Thursday, June 30, 2011

There were mistakes...but it was PERFECT.



Yesterday was our lesson day, after our very interesting ride through town on Monday, where Moon seemed to suddenly start understanding the contact I've been searching for. I wasn't certain how it would go, and I headed out to her place a little anxious...

Typical me. Moon had survived the night swimmingly in his 'KoolCoat', and yes, he was cool beneath it. I like to think it saved him a bit of bug bites on his sides and back, which makes me feel better. Unfortunately I had to leave it off last night since we'll be MIA all weekend and I won't get to check up on him.

His uber cute braids were still in place, which I should say that Coach W loved! Something in the rainbow and their look just enhanced him. Let's face it, he's cute to begin with ; )

The weather was hot and humid, making everything sticky. At W's, he didn't want to move any faster then a walk, and standing still made you sweat like crazy. Because we ride in the indoor, there was next to no wind, though at least there was shade. Such cruelty.

We tried to avoid too much trotting in the hot weather, and despite a few spooks at the creaks of the building, Moon was in fine form. And me? Fine form as well. W commented on my much improved position, and just how much better I was carrying myself.

At a trot clockwise, I FINALLY was able to get the most wonderful leg yielding out of him. W has been telling me over and over to "bump" him with my inside leg, and I've never 'gotten' this concept. It sounds dumb, but I'd sort of pull my leg out, tense it, and then press it to his side. It never worked really well. The other thing she kept telling me was to "follow his sides with your legs". I thought I was, until yesterday when I suddenly GOT IT. My legs swung easily with his belly and when it came over, I'd give it a little extra 'bump'. It's really hard to describe, but I felt like I was suddenly riding very differently.

And suddenly I was making a much better connection with my horse. W told me that normally she doesn't tell people to sit deep. In most riders it causes them to sit too far back in the saddle, where for me it actually helps me relax deeper into the saddle instead of perching atop it as I normally do.

As we went around the circle at a trot, he gave me a WONDERFUL leg yield. He was in form, rhythmic, rounded, supple, lifting his shoulders, just EVERYTHING you want out of your horse. It was without doubt the most beautiful movement I have gotten from him to date.

And how did we end it? With a PERFECT halt, neck horizontal, head low, mouth in contact with the bit AND all four feet square. W said to me that next year we're going to ROCK the Level 1 Dressage test, what with 16 easy points picked up just from the way he stops!

His counterclockwise was

Feelin' Hot, Hot, Hot!



Yesterday was our lesson day, after our very interesting ride through town on Monday, where Moon seemed to suddenly start understanding the contact I've been searching for. I wasn't certain how it would go, and I headed out to her place a little anxious...

Typical me. Moon had survived the night swimmingly in his 'KoolCoat', and yes, he was cool beneath it. I like to think it saved him a bit of bug bites on his sides and back, which makes me feel better. Unfortunately I had to leave it off last night since we'll be MIA all weekend and I won't get to check up on him.

His uber cute braids were still in place, which I should say that Coach W loved! Something in the rainbow and their look just enhanced him. Let's face it, he's cute to begin with ; )

The weather was hot and humid, making everything sticky. At W's, he didn't want to move any faster then a walk, and standing still made you sweat like crazy. Because we ride in the indoor, there was next to no wind, though at least there was shade. Such cruelty.

We tried to avoid too much trotting in the hot weather, and despite a few spooks at the creaks of the building, Moon was in fine form. And me? Fine form as well. W commented on my much improved position, and just how much better I was carrying myself.

At a trot clockwise, I FINALLY was able to get the most wonderful leg yielding out of him. W has been telling me over and over to "bump" him with my inside leg, and I've never 'gotten' this concept. It sounds dumb, but I'd sort of pull my leg out, tense it, and then press it to his side. It never worked really well. The other thing she kept telling me was to "follow his sides with your legs". I thought I was, until yesterday when I suddenly GOT IT. My legs swung easily with his belly and when it came over, I'd give it a little extra 'bump'. It's really hard to describe, but I felt like I was suddenly riding very differently.

And suddenly I was making a much better connection with my horse. W told me that normally she doesn't tell people to sit deep. In most riders it causes them to sit too far back in the saddle, where for me it actually helps me relax deeper into the saddle instead of perching atop it as I normally do.

As we went around the circle at a trot, he gave me a WONDERFUL leg yield. He was in form, rhythmic, rounded, supple, lifting his shoulders, just EVERYTHING you want out of your horse. It was without doubt the most beautiful movement I have gotten from him to date.

And how did we end it? With a PERFECT halt, neck horizontal, head low, mouth in contact with the bit AND all four feet square. W said to me that next year we're going to ROCK the Level 1 Dressage test, what with 16 easy points picked up just from the way he stops!

His counterclockwise was not as stellar, but we gradually improved on it. He has a tendency to fall in on the circle, and after some investigative work, we discovered that he actually moves into my inside leg when going counterclockwise, as opposed to away. One more thing to work on, right?!

He really is evolving into a good little dressage horse, and I know that if we keep it up we'll make progress. For next week, since he's getting his teeth done on Friday and I have an appointment on Wednesday, I'm going to try for a "me-centric" lesson on Monday instead. And then Moon can go back to training the following week. Hopefully the weather finally cools down, as I'm not overly fond of sweating like crazy just standing still in the shade!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Great Lawnmower Race

I didn't feel like doing ring work yesterday. I know tons of people love ring work. Love riding in circles and serpentines, leg yielding and half-passing. Personally, as much as I love this dressage stuff (and I do), I'm going a little stir crazy. Our ring is only so big, and you can only fit so much into it. If you set-up for jumps or trot poles, you struggle to have room to work on your circles or serpentines. Half your time is spent moving things around, and you get 3 strides in before you hit the other end (okay, it's not that bad, but I'm just not a ring person).

So yesterday, not at all in the mood to do more ring work with Mr. Moon yet again (I've never done so much in my life), I decided we'd hit the trails. What can we not do out there, that we can do in a ring??

Well for starters, there's no scary ditches full of deep water to freak out about. Excellent start to our ride. : P

I figured "to hell with it", and just kept riding him after his tantrum (and it was a tantrum!). We walked along a couple of fields, over a bridge and wound up in town. The town isn't huge, but has a gas station/grocery store/post-office, a restaurant, large K-6 school, antique store, community centre, curling rink and a lot of houses. New houses as it's a growing suburban town, full of escaped city folks living on their paved country roads.

This becomes apparently when you decide to walk your horse through town.

Now Moon, he's steadfast. Yes, he has small fits when he doesn't want to leap the ditch, but when you NEED him to be your calm and collected buddy, he pulls through.

We strolled down main street, his hooves clopping on the pavement.

People come out of their houses to watch us pass; they point. Some people call their children to come see. I feel a bit like a spectacle, but I AM the one who decided to ride through town. What happened to the days when this was common place? How come we never do this anymore? Shouldn't every horse go easily amongst the people? I really do wish this was a more common sight.

A couple were mowing their lawns are we walked past. The husband called out to the wife, "Check out the horse!", and she rode around the corner on her lawn mower (both were riding) to stare. As Moon and I continued past, they decided to follow...on their lawnmowers!

So we continued through town with two lawnmowers acting as our procession. It was weird. But nice, as I love that people still love the sight of a horse in town, which makes the country a little more country to me. We'll do it again for just that reason.

And for some reason, my silly horse felt THIS was the time to give me his best behaviour yet. In the past when trail riding (which is mainly what we did), he'd be looky, ride with his head fairly high, and just typical Moon off the bit. Yesterday, it seemed like all the lessons and practice finally hit home. Despite the lawnmowers chasing after us...

He stretched out. His neck went HORIZONTAL, lowering the most I've ever seen it while under saddle. He actually made contact with the bit, and I could FEEL his mouth in my hands; even the movement of him chewing. Which he was doing, WITHOUT any gapping.

When he occasionally shook his head or pulled the reins a bit out of my hands so I had to readjust, he'd reach down looking to find contact again!

His walk had so much impulsing and swing to it, that I was beyond pleased! THIS is what we've been searching for, and for some crazy reason, he gives it to me while walking through town?! Strange horse.

I thought "I wonder....", as I decided to try for a halt. His worst transition. I told myself to just stop moving; stop following. P.E.R.F.E.C.T. halt. Did NOTHING with my reins other then stop following the movement of his neck, and he halted beautifully, head low and feet square.

And when I asked for walk again...he kept his head lowered and moved back out on contact!

SUCCESS!

We practiced 4 more times, he moved and stopped amazingly. We HAVE CONTACT people!!!

: ) Now if only dressage shows were held downtown!!

P.S. I'm convinced his awesome movement is directly correlated to the cute braids I put in his mane, complete with rainbow elastics. Yes, I know it's girly and silly, but I'm still a kid at heart!

P.P.S. Mr. Moon wore his fly sheet last night! I'm hoping he hasn't managed to destroy it or kill himself overnight, since I can't check on him until tonight! Fingers crossed! I need him in one piece!

Monday, June 27, 2011

It's a long way down...from the Moon.

It's true. The Moon is a long way up. Jumping the Moon is awesome...Falling down from the Moon? Not quite so awesome...

I should probably start at the start, since it's hardly the story it sounds like it'll be.

Today was my Monday off (compressed work week), and I was hoping to trailer Moon to the park for a nice relaxing trail ride. Of course, it was miserable all day, with the skies dark and winds strong out of the North. Anyone who knows horses, knows that strong winds can put them in a 'mood', especially when it looks like rain too.

Knowing better, I decide to forego the trail ride. I feel bad that the two of us haven't been out on a relaxing, enjoyable hack in...months. That's a long time for me, and we've both always loved trail riding. That's where I fell in love with my Moon'er, and none of our flaws matter out there. It's just us, riding like hell.

I wanted to check on his fly mask since I'd left it on him since Friday, and while T checks him each day, I wanted to pull it off and hose it down. Maybe give him a bit of a break from it. So I still went out to the barn...

Of course, I pull up and there's Moon. Sans flymask. . It's moments like this I'm happy he's boarded on 5 acres of pasture. Bare pasture. To be mean, I made him walk with me in search of it, and thankfully there it was, mid-way down the pasture in a big pile of mud. I wonder how long it's been there...

Back at the 'barn', I figure what-the-h, I might as well tack up and do a little practicing. I want SOMETHING to show coach on Wednesday. But as I'm tacking him up, I start to get a little apprehensive.

You see, Moon needs his teeth floated. I'm not sure if I've posted much about it, but I've found a local vet who will come out and do it, though she's on holidays until July 4th. So we're booked for July 8th, and I'm very excited and very nervous about it.

Why? Because Moon hasn't had his teeth floated in at least 2 years. And based on his mouth issues (gapping, etc.), I'm truly concerned that he has hooks present, which are causing ulcers in his mouth. Granted, I could be way out in left field, his teeth could not be nearly that bad, and all of his problems are a progressive training thing that we now have to undo. That I don't doubt. I think the process will be slow and he'll gradually get better with contact. He already is. But I also fear that these awful ulcerations and pointy-teeth are causing him a lot of pain, making him uncomfortable in a bit. Which would make what he does do for me, next to amazing, as I would be beyond uncooperative if it were me.

So I'm waiting around right now, having mini worry sessions that the vet will look in his mouth and be shocked by what she sees. An ugly, torn-up, ulcerated, painful mouth. And he'll be put on antibiotics after his teeth are floated, I'll need to rinse his mouth daily and he'll be out of training for at least 6 weeks. That's my predicition.

Standing there wanting to put his bridle on, I just hesistated. And paniced. I don't want to hurt him. If he doesn't like the bit because he needs training, then it's okay. We'll work on making him like it. But if it's because I have been a bad owner and dragging my feet on his float over the last 2 months thinking it couldn't be that bad, then I feel terrible. And I don't really want to torture him more then I have to.

Yes, I'm having bad owner worry-sessions. If I could have saved him 2 months of pain, then I screwed up. And now I have to wait 2 more weeks to find out.

So I decided to forego the bridle. We went out in a halter and some gaming reins, and started doing circles and such. It went okay, but he was pretty fiesty in the wind. Every time we went north (into the wind) or south (with the wind), he'd give me some mini-bucks. Just bratty.

As someone suggested to me, I set up some trotting poles, with a placer before my jump. He's very new to jumping and doesn't know where to take off, often leaving too far from the base of the jump, meaning he's jumping pretty flat. So hopefully these poles help him keep his rythym and learn where to depart. Oh, and I raised my stirrups, as someone else had mentioned. I'm trained 90% in classic dressage (I know, it's not apparent!), and always think of long leathers. In my life, I've jumped a 2'9" hunter course ONCE.

Apparently that really throws off my jumping position. Heck, I haven't even been using my knee rolls! (someone should probably put the jumping blocks back on my saddle too...). I shortened them about 3 holes and was amazed when I looked down in the saddle and noticed that my leg position was FINALLY right, automatically.

What do I mean? When I raise my leathers 3 holes, suddenly my head, shoulders, hip and ankle are all in proper alignment over top of one another. Automatically. That's just how I settle into the saddle.

BUT, when I lengthen them for dressage work, suddenly I develop an arm-chair position, with my legs too far forward. It has me wondering how much my saddle design is altering my position...

Anyway...

We trotted in (after some weiny bucking) and moved really nicely down the line. It's amazing how much 'umph' they have doing trot poles. He reached the placer pole, and launched into the jump.

...I imagine from the ground it was his best jump yet (2' vertical). He was much closer, jumped a lot more arching and other then a light tap with a hind hoof, he cleared it (the pole stayed up).

I can't make the same claim for myself.

We landed fine. He moved straight for a moment or two, then turned right...

I somehow lost my right stirrup on the landing and wound up with my weight shifted to the left. When he moved opposite, it was enough to unsettle me in the saddle. I could have clung on, but figured I'd just hop down since he was now at a walk. So I swung my right leg over, put it on the ground in a bit of a slow 'run' as I got my left foot out of the stirrup (kinda like a running dismount).

It would have been no big deal.

Except we only have a grass riding ring, that gets divotted with the rain and horses jogging on it.

I landed in a divot with my right foot, while my left was still in the stirrup. My ankle twisted, my run lagged behind Moon's walk and I feel onto my bum.



Should that be considered my first fall off Moon? It's awful, since I'm sure my terrible jumping position is likely what caused the whole issue. And the divot. Stupid divot.

I got back on him, and made him jump that same jump 3 more times. We both had no issues on the subsequent rounds, not knocking a single pole. He sprung through the trot poles beautifully and I really think that the placer pole is key for us at this point.

To finish off the ride (since he was still fiesty and it was really difficult to get him to ride long and low at a trot in a halter), I decided to setup a trot pole series with the last 4 poles raised on alternating sides.

Coming up to it the first time, I have to admit that it looked pretty intimidating! Even to me! Moon did the regular trot poles fine, but ducked to the right at the first raised pole. Brought him around and we tried a second time, where he moved through the first two raised poles fine, but decided to leap the last two in a single bound. Which is about 4'! Oye.

The third, fourth and fifth attempts were perfect, and I love how springy he moves through them. I called it quits there, figuring we'd had enough success for one day. I intend to have him do that line-up (or with the 2' jump) every practice ride we have, to help him work on his topline muscle, rythym and impulsion. And it's fun when we can't trail ride!

So, back to my "fall". It hardly counts, but man, the back of my knee hurts now. I think I twisted it when I landed, and am now cursing the uneven terrain that we're practicing on. T hopes to get it sanded this summer, but I know how difficult it can be to purchase enough sand to cover an area that big. Suppose I need to just focus on staying on from now on...

Other last minute thoughts, besides my horrible non-floated horseownerness...

- Next week I'm going to ask Coach W for a "me" lesson, so Moon can go the week without being ridden. Then we can see how he is when the vet looks at him. Hopefully I can really focus on my own position during that lesson.

- I went to Greenhawk (store still drives me crazy) and bought some leather conditioner for my tall Ariats "Leather CPR". So far, so good. I think I'm going to use the bathtub method on all of my boots from now on!

- I put my paddocks and old tall boots on kijiji for sale, and they both appear to have sold (just waiting for people to come pick them up). As much as I want to run out and spend the money made on some new horse gear (like an uber soft merino saddle pad, or a pair of shipping boots), I'm pretty sure I need to hang onto it in case the vet finds something I should be putting my money towards instead. Like a mouth full of ugly ulcers... : (

Friday, June 24, 2011

BF Ride!

Yesterday, Farrier Dee came out to work on Moon's feet. He grows extremely fast, and last weekend when I was cleaning them I knew he was ready for a trim, despite being a week ahead of schedule. When Dee was out yesterday, she agreed, praised my ability to recognize when they need to be done, and we agreed to start on every 5 week trims for the summer. Moon maintains a beautiful solid and secure hoof, without any chipping and cracking (knock on wood), which is awesome to see when so many people are struggling with the wet weather.

She did let me know to watch his frogs, and that while they're currently fine, there's always the risk of thrush. She said if I notice that they're peeling a lot or disappearing, to wash them, pack them with a solution of sugar and betadine, place gauze on the bottom and wrap them in duck tape to draw out the infection. Let's hope we stay clear of that!

It was a great visit, and my dog even hung out without any issue. It's nice to see your horse and dog together, something I never though possible before. Not until a dog at Coach W's sat in front of Moon licking his nose on Wednesday! And Mr. Moon just didn't care.

After the farrier left, I took the BF for a lead line ride (yes, he had to wear a helmet), and led him over some trotting poles. He really wanted to 'ride' on his own, so I tied the lead to either side of his halter and gave him reins. We were in the small ring, so Moon couldn't really 'run away', and I didn't want to give the BF reins on the bit. Why? Because of all the problems we've been having with his gapping mouth. I feel awful to say it, but I don't want Moon to have to have anyone (other then me and Coach W) messing around with his mouth and the bit. I think it's the best way to get him used to gentle contact.

It was cute though, as even though the BF had reins and could turn Moon's head (I taught him about intermittent pressure, not just pulling on the reins, as well as open reining), Mr. Moon just wanted to follow me around. Everywhere I went in the ring, so did Moon. If I stopped, Moon stopped. It was cute!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Things can only get better if you make them worse.

Lucky me, Day 2 of the 30 day challenge is:

Day 02- The last time you rode a horse and what you did

Perfect. Because yesterday was our weekly riding lesson with Coach W...and it was exactly what we needed...

We'll bypass all the boring catching and hauling stuff, though I'd like to mention that as a total girl, I braided Moon's tail while I waited for T to come by for us to haul out. He made me pretty nervous, having to stand behind him, and with the flies, I jumped every time he lifted his leg. I'm sure I'll get over that with time. He looked pretty cute with the braiding, though it was far from professional quality.

Out at Coach W's we were praised on our beautiful walk, and Moon gave me a wonderful trot going clockwise. You'll recall that on Monday, he was AWFUL going clockwise and great going counter. Yesterday the tables turned and it was the polar opposite! Drives me crazy, since that means he's capable of it in both direction, and this is more about him being a brat.

I know he's not too huge on all of this 'work', and have been joking that he's going to put my tack on Kijiji (like Craigslist) and sell it out from under me so that he no longer will have to work. : P It's a Moon sort of thing.

Anyway, we got some nice circles with him starting to lift his shoulders and round nicely. His tempo has really improved and when we *get* it, it's beautiful. I played back the video and was pretty proud of how nicely he could move. I know I have a ton of personal improvements to make; my seat, hands, etc., and think that in two weeks I'm going to do a lunge lesson with one of W's horses to do some work on myself. I think that he's finally getting to the point where he understands enough of what I want, that I need to improve myself before he'll come around too much.

Midway through our lesson one of W's boarders came into the ring with her fancy, leggy warmblood. You could tell she was an impressive dressage rider, and the horse was well trained.

I'll be honest, I was unhappy instantly. For one, I'm not the most self-confident about my riding. I'm hardly confident at all, and W is well aware of that. To suddenly be in the ring with some girl, my own age, moving beautifully around us on a ballerina-type horse, is not a confidence booster. While I'm okay not being nearly as competent as the other girl, it's a little embarrassing when in your mid-twenties, your coach is yelling at you to change your posting diagonal or sit up. These are riding basics. These are things that children should be learning.

You'll say that we're not all lucky enough to learn them as children, and it's true. There's people older then myself who are just starting out, who need this instruction too, and that's okay. But really, I've been in the saddle for 9 years, and to this day haven't consistently gotten it. I'm FINALLY starting to be able to feel when I'm off, but it's a hit and miss sort of thing. It's embarrassing, to say the least.

Now, not only am I in the ring with the next Grand Prix rider being told to sit twice, but Moon decided to be a complete jerk. We never ride in a group. Normally when I'm out, T isn't, so it winds up being me and Moon alone in the ring, and it's pretty good. But yesterday when the other horse walked in, he wanted to do nothing but chase it around. Which left us with a hurried trot, sharp corners, no contact, and it's awful, but we even cut off the poor girl and her horse a few times.

...and nearly ran into the side of the arena once, during a particular disagreement regarding bending.

W kept encouraging us to keep trotting and work through it, and I have to admit that I wish I had spoken up and stopped. I was disorganized. As Moon rushed and cut corners, I fell over his fore, my legs were all over the place, I dropped my hands, I used way too much rein aids and it just got worse and worse to me.

Now, I watched the video back today, and it's never as bad as I imagined. BUT you can tell that I go all to pieces, and everything right about my riding disappears. I wonder if I had just stopped, gathered myself up and restarted, if we would have done any better?

After a couple of improving but still awful circles, W offered to hop on. I was sweating and frustrated by this point, and hopped down willingly. As with the last time she was on him, he turned into Mr. Rabbit, pulling his top lip way back and barring his teeth. It looked awful, with his head in the sky. Especially next to Miss Fancy Pants and her beautiful rider.

W put in a couple of circles on him and managed to get back his focus. Part of this is what has me thinking I need some lunge lessons to work on myself, as I don't have the benefit of being able to sit the trot the way she does. Me bouncing off Moon's back is NOT going to focus him.

Once I was back on him, he really started to come back together, and we worked on our looping circles. Last week they were absolutely awful, and this time after a couple of tries we managed to actually have something resembling a loop, plus some beautiful straight-aways. Moon was just moving beautifully and I was beyond proud of him. Especially since Miss Fancy-Pants was still in the ring, though doing more halt-work (probably because she was tired of me running her over).

When W finally called the lesson to an end, I was pleased. Granted I wasn't able to get Moon back to calm and focused on my own, I was able to maintain it after W's correction. We got some beautiful movement out of him, and he's really progressed from last week, testament to all the rides and work I put on him.

W even told me that he felt way better from the first time she rode him, and that he finally understood what the outside rein was. This is true testament to our success. All I want each time is him to be a little better, and we're doing that.

While we were leaving, T made a comment about how the other horse was a distraction, taking away from our lesson as we dealt with his outburst. It's interesting, as when I first stepped off Moon so W could mount up, I felt the same way. I was pissed off that some girl could show up in the middle of our lesson, ride on our half of the ring (the entire other side of the arena was wide open, yet she kept doing circles on our half!), and seeing how much her horse was distracting mine and ruining my ride, continue on. I was not impressed that someone could take away our lesson and all the success of it like that, and not even bat an eye.

But watching Moon go around the other horse, and then getting on and doing it myself, I suddenly became pretty darn proud of my boy. I don't give a dang that he's not nearly the trained horse as Miss Fancy-Pants. That I have to be reminded to post on the right diagonal, or that we fell to pieces. Or that his head doesn't drop as low as the other horses, and he walks around with his ugly face on. You know what? In 6 weeks of lessons, I have taken my little $500 backyard QH gelding and shown clear improvement. He has given me some beautiful movement, which I helped him create. He's not expensive bred, he hasn't been trained from a young age, and heck, I didn't take my first lesson till I was 17!

Even with the distraction, he came back to me. THAT is exactly what we need more of. I want to keep pushing him, so that he learns how to behave in these new situations. There is NOTHING that girl could have done better for me, then ride in my circle yesterday. Moon didn't buck, I didn't fall of, and nothing went that badly. We had success BECAUSE of how badly things went. We NEED to make them go badly like that, so we can improve on them.

I'm determined now, that he needs to get out more, work around more horses and I should take him to some small fun shows, just so he can learn how to relax and focus on me in these situations. I'm hoping like crazy that Miss. Fancy-Pants is back in the ring next week, as I want to re-focus Moon on my own next time. He can do it. I can do it. And I want that chance!

You know the other thing I was thinking about as my stocky QH marched around the ring? His butt. When I started riding him, he was just a tubby ol'QH, and after the last 6 weeks of work, he's developing topline, he's worked off a lot of his paunch, AND as he trotted around the ring, I could SEE butt muscle! A beautiful line of muscle running down each rump. No, he didn't have as much muscle as Miss Fancy-Pants, but for Moon, it's wonderful to just see muscle!

You know what else? Mr. Moon has a much longer and prettier tail then Miss Fancy-Pants. That's right. He might pull ugly rabbit faces, but he's got a luscious tail.

That was my last ride. I rewatched the video this morning and he's really coming along. T and W keep telling me what a beautiful trot he was when he's actually on the bit and I could see that. He has pretty moments.

Now what? Well, yesterday proved to me that riding him 4 days a week DOES make a huge difference. Not only to his responsiveness and movement, but it also helps build his muscle. So we're riding seriously now. Tonight he's getting his pedicure and T has a trainer coming out to help her with a couple of the kids, so I'm hoping maybe I can work him around other horses. I have Monday off, and was thinking of taking him to Birds Hill to expose him to more changing environments. Experience, experience, experience.

Let me say, that riding this much is a lot of work. Stuff still has to get done around home, and I'm sore and tired every morning when I wake up. But I sleep like a log, and know I'm developing a ton of muscle and tone myself. And if I'm this sore and tired, how must Moon feel?!

Tonight? I'm thinking after his pedicure we'll try and do a bunch of trot poles in addition to our circles, with opposite ends elevated so he has to start engaging and lifting through them. Then we'll work on some figure-8's to finish the evening off. If I work up the nerve, I might also leave his fly mask on overnight, though I'm still a nervous nelly on that one. Someone promise me that horses don't run through fences when they wear their masks to bed...

Last thing. While I know my leg position sucks because I suck, I'm wondering how much of it has to do with my saddle? In some pictures, it seems that my stirrup leathers are perfectly vertical, yet I have couch legs. Hmmm... On another note, I tried to change the gullet and couldn't figure out how for the life of me. I might bring out a screw driver tonight and give it another go. Second time is the charm, right?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

30-Day Challenge - Day 1



Okay, everyone's doing it, and I'm clearly a follower! : ) Actually, I'm enjoying reading everyone else's posts of the 30-day challenge, that I thought maybe I'd add my own. In between my regular riding updates, which let's face it, probably come too frequently. I'm a type-a-holic. Just shake your head and ignore my updates when they show up on your blog roll. Like an addict, I just can't help myself!

Day 1 - When and Why You Started Riding

Like most of you, I was a horse-crazy kid. I still have my collection of Saddle Club, Pine Hollow, Thoroughbred, Riding Academy, etc. books, which I spent reading and dreaming I was a character in. Beyond that I owned my must-have horse breed encyclopedia that I spent hours reading and writing out stats for my imaginary horses. I was never so fortunate to own any Breyers, but had "Grand Champions" instead, which were a lot easier to come by and much cheaper. My first model horse was named "Victory Gallop" and was a pretty buckskin gelding (he was listed as a Bay Roan warmblood named Victory). I broke his leg off when I was 10, cried horribly and my poor dad had to play vet and glue and cast it back together.

My parents knew they had a daughter who was horse obsessed. Unfortunately, with 3 children and 1 stay-at-home mom, there was no extra $ to spend on frivolous things like riding lessons. I got led around three times in my life on the back of a horse, once when I was about 5 at a campground 'ranch', which to this day I still remember clearly. When I think back, THIS is almost the moment that made me dream of really riding. Why? I couldn't tell you. I just loved it up there on the back of that horse, and I was already obsessed with them. Just 'cause.

The second and third lead line were at friends' houses when I was 7 and 8, and I even still have a picture of one of those 'rides'. I should dig it up sometime...

Regardless, that was the extent of my early riding, with one trail ride when I was 12 at that same ranch. Just walking. I needed more, but more wasn't in the budget.

I read every horse riding book I could find, pretended to ride, jumped broom sticks set up in the back yard, tacked and made gear for my model horses (which my collection had grown by this time, to the point where my dad had to make me a two storey, 30 horse-stall barn for them...), and dreamed.

I tried to get a job working with horses, but my parents were not keen. Horses were dangerous. People like "Superman" had fallen off and were paralyzed. Leaving their child at someone's facility to handle and hold those big strong creatures wasn't going to happen, even when I was 15 and 16. Life was cruel. My folks just didn't understand horse craziness, and I think they were always surprised that I didn't 'outgrow' it like my sisters and so many other girls had.

Every year I asked for a horse for Christmas and my birthday. I imagined he'd live in our shed, and eat the grass in our back 2 acres (I imagined my parents would stop growing potatoes and market veggies in order to turn the area into my pasture...). It never happened.

Then, for my 17th birthday, my dad had a new job that was really well paying. My sisters were off at University, and my folks decided to spoil me. They bought me 4 lessons at a local stable, plus 1 free tack-up lesson.

I still remember that birthday. At my family party the weekend before my birthday, they gave me a gift that was all about taking care of horses. Grooming and tacking and riding. They said "You're going to need this". It wasn't the first horse book I had gotten, and I figured they meant some day, in the future, when I was rich enough to buy a pony of my own.

On my 17th birthday, they sat me down on the couch and gave me a little envelope. Inside was a certificate to Meadow Green Riding Academy. I was THRILLED! I yipped and shouted and thanked them profusely. They also put $100 inside so I could buy a riding helmet. I still remember my dad apologizing that they were english lessons, but he thought I might enjoy that. I did.

That was in 2002. He took me to a local tack store (there were a LOT less back then), and picked out my helmet. I still own it, and still hate it. I wanted one of those beautiful velvet ones. He wanted me to get one of the plastic skull cap style and a velvet cover, cause "it's easier to clean". I love my dad profusely, so I bought the one he liked. I hate it, but it's still so special to me, because he started me riding in that helmet. I retired it last year, when he and my mom bought me a beautiful new velvet one : ) Love my parents, non-horsey as they are!

The rest is pleasant history now. MGRA was a dream for me, as I rode an old creaky mare named Sugar. A strawberry appaloosa, who treated me really well. I had been certain I'd keep riding there forever, but my dad was laid off, the money was gone, and so were the lessons. So I got a summer job as a telemarketer and paid for another year of lessons. I tried 3 barns in that year, rode a LOT of horses, jumped for the first time (on a big ol'draft named Stanley), had my first horse 'love' with a horribly confirmationed arabian name Twi, fell off a couple of times and got my Canadian Equestrian Federation level 1 certificate.

When did I truly start riding? in 2002 at the age of 17. Why? Cause I never stopped loving horses, and my dad could see that. : )

Before I go, can anyone see any improvement in Moon's shape thanks to our hard work? Personally, I can't see any difference!

BEFORE:


AFTER:
(I love that if his head wasn't down, his feet are in the EXACT same position in this photo as the previous one!)



Some pics of us working on lowering his head carriage and getting him to accept contact at a trot:






Why Moon needs a placer-pole next time...trying to jump from a mile away : P


Some more successful jumps, including the 1'9" jump (I have video, but it won't upload...)

I must say, that if nothing else, I think my leg position has improved from last year!

Now if I could just fix that chicken elbow...at least the cross rail was WAY narrow, only 6' wide : )


Oh, and because I'm trying to cut down on my number of posts a day, here's some pics of me breaking in my riding boots. I was told that I should soak them for 10 minutes in the bathtub (luke warm water), and then wear them until they dry. I wore them for 6 hours before letting them air dry, and when I tried them on this morning after leaving them to sit out over night, they seem to fit WAY better! Now I just need to try riding in them. VERY pleased. Oh, and I should condition them too...

My beautiful expensive Ariat's floating in the bathtub...


First one on...still dripping wet...


Tada!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

We'll consider that a leg yield...

I need to start taking and downloading my pics... : P

Regardless, I should say that we're on a good riding streak...since last Wednesday's lesson, I managed to get in an hour ride on Friday, a 1/2 hour in on Sunday, and another hour in yesterday. Granted, I'm not sure Moon is too keen on it, but based on the two more holes I got to tighten his girth, I think it's certainly helping his manly figure. I hope like crazy that by the end of summer I see a horse with a good muscling, less of a hay belly, more topline, less swayback and improved neck muscling. I do have a 48" girth at home, and the thought of him fitting into it... : O

Based on all of that, I *think* he'll get today off, as I think he needs a bit of a break.

Yesterday he was well behaved when I showed up, even standing reasonably well while I mounted. We worked on our circles, and while I really felt like our counter-clockwise circles were much improved, he was obstinate, mouth and bracing on the clockwise. Oh, and rushing and popping. And stopping in the same spot whenever we went in that direction, and since I was cropless and my legs were starting to ache from trying to push him through it, I finally popped him one right back with the reins. Let's just say that made a nice difference, as though he continued to be a brat while moving in that direction, he didn't stop!

It really was odd how improved he was in one direction and awful in the other...Horses.

I rearranged the jumps in the arena, and we did a line of trot/walk poles, followed by a cross rail with two strides to a low vertical which proved to me that I really need to make sure we're coming off our jumps straight and headed to the next one. A couple times we nearly smoked the upright as he drifted to the left. On the other hand, we did manage to ride fairly deep to the corner, and came off the vertical and maintained our forward momentum into the next corner.

I took him over the 1'9" jump, which he surprised me and when we turned the corner to approach it, moved automatically into a canter and flew over it lovely. Even kept a trot right into the corner, where me so excited from our jump, forgot to steer and we nearly crashed into the entry gate...Yeah, I'm silly that way.

He was harder to get long and low after our jumping, but settled nicely going in his good direction. Too bad we couldn't just ride one way all the time!

The last thing I did, wanting a nice calm easy exercise, was try to leg yield at a walk. It certainly wasn't olympic caliber, but considering a couple weeks ago I didn't think we had any lateral movement, I was pleased to see that we could maintain a slight bend to the left, and I could push him over to the right as he moved forward. I can't make comments about whether his legs were crossing or not, but we moved a couple feet over across the length of the arena, an improvement for us for sure.

Finally understanding to stop when I'm ahead, I called it quits after his last reasonably good leg yield attempt. Lots of pats and loving, and I even remembered to do his leg stretches. While I was at it, I felt each leg for heat or swelling, since so many of my blogger counterparts are suffering through various types of lameness or chronic legs issues. It saddens me and reminds me how vital the leg is to the horse. I know I've been beyond fortunate thus far to have a sound pony, but I know that as we continue to ride more frequently and up the ante on what we're doing (such as next week when hopefully we start over some 2' jumps), the likelihood of something happens only increases. I feel for all those in that position right now : (

Oh, and I noticed that there's a lot of space between his back and the top of the saddle, and am considering changing him to a wide gullet plate to see if that makes any difference. Figure since it's a changeable one anyway, it'll be easy enough to go back if I don't like the way it sits. If anyone's selling a cheap dressage saddle, lemme know! : )

Stay sound my friends! My farrier is out on Thursday, and man does Moon need a trim after only 6 weeks. Now if I could just find a dentist...

Monday, June 20, 2011

To each, his own.

I started my search for an equine dentist and veterinarian. It's time, though I hope to keep the overall costs down and not wind up spending $100 just getting the fellow down to the barn. Let's face it; Moon is healthy and happy, and this is more preventative maintenance then anything else. $150 for the actual dentistry, sure. But not for you to drive you vehicle around, considering you're in the neighbourhood anyway...

I called the local clinic and they seem alright, though some locals caution me. Fair enough. So I tried next my friend's dentist who they swear by. I just got off the phone with the dentist, and my gut reaction is NOT to call back. It's interesting how someone can adore one person, and yet you just don't click with them. Our phone conversation was stilting and I felt like I was conversing with someone who was not a professional. Instead of feeling at ease talking to them, I felt nervous, apprehensive and invasive. Even when I dialled the number and they answered the phone, there was no "So and So's Equine Dentistry". Just "Hello". Very pro.

I really, really want MoonSox's vet to be someone who I trust, who is easy to work with and that I enjoy. I consider myself very fortunate in that I've been able to find an awesome farrier in D. She's professional, punctual, answers my emails quickly, responds to questions as she works as I quiz her about all sorts of things. I love that, and really like having her out. I imagine, that if I'm looking for someone to care for my very important first horse, I want my vet to be much the same. Which means now I'm on a hunt to find someone I like. Yes, I realize that you shouldn't judge someone based on one phone call and if everyone else doesn't work out, I suppose I'd still give them a try. But until them, I'm looking for someone that instantly gives me the warm fuzzies.

Anyone have any suggestions in Manitoba??!

A "Quickie" on Horseback...

As we all know, yesterday was Father's Day, which meant I was out at my folks place most of the afternoon celebrating. While I love my dad to bits, I did wish I could get one more ride on Moon, so we'd have some improvement (maybe...hopefully) for our next lesson. I lucked out, as everyone headed out by 8 pm, and since Moon is so close to their place, I thought I'd stop by before going home. The sun isn't setting until just after 9 pm now, so I knew I'd get a couple minutes in. Even if just to groom him.

Managed to get to the barn by 8:30, and knew I was now in a rush. Pulled on my rubber riding boots because they were the FASTEST thing I could get on! Grabbed a hoofpick, finishing brush and his bridle...and a couple treats. Didn't bother with a halter or saddle!

Grabbed him from the field, took him straight to the ring, ran brush and pick over him, while he stood in his bridle...Since I was right there, I wasn't worried about him running off and getting hurt.

Took him over to the block to mount, and he moved off just as I got on. No biggie...until I realized that in all of my rushing to get a ride in, I now sat on him helmet-less! AURGH! No need for another busted head on me...jumped down, wondering what I should do since my helmet was in my car WAAAY across the yard, and he was in his bridle. So I just removed his reins, ran to the tack shed, grabbed an old helmet I had brought for the girls, and was back on him in no time.

This time he stood awesome at the mounting block and I loved him up. He rides SOO different bareback, almost more responsive, moving of my leg beautifully. My seat SUCKS without a saddle, and W is right...I tend to grip with my thighs when I get unsteady, pretty much bouncing me off of my horse.

So we worked at a walk mostly, but he was moving nicely to my outside rein pressure coupled a little inside leg, moving him out on the circle. Once in awhile we'd wind up trotting, but in no time I'd be clasping his mane and praying to stay on. Thankfully, he always seemed to be able to tell when I was completely out of position, and would come to a nice stop and wait for me to get realigned.

I tried some conscious trotting, but I SUCK without a saddle, and didn't want to be accidentally hauling on his mouth whenever I lost my balance.

So for half an hour, we just mainly walked a big loop, sometimes switching to a figure 8. He wasn't perfect, but going counter-clockwise I felt like he was really improving. He's really changing each week. I know that my 1/2 hour of walking probably isn't going to make a huge change, but I figure every moment must count, even if it's just a quickie ride.

When our little ride ended, he didn't want to step out of the ring, which was curious. Maybe it had something to do with the cool weather making schooling less of an irritation to him? Who knows, he's a funny one.

I should add, that when I got back to my car and looked in the mirror, I had a HUGE black line across my forehead! Apparently the old foam on that helmet I wore had started to disintegrate, leaving black dust all over my forehead! Good thing no one was around to see me! Next time, I'll use my good helmet!

Lastly, I NEED to book his teeth float; not sure if they're that bad or not, but I'm fairly certain they haven't been done in the last year. And while I'm fairly certain it won't make any difference for his open-mouthedness, maybe, maybe it'll help a little? At least he can finally get a solid vet check-up, as I don't know if he has any health concerns I should be worrying about, as I'm popping him over 1'9" fences...and hopefully eventually higher!

Two Q's my readers:
1) Ever get REALLY nervous about getting your horse checked-up, as thought finding out about an issue will suddenly make it affect them?
2) At what jump height should I be schooling him, so we're ready to start some low level hunters?

Happy Monday everyone!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

When you've got it, don't push it!

Had yesterday afternoon off of work, and of course, raced down to the barn. Moon needed his flu shot anyway, so it was the perfect excuse.

Feeling a little eager, I set up some jumps in the ring and my video camera (I'll post later) before I went to get him, complete with a small cross rail, a 1'6" vertical and a 1'9" vertical. We've never jumper more then a 12' vertical, and I thought, what the heck. Oh, and a little cavaletti at 6".

He was a total jerk when I went to catch him, bolting off like crazy whenever I started towards him. Granted, when I walked into the paddock, he was WAY at the back and came FLYING across the grass at mach 10. He really does move fast when he wants. Anyway, after a very loud and firm "WHOA", he finally stopped moving and haltered up.

I threw on his front boots for the heck of it, since I was planning on jumping anyway. Out in the ring, he gave me his usual refusal to stand nicely at the mounting block, and I tried backing him whenever he moved. Yeah, totally didn't work. Finally after returning him over and over to the same spot, he stood until the last second when I swung over. Fine. It's an improvement, and I'm tired of getting pissy about it and ruining a good ride.

Our warm-up started poorly, the lifting the reins high and turning him not working at all. He had zero flexibility in his poll, and we just turned circles. Moving on.

Next we moved on to our circles or "hexagons", trying to move in little lines on a circle. It started out kinda crappy at first, but after awhile, I really felt like we were improving. Maybe we weren't as long and low as needed, but I started to feel like I had a much more responsive horse then I had before we started with Coach W. His trot, even in the crazy wind, stayed in rhythm and was just at a great tempo. I even was able to almost get an extended walk out of him, where before we lacked these intermediate paces. Even his transitions are much improved, and we're starting to get a nice halt with minimal rein contact, using my seat more then anything.

We probably did trot circles in both directions for a good 40 minutes, and then I put him over a cavelletti. Remember the little 6" one?

Yeah, he knocked it over!

Retry. Then cross rail, lovely. A little waiver at first, but he's so honest he'll pop over anything. We tried the 1'6" and he knocked it over, hesitating before he left the ground. Watching the video, I can see that he's jumping too far away from the jump often, meaning he has a LONG way to go, and ends up jumping very flat. I think I need to place a marking pole for him, and drive him more to it.

I put the knocked pole back up and we continued on, doing some more trot circles. We did get one amazing canter transition that I wasn't intentionally asking for (though my actions did ask for it), and it was lovely. He came back down quickly, but I'm still wishing I had ridden it, just to see.

Another go around the course, and this time we aced the 1'6" but knocked the 1'9". Again, he was waivering to it, and when I finally did push him, we were much to close for him to get his knees up and over it. My bad. I'm still pretty new to training a horse to jump, and it sure is different from schooling a horse that's done it plenty before.

Reset my course, couple more trot circles, and then we popped over that 1'9" like it was nothing. On the playback, he might need to even up his knees, and I know my leg slips back, but we had a nice crest release, I didn't pop him in the mouth and it was pretty smooth all in all.

I was so proud of him, both of us now sweating in the summer heat. Lots of pats, and then I decided, "Hey, he's done sooo well today, I should take him for a canter in the field".

Big mistake.

My first clue should have been when I was standing in the paddock (where all of his friends are chowing down on hay), and looked down to adjust my stirrup. I felt this weight in my reins, and when I looked up, Moon was standing there, his bridle and fly veil no longer on his head, but rather draped over his neck and lying on the ground in front of him.

I had a moment of panic, as if he moved, he'd EASILY get caught in the tangle of reins and bridle lying in front of him. And since the bit was no longer in his mouth, I also had little way of stopping him.

Jumped down, and for the life of me, have no idea how he got it off. Other then being uber sweaty, and likely rubbing it off on his leg? I certainly couldn't get it back on him without undoing the throat latch...

THAT should have been my hint that he was done working, but I pushed him anyway. He was resistant the whole walk out to the field, trying to turn around, evading the bit, mouth wide open, and even giving me a half-hearted buck or two when I asked for a canter.

Frustrated in myself, realising I probably undid all of our work in some silly attempt to canter him, I tried to regain the lesson by doing nice long and low walk work with good contact. Nope. He wasn't having any of that. Another 15 minutes probably went by where I was trying to get him to soften, and I got nearly no where.

Finally, after the poorest of poor stretching out from him, I called it a day and took him in. GER! It would have been absolutely fabulous of a training day if I had just accept it, and not tried to do more. I mean, it had been an hour at least already, he was beyond sweaty, and it was really hot out. I'm such a jerk and totally deserved that crappy ending. Moon's Lesson of the Day for the Human: After a really good ride, accept it, be greatful for it, and end it.

Sorry bud, guess I have some schooling of my own.

I did give him his second bath, and while he's not loving it, he's well behaved. I can't imagine it not feeling wonderful to have cool water on you when you're sweaty, and he certainly loved the roll afterwards!

Oh well. I'll school him again later, and hopefully I figure out when to call it quits next time! Happy weekend all!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sit down, shut up and RIDE!

After feeling a little better about my unexplainable lack of umph to get out and ride thanks to Ashley of the Process of Learning's reassurance that I'm not the only one that has those days, I headed home for a quick bite to eat and made my way out to the barn.

I should mention that I DID grab a cheque for Coach W...and then forgot it in my pocket after the whole lesson! Aurgh.

Got out to the 'barn' in the rain, which thankfully ended as I pulled up to the gate. Mr. Moon was way out in the back of the field, and didn't come to the fence...reassurance that he really doesn't give a dang. Considering he looked up at me when I approached and quickly buggered off in the opposite direction (despite the fresh apple in my hand), I'm fairly certain he'd rather graze then go to lessons. Oh well, guess that's to be expected.

He only ate a third of the apple, a nice crisp Granny Smith to boot, so I can only think that my peppermint treats are 'da bomb', since that's about all he'll consumer. Even refused sugar cubes from Coach W...

I was all alone hauling out again, and was a little less paranoid about my horse falling out the back of the trailer then normal. Granted, I quadruple checked that everything was closed up tight. Out at W's, he was a little nervous when standing tied to the trailer, but calmed down quickly. After the last escapade where I tried to hold and tack him, I opted to trailer tie. Which he did wonderfully, making me certain he'll someday be a great little show pony.

Into the arena we went, and W had us lift the reins (quite high it felt) in order to avoid contact of the bit on his tongue. He's VERY sensitive to tongue pressure, and tends to lift or pull back his tongue when rein aids are applied. W thinks his thick head means he likely has a thicker tongue, meaning there's not a lot of room in his mouth, so even a little bit of rein pressure will bug him. He rides in a lovely soft double jointed egg butt, and W agrees that it's very gentle. At the end of the day, it's how I use it, and there's no point in purchasing a different style, as the same problem will exist. Unfortunately, it is clear that he has been used in a harsher leverage bit in the past, which due to the discomfort and pain, is paranoid about it happening again. So when pressure is applied, he braces and avoids, not realizing that it's not going to be like it was in the past. Our goal now, is to slow teach him that things are different in my hands, and he can trust me. Little by little, I can see that he's learning that lesson, as he slowly softens, drops and chews on the bit. It's a slow process, but he's had likely 9 years of learning the bit hurts and it's going to take more then a month to change his mind.

We worked out on the circle at a trot, as our walk has really come a long way. At first, I was really struggling, trying to pay attention to all of the directions W was giving me. I needed to sit tall, stop letting my hands slide forward, keep my elbows bent, post on the correct diagonal, not let my legs slip forward or swing all over the place, keep contact on the outside rein, lift the inside rein, bend, inside leg pressure, outside leg steady....and on and on and on.

Trying to focus on correcting all of that was exhausting. I was moving around absolutely horribly, until at some point I stopped thinking about the directions. I just sat deep into my saddle, straightened up, turned my attention to Moon and rode.

It sounds weird, since yes, I was already riding, but in all honesty, I wasn't. I was simply trying to follow a set of directions laid out before me. In that moment, I started to feel Moon and his responses. My reactions were based on what I felt, instead of what I was being told to do. Suddenly, in one of those "Oh, Wow" moments, I could feel that I was on the wrong diagonal, BEFORE W told me. It FELT wrong, and I adjusted. I started asking him to move and bend by altering my movements based on his responses, and our tempo slowed, his shoulder started to come up, our rhythm improved and as I told W when we came to a halt, for the first time I felt like we were moving TOGETHER, as one.

When we did halt at that point, after some successful 1/2 circles and a few fleeting moments of obtaining something we desired, I sat a little overwhelmed in the saddle. It was not perfect. It was imperfect more then it was perfect, but there WAS moments of 'perfect'. There were moments where we were both doing exactly what we intended, moving in sync. THOSE rare and fleeting moments were what took me aback.

Sitting there, and I'm embarrassed but okay to admit it, my eyes started to well up, as I madly blinked back tears. Most people, non-horsey people especially, would not understand that moment. But sitting there, I realized that for a moment, me and my dream horse, my heart horse, my first horse, rode as one. We were partners. True partners. Yes, it was brief, but after only 5 lessons and just over a year together, we had found our first moment of true harmony.

When you dream of this, pursue this, work towards this, and for a brief moment, you have it, how can you not be overwhelmed? It was in that moment, I realized we CAN get there. This time it may have been short, but each time, it'll get a little longer. A little better. And more then anything else, more then posting the correct diagonal, then keeping my elbows bent and my head up, MOST of all, I need to start trusting myself, and RIDE my horse. W can't give me every direction in every moment. I'm not going to 'break' him or ruin all our work if I make a mistake or do something that doesn't work. I'll just have to try something different. And it's in trusting myself, that we connect, that he trusts me, and we become horse and rider, a team.

W told me to stop worrying so much, to think for myself and trust my judgement. While she loves that I'm no 'know it all' or refuse to listen to guidance, I spend too much time looking to her to tell me what to do, instead of doing. Too much time beating myself for all the things I'm not doing, instead of seeing and learning from what I am.

So I'd like to say, that from this moment on, I'm going to SIT DOWN, SHUT UP and RIDE, though I know it'll take a little more then one "Oh, WOW" moment to get there. But I believe in us, and I know we're going to get there. I'm going to keep yesterday in my mind and focus on how I felt in that moment...and ride until the next one comes along.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

To Ride...or Not to Ride...

Hmmm...

It's been raining off and on all day, sometimes REALLY heavy, sometimes, like now, not at all. I received an email from T this morning saying she wouldn't be able to make it out to tonight's lesson, and I know the truck and trailer are likely in the sticky mud, meaning I'll make big ruts or get stuck if I attempt to pull out. Or it'll be just fine and I'm sitting here trying to convince myself not to ride...

Both are likely scenarios.

It's funny. I LOVE riding lesson days and have been eager to get back out to visit Moon. Yet for some reason, I'm always looking for an excuse to stay home. I just don't understand it, as I enjoy being out there, she has an awesome indoor so we'll be dry, I miss him, he probably needs the grooming, I enjoy Coach W's training...am I just lazy?

I do have to stop home and get a cheque, as I forgot one and it's pay-day again for lessons. I should mention, that not only did I spent $155 at Apple Saddlery last week, and not only does Mr. Moon still need to get his teeth done, but SmartPak has the shipping boots I want on sale!! And doesn't ship to Canada. So now I'm trying to see if HorseLoverz.com will price match, and then I'll likely end up buying a bunch of competition stuff I don't need just yet, in order to get the most out of my shipping costs.

Okay, so here I am wanting to spend dollar after dollar on pony supplies, but dawdling at getting out there and riding! Aurgh. It ends now. I go and ride tonight IF the rain isn't pouring down when I leave home with the cheque. That's now decided.

Wish, wish, WISH that the rain would go away, I would feel motivated and we could have an awesome lesson tonight. If you don't hear from me, you know...I either chickened out or I'm stuck in the mud somewhere...

Oh, and T said in her email that Mr. Moon has come calling up to the fence whenever she showed up lately and when she walked out to say hi, he'd walk away before she got close...she CLAIMS it's cause he realized it wasn't me, so wanted nothing to do with her. ; ) Oh, if only that was true and he missed me too! : P I'll pretend!

I also NEED to mail out my AQHA transfer papers, but with the postal strike I don't want to risk them getting lost. . Who knows when I'll be able to get him in my own name...I'm thinking if we do manage to show, I might like to instead of calling him by his registered name of RR Moons Sox, maybe I'll call him Manitoba MoonSox? Really, that's who he is to me...or Moon'er, but that's not really show appropriate!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ottawa...and their ponies!


I'm back, which means I'm back at work. Haven't been out to the barn yet since yesterday was raining, and I was way too lazy this morning to go out before work. It's hard when you just slept two nights on a coach car of a train journeying across two provinces, with only a 30 minute break to step outside and walk around.

Ottawa...and it's horses. That of course was my main goal of things to see, though I'm still a bit disappointed in the RCMP stable tour. My first suggestion for those going, is to arrive around 8:30 and hang out near the outdoor ring. Just before 9 am when the place opens to the public, the new recruits go riding and you get the opportunity to watch them. Very neat.

So on the tour, I learned that the horses are all 16.1 - 17hh because shorter horses are too weak to carry a rider like the RCMP. Yip. Even though these folks aren't wearing suits of armour, just stubben saddles and a bambo lance, they apparently weigh a ridiculous amount, that no 15.1 hh horse could cope with. I nearly snorted when my tour guide told me so! I mentioned my own 15.1hh quarter horse, and was pleased to hear that QHs are short, stocky and thick, lacking the speed, grace and refinement of a TB/Hanoverian cross....thanks.

Needless to say, the tour guide was a joke. Had never even noticed that the wall of plaques containing "all the musical ride horses that had passed away", only started in the 1980's! Yes, since the ride started in the early 1900's, only 15 or so horses have passed on. : P PAY ATTENTION folks! Nothing better then watching her try to rationalize through it...For everyone's information, the new stable in Ottawa didn't open until the 80's, hence these plaques were all from those horses that passed away from THIS stable. Shocking.

I was also taken aback that RCMP riders no longer require any previous riding experience. Anyone who is in the RCMP can apply and enter the program, for I *believe* a 3 year stint. During this time, they'll train you in how to ride over a period of 9 months, riding 3 hours a day, every day (not sure if this includes weekends). At the end of this time, you head out with the group to ride the musical ride all across Canada.

So, many of you are wondering, HOW someone with no previous experience could mount one of these creatures and do the ride after only 9 months of training?

Now my tour guide informed me that most people could be great riders if they rode 3 hours a day for 9 months. Apparently, that's all that separates most of us from the truly great riders of this world...

I would counter that my coach rides far more then that, and it's only her constant riding, training and practicing that gives me confidence in her abilities. 9 MONTHS?

It's the horse. Some of the horses have been on the ride for up to 15 years, and we all know with the right pre-training, these creatures can be obedient and easily perform a pre-set series of moves, regardless of the riders on their back. It is likely therefore, that their training is more in staying aboard and looking comfortable in the saddle (sitting the trot, posting, learning the patterns) then in truly gaining riding skill in a well balanced way. The multitude of more advanced moves that many of us seek, bring a horse onto the bit, learning collection and extension and piaffes is NOT what these riders are here for. And after 9 months, they are capable of looking comfortable on horseback and these seasoned veterans (the horses) make them look wonderful in front of the audiences of people, who could never tell if they were on the wrong posting diagonal anyway.

Yes, it sounds awful, but it's necessity. Everyone gets a chance...

I did get to go visit the horses in their chain-link fence paddocks, which were worn and more dry mud then grass. Poor buggers. I was a little surprised by the quality of some of their hooves, with chipping and breakage, though it almost seems that the dryness coupled with working on hard terrain would be an obvious cause.

While the paddocks all had signage up warning not to feed or touch the horses, they all came to the fence to visit. Which meant I was able to snap some pictures, and really adored one particular horse named Boots. He was curious and friendly and very hard not to touch. He really made me miss home and my MoonSox.

There was also a small jumping arena and cross-country course, which looked awesome. Set-up with small cross-rails and the perfect sized log jumps, I desperately wanted to take one of these guys and go for a ride. Oh, if only!

After wandering through the RCMP facility (the indoor arena is no bigger then Coach W's), and getting to look at all the pretty horses, which included ones as big as 18hh, and one born in 1985, the oldest still on the property, I headed off to Apple Saddlery.

It was over 15 kilometers, but I was thrilled to do it. As I mentioned previously, I managed to snag an awesome brown hunt coat, which was originally priced at $195 (yes, I should snap a pic of the price tag!). Now I'm chomping at the bit to try a show or two, though I need some gloves, a shirt, show breeches and to break in my riding boots. MAN are they tight after a week of walking and a long day on the train!

Apple Saddlery really is a nice store, though it was hard to find help. Busy granted, which is great since it was a Friday afternoon, and most people should be out working.

I also watched my first Saddlebred racing which was neat, though I wouldn't run out to see it again there. The Rideau Carlton Raceway is NOT the most impressive, and reminded me a lot of home...and home isn't very impressive!

I'll have to snap some pics of my fancy new show clothes next time I decide to play dress-up. Hopefully we can find a show that suits our fancy in the next while and test ride them. Oh the excitement!

So, tomorrow is out next lesson after 2 weeks out of the saddle. It's supposed to rain, but I'm hoping we are able to show some good progress and the break helps us get back on track. I sincerely hope to get some serious riding in the next while, despite the appearance of all those bugs!

Enjoy the Ottawa Pony shots!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

All about the horses!

I'm on the train; thanks to work, riding first class which means the good life...those 48 hours to Winnipeg will surely pale by comparison now!

Of course, what could relate to horses on a business trip to Ottawa? Well, if you're me, it includes a trip tote RCMP's musical ride stables. Which, after smelling that sweet horse smell, which leaves one homesick and more so, horse sick, I HAD to travel to Applesaddlery, one of the best Canadian tack stores, located in Glouchester, about 15 km's south east of Ottawa.

Now, I'm a bit loonie some days and after visiting the stables wanted desperately to head out on foot. Why? Dunno. So I started walking. Google said it'd be 1.75 hours...thanks to construction it took me just over 2! And yes, I wore thru my shoes! Not joking.

Apple saddlery is in the weirdest spot. You're still in the 'city' but across from Rona and Petsmart is an old barn, two cows and a goat. It's WEIRD. Then, next door is apple saddlery.

I was a little disappointed that a lot of the store has been taken over by outdoor goods, but I still enjoyed my visit. It was hard not to buy everything, knowing there was no shipping. But in the end, I bought a $55 Ariat sweater for only $30, perfect for the ride home since I didn't bring a jacket. I also got on sale a paddock boot bag and garnet bag that match pretty well to my helmet and tall boot bags. My luggage is nearly complete.

What else? The coolest thing I got the whole trip, my FIRST hunt coat! An actual show jacket by Tuff Rider. Marked to 1/2 price and a really nice dark brown. And it fit great, unlike most of the others I tried. Now I just need a shirt and I'm ready to show!!!

Anyway, back to enjoying the train ride, and dreaming about seeing Moon on Monday. It's been too long...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Away *I* go...

Yes, it's true. This afternoon I leave for 1 week to Ottawa, which means no lesson, no MoonSox and no riding. While normally it's not the biggest deal in the world to me (I went weeks last year without riding), I'm finding that when you have your own horse, and he's special to you, it makes a bigger deal. For me anyway.

So now I'm thinking about all the practice we're missing out on, the evening trail rides that won't happen and how he won't get groomed for a whole week! My poor boy.

I can't complain over-much, as I've got some free time in Ottawa to tour the parliament buildings and see the city, plus a three day train ride across Ontario. Really, I'm lucky to be going, and will survive my horseless-ness.

The good news? As of yesterday, the camper repairs are 90% complete! Which means I'll be nearly free to start riding regularly again, and I've only 2 more spanish classes left! While it's just in time for the bugs to spring up, I hope to fabricate some bug mesh gear for when riding Moon, and we'll keep on working hard. I have every intention of getting serious about my riding, and pushing for some successes.

The other thing? I'm thinking about seeing if T wants to put on a little 'show' for the girls who come to the farm to work with the little ponies. I was thinking we could make up a halter class, a trail class that can be done from the ground, and MAYBE a riding class, if it'll work for them. Or barrels. I could make them some ribbons and it would be a neat little time.

Thus, I'm excited about my trip (HOPE to see the RCMP stables!), and know that in a week I'll be home and riding seriously.

I'll be MIA for awhile, but expect my return!

Happy Riding!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Every'body but me.

Sometimes, I'm childish. I really am.

I REALLY want to try showing Moon. It's a stupid idea, and the more I tell myself so, the more I want to do it.

What I need to do, is discuss it with Coach when I get back from Ottawa in a week and a half. There will still be lots of opportunity should we have the potential to make it there, and we'll have a solid opinion behind us. But I suspect, we're not ready. Which frustrates me.

I want us to enter and enter well. With sincere abilities to place, not because there's no one else in the class or because of luck or the ability of other riders. But because my horse has actually learned and been trained to work and move a certain way.

The problem is, that takes a LONG time. In 4 weeks, we've gone from Mr. Head-in-the-sky to a horse that's starting to figure it out. Our walk is becoming really nice. Our trot...is under improvement. Our halt, at home at least, sucks. Our back...not sure. I suspect, it's going to be 5 more week before we have a half decent trot. With a need for me to learn diagonals. Which means we are NOT ready to show.

And since the shows all end by September, we're not going to fit into my category of 'ready'. Then I think we could just enter a costume class or a walk-trot for the experience of it all, but my mind whispers "you're just doing that so you can do something, not because it's what you want". And it's true.

Don't you hate it when you brain says one thing, and your impatience says another?

The only positive (there's more, but I'm being childish), is that since we'll have to wait till next year to enter the show ring, we won't have any reason to abandon lessons between now and then. Which means we'll be riding with Coach W for the next year and since we've come so far already, by next summer we'll rock. Hopefully...

What I wish more, was that we had more time to practice. We were doing well for a bit there, riding 3 times/week, until the camper showed up. And suddenly I'm lucky if I get in our lesson and a short practice ride. Which means our progress is slowed. My hope, is that we finish 90% of the camper off this weekend and by the time I get back from my trip, I'm able to focus on my riding 3-day/week again. And since we're with a coach, those rides will be pointed and specific.

Our spanish language course will also be coming to a close in two weeks, which means I'll get my Tuesday nights back too. My intent is to make Tues-Wed-Thurs my riding nights, though I know once we have the camper I'll be wanting to stay out there and ride even more!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

What'ya mean, "Next Step?"

Yesterday was lesson day. Unfortunately T wasn't able to join me, which meant my maiden voyage out to Coach W's, alone. I'm not sure why, other then the fact I'm a nervous wing-nut, but whenever I drive away with Moon'er in the trailer, after checking the door is latched at least 4 times and knowing he's strapped in with the trailer tie, I OBSESS about the door opening, him falling out the back and being dragged the 12 kilometres down the highway. It sounds AWFUL, the thought is AWFUL, yet it's there, every time we travel somewhere. And I worry, clenching the steering wheel the whole way, looking out my side mirrors for any signs of trailing horse.

REALLY, I have issues. Chances are, even if the door by some horror opened, there's NO way Moon would fall out. He'd be planted firmly at the front, and probably beat me one when we finally stopped. *sigh* I'm sure with enough time, we'll get over my irrational fear.

So I made it to the barn, got him shiny and loaded him up. At Coach W's, we found he was a bit of a brat. A little more worked up then normal, likely due to my stress levels. After unloading, I wasn't comfortable tying him to the trailer, so I tried to hold him, while tacking him up. Of course he was dancing all over the place, the saddle slipped while I was trying to get the 'tiny' girth on, and to make things worse, he stepped on the girth, meaning I couldn't pull the saddle back without moving him forward. Being Moon, when I moved him forward, he stepped on the girth with his back leg instead, and had enough force to pull it right out of my hand. *sigh*

"Crash" went my saddle to the ground, Mr. Moon went "AURGH! Evil saddle!" and danced away. Which obviously meant he STEPPED on my saddle, half kicking it and no surprise, dragging it across the gravel driveway. *sigh*

Irritated, I thought "to heck with this" and just tied him to the trailer. And what would you expect, other then him standing still. Ger.

So I got him tacked properly, disappointed to see the marks made in my saddle from our little 'escapade'. And the gravel the was ground into the pommel. *sigh*

We get our crap sorted out, me of course wondering if Coach or her family is watching my embarrassing antics from the house or barn. It's one thing to look like an idiot to yourself. It's another for others to see.

Once in the ring, he's back to Mr. Bratty. Coach W called him 'Passive Aggressive', which is the perfect descriptor. He'll never do anything dangerous. He doesn't kick or buck or bite or rear. But he will dance and evade and just be a brat. Sometimes I think it drives me MORE crazy! Especially when he's doing it at the mounting block. BREATHE.

Our actually ride was great. Despite our minimal practice, he was looking for contact, dropping his head and staying there. His transitions, especially upwards were awesome and some of his best. After showing off what we've achieved, W decided we'd now work with more outside rein, something he doesn't really understand.

She had me lift my reins and move them outward, without losing contact on the outside. It was weird, because he would almost move a bit sideways, and W said he was starting to learn to lift his shoulders and move out. A "new kind of balance". She called this "Step 2" in our program. Seriously? There's a "Next Step"? I haven't even mastered Step #1!!!

We worked and worked and worked on this, adding it into figure 8's. IT...IS...HARD. Suddenly when you're lifting to the outside to bring him onto the next circle, you ALSO have to recreate the bend in the opposite direction, push him out with your inside leg, steady him with your outside leg, not drop the outside rein, give a slight twist to your now inside hand, reposition your seat bones so the opposite one is slightly forward, NOT spread your hands, move them in sync, look where you're going, keep your chest up, not tip forward, post slowly and rhythmically, stay on a circle and maintain his lowered head carriage. And NO, I'm not even BOTHERING with posting diagonals!

NOT being a multi-tasker, I struggled. W is awesome for always encouraging and praising your small achievements, but I felt like a big dorky sack of potatoes flailing around up there. Add that Mr. Moon, being a bit bratty, kept doing GRAND head shakes, thereby flinging the reins from my hands, usually at the PIVOTAL moment when I was trying to navigate onto the next circle. Thus, I'd be reinless, and W would remind me to close my fingers and actually hold the reins. Right. Kinda forgot that while trying to remember the other 18 things.

We worked on it quite a bit, and while I get the concept, and to a good degree, what I need to do to achieve it, it was still too overwhelming and complicated for me to truly master. We had some good ones, but I know this is going to be a lot of practice and work to achieve. I know it was more me then Moon on this one!

She also had us try some leg yielding, which was also a bit of a mess. Moon seemed to think that if his head was bent left, he needed to move left. Over and over we tried at a walk, and without W's help from the ground, looked like two creatures moving in opposite directions. : P

Funny thing was, when we did one more trot figure 8 afterwards, he did some really nice leg yielding. : P Typical Moon.

Coach W said we had finally achieved what was called "Shoulder fore", the pre-decessor to shoulder in. We didn't get it all the time, but it was coming along, and for only 4 weeks, we were progressing nicely. Also when we worked on moving out the circle by lifting the reins, Moon started to lift his shoulder! He's figuring it out! He's getting new balance and new muscle! That's my boy!

Saying that, he also had a nice vocal outburst right near the end, kept dramatically shaking his head (Coach W says it's good, like stretching. I think he's just trying to point out that I'm not holding the reins properly!), and dancing all over the place. Sometimes I think after being Mr. Working Hard for an hour, he just loses it and wants to be free to move as he pleases. Can't blame him, right?

Finished up the lesson with some work on turn-on-the-fore. W suggested looking over my shoulder when I ask for it, because it realigns the body. Seemed to help in class, so we'll try it at home.

Also with his dancing, he suggested just waiting it out. Turn his head, and wait until he decides to settle. Okay. It's a patience game and I'm gonna play it.

When the lesson finally came to a close, we were both sweating. Moon was soaked in his chest, belly, neck and EVEN ears. : ) Can't say I was much better and I was yet again sore and felt well worked. I love it.

Back home he wanted nothing to do with me, promptly marching away from the tie rail. lol. Oh well, he gets the next week off to get over being Mr. Crankipants.


On a different topic, when I was grooming him (and children, cover your eyes), I noticed that while he doesn't really have a lot of bug bites over his body, he DOES seem to have a bunch around his 'manly bits'. To the point where there's little bloody scabs all over, even on the inside of his back legs. My thought, is that without the protective hair in these areas, it's just more susceptible. I tried to give the area a bit of a brushing to remove any bugs still hanging out, and then sprayed the area with some bug repellent. I'm hoping it at least makes him more comfortable. We're likely getting to the time of year when he'll need a fly sheet and his fly mask. Whatever makes him comfortable.


Last topic change. Showing.

I wanted to try taking Moon to a show. Just one this year. Not to try and win ribbons, but for the experience. That was before we got into this intensive training program, where I don't even feel capable of trotting half the time, never mind cantering. Which is required for most classes (english anyway). So I decided we'd forgo that for this year, and aim for one next year.

...until I noticed some local small town shows in the area. $3 a class, some with a $10 secretary fee. They sounds pretty low key and there's no need for expensive supplementary memberships and the like. BUT, reading over them, I'm not sure we'll be ready. Really, I think we could try: Trail, English Equitation or English Showmanship. But they all require some canter. The closest one is July 1st, the latest is at the end of August. The one in August is 2.5 hours away, so I'm not sure it's worth the long drive, just to 'play'.

I think I'm going to ponder it over the next two weeks while I'm away, and then broach the subject to Coach W, for her expert opinion. Hmmmm....guess I haven't given up on it yet. : P