to me, really it's maybe 8" from his neck). When I fail to open it, I don't get the stretch or bend I'm looking for.

2. He has a BEAUTIFUL trot. When I got him bending and suppling at the trot to the left, he gave me an amazing trot I didn't even know he had. It was SMOOTH like butter, and I sat it without the slightest problem.

I've been struggling for a long time in getting a nice sitting trot. I've been told it's because I'm too stiff in the hips and don't 'flow' with the horses movements. It's been frustrating to me, and I've worked hard on it, but I just can never really master a continuous, nice looking sitting trot. Until today.

Going around with him, bending, I just felt like I was floating. It was actually EASIER to sit his trot then to post, and I could have reached down and kissed him for it!

Headed to the right was a different story. Way more difficult, and from a trot, we had nothing but high-headed rushing. Makes me frustrated, which I think makes things worse. In this direction, running low on time and wanting to make sure we ended successfully, I put him back at a walk, and worked until he was bending and reaching full the bit at this slow pace. It wasn't perfect and he was slower to get there, but got there he did.

With that I called it a day. Okay, took him over a small cavaletti for the fun of it, and then untacked my boy. Gave some nose kisses, treats and another brushing. Picked out the hooves for a second time, pulled some straw from his mane and tail and promised to be back the following day for 'class'. He's such a pretty horse, now with his shedding nearly done, all smooth and soft.

Back in the car by 7:50 am, and at work by 8:30 on the nose.

Felt AMAZING to go out in the spring sun before the afternoon heat showed up, ride, and then show up for work, the smell of horse still lingering. Feel accomplished. And it didn't even interrupt my day. Next Tuesday, I think I'll go out even earlier.

Now for the rest of the week to be rain-free, so I can get 3-rides in on one week! Talk about training!

'Cause Good Things Come to those who Wait!

Wow.

I was so nervous heading out to the barn after work today, that I couldn't even eat dinner. I was a total jitter bug, chewing my lip to pieces and just anxious.

A friend from up the street, S, wound up following me down the highway (she lives a couple miles from where Moon is boarded), so she stopped by briefly to meet him. Which was awesome, as he's a total highlight for me, and she's so often invited me over to trail ride when I've been horseless. She had a nice meeting with him, and then was off to pick up her little boy.

I pulled my breeches on and gave Moon a thorough grooming. He's shedding out beautifully, and is such a lovely rich brown color. His loving attention has made his coat glisten, and I made sure he was looking top notch for his journey. If nothing else, I wanted Coach W to say "Wow, he's well cared for". On went the bell boots, and by this time, T and M were hooking up the trailer and a group of girls showed up to work with some of the younger horses. Which is awesome, cause there's nothing better for young girls to be doing after school then working horses.

Moon'er loaded like an ABSOLUTE dream, giving me just one look of "Are you sure?" before hopping in. T gave me the keys so I could have a practice drive, and off we went towards the arena and training!

We arrived in no time, and I was still crazy nervous. Moon offloaded RIGHT onto my right toes, not his fault or intention, just me not realizing I was kind of in his way as he lept (instead of stepped) off the trailer. Reason #3 why step-ups are NOT as favorable as ramp loads! Oh well, I didn't need those toes anyway!

He was snuffing and woofing like crazy, taking in all the strange smells. Even calling out as well pulled into the driveway.

He was excited, which for me, with my past experience, was a little tough. I suffered a severe head injury while holding a nervous horse on the ground, and it still brings back some bad memories. The last thing I needed was him rearing up on me at my first lesson, and that being the end of riding all together.

Instead we walked into the barn, an entire aisle of horses greeting us. Each reached out and said "Hello" to Moon in their horse-y way, and he exchanged breaths with a few. I got him into the cross-ties, realizing this was not only his first time in a barn, but his first time in cross ties!

W showed up with dogs in toe, and suggested I lead him around the ring to calm down. This was after she did some gentle excercises with his head to help him relax. He took the arena like a champ, even the crazy fighting dogs. After 3 laps he was Mr. Mellow, and she said "Let's tack him up!"

So I did!

We did some quick adjustments to his bridle (she likes a loose nose band), and she gave an a-okay for his bit (the KY double jointed). Even better, she complimented our bridle!! And which one did we choose to bring? The old bridle I bought at the tack swap a couple years ago for $15!! No joke! She thought it was uber supple and had a really nice nose band! Who would have guessed!

Out in the arena, I told her about how he shifts away when being mounted, and she said she had some solutions but we'd deal with them next time around. Right now, he's too nervous to concentrate on any lesson we might try to teach him in that regard.

We started doing circles, and we found Mr. Moon bends to the right. Curled to the right in the womb, and therefore he always walks around bent in this direction. Our intent was to supple him, and straighten him out by bending him the opposite direction. We'd do this by opening our inside rein, keeping our outside rein constant, and giving a little pressure with the inside leg to keep the rump out. At the same time, the outside leg would maintain holding resistance, and when necessary if he was avoiding what I was asking, I'd give a brief lift to the inside rein.

It was AMAZING. After a couple of circles, he has dropping his head and really moving into the bit. She was thrilled as he gave head shakes and really started to stretch out his neck and reach forward. She did say that while he mouths the bit a lot which is great, sometimes he curls his top lip up, which is something we need to work away from. She spoke a lot about building a partnership, where he learns to trust and seek out contact of the reins from me. I told her how PARANOID I am about being too rough on his mouth, and she complimented me for having really soft hands, which is a bit rare at times. She said it was one of the more valuable riding habits to have, as you can ask for anything harder, but it's hard to ask for something gentler. Add to that, she said my body position was good, though I still forget to close my fingers on the reins, my legs flop a ton due to lack of muscle, and I sometimes get bird wings with my arms.

Correcting my position comes later she said! And correct it she shall! But it was great, and we got him moving in both directions and flexing. Moving to the right was more difficult, as he's more likely to cut in, and this requires more steady outside rein. We worked hard on it, and after awhile managed to get a nice bend going.

So she had us trot!

And trot we did. She said that when he gets nervous, unsure of what I'm asking, or when I confuse him or something is difficult for him, he stops. That's his thing, and it's a wonderful thing in a horse. It means he's safe and level headed for riding, instead of choosing the opposite which is to bolt. I love my Moon'er!

So it took some coaching to get him to maintain his trot rythym, especially when I was asking him to bend as well. It came easier to the left then the right, but we managed it to some degree in both direction. What did improve noticably was his transitions, where instead of banging on his bum or flying forward, I was able to stay centred in the saddle. She said he has a beautiful trot and is very energetic and full moving in, despite being a long horse, with limited topline, lack of neck muscling, and a really stiff neck. Can't complain!

By the end, we had achieved some movements and body positions in him that she said you'd be looking for for introductory dressage shows. She complimented him, saying she's have him in her barn, and that these little 15 hh fellows are at times, more capable then the leggy ones. More to that, the western horses sometimes have that soft touch that makes them wonderful for it.

The class ended beautifully, I was sweating and sore. And Moon was a little warm too. But it was AWESOME. He did so wonderfully, and I was beyond proud of him. He even trailered home perfectly, along with loading and unloading from the trailer.

But the rest of the story will wait for tomorrow, as I'm tired and sore. A+ Mr. MoonSox!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Pedicures and Practice (and Head Protection!)

As the farrier was coming out yesterday, I headed out to the barn after dinner and thankfully pulled in just as she arrived. Already tacking up at the rail was the Saddle Club, though this time Carole was missing. I have to admit it seemed a little awkward, maybe because typically there’s no one out but me when Moon is getting his trims.

D was awesome as usual, despite the strong winds that were blowing. I swear it felt more like February and not the middle of May. The air was chill, and we were all wearing our winter parkas, and myself, I was donning a toque (that a funny Canadian knitted hat, that keeps your head and ears warm).

The paddocks are drying up nicely, and I managed to get Moon down from the hay pile without his hooves becoming covered in muddy poop, something I’m sure every farrier hates. Granted, D would never complain, but it just seemed a little rude overall. If I could, I would have hosed down his legs to make them that extra bit of clean.

He was looking mighty fine from all the grooming lately, almost appearing to be dappled over the rump. Who knows with him and his funny coloring. D trimmed his hooves, noting that the timing was perfect, and he does have a decently fast growth rate. Bang on 6 weeks. I always love trim days, as they remind me of haircuts, and how light and free you feel afterwards. I’m happy to think that he’ll have nicely trimmed toes in his lesson next week, and coupled to his shiny coat, he’ll look like the star that he is.

His blown out ‘abscess’ that I noticed last February is nearly grown out, which makes me happy. Then he’ll have nice clean hooves, without any big imperfections. I REALLY need to get that bridle path trimmed in on him, along with maybe some mane pulling as he has quite the locks.

All the while T was helping the Saddle Club get their horses ready for some ground work. This is a sticking point for me, as I’m not entirely sure what to make of the situation. I have an overwhelming sense of desire to help, but it’s hindered by 1. Moon deserving my time first, 2. An uncertainty that I can provide help, 3. If my help is wanted, 4. Past experiences that make me leery of unbroken youngin’s, and 5. Not being sure it’s a good idea to have 14 year old girls with little or no riding experience or training, working with 2 year old horses.

I am glad that T gets the help in training them, and when it comes to ground work of leading them around on a line with a saddle on, I think it’s great. Granted, I’d want those girls in helmets from the time they catch them till they put them away, but I’m a recovered neurosurgery patient from a severe horse accident, and it makes one biased. At the end of the day, if their parents aren’t restricting their riding/handling because they don’t have helmets on, it’s not likely I can have any enforcement. Nor do I want to start ‘coaching’ these kids helmetless and find myself in a legal nightmare when a skull cracks open. It sounds terrible, and I know hundreds and thousands of people ride all the time without helmets on, but it is my number one pet peeve. Not even pet peeve really. I get this gut wrenching, bone chilling fear run through me when I see it, envisioning all the terrible things that could happen. And I only envision them, because I’ve been at the wrong end of a pair of hooves. Really, I don’t want any kids getting hurt, losing their love of riding, or no longer being able to. Or parents banning their kids for life because of an accident. Or T getting sued because of something. I really am a worry-wart.

So, I’ve been thinking of bringing out my old helmet for them to use, since it actually looks like a riding helmet. Granted, it’s seen its share of spills, and there’s no guarantee that it’ll fit them. But I imagine it’s better then nothing! I also emailed H to see if she’s seen my other old helmet, as it too could be used. Which covers 2/3 heads, making me a lot less stressed.

I’ll refrain myself from commenting on why their parents, having come by to visit and watch, haven’t made the move to strap helmets on these kids heads and threaten to never let them return if they take them off. Especially considering one can by a brand new helmet for $50 these days…

Again, refraining myself…

Mr. Moon had his hoof trim complete, and I sent D off with her payment, and a promise to return in 6 weeks. She did, before leaving, show me a couple of stretches to do with Moon’s back legs, as he’s quite stiff in the back end, and really could use more mobility. This will help make him easier for her to trim, as well as making him more comfortable during the process. Add to that, it’ll help with his overall flexibility, even when riding.

One stretch is to lift the back leg, and apply pressure to pull it backwards. This is done by placing your thigh behind the lower leg, and pushing gently. Very gently. Ease them into it. Hold for 5 seconds and release.

The other, is to pick the foot up and pull it ahead by the toes. Again, stretching slowly and holding for 5 seconds. She suggested doing them after a warm-up ride, and I’m now going to make this part of our post riding routine, every time.

Trimmed and looking nun-finer, I gave Moon a good grooming (he’s getting so soft!), and tacked him up. I feel happy knowing that his bridle fits properly now for sure (W raised the nose band 3 holes on Wednesday, and I’ve loosened it one hole so he can open his mouth more, as she suggested.

I pulled the knee blocks off my saddle, as it made the panels come out pretty far, and can’t help but feel like they sit too far ahead of me. When I pull my legs out and let them fall back naturally against Moon’s sides, they’re WAY behind the knee rolls, almost so far back that they’re not resting on the saddle flaps!

Regardless, I got him tacked, and he continued to give me dirty looks and turn his nose in to me, making me wonder if he was considering biting me. This of course, makes me worry that the saddle doesn’t fit well, and the pinching or pain that comes with it is making him unhappy to be tacked. Hmmmm…

So out to the grass paddock we went, T telling me not to worry about making divots as she plans on putting in sand this summer anyway. One of the Saddle Club (Lisa, if I’m not mistaken) was hand walking one of the little guys (Cheyenne or Mocha…they look the same to me), so I promised not to run her over, being okay with working in the same ring together. I REALLY wanted to put out some poles, but knew I was getting ahead of myself.

As usual, he was a brat to mount, whacking both his front and his hind left legs on the mounting ramp. No blood visible, but I sure was unhappy that his misbehaviour could cause him injury. Ger.

T came over and held him while I got on, and I’m comforted a bit knowing that it’s really not me, but rather him. T has said she’s had problems with this in the past, and all I want now, is W to show us some solutions. It does no good to be irritated with your horse before you’re even ON him!

We worked for a good 30 minutes on bending, him doing beautifully to the left at a walk, and marginally okay at a trot. With the fierce winds, it was difficult to get him to not toss and rush, and to the right, we did absolutely awful. We managed it a few times at a walk, but the trot was a corner-cutting mess, complete with the occasional attempt to boot me off. Oh Mr. Moon.

Frustrated, I worked around the outside of the ring, trying to get him deeper into the corners. Two laps were good, the rest were just a mess. He wanted to race like the wind that was blowing, and we were both getting frustrated. Me because I wanted him to be soft and supple and relaxed in the crazy wind (yeah, that’ll be the day), and him wanting to be head-high, ball of fury running wild.

So out to the back field we went him more then a little unhappy with me, since he was still being ridden. There’s a nice high and dry grassy spot right at the back, and I asked him for a canter. What I got, was a lot of bucking and attempts at bolting, which I have to think I sat out pretty well. He’s not a mean bucker, and doesn’t really get that much air to cause you any issues. To be honest, moments like that make him kinda fun to ride, reminding you of the importance of sitting tall, maintaining leg contact, and really staying passive through your seat. For 12, he still has get-up-and-go.

I made him trot when he refused to give me a nice transition, and finally kissed him up into a really beautiful canter. It was so beautiful, that for what I think may be the first time on him, I was able to sit deep in the saddle and roll with it. No half-seat. It felt AWESOME! And was amusing too, since on the drive out, I was thinking about how much trouble sitting the canter had always caused me. Back in my polo days, I always rode in ½ seat, until I became so familiar with Hobo (the horse I always rode), that I knew his rhythm and one day just rolled my butt into it, and a beautiful sitting canter. And had thought to myself “I wonder when I’ll be familiar enough with Moon’s beat, to sit his too?”

Of course, perfection doesn’t last long on a horse, and he cut the corner, fell into a bucking fit, and tried to run off. From there, we just worked in figure eights, circling in the opposite direction whenever he tried to run off. Keeping him in the canter was difficult, but we made it work, without any spills or injuries. Finally we settled down to a walk, which I was grateful for since the strong wind and exercise was giving me a sore throat, and my legs still burned like crazy from the previous day’s lesson.

Let me tell you, horseback riding is a painful sport. I once read a book as a kid that said every ride should end with a hot bath and a mug of rum. I swear it was in a children’s book, but who knows. No joke, there is NOTHING more necessary after truly working your muscles then a warm bath. The first day is never so bad, but the second and third are murderous. Riding yesterday, after the lesson the day prior, illustrated how weak my muscles were, as my legs flopped everywhere.

Today, I can’t sit cross-legged, I walk with a stilting gait, and I feel aged. That being said, I’m super excited to be developing these muscles again. I know it won’t be long until the pain fades, and hopefully W can find me some more training work that makes them sore all over again. The pain makes you feel like you did something!

Rode Mr. Moon back to the paddock gait when we were finished, doing a little neck reining just to make sure he still remembers it.

I would LOVE to do a trail class with him someday, and thought, “Hey! I should open this gate from horseback!”

Moon got close enough for me to unhook it and then I swung it gently. By gently, I mean it opened all of 3”. And Moon spooked, jumped and side stepped away.

Brought him back, pushed it again, he spooked, jumped away, and I could tell he was thinking “You nuts woman!”. It was then, that I realized the electric fence was shorting (based on the popping noise coming from the ground in front of us), and Moon had to step in this area when I pushed on the gate. I have a sneaky feeling that this added to the problem, and I decided that I’d walk him back up to the gate, but NOT attempt to push it open again. It took two little encouraging squeezes, he walked up, I patted him, and then dismounted. I’ve therefore added this to my game plan, intending on getting that gate open while not dismounting before summer is up. Test #1 of trail class, right?

So I just untacked him and checked over his legs again for any injury from the mounting fiasco. Seeing he was fine, I shared two birthday carrots with him, of course, making him do carrot stretches to get them! We finished up with the stretching exercises from the farrier, and on the way back to his pasture we worked on lead line and making sure he stopped when I stopped. He did lovely.

By this time the girls’ dad’s had shown up, and they were chatting with T and the girls. I put my boy in his pasture; he had a drink and then came back for a treat or two. I really love him.

Not wanting to interrupt the conversation (and holding back a twinge of jealousy that my parents were never truly horsey folk, and that at that age I never had access to these horses to ride and groom, with parents that would drive me there then hand around chatting about them), I waved goodbye, tossed Moon’s halter on his hook, and grabbed his bridle for a good oiling.

Only managed to snap two pictures, and I’m sure neither of them is particularly good. Need to work up the courage to start filming us while we work…

With that I got in my car and headed home. 2 hours at the barn, and felt pretty accomplished. Ironically, I got home to discover I may no longer need to worry about the temptation of my MPI cheque having on showing…as it may now be spent on a pop-up camper that we found. Going out to see it tonight, and while it needs some repair it would be excellent for us. Hence, no more MPI cheque. And I really hope we get it, as then I might be able to spare myself the long drive back and forth from the barn…

Another good note is that my boss okayed me starting at 8:30 on Tuesday’s due to Spanish class, so I will be able to more then likely, squeeze in a horseback ride before work. Means I’d need to leave at 7:45 from the barn, 1 hour of riding is 6:45, 15 minutes of tacking is 6:30, meaning if I left home at 6 am, I’d have plenty of time!

Two rides in one week already. Now to patiently wait for next week’s lesson to come around again!

One More...from the Past.

The next "Oldie" post comes from last Summer, after I had started to really get into riding Moon. Already, he was a very special horse to me.
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Wish I was off riding Moonsox today…if it wasn’t raining of course. I feel embarrassed when I talk about him to people, but he really is special to me. I’m so looking forward to riding him next week and want to try and get in two rides/week. He’s already improved so much, it’s amazing. I really do think that he’s special, and it’s just a case of him being an easy horse to ride. I guess, I actually know that because I’ve ridden ‘easy’ and ‘push button’ and ‘slow’ horses lately, and they don’t do anything for me. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Phil, but he’s no Moonsox. Was completely different. Moon meets me with such energy when we’re riding, yet he’s always listening. I’m stuck in a spot now, where I desperately want to buy a trailer so that him and I can trailer out to Birds Hill or to ride with friends. But that won’t happen anytime soon because that money needs to go towards the property and my future home. I was also thinking that back in the day, one friend had a little red trailer…I wonder if maybe I could use that? We’d still be over by 1000 lbs, but it’s just a drive to BHP…Who knows? All that I do know, is that Moon is an awesome ride for me, and that I’m going to enjoy this as much as humanly possible. And that IF Moon ever goes up for sale, I’m buying him! Until that time, we’re going to ride. Trail ride, and practice competitive stuff, and maybe some year, I will be able to get a trailer and we can haul out to little shows. Who knows? I’ll even make some little jumps and cross country courses for us to go over. And video tape us and take lots of pictures. : ) I still have some money on my greenhawk card from my birthday, and hope to use a bit of that to outfit the Australian saddle Hil gave me, and maybe get some extra little ‘nice’ things for Moon. For starters, I need some neat’s foot oil…

I also need to pop by H’s place and raid her garage : P I realized that my old riding helmet was probably still there (probably from when Laura and I rode), and it would be good to have on hand again, if someone wants to trail ride with me at T’s. I’m sure I have other stuff there too, maybe my foot oil, and maybe a halter. I know I still have a halter over at S's place, and it was a really nice one too. : (

I really hope this aussie saddle fits Moon or even Reno at worst. The BF actually said yesterday maybe it could be HIS saddle! Wowie! Considering I have to make a stall plaque for H in exchange for it (she even threw in a really nice wool pad for it), I think it’ll be totally worth it. I might even still have a nice piece of wood at home. Or could maybe get one cheap at Michaels or ask Dad. I’ve got 3 weeks to make it…

Next Monday I have off all alone, and I think I’m going to maybe see if I can ride Moonsox all day!!! And I wanna grab some of the logs and set up some jumps or something on the trails for me to go over with him. I was also thinking maybe I’d cut one of our 4x4 posts, and make myself a jump standard…I can use some of my greenhawk money on a set of jump cups and use one of our nice trees to act as my poles…Just a thought. Gotta see what T has built at her place now. It’s not like we need anything fancy…

Is it wrong to be thinking about anything but here? That’s the way I am right now, and it’s really hard to stay focussed. I’d rather be riding. : P So that’s what I’ll daydream about. Being on Moon and all the fun and cool things we can do together. I gotta make sure I keep it interesting for both of us. Lots of dressage and jumping and trail riding. I’m not even joking that next Monday I wanna go on a ride for most of the day. Literally get out there by 10:00, be riding, get everywhere.

Old Entries, Before the Blog, Before the MoonSox.

For me, when I struggle with something, I like to write about it. It's my outlet, and I've at least 12 journals at home, all filled with adventures from about 7th grade right through today. Often, my mind will become stuck on a personal issue when I don't have access to a journal, and I'll take the time to type it out.

While cleaning my computer, I came across the following post. I wrote it before I had met MoonSox or T, though it would have been early 36February of 2010. Ironically, this is what started my drive back into horses, leading to my search for a free lease, and in turn, the discovery of T and MoonSox. I wouldn't say this is where it all began, but it's certainly where it all got focussed...

And yes, I really did seem more then a little shallow when it came to getting back into riding. Being with Moon has really reminded me that it's the relationship I love more then anything, but you need the right horse in your life to make you realize that. Same goes for the BF, who wound up buying me my pony, comes and watches the farrier work, helps put up fencing on the farm, and while he doesn't fully get it, he gets that I get something of it.

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Well, I’m feeling impatient again. Wow is it ever hard to contain excitement and whatnot. And nervousness. I REALLY want to get back to group riding lessons. But I have this horrible feeling that there won’t be any space in any of the places I want to ride, and then I won’t get lessons like I want. Or that it won’t be what it once was.

But I’m really all excited, and just can’t wait till next month when I can afford taking lessons again. And STAYING with them. That’s something I’ve never gotten to do before. And even with B-A, it always came to an end when summer turned to fall. This time, I really didn’t want to continue. Last time I, to be honest, didn’t really want to continue. I guess I just really look forward to taking group lessons again, and getting that opportunity to chat with other horsey people. I wonder if maybe one will have an adult riding class? I guess I wanna meet people who are like me, and not champion riders, but rather finally have the opportunity to ride again. Oh, and then there’s the Equine Canada levels, that I really want to pursue.

Now tonight, it’s going to be about calling around, and seeing what I can find. I’m really banking on Misty River, though Meadow Green would be pretty sweet too. Guess it’s about me going to some posh barn and riding ponies like back in the day. Those were the days. Maybe I can even convince the BF to come watch? That was a downfall to B-A. The BF could never watch me ride, and I think that when he sees how much I love ponies, it’ll just make it that much easier to break the news that I’ll be getting a pony.

Of course, now I want a new helmet, because who wants to start taking lessons and be wearing this old helmet they got when they were 17? Not me! : P But at least I have nice paddocks and half chaps, though I’d like to replace them with field boots or some black ½ chaps and paddocks. Mix it up a bit. I really need to go through my closet too and see what sort of clothing options I have.

So this evening will have to be it. Get home, head downstairs with the phone and notebook and start making my calls. One by one. I mean, seriously, there’s only like 3 or 4 places I have to call. Can’t be that bad. Set up a couple of meetings, and let’s face it, I’ll likely only be meeting with one or two stables. Meet one next week, one the week after, and be in lessons at the start of March. Easy-peasy lemon squeezy. And I’ve never actually taken lessons in the summer at a group stable in the city. Or been at one when they had a schooling show. This could be really fun. Apparently Meadow Green sometimes takes their riders on trail rides for class, and Misty River does the occasional fox hunt. Just want to do something different from what I’ve been doing. I miss jumping lessons, and I guess I miss that whole group atmosphere. I’ll do both kinds within a year, and figure out what I really enjoy doing. Cause I’m still not sure.

I really do think I daydream too much. It’s not going to be what I remember it being. Heck, Meadow Green was actually horrible for me when I was a kid. I felt out of place, and poor and un-cool. Like I wasn’t good enough. Hated it. But Copall is long gone now, and I’m not sure it’ll be replaced anytime soon. Heard good things about Misty River, but that’s about it. Who knows?

I’m also nervous about calling my old boss' wife. I mean, I guess I’m nervous EVERY time I call them! Don’t know why. Guess just the whole history. Whatever. Maybe I can bargain him down to $100/month for 2 rides per week on Danny-boy. That’d be awesome. Especially if I did that and lessons. $226/month, isn’t much more then what I bargained for.

Who knows? I just need to control my nerves, work myself up to it, and just make the calls. I WANT TO RIDE. And I’m not going to get to unless I start calling around. . Why am I so phone shy? Shy in general?

I wonder if I’ll have to do an evaluation ride? Not sure how good I’d do, considering I’ve been out of the saddle for quite awhile now. W/e. Even if I wind up in a beginner’s class, I’m sure I won’t stay there for long. I expect to be like a level 3 or something in the EC levels, which won’t be filled with beginners. I just need some time to remember what the crap I’m doing. Like riding a bicycle.

Anyways, I guess that’s all from me for now. This weekend will be the snowmobile trip. Yipppeee.

February 9th, 2010

So I had a good conversation yesterday with the owner of Misty River Ranch. Co-owner I suppose. They moved out to Canada with a couple of their prize stallions, from a breeding farm called ‘Three Cup’ or something of that sort. Something about the British accent, easy conversation and jokes that ensued seemed to scream to me that this might well be the place I was after.

They have an adult riding class, which I think is pretty cool. The only thing that I’m unsure about is if I’ll enjoy the group long term. Horseback riding, to me anyways, is a funny thing. Unlike a lot of sports, that if you didn’t get into them as a child (like ballet or gymnastics), you can still make it to a competitive riding level (certainly not the Olympics, but heck, you might get to the Heart of the Continent) at a later age. As I told Sarah, the owner of Misty River yesterday, maybe I’ll make the Olympics when I’m 60. She replied, “Just like Ian Miller”. Anything’s possible.

So to me, that’s the thing. Apparently this adult group is a lot of social riders, which let’s face it, while I want my own grown-up ‘saddle club’, I want the saddle club that focuses on getting their rider levels and becoming talented riders, and jumping and competing. Which it doesn’t sound like this group does. But Sarah was awesome at making sure I knew that the group I began in, wasn’t the group I had to stay in. Funny, she said she liked to move people up levels, not down. Did that once at meadow green myself, and I’m still not sure it was the right move. But man, I just couldn’t work with that old instructor.

And thus, I think that is the way I will progress from here. Despite not actually talking to Meadow Green or Teske’s (the drive is longer, though the price is cheaper…though the lesson is shorter…), I think Misty River is the next place to ride. Who knows? Maybe Copall will open again, and I’ll move there? I just think that this place might be a nice fit. And after fitting into the barn, then I can try to find the group that I appropriately fit into. I would probably best fit a group that wants their certification; nothing highly competitive though I would like to eventually show…just a little bit.

I showed up for my first visit to the new barn, excited and nervous. Since I wouldn’t be riding this evening, I came dressed in barn-friendly clothes, expecting at least a couple of rubs from horse heads while I was there.

There’s something different about riding when you’re an adult. For me, never having had the privilege to ride until I was 17, it was a gift. Every time I approached a horse, it was a gift. A gift because it was something given to me, even now when I’m older and paying for it myself. It’s a gift now that I give myself, though a part of me, I think, still pretends that it’s something given to me by someone else.

I’m going to try very hard this time (though I’ve tried very hard in the past)

I don’t know why I feel so drained today. Well, maybe in part I kinda do. For one, there was getting up at 3:30 in the morning, after hardly sleeping thanks to excitement and nerves and crazy dreams surrounding riding horses again. Exhausted.

February 10th, 2010

Yesterday I asked the BF if he wanted to come to the barn (Misty River) with me today, since I’m going to check it out and see about lessons. His response? “You know how to ride. Why would you take lessons when you already know?” Because while, yes, I know how to ride, and I ride pretty well, I can ride BETTER. Why take agility lessons if I already know how to run and jump and teach my dog? Because there’s ALWAYS so much more to learn.

Horseback riding is a sport. You think about swimming. Yes, there’s a point where you’re a good swimmer, but these people still have coaches, to train and improve. Same with gymnastics or ballet or hockey. There’s always more to learn and work on. That’s what riding lessons are to me. An opportunity to progress and further develop the skills I already have.

I’m actually pretty nervous and excited about tonight. I really do wish, over and over that the BF had more interest in it, or at the very least, understood why I love it. Such is life, I suppose.

Anyways, I’m all worried about what to wear or dress in, and want to make a good first impression and hope to really like the group.

Of course, now I want to spend a lot of money on fancy riding clothes and stuff. And I’m also thinking about the future like crazy. I noticed there’s some cool riding camps, that would be a ton of fun to attend for a week. There’s one in New York State, that might align with a work meeting in Toronto one of these years. Flights out from there would be manageable, and I could spend a whole week riding every day.

I guess I’m really just trying to reclaim some of my youth or something. Somehow that all comes back to horseback riding.

So, because the barn will likely be cold tonight, I think I’ll try and dress warm. Take my new winter jack (muhahaha) which looks awesome. I was thinking maybe the jeans I have on now, and a pair of cowboy boots? I just don’t know how warm cowboy boots really are…colder then sneakers? I don’t really wanna go in sneakers! Sort of running out of options in that regard.

I’m thinking I could convert my non-bib style snowpants into some winter riding pants. Add elastic on the feet to hold them down, and maybe some knee patches. It’d all be easily removable…On top, well, a warm sweater I suppose. I doubt they have a heated viewing area, which means “brrrr…”. Extra socks too!

I should look up the map to make sure I know where to go. Apparently it’s the same driving distance as going to B-A’s, which is good to know. I can’t ride next Wednesday because I for one, don’t have the money to pay for it, and for second, I have a hair appointment that I rescheduled once already, and ended up having it bumped back 2 weeks. And considering the horrible orange color my hair is turning, I really need this appointment.

So that’s the plan. I might start a week earlier then I originally intended, but only because I’m sooo eager to start riding. I miss being on horseback and taking lessons so much. It’s crazy, but really, I just love riding. Especially this sort of riding. Nostalgia? Who knows. But I want to get back on those lesson horses, and start learning again. It’s funny, because I was never certain that I was ever getting any better. Especially since I was always coming in and out of riding lessons, never seeming to ever get a good go at it. But I keep thinking back to seeing the old polo boss and his wife two years ago, and how much they told me I had changed. That they could SEE that I was an improved rider. That was awesome. And for once I actually admitted to myself that while I’m not great, I’m a good rider.

I think that’s also why I like group lessons. I can observe others, see what they’re doing right, and try to apply that to myself. Granted, I think pride is going to play a bigger part now then ever, but at the same time, maybe in that atmosphere, I’ll care less what other think?

I wonder what the group is like? Are they going to be a lot older then me, or will they be a mixture? I really don’t expect the lot of them to be my age. I don’t know why, but I just assume that the people my age who are riding have been riding since they were kids, and therefore has moved onto semi-private or private lessons or owning a horse, or else they’re a group with the people they’ve been riding with since they were kids. But the adults in the class, they’d be those that never got to take lessons before, or those that haven’t ridden in a long time. Yeah, I suspect there might be one person my age, probably 3 or 4 that are my parents age, and then maybe one more senior. That’s my prediction. Not saying that's a bad thing, just that I wish somedays, that I had more friends my own age who love riding. My friends are into bars or scrapbooking or are having babies and starting families. Just makes it hard.

February 11, 2010

Last night I drove out to Misty River, which was pretty much as far as mapquest thought it would be, at 25 minutes. Not bad, considering that’s about the same as B-A. The drive was a bit confusing in the dark, lots of winding on gravel roads out in the prairie, but I managed to get there in the end anyways.

I was a little disappointed to start. Perhaps it’s my own ‘unskilledness’. The place was pretty dark with a couple people riding in the ‘indoor’ arena. Indoor should be used loosely in this case, since ‘covered’ would be a more appropriate term. The area was wide open in the front, older and definitely NOT heated. Brrr. Glad I brought my toque. The ‘indoor’ viewing area was well…enclosed, but cold, dirty and worn-out. Made Meadow Green’s look pretty impressive. I also couldn’t figure out how to get into the barn, which was detached from the ring. Took me a few tries, but I finally got in and asked someone to direct me to the owner.

Sarah was really nice and friendly, and took me for a tour of the place. Straight forward. The mainbarn with the large boxstalls was for the boarders, though it showed age too. Attached behind that was a smaller barn with tie-stalls for the lesson horses and two large box stalls that housed the stallions. Again, nothing too impressive. Take your horse out of the stall, bring it to the main barn to tack, and be on time for your lesson.

That’s one thing I liked. They’re very punctual, and you’re expected to be on horseback at the start of the hour. And you get a full hour there.

The woman in the class were about what I expected. In or around my parents’ age, maybe one younger in her early thirties. One lady was, well, boisterous. The instructor for the group, was from Copall, and really nice. I like the coach, which is important. The group jumps about once a month, though watching yesterday I’m not sure it’s particularly high…

I watched their lesson, and I wonder if I’ve become too critical? I was actually trying to think like a coach and see what I could tell they needed to improve and such. There were 2 people in the group that seemed to be pretty good riders. And 2 that were there that were okay. One horse got worked up and bolted and bucked on one lady, which I think she handled well. Their jumps were low, they did a lot of trotting, and two canter circles in each direction.

Anyways, I think it’s a good place to jump off from, and see where I go. I keep thinking about Meadow Green’s warm viewing area, and heated arena, and updated stables…but this is a good excuse to buy some nice new high winter boots that I’ve been wanting, and it’s a lot closer to home, and I like the instructor, and other then the kids, I thought the group was friendly. I could probably stand to get used to the cold a bit more!

Well, I guess I’ll email her and let her know that I’m willing to give it a go. And I’ll place an order to buy that pair of winter boots from Pleasant Ridge. Pick up a pair of riding gloves from Menards, and maybe find a balaclava to ride in. Probably the cheapest option. Don’t need a bunch of new stuff to go riding there. But boots, just because I HATE cold toes, and it makes it HORRIBLE to ride in. Can’t have a good time when you’re miserable.

So I just sent her an email, saying I’ll start on the 24th, which’ll be 8 weeks of lessons, and I can evaluate and decided after 3 weeks if I’m going to continue on. So now I just need to dig out my winter gear, order up those winter riding boots, and pick up some gloves while I’m at Menards. The boots will definitely come in before then. I should spend some time practicing my riding on my new saddle stand : P

Anyways, I think this will be fun. Certainly something I’ve been wanting to do again, and it should keep me entertained, if not tired.


February 12, 2010

Just under 2 more weeks until I’m back in the saddle. Yippee. I still didn’t order my new winter boots, largely I think because I’m so hesitant to spend money. It’s just SO hard when you have a budget and a big lofty goal, to keep yourself in check. And you just know that if you let yourself budge on one thing, you’ll budge on a whole bunch more.

At this moment, I, once again, can only think of owning a horse. It’s consuming. Whenever I see someone with a horse, all I can think about is, “what do I need to do, so that I can own a horse too?” I can’t even believe, that paying off my car this year, I’m still going to have to wait ANOTHER year before I can buy a pony!

Two whole years. It seems like FOREVER. I originally thought it would be the perfect 27th birthday present, but now I’m thinking, nah, I should get it for Christmas. : ) But at the end of the day, it’s going to be about finding the ‘right’ horse for me. And I’m pretty sure that’s going to be a brown quarter horse, that’s plain as day, chunky and nothing special to look at. : P Then again, neither was Hobo or Twi. Both were plain jane bays. Sweet B was called Bertha, and not everyone thought she was beautiful either. Much like me, these horses are special because of their personality. And that’s what it’s all about.

I guess to keep myself going, I’ll just have to keep thinking about next Christmas. The years go by fast. This year will be 3 years since I moved into the house. So it’s less time then that which we’ve lived in the house. Heck, it’s what? 24 months. And considering that’s 2 solid years of lessons I’ll have under my belt by then, and maybe I can ask them to help me with my horse choice or whatever, I think it’ll be good. I just have to think of this as training for my next horse. Figuring out what I like to do, and improving my riding enough that I am capable of riding the type of horse I wind up getting.

I’m figuring I’ll put aside $2500 - $3000 to spend on the horse, plus initial farrier, teeth and vet check. This is going to be my forever horse. My first horse.

February 16, 2010

I ordered my boots on Friday, and hopefully they’re worth the $80. I picked up a new headband and a pair of gloves at Menards while we were down there, so I think I’m pretty well set for riding lessons next week.

Spent a lot of time on the weekend reminding the BF about my pony. Figure I’ll get him used to the idea that I’ll be pony shopping in the near future. There’s some really nice ponies up for sale right now, which sucks, but whatever. Should probably get back some skill in riding so that I have a better idea of what I want and am capable of handling in a horse.

I’ve also gotta size up my helmet. I’m so excited for my riding lesson next week. A whole week away. That’s a really long time to me right now, especially since there’s nothing too exciting since vacation ended. Hair appointment tomorrow, and then Dentist, Angie and Flyball to round out the week. Maybe I can drag him to greenhawk to see what I want for that birthday of mine that’s approaching.

What I really want though, is a pony. A really nice pony. To call all my own. But that’s not going to happen this year. But I still dream. Cause I’m me, and that’s what I do.

What’s my history though?

Prior to my 17th birthday, I hadn’t done anything more then the very rare trail ride, always on a western saddle, and I’d have to beg to get up to a trot. And a couple of lead line rides, which let’s face it, hardly counts as riding.

For my 17th birthday, my parents bought me riding lessons at Meadow Green Riding Academy. 4 riding and 1 ground lesson in English Equitation. How exciting. It was a longtime dream for me, and it seemed like it was finally coming true.

I rode at Meadow Green in the beginner’s group for those 4 weeks. It was me and two younger sisters, who were, probably close in skill to myself. After the 4 weeks ended, my father had lost his job, and it appeared that my riding future had ended almost as quickly as it had begun. I was sad, but as usual, determined. This was my dream, and while my parents weren’t able to provide it for me, I would chase after it myself.

And so I got my first summer job, and worked as a telemarketer, saving up enough money to take lessons again. I tried a stable closer to the house, over by Birds Hill Park. The cost was a lot lower, the drive shorter, and I thought this was a good idea. Well, I quickly learned how I had wasted my $100 on those 4 lessons. Riding ‘English’ in a western headstall (and the only one in an actual English saddle), by someone who had no training in English, was at best, a learning opportunity. It taught me about finding the ‘right’ place to ride. So once my 4 weeks there had ended, I did the most logical thing and returned to Meadow Green.

I was placed in an upper level group when I returned to Meadow Green, which I quickly (after only one lesson) came to believe I wasn’t good enough to participate in. They were trotting. I apparently trotted like a sack of potatoes. The coach was overbearing, bossy, yelling and demanding. She barked orders. She never seemed to actually provide any guidance or instruction on how to do something better, only identify exactly how badly you were screwing the whole thing up. It was probably the worst riding lesson of my life, and to some degree stayed by to haunt me though future riding lessons.

Regardless, I asked to drop back to a beginner class, which to be honest, was a mistake as well. Looking back now, I don’t think I wasn’t good enough for the other class. I certainly needed time to develop the skills and relearn some things, but the beginner class was too, well, beginner. Regardless, I did about 6 weeks with this group, had some fun, cleaned up my riding a bit, but still, I wasn’t in love with the coaching.

Exam season came around, and my parents had me quit riding over the Christmas break. I asked Meadow Green to hold my spot and that I’d be back in January. When I called them up, my spot was gone, and there was limited availability. Their prices had risen as well, and I just didn’t feel like going back. So I went in search of another barn, again.

This took me to Copall. Copall was probably the closest thing to a ‘dream’ barn as I ever got.

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It appears that's as far as I ever got last year! Some day, I suppose I'll finish the story of my horse background, but for now, let's just say that group lessons were okay, but I never felt like I was learning enough, and I struggled in the environment. I did get to join a higher class once, and did my first 2'6" hunter course. It was AMAZING, scarey and wonderful. A few weeks later, we bought land, I ran out of money as a result, and left. The last lesson was uneventful, no one really cared much I was leaving, and I was thankful that just a couple weeks before I had met T and was starting to ride at her place. It filled the gap in wonderfully, and I enjoyed the transition. And that's where I met MoonSox, who turned out to the be exactly as I predicted (no joke, this post was never edited from the original word document):

I’m pretty sure that’s going to be a brown quarter horse, that’s plain as day, chunky and nothing special to look at. : P Much like me, these horses are special because of their personality. And that’s what it’s all about.

Really, Moon is beautiful, not only as a brown (dark chestnut) QH, but as the magnificent creature and friend that he is!