Monday, October 31, 2011

Friendly Inspiration

Just wanted to give props to a friend who went to her first horse show, with her teenage pony who hadn't been trailered out, never mind been to a show in a number of years. She's worked hard all summer long, and you can tell she's proud of the results of their hard work. They had a peaceful, uneventful (in a good way) show and all-around success!So congrats (you know who you are) and thanks for the inspiration! We can't wait to show up and cheer you on next summer! : )

Learning Patience

Moon and I both need to learn some patience. He doesn't stand well at the mounting block because he's impatient to start moving. I don't correct him very well because I'm impatient for him to stand.

Today I headed to the barn mentally prepped to spend as long as I needed to get him to stand properly for mounting. As Edward has commented in yesterday's post, he's developed a lot of muscle and has more energy to burn. Even if it's on silly things.

It took four tries before he stood properly. I mounted and we warmed up, and I was surprised by how supple he was right out of the gate. He would probably say the same thing about me. We're a pair him and I, such that it's often hard to tell who is screwing things up first (yes, I'll accept the comments that point out the faults are likely mine ; ) ).

Lately we're had a weird 'issue' that I'm not sure is good or bad. Often when we ride a 20m circle, on the open end I'll turn it into a three loop serpentine. So instead of continuing left on the circle, I'll bend right and serpentine into the arena. When we first started riding together he would wiggle a bit when changing his bend and then we'd continue on. Then later in our riding he would change his bend nicely when I asked for it.

Now before I've even ASKED him to change his bend and serpentine, he's done it. In my head I've been thinking he should wait until I instruct him to, not just do it on his own accord. So I've suddenly made him continue on the circle instead. At which point he gives me a bit of a temper tantrum.

For the last week we've had the same battle where he auto-serpentines. Disagreement after disagreement until today I realized he probably had EVERY right to get pissed at me. Why? Because if I'm coming through the circle and thinking to myself "Okay, I'm gonna serpentine here", chances are even if I don't realize it, my body is indicating my intention to Moon. My weight shifts, my hips turn, I'm looking right, and then at the last second like a jerk, I'm say to him "Nope, left".

? It's like some guy with his right turn signal on and then he pulls left. And chances are this isn't an 'auto-chage' in bend. This is Moon picking up the subtle clues I'm giving him. And here I am frustrated that he still doesn't need me messing around with him to get it!!! : O Bang head on barn-door moment for me folks. Wow.

So in today's ride, I stopped staring at his face and ears. I worked with a little more patience. He gave me a lot more patience. Not starting the ride with the battle to mount, meant we were both calm and relaxed from the OUTSET of the ride. Which meant he loosened up faster and in turn, I stayed loose.

We tried some more sitting trot. Guess what? Because we were both loose and relaxed, we had some success. I could detect when he was uncomfortable and switch to posting. He was more willing to let me bounce around for a bit, I think because we weren't fighting. We actually had some really fluid and soft moments where I could even use some leg to guide him. And now flopping hands or bouncing out of the saddle.

We practiced mounting a few times at the end of the ride too. Perfect gentleman. I was proud. Sometimes when your horse and you are too alike in personality, it causes friction. Sometimes though, when you learn to appreciate it, you get smoothness.

And W, who was instructing another student while I was practicing, gave me a huge compliment by saying that Moon now has a 'frame' and stays in it when moving. And she too noticed my sitting trot had improved from last week's lesson. : ) I swear, there's something about her in the arena that reminds me to have a few extra minutes of patience with the Mr. Moon. And yes, I love him dearly, even if he drives me crazy somedays!

P.S. What Halloween costume do you think would best suit your horse?

For Moon, it would be Eeyore. He has the same personality. "Oooookay. I'll trot arroooound. But don't expect tooo muuuuch of mee." : P

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The unfortunate truth is that my horse and I both suffer from the same mentality: passive aggressive stubborness.

It causes us a lot of trouble while practicing and training, one which W never hestitates to remind me could be rectified if I simply relaxed, unbraced and remained fluid. We get a lot of nice rides when this happens, and these rides most often occur during lessons. Why? Because W is there to chastise me into behaving myself!

So Saturday I was back at the barn doing some work with Moon and it started out rough as it had the last two rides. With Moon refusing to stand at the mounting block. Now I will conceed that I lack a great deal of patience. The first time he misbehaves I'm fine being gentle and re-asking. The second time, I'm frustrated. The third time, I'm just mad. It's odd since I'm normally not an 'angry person', but he just knows how to try my patience. Yesterday when he acted like the mounting block would eat him (as another very talented rider was trotting around, certainly watching our antics) I told myself to take a breath and keep asking.

We circled the mounting block 6 times before he finally stood and let me get on. By this point, the other girl had unmounted and left the ring!

He started off rushing, and I again, was so tired of him starting every ride like that. I turned him right into the arena wall. You wanna go, well then go. Right through the wall. He's not stupid. He stopped and we continued on with him moving a lot better.

He was still calling. I've noticed that this only happens during our daytime rides...when all the horses are out on pasture...and I noticed the last two times, it wasn't Mr. Moon doing the first call. It's his girlfriend. She runs the fenceline and their paddock is right next to the indoor ring. When she calls, he calls back. And then we get into an argument about behavior. W had suggested bringing Ebony into the barn so she wouldn't be running around frantic, but I think that's just feeding the herd-bound behavior. I won't do that. They NEED seperation. Technically, I think I need to get on him and ride him down the street a couple times. This is why I HATE keeping just 2 horses together. They more frequently become inseperable.

Regardless, we had some lovely movements at a walk. Soft and supple. At a trot we were doing well all things considered, and I (again, losing patience) started to actually give him a kick when he swung his butt out on the circle. He KNOWS better. But he can be soo stubborn!

Then I went to practice my sitting trot. W started me working on a small circle to develop my sitting trot and I thought I'd use the same routine, but without stirrups so I wouldn't be able to cheat and start posting.

Let me say it's a battle of wills.

The sitting trot is crazy hard for me. It requires you to relax through the hips and swing freely. I pinch at the knees when riding normally, never mind when being bounced off a horse.

Our attempts at sitting trot go like this:

Ask Moon for trot. Trots off beautifully.
I sit a few strides decently, but still bouncy.
Moon thinks I'm bouncing too much and shortens his strides 'cause I'm thumping on his poor back.
I'm now bouncing worse b/c he's short strided. So I clutch his sides with my knees.
He thinks it's getting worse and begins throwing his head in the air and moving with his neck twisted.
Now I'm bouncing clear out of the saddle, clining with my knees, slapping his mouth since my hands are flapping in the air and he's upset about the whole thing and trying to rush off out from under me, because I'm now a bouncing sack of rocks on his back that's pinching his sides and smashing his mouth.

Yip. And every time it fell apart, I halted, walked off again and asked for another circle.

After 15 minutes of this, I think we were ready to kill each other. I'm embarrassed to admit I was actually snapping outloud: "Well if you'd just trot nice and slow I wouldn't bounce so dang much! It's your own dang fault!".

And yes, there were people in the barn. I think they were likely pissing themselves laughing. Seriously, it's not like Moon understood and the truth is, if I could sit the trot he wouldn't be trotting so stupid!

We finished the ride with a bit of serpentines and I asked him to give me 3 nice 20m posting trot circles without falling out or taking away the bend. He did it. End on a positive note.

Stubborn (and always needing to win) I made him stand while I mounted a few times. I jumped on the mounting block while he stood still. I jumped on and off of it. I bounced in the stirrup. I bounced on his back (poor bugger), and I got on, asked for a few steps, dismounted and then did it all again. He didn't move an inch unless asked.

Someone tell me why he can't START a ride this way!!!

P.S. I rubbed the sides of my knees raw from pinching. Seriously. : P

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Best Kind of Injury

Being the boss this week and having all my staff off for the day, I made the verdict that I might as well go home early...I mean, how often do I have the chance to give myself permission to do so?

I, being the weiner I am, still let my director (my boss' boss) know where I was off to and make sure there was nothing he needed done before I went. To which he responded "You don't get a lot of nice days like this come winter; get going and have fun!". I swear, I've got an awesome director.

So off I went to the barn and was pleased to find that I was all alone. I brought Moon'er in and started grooming him. When I got to his hind leg, I freaked out.

He had a divot and swelling on the front of his hind leg at the top of his gaskin (? I'm bad with body parts) or stifle joint. I mean, it was HUGE! I panicked. OMG, he's got to be dead lame on that. I mean, the swelling was huge and the whole joint just looked abnormal!

I rushed around to the other side to see how it looked. EXACTLY the same! My heart beats faster. I can barely reach out and touch the massive swelling...and when I do...

I realize it's not a swelling. It's not even an injury. It's...

Muscle. He's lost so much fat and trimmed and toned up so much in the last month, that muscle I didn't even know should be there, IS there! Even as he puts on his fuzzy winter coat! I went out and compared it to W's trained horses and surprise, surprise, same lump. Muscle. From proper workouts and intensive routines. Wow.

I know I haven't noticed it lately because I've been rushed when I get to the barn and the place is busy. I brush him quickly in his stall (which doesn't have its own lighting) and then dash into the arena to warm up. And when I'm done, it's run a brush over him and get back home to shower and sleep (bad, bad owner).

And when I finally have a chance to stand back and look at him, there it is. A sign of hard work. Muscle. I'll try and get a picture for you guys...I'm pretty proud. : )

It really was, the best kind of injury. A non-injury!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The BEST Motivation

It's been a busy couple of days, with myself acting as manager at work during our big semi-annual meeting. Which meant long days and exhaustion : P

Monday evening I headed out to my make-up lesson, prepared to have a chat with W. When I pulled up to the barn and started the walk up the driveway, the dog came running over, barking. I hate to admit it, but I flinched. Our family dog when I was a child (ironically a german-shepherd cross) had aggression issues and bit me when I was three. My parents subsequently took him to the vet clinic and had him euthanized. To this day, I’m still apprehensive around aggressive dogs (and a little guilty that the dog died because of me...but I'll save that conversation's for a professional!).

I’m not sure if W saw, but she called the dogs over and put them in the house.

When we met up, I told her about my concerns, asked if this had happened before and just let her know how I felt.

I didn’t exactly get the response I had hoped for, but I suppose I got what I expected. I also learned that the dog was previously a drug-detection dog, and the only other time he attacked a person was when a worker had alcohol on his breath when he came to the barn. To which I had to remind W that the BF wasn't drinking and he certainly doesn’t do drugs! And the whole thing only made me more concerned; drug-detection dogs, are animals who have been taught to attack and take-down humans under the guidance of their handlers. The thing that concerns me, is that this dog is no longer receiving the guidance and making the attack decisions on its own.

But at the end of the day, it's not my dog and W didn't think it was going to be a continuing issue, but rather a one-off. My experience tells me that there's little advantage to belabouring a point when someone has a set opinion and I left the conversation with no real resolution. I certainly will continue to keep an eye on the dog and will be more cautious in their presence. And should something happen again, we'll have this conversation again, until perhaps, eventually, the point will be made.

As for our Monday lesson, Moon started out well, standing beautifully while I mounted. Unfortunately, he then immediately trotted off before I had my stirrups. Bugger.

His flexion continued to improve from Saturday, and while still not nearly what it was before the time off, he's coming around. We had some great over-tracking and flexion by the end of the lesson, though I grew frustrated when he seemed to lose his implusion and became stubborn when asked to trot, constantly slowing down. My legs got tired of thumping his sides and I noticed one more time when my methodology would differ from W's. She asked me to continue bumping him until he decided to keep going as transitions are harder then maintaining pace. I on the other hand, would just ask him a few times, and then pick up a crop. "Ask, Tell, Demand" is my motto. I finally opted for the choice of digging my heels in.

He did give me some lovely straight-aways and tried to break into a canter a few times over. We had a few disagreements in what direction we were bending, and our leg yields were not what they were the day before, but I do think he was better overall. And man, our turn-on-the-fore are getting pretty impressive.

I packed him away, figuring I'd be out Tuesday to put some more practice in before our regular Wednesday lesson.

...and then I wound up going to an amazing dinner at an awesome restaurant with our visiting Mexican and American guests...with a boss that leaned over early on and said "Stop looking at the prices, it's all on me". : ) Let's just say that I got home ridiculously late and it was totally worth it, missed pony ride or not.

So today was the last day of our meeting, which was long and arduous, especially when you're running on two night of no sleep after a week of work travel. Worth it, but still, tough. When the meeting ended I just wanted to hop in my car and head home to nap on the couch...only for one of our visiting directors asking for a ride to our laboratory...and me being the only one who lived in the right direction, meant that I was on driving duty. Again, it was great to chat with a collegue about current developments in the field, but it meant the introvert me had to spend another 30 minutes being a socialite. And all you introverts know how exhausting it can be to come up with random conversations with strangers.

When I finally got home, it was time for me to head right back out to the barn in order to make it to my lesson on time. And it was raining and there were ice pellets falling from the sky. Perfect.

Walking up the driveway to the barn, I started to feel a little better. Fresh air and a warm barn full of ponies. Two of the kids that work in the barn (one to pay for board, the other to get to ride more) were just putting away their horses and it was kinda nice to chat with them. So frequently you come across kids whose parents paid for everything to do with horses and riding. Lessons, expensive clothes, tack, showing, board, everything. But not for these kids. They muck stalls. They feed and lead the horses out and dump the muck carts. They're not worried about getting dirty. They'd rather hang around the barn then go home and watch tv. They love the horses, describing every personality of every horse in every stall. Even listening to the boy describe his ride, going on about how next week W might teach him "something called Leg Yielding, how cool is that??!" : ) Just awesome.

W showed up as I finished tacking and asked if I was going for a, Lesson? Apparently she didn't realize I wanted to do two in one week, but since she was there and had no other plans, we were on.

Let me say, there is NO scrap of thought left in my mind that Moon is a MUST work horse. Some people say that they love their horse because they can leave them in the pasture for a month, hop on, and they're exactly the same as the day they put them out there.

I think that's awful. I DO NOT want a horse like that, after experiencing Moon. What, as a rider, do you feel when you get on your horse that's been unworked for so long, and they do everything you ask of them, do it well and give you no attitude? Well, for one, why ride more frequently? Two, has my horse actually learned anything demanding enough to require muscles, attention and finess? Three, either I'm an incredibly good rider or my horse and I have no enhanced communication tools. Four, there's no progression. Nothing demanding work and focus and attention from me, to work towards progress and improved skill.

Moon is NOT the kind of horse that's the same after a month on pasture. He's not the same after 4 days without work. He's stiff, surly, irritable, tight, inverted, everything we hate as riders.

Today, after working Saturday, Sunday, Monday and heading into his fourth day in five days, he was back to nearly being Mr. DreamHorse. NOT as impressive as he was after 7 straight days of riding, but not too far off. He even stood PERFECT when I went to mount him, taking only one tiny step after I was in the saddle. PROGRESS! He was so good we started working on smaller circles at a sitting trot (15 to 10 m) leading to coming out of the circle in a posting trot, straightening for 2 strides, leg yielding to the quarterline, transition to walk, change in bend and immediately transition to walk, stride through the short side of the ring and then repeat with small sitting trot circle.

Boy oh boy. We did our best, but I must say that I'm a very tight person. I grip. I even have a very painful bruise on my inner knee to prove I pinch at the knees. Fortunately, it was so painful I wasn't able to pinch on that one side today! And it was a good reminder when I tried to! It's incredibly hard to relax and just move with the trot. Plus steer in a smaller circle!

We weren't perfect, but we made it through the exercise and saw improvements the whole way through. W was confident enough in our work that she wanted to see us attempt a canter circle. We weren't going for much, just looking to see what he was capable of. The last time we tried he was too stiff and we just ended up in a rushed trot leading to a single canter stride and a messy fall-part.

Despite my confidence, he wasn't successful on the circle. We started heading right and on three attempts he picked up the wrong lead and couldn't turn properly through the corner. Bless his heart, he never actually ran me into any walls, fabric or not.

Going left, he was able to pick up the correct lead, but we wound up with it being on a straight away, having a rather crummy attempt at turning and falling back out of it. Again, no casulties and I'm proud that he offered it to me. I've NEVER asked him to pick up a specific lead. I've never really asked him to canter a circle. And I haven't a clue what anyone before me has ever done. So I don't fault the poor guy for not being able to do it. All things in time.

When I hopped off, I felt 100% better. Awake and happy and feeling good. Like a 2 week carribean vacation compacted into an hour on horseback. They are AMAZING therapy.

Now all I want to do is ride again (despite the fact that I've dozed off twice while rereading what I've written here!). I have this desperate need to keep riding him every day, as I KNOW it makes a difference. AND THAT is the coolest thing about a horse that isn't the same with 4 weeks in a pasture. I can SEE change. I can SEE how much a difference my time at the barn makes. As W pointed out, if every time you get on your horse it improves, you KNOW you're doing something right! : ) What BETTER motivation is there to get out there every day and ride?!

So yes, sometimes when I'm gone a few days, I'm the weirdo in the arena whose horse won't even trot. But give me four days and we'll be leg-yielding the crap out of you! : )

It's been a busy couple of days, with myself acting as manager at work during our big semi-annual meeting. Which meant long days and exhaustion : P

Monday evening I headed out to my make-up lesson

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tough Conversations

First, I should thank everyone who sent me a Beautiful Blog Award. I admit I was so inundated with them this month that I sort of felt like I was winning some sort of consolation prize; I mean really, Moon and my tales can't possibly be interesting enough to win any viewer's choice awards. But after receiving the most recent one, I realized that I was actually undervaluing exactly what these awards mean. They mean that YOU, the reader, has taken the time to read, again and again, pages on pages, of my tales of riding and horse adventures, and that, I value. And appreciate. So thank you to everyone who sent me a Lovely Blog award. I do appreciate it, and am sending you all one back. Wait for that in my next post as I want to spend some time thinking about it. Second, the tale du jour, is tough conversations. I should start by saying that I'm an introvert and HATE having people upset or mad at me. I also have trouble always expressing what I'm trying to say, and hate saying the wrong thing or people taking what I say the wrong way. Difficult conversations are just that: difficult. And today I have to find the courage to have one. With W. Yesterday the BF and I stopped at the barn to visit Moon and so I could have a quick ride to see if he behaved any better. The BF once again brought him in for me and together we got him nicely groomed (he had rolled before we came). Tack and ready we headed into the arena while W gave a lesson to another rider. I stayed at the back end of the ring, and overall, Moon went better then Saturday but still worse then when I left. He was stiff, rushed and not flexing. I don't doubt anymore that regular riding is his physiotherapy. And the BF looked at me when I said that and said "Then I'd best get used to having the house to myself, because that horse deserves to feel good." : ) Special moment. We did get more really nice turn-on-the-fores, and a very impressive leg-yield NEARLY achieving side-pass! I was stunned, especially when the BF confirmed his legs were crossing over! It was only a couple steps until he started going forward and then stopped crossing all together. But still, it shows he's understanding yielding to leg pressure! So I'm going around in my loops and the BF is kind enough to clean up the poop that's fallen (he hates standing still) and then starts pulling the weeds that are growing along the edge of the arena. Suddenly W's dog charge into the ring barking and head RIGHT to the BF. They're lunging and snapping and growling and barking, and the BF (thanks to a lot of Cesar Milan I'm sure), doesn't back away from them. W and her dad (the dogs followed him in) are calling out that it's the weeds. They yell 'no' a few times at the dogs. My heart skips a beat when I noticed TRUE aggression in the shepherd dog. I mean, he's literally focused on the BF and highly aggressive. The BF didn't back and the dog lunged forward snapping, and I'm left wondering if he's been bit. Then FINALLY W tells the dog to lie down. Then she calls him out of the ring. I'm sitting on my horse stunned. The BF is standing there stunned. We get together, I dismount and the BF tells me the dog actually did in fact nip him, but caught more pants then skin, so it was more of a pinch. I can see arena sand on his thigh and a bit of fraying of his jeans. Oye. We head into the barn and W says that the weather is making all the animals a little crazy lately. Nothing more is said on the whole dog attack thing. The BF and I are still in a bit of surprise/bewilderment. We untack Moon and put him back in his stall and then leave. In the car, the BF shows me the mark on his skin. The area is red, much like if someone had pinched you hard. Him and I both know that normally, there is zero way he would let a dog come after him like that. The pure danger of it requires some sort of action and severe correction to the dog. Just as I spoke yesterday of reprimanding animals for inappropriate behaviour, this is one of the occasions. But the BF wasn't going reprimand W's dog since he knew there was a possibility that she would get angry at him, and in turn, our whole relationship/board-arrangement/Moon's training and care would suffer as a result. In the car, settling down a bit, I realized that I should have said SOMETHING about it. Even if perhaps it will make things a little less friendly between myself and W. The whole situation was incredibly dangerous and we were all fortunate that it was my BF who was attacked and not a child or a smaller person. Or someone who may have ran from the dog, eliciting a chase and worse attack. It completely removes my thoughts of bringing my friends' children out for a pony ride. Imagine a child innocently pulling a weed from the group or something else that causes a full grown shepherd to become aggressive? Is my horse ever at risk? The dogs bark and growl often when I come to the barn in the morning...what if next time they don't like something I'm carrying or doing? And also bad, dogs that bite people often get euthanized. That's the last thing I'd want for any dog owner, and they need to find a way to reduce the chance of this occurring again. So now I have to talk to W about it. I just want to let her know that it wasn't just 'pretend' aggression, but the dog actually tried to physically bite a person. And suggest that they make a conscious effort to teach the dog this is unacceptable behaviour. I'm not sure how she'll take it. I'm not sure if she'll defend her dog and that the BF continued to hold the offending 'weeds' and it's his fault for being in the arena? Or that it's 'the weather' and therefore not the dog's fault. Or that we're big meanies picking on her wonderful pet. It's not a fun place to be in, stuck between wanting to continue with the awesome facilities and training and care, but also wanting to be certain that she understands the seriousness of it all. What would you do? What do you think is appropriate? If your barn guest got bit by the BO's dog when pulling weeds, and the same BO is your trainer and gives you a smokin' deal on board for your horse? All I know is my gut tells me that even if it means I'm hauling Moon tomorrow to a new facility and finding a new coach, biting dogs is never going to acceptable. And that's a tough spot to be in.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Money, Money on my wall...

I switched over to the new Blogger interface this evening and was browsing through the new layout since in the end, we're all going to end up here anyway. Why fight it? And noticed for the second time, the AdSense button. AdSense, if you haven't stumbled across it, is an online advertising-based venture through which bloggers can make some extra profit by allowing companies to post ads related to their blog, directly on their blog. I've noticed it before, looked into it before, and refused to do it before. But today, I was a little more curious. My gut reaction, is that I'm selling out. My blog is a place where I stop to rest a brain weary of traveling in our high-paced, over-sold, jam-the-next-greatest-thing-in-your-face world. I come here to spill my thoughts, open my mind and share with you and myself, my thoughts and wonders of my horse-obessed world. Now, my thought this second time around, was that this "AdSense" might prove to be a great little way to make some extra horse-dollars to put towards that new show shirt I need, or an actual dressage girth rather then continue to ride in my brown fabric aussie one. Or maybe it would fund an extra trip to the barn or even a chance to audit a dressage clinic?! But it still didn't feel right. Why? Because I felt like it wasn't fair to YOU, the reader that you should be forced to view advertisements when you come to my blog to hear my story. That's not why you come here. If you wanted to be bombared with ads, you'd pick up the flyers, or turn on the television without the PVR or hang-out on your favorite forum or the google homepage. But you don't. You're hear to read, and it's not fair for me to sneak in some money making scheme and sell YOU out in order to get the things I want a little sooner. Perhaps that sounds silly, as they're just tiny advertisements and I'd only be getting cents for each one viewed, and no one is forcing the reader to actually CLICK the links. But it still feels invasive to me. It changes the reason WHY I come here and blog. I come here to tell a story, to share a memory or express a victory or failure. I don't want my motivation to write, to develop a good blog, to be because I want to make a couple more dollars this month. I should admit, I track my pageviews. I get excited when I see them rise, smile and investigate every new follower who signs on, and spend time thinking about ways to make my blog more entertaining, more enjoyable and more fun for you to read. But I do it only because I love the opportunity to share, as a newsman shares, as a journalist shares, as a writer, as a story teller. My only motivation is to keep you coming back, so we can continue to share our stories. The blogger community is one of people who have such common interests, common experiences, that we flock to one another to learn and grow and support each other. We may not truly 'know' one another, but we're a community in our own very rights. And I don't want to canvas my community, my blogger friends for a few extra cents a month. Brown aussie girth and all. The lame-o statistician in me wanted to see something though. I wanted to know of all the blogs I am following, how many are making a pretty penny of my interest in their lives, their stories, and how many remain just a friendly neighbour, sharing their tale? In a moment of insanity (okay, nothing better to do 'cause it's pouring rain outside, the BF is working, there's nothing on cable, I watched EVERYTHING on the PVR and I shouldn't be internet shopping for anyone but the BF who's birthday is coming up...and THAT's not fun), decided to browse every blog I'm reading to see how many are profiteering from our sense of community. So, I follow a total of 55 blogs...wait, make that 54 as one shut down recently. Unfortunately, some are severely out of date and their writers have lost interest. But of those 56 blogs: 1 - Prairie Nerd 2 - Fat Girl/Fat Horse (Looking for advertisements...none actually present) 3 - Behind the Bit (Claims to have no paid ads, but is still riddled with them...seriously, if you're going to try and encourage me to spend money, at least profit off of it). 4 - Bitless Horse 5 - Dressage Mom 6 - Eventing A Gogo 7 -

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Back in the Saddle Blues

After another whole week away from the barn thanks to a job that lets me travel, I awoke this morning, pulled on my winter riding boots (it was 1 degree cold) and headed over to W's, hoping to beat the mid-morning rush.

As seems to be the usual, I arrived when no one was around but W and J rebedding the stalls. W's new little puppy was underfoot, reminding me to appreciate my grown and trained dog. Especially when the little devil stole my beautiful wood finishing brush and settled down in a pile of hay to chew on it. Oye.

Moon still had his big box stall and was out in the paddock with his buddy Ebony. I let him graze a bit then headed inside to get ready. The puppy was underfoot making W a little nervous about her getting stomped or trodden-on, which is always understandable considering the unpredictable nature of horses. Moon is such a dog lover, as J picked the puppy up and put her in front of Moon. Who stood there patiently while the puppy licked all over his nose! Moon seriously had a look of "if you must, just don't expect me to act like I'm enjoying it or anything."

Tacked and in the ring, I had to again deal with his calling. I was doing tight circles to try and curb him of the behavior, but W caught sight of us once, and I instantly felt guilty. THIS is an issue of mine. I have zero problem with reprimanding my creatures when they are misbehaving. My dog is a dream to handle, and I never hesitated to pin her on her side when she misbehaved or scruff her when she runs away or chases after a wild animal. Animals require a certain amount of physical touch to comprehend and develop a level of respect. I'm not saying beating them, but in these instances, a tight circle I don't deem inappropriate...or do I?

Because whenever someone catches me doing it, I get completely guilty and stop. Which probably doesn't help enforce the correct behavior, rather resulting in inconsistent reprimands. Oye.

Anyway, things continued downhill. He was wired, and I urged him into a canter. And yes, we got some cantering on the circle, which is a step forward. If we didn't subsequently take a ton of steps backwards.

Trot transitions. I had my ipod and earbuds in, hoping the rythym would help me not rush my posting. Well, I should first point out that this is the PERFECT way to judge the smoothness of your transitions. Why? Because the ipod touch has a feature where if you shake it, it shuffles to a new song...

And every time our transition was rough, I got a new song. Sometimes, my posting was jostling because he wasn't maintaining a rythym...and we shuffled through 5 songs in one 20 m circle!

Going right, he was throwing his hips out at the open side of the circle, riding square on the closed side, he kept forcing his head low, overbending at the neck, bracing, evil-bunny facing, and the worst? Mini-rears and bucks. Going left, he was obstinate, refusing to go forward, pawing like crazy and just 'angry' for lack of a better term. He overall just seemed MAD when asked to trot.

Which seemed (and still seems) odd. He seemed almost hypersensitive to my leg and almost as though he was sore or uncomfortable. At a walk I had reaching, I had bending, I did serpentines and leg yields, with no complaint. I got his best turn-on-the-fore to the left yet. His halts were really great and it was an acceptable and pretty standard warm-up ride that would lead me to believe we could have a productive work session. Even his canter work, while rushed and included a couple low bucks, was not out of character and more illustrative of pent-up energy then pain or irriation.

But the trot transitions...something didn't feel right.

I told W about it, and asked for a Monday evening lesson. Perhaps with two lessons next week we might be able to recapture the movement and knowledge he had before I left. Or track down what's bothering him or how to correct him. And if I should just tell him to smarten up and get on with the riding...

Who knows.

I did manage a few cute pics while I was out though. All I know now is that I want to get back out there tomorrow and see if I can figure out what's going on (or not going on). Oye. Horses.

"Tumbleweed" a horse that's a thousand times more gorgeous then her name suggests; don't you just WANT that mane! : )

Moon and his 'girlfriend' in their paddock...she's gorgeous and stately, he's a complete doufus.

What Moon REALLY thinks. : P

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Parting is such sweet sorrow.

After returning home from Calgary, I found myself busy catching up on all the things that had gone undone and all the things I still had to do. Which meant I didn't make it out to the barn until this morning.

It's bitter sweet to me, as I'm happy I managed to get out and visit my boy, but sad knowing it was too short and work dragged me away too soon.

The barn was empty at 10:30 this morning, other then W and her family sweeping up the last of the bedding from the alley. Moon was nose-to-nose in the paddock with his new girlfriend, Ebony, and they seemed to share a special bond. Older horse to younger horse, they make a cute pair. It means something to me knowing he finally has a friend in the paddock, not being chased away to stand alone in the field as he often was at T's. I wonder to myself which is better? A smaller paddock with a dear friend, or more space to run but no-one to follow?

Some of the horses were dressed in their blankets already, but Moon was standing plain and furry in his paddock. I brought him in, appreciating the warm barn and lack of wind inside.

W's dad told me that he ADORES Moon, as he's a good boy, easy keeper, doesn't do no harm and is just a really sweet horse. I was swelling with pride. W chimed in to agree, and I couldn't help but feel blessed yet again to have such an absolutely amazing horse.

His new halter fit BEAUTIFULLY and looks equally gorgeous on him. W swooned a bit over it's newmarket flannel lining, and I gave Moon a good grooming. I also tried on his Cavallo's finally...and discovered they're too narrow for him. : ( Oh well, w/e. I'll just have to make do.

After W and company went back to the house, I looked at Moon and knew I had to TRY to sneak in a short ride. The wind was howling, but I took him into the arena anyways. He was spooky and jumpy and hot to start, and of course, calling.

I decided to try to change his mind on that. Whenever he called, I put him into a tight circle and made him circle until he quit. The frequency of his calls got longer and longer, until I ran out of riding time. I have to say, he came around WAY better then he has in the past. I'm really looking forward to getting back into regular riding next week, since he showed me today that he can get his mind refocused and return to being on the bit and in contact much sooner then ever before. : ) And even after a whole week off!

I made him stand nice at the mounting block while I got on and off a few times, and he was a charm. Something about getting him calmed down that makes the difference...

I did notice I probably need to drop my stirrups a few holes...

I untacked him, put his gear away and stuffed him full of treats. I hung up the jollyball in his stall so he might have some more entertainment when I'm away, and then it was back out to the paddock for him. Which made me kinda sad.

Into the car and back on the road to get to the airport...really, I love and appreciate my job. Not everyone has the luxury of flying off to a big city for a week, watching the 4 lanes of traffic stream into the bustling downtown, where they check into a posh hotel on the top street, have a delicious meal with good company and then curl up in the down duvet to sleep away until the next morning. It's truly something special and I love what I do. I just wish I could bring my pony along ; )

Monday, October 10, 2011

Away for Turkey Day

So to start, Happy Thanksgiving to those in Canada! We might not get Black Friday, but thanksgiving is still a special holiday for us. I love spending time with family and friends and appreciating having everyone in my life. This year we headed west to Alberta to spend the holiday with the BF's family and still haven't set a date to come home.

What does this have to do with ponies? Well there's a new english store in Okotoks called Heartland Saddlery.
Of course we had to go there. I still haven't found a new dressage girth, but we DID buy Mr. Moon a new (better fitting) halter. We ended up getting him a cob-sized since he seems to have a very small little headed. We (the bf had final say) picked a really cute Horsewear Rambo blue striped halter with darker blue webbing. See the one in the picture. Can't wait to get home and try it out on him!

Hopefully I make it to my lesson which I rescheduled to Friday night. Why? Because Sunday I fly out to Toronto for work for a week.

Hoping my pony and all of yours are having a very happy Canadian turkey-day.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Picture Perfect.

I had my regular weekly riding lesson tonight with W, and was lucky enough to both snag the fancy DSLR from work along with my BF to play photographer for a couple of hours. I admit, I now want to drive to the barn and spend hours just photographing Moon's gorgeous face, but for now, I'll appreciate the 300 photos the BF took...

However, in all appreciation, they really highlight some riding faults I'm having. In many of the pictures, my new saddle looks too small. I'm practically sitting on the cantle of it...until you realize my legs are far in front of me. Except in the first pictures, I'm never sitting in the 'sweet spot' of the saddle! And whenever I'm not, my legs are in the wrong position! And my upper body is either tipped forward or I'm sitting on the cantle.

Hmmmm...something very obvious and important to work on there!

I can also see a TON of tension in my body. Moon is never relaxed as I'd love to see him, and I can see how badly I'm bracing through my own upper body and legs. Let's add in that my right foot is CONSISTENTLY turned out, so my toe is sticking out. My feet are not level in most of the pictures and that right foot and calf just seem awkward and out of place.

Despite these flaws in the pictures, I'm really happy both with what I see and how today felt. Moon at a walk is actually seeking contact. I can slowly give more and more rein and he will continue to get longer and lower. This is awesome. He's also starting to 'know' what I'm going to ask and leading me through the patterns without a lot of my help. I thought this was bad, W thinks it's great. He's learning and memorizing. We'll argue that one later.

We had some trouble spots and I REALLY need to find a way to start relaxing in the saddle. It's my obvious issue point, and it needs serious correction if we're to progress. I need to be sinking down into the sweet spot of the saddle, flowing with my body and RIDING not trying to shove him into a little package I want.

He was much softer and rhythmic then usual. Much like yesterday, he just went really well overall. We need some improvement on him drifting out on the open end of the circle, but I can say that he did some nice 15 m circles for me. At the end he was tired and pushing back when asked to leg yield, but he also did a ton of shoulder-fore and some good tries for shoulder-in.

I remain beyond pleased with how he's conditioning. His body shape is much improved from last year, and even the farrier could see a difference. He's a happy boy and really just does well with all the work. I wish I could say the same for myself!

W left me with homework to practice our sitting trot, by posting 10 strides, sitting until it becomes unbalanced, and then regrouping in the posting trot. This will be a challenge, as W said, I need to be loose like spagetti. I'm not loose. : P Unfortunately, if I don't get out to ride tomorrow, Mr. Moon will go unridden for nearly a week. *sigh* So much for forward progress. I hope he enjoys the time off to mend and build up the muscle I've been working down.

I will finish by saying that I LOVE this new camera though I need to spend time learning how to use its features to the fullest. It's a Nikon D3100 and I'm dreaming of one for christmas.

P.S. Check out the lovely new saddle on Mr. Moon. Yes, my girth doesn't match, but hey, neither do my stirrups.

P.P.S. I love my dog to no end, so you get a few photography attempts of her as well! : )

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

To Work...or Not?

I received an email last night from T saying that she had to work this evening and therefore has to cancel on our weekly trail ride. I'm bummed to say the least.

And I've also exposed a new problem...

Busy Barns.

I've lucked out the last couple of days at W's because everyone showed up after I had finished riding. However, silly me forgot to check the lesson board and I'm also unfamiliar with the weekday riding pattern at her place. So I'm not sure how busy the barn will be tonight.

I'm actually contemplating NOT going to the barn tonight because I'm hesitant to ride in the arena with other rides, ESPECIALLY those in lessons. The lesson thing is more about respecting other rider's time since they're paying for the lesson and W's attention, and should have the arena all to themselves. But riding with others is more...

...more about self-consciousness? And not even really about Moon or how he's going or when he's calling like a devil. More about me, thumping around in the saddle, being poorly coordinated that I crash into another rider, or not knowing where to tack and groom when everyone is using the crossties...

It sounds silly I guess. The best way for me to get comfortable is to just do it. If I have any dreams of competing, I need to get out there. Ride with others. Be judged. Look like an idiot. "Ride the ugly".


I video recorded yesterday's ride, and Moon's still not relaxed. He's still calling and still getting worked up. I'm just trying to be patient and wait for him to settle in and settle down. I also noted that I'm tense, I'm tipping forward and I still have chair legs!!! Aurgh.

How much of his tension in the ring is my tension in the ring?!

W asked me yesterday if I had any thought of showing next spring. Um, YEAH! Whole point in being here W!!! Point of lessons with you!!

So after our conversation, she's now well aware that we're aiming to head to the shows with her and the other Stable Riders (I believe there's 2 other girls). Which means asking for all the necessary show gear this Christmas.

Tomorrow D's coming out to trim Moon's feet, which is clearly past due. I unfortunately can't get his new trail boots on, leaving me wondering if their too small, if they changed the boot sizes from my friend's, or if he's just that desperately in need of a trim??

After D trims him tomorrow, I'm going to ask W if she can add him to the next rotation by her farrier. I'd like to have a second opinion on him, and if there is anything that can be done about his flaring then I'll keep him over the winter in their farrier's rotation. Otherwise D can continue to come out.

So for tonight, I think it'll be an easy hack out. I have some nagging concerns that the change in barn and the new friend 'Wiggy' may be turning my normally carefree horse into a herd-bound lunatic. And I have a desperate need to ride him away from the barn and see if he's still that wonderful run-like-the-wind partner or a new obsessive horse I previously didn't know...

I'm also stuck in another dilemma. How should I react to his herd bound behavior? When he's calling or anxious in the cross-ties, should I smack him with an open hand or my crop? My gut says no. But I concede, sometimes when I'm riding and he just won't refocus, or when he throwing his butt in my direction as I toss the saddle on, that's EXACTLY what I feel compelled to do!

W says to ignore him and keep working. But when I do that, while he eventually settles down, I don't know if this is BECAUSE I'm ignoring it and he's refocusing on the work, or if he simply gets distracted by something else for a bit??? Aurgh.

I should say, that he's become a disaster to cross-tie. And a disaster to saddle and bridle. And a disaster to mount. All since the move.

What I can say, is that he's wonderful to mount AFTER our 1 hour rides. I've been trying to reinforce standing while I mount and unmount, and AFTER our practice rides, he's a dream. : ) I just need to find a way to get him focused and stay focused sooner.

...obviously this is all bugging me, since I can't even focus on my work or homework. WHY did he have to get all silly?! And how do I get him back?! : P


Evening Update

So I wound up going out and riding Moon. I can't help it. I just NEEDED to find my ol'boy.

I groomed him (noticed he has either a rub or a bite on his spray and long pad until that goes away...) and then took him to the far end of the ring to practice. Someone was having their first lesson in the front of the ring, so I wanted to make sure I gave them plenty of space. I've noticed W normally only uses half the ring for lessons since it makes it easier for her voice to carry, so I didn't feel like I was invading.

I started working on loosening up, flexing all of my muscles and joints while Moon walked on a loose rein. After a few circles (he kept trying to look out the back door), I gathered my reins and started working him. Not letting him gaze out the window and just moving through the movements he's fairly well schooled in now.

And he was reaching down and out!! He was SOFT! He was slow and rhythmic and responsive. He was awesome.

As we performed a near perfect 3 loop serpentine in only 1/2 the arena, W called out "He's moving great! Look how well he's going!"

I could have died and gone to heaven. He WAS!

After another 15 or 20 minutes I brought him back to a nice loose rein walk. He gave me his best turn-on-the-fores yet, without even taking any forwards (or backwards) steps! In both directions!

He finished his ride just walking like a nice boy, long and loose. I was grinning.

I didn't want to over work him since he has a lesson tomorrow and today was day 7 of a 7 day riding stretch. That's a LOT of work for a horse (but he gets a week off starting Friday so I need to make sure he's nice and tired for a week of no work).

I hoped off and gave him lots of love. I was pleased and stunned. WHY whenever I think we're hit a road block, does he prove me wrong??! And WHY does he always preform BEST when I don't bring my video camera?!

When I got back into the barn...

...crap. Just realized that I forgot to pick up my pony poo in the arena!! Aurgh. I'm a bad horse owner! Bad Arena user!!! Let's hope W forgives my first error as a new resident...

Where was I?

When I got back into the barn W told me he's looking amazing, with his awesome coloring and the way he's moving. She seemed certain it was just the natural progression of things. I'm certain it's something to do with her in the ring calling out instructions that gets Moon and I feeling relaxed and focused!

So there you have it. Moon is NEVER what I expect of him, he is awesome and awful at the same time, and riding is the most confusing, unpredictable and exhilerating sport I know. But it's all worth it.

Wonder how he'll go tomorrow?!

Monday, October 3, 2011

A "small" rant

I can't contain myself. I surprisingly, haven't really ever ranted on my blog, but today I feel so compelled. It's an accumulation of reading many blogs and discovering a stereotype or perhaps a discrimination out there that runs rampant in the horse world.

Short horses.

WHY do people feel that there's this firm rule on what height of rider can be paired with a certain height of horse?!

I understand 2 legitimate concerns:
1) Horse carrying capacity. Horses can only carry a certain percentage of their body weight (est. 20%). Which really, has more to do with the horse's weight then height.

2) The rider's calves need to come in contact with the horse's side in order to provide proper cues (though not an absolute must, since paradressage riders have proved this point moot).

Really, the second point only really applies to the DEPTH of the horse's chest and abdomen, since long legs may add height but do not provide a surface for leg cues.

Likewise, a short legged horse with a deep girth, ridden by a tall rider, would STILL have sufficient area to apply the leg aids, and would not have the rider's legs dragging on the ground. I suppose not having your legs dragging on the ground is the third valid concern about a short horse...Really though, my experience is that unless you're 6 and a half feet tall on a legitimate pony (under 14.1hh), there's little chance your legs will be dragging.

Which means, 90% of the people out there are PERFECTLY capable of riding any horse over 14.1hh (and probably some shorter then that too).

So WHY does everyone believe that they can't?

I have read and heard, over and over "Oh, that horse is too small for me". "Rider too tall for horse", "Oh, I can only ride horses over 16hh". None of these statements are true.

I don't think, I've never heard anyone claim, I would be flabbergasted to hear, that my MoonSox is too small for me. I'm 5'9". He's 15.1hh, if that. I've happily ridden horses only 14.2hh, and my legs still fell at their abdomen.

Can I fit on a 17hh horse? For sure! My legs are long enough that I'm still making good contact. I also need a step ladder to get up there. He also thinks that 2' fences are cavalleti!

My point in this whole rant, is that the so called 'short' horses are being forgotten or passed over by people too stuck on looks or determined to meet some foolish societal 'rule' that states anyone over 5'4" must ride a horse over 15hh, anyone over 5'7" must ride a horse over 16hh, and anyone over 5'9" must be on a horse at least 17hh. Which makes me wonder what height of horse is required for those who stand over 6'? 18hh? Are we now just going to breed monster sized horses, because society deemed it so?

I can honestly say, perhaps I'm a little biased, as I do love the little horses. I love being able to leap on and off easily from the trail. I love never needing to ask for a leg-up. I love that I can mount my horse bareback in the middle of the pasture. WITHOUT standing on anything. I love that when I fall off it's a short way to the ground. I love that my horse can never keep his head out of my reach! Don't get me wrong, I love the tall guys too!

But yes, I'm biased. But I really, honestly wish people would give these guys a chance too. 15hh never used to be 'short' before all the giant warmbloods and draft crosses entered the world. Every horse, regardless of size, has something to offer its rider. Perhaps, rather then judging the horses by their height (within reason), their coloring or their breed (also within reason), we need to find the horse that's "right" for us. Because none of the rest of this stuff matters then.

And that's my rant. ; )

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Who are you?

I've ridden Moon more since his move to W's then ever before. I've wondered, as many of you have, if he needs a day off or if the 1 hour of work he has to put in is really that tiring?

Last Wednesday he had his lesson, Thursday he spent two hours walking in the park, Friday 4 hours going up and down hills, and Saturday and Sunday just over an hour doing ring work. Ditto on tomorrow. Tuesday, another trail ride, Wednesday lesson, Thursday hopefully one last ring ride before I leave for Thanksgiving holidays. 9 days of riding.

When I met Moon in the spring of 2010 he was a tubby little quarter horse. Steady but perhaps a bit flighty. I pretty instantly felt safe and secure on him. He was the kind of horse that spooked on the spot. He had a love for running, but not for running away. He was tolerant, energetic but a little lazy. Everything that was necessary in a horse that I needed.

I still remember going out to see him in January for the first time after learning he was mine. His faults shone brightly, the dipped back, the haybelly, the excess fat and the overgrown hooves. He ran with his head in the air. I wasn't sure if he could develop into more then what he was, but still, in all of that lay the personality and the heart that drew me to him in the first place. Curious but apprehensive, a horse with a desire to experience freedom but never leave me behind.

He is today, the same horse at heart. But he is also not the same horse. I never before realized how much learning, building muscle and having new experiences could enhance a horse. He's not changed. He's grown.

Every time I'm on him lately, I feel a horse that grows stronger, more capable and more athletic then the time before. He can trot and trot and trot now, hardly breaking a sweat. He loves to canter long distances, and will truly gallop. I think that he FEELs good. Healthy.

I've noticed that after a ride, his tendons are super tight. He seems softer and more flexible. That's when he finally starts to run out of a little energy. He still has go.

When I look at him in W's paddock, I don't see the same horse I saw last summer. And I'm so proud of that fact. Heck, people even ask me what his breed is sometimes, as gone is the stocky QH. He is to me, gorgeous. And not because of how he looks, but because who we have become together. And every day, I'm excited to go out and ride with him.

Settling in

It's been a couple days since Moon moved to W's place, and we're both still adjusting. Wednesday I left him wide-eyed in his temporary big box stall, and hoped things would go well.

Thursday I kept my cell phone close at hand, waiting to hear that someone had gotten kicked, etc. I arrived at the barn after work as T was going to pick us up for a trail ride at the park, and Mr. Moon was happily eatting his hay, nose-to-nose with a little chestnut mare (Wiggy I believe). He even trotted over to me to get haltered.

W said he called a bit, but other then that was well behaved. He has been deemed a relatively tidy horse, keeping his droppings more or less to one side nad not walking or rolling in them. Phew.

He hasn't been getting any grain really, just the odd handful here and there so he doesn't feel left out when everyone else is eatting.

Thursday we hauled out, and T brought Black, a more energetic horse then Chico. We had a fun ride, covering more terrain then normal, and Moon was alert and energetic. The trees blocked the wind and when we returned to the barn at dark, I got him tucked in his warm cosy stall again.

Friday morning I awoke early and headed out to the barn by 6 am. I dropped my dog off at my mom's and was at W's before they were supposed to be open. Being the newbie, I hung out in my car and watched the sun rise. It was pretty, and when 7 am rolled around and it was still just me, I figured I'd just let myself in.

The ponies were awake but quiet, and it was nice to bring Moon from his warm stall and groom him in the quiet barn. By 7:30 W and her mom had arrived and the horses were excited about breakfast. The barn came alive with sound, and W was even sweet enough to toss Moon's breakfast in front of him in the cross-ties so he'd be ready for his trip.

T showed up at 8:30 and we loaded and headed out on our journey. We drove for two and a half hours, and then drove down a spectacular valley with a river running along the bottom. It was amazing.

We pulled into the ranch where our guide lived and were dissapointed that no one was home. I suggested we drive up to his tack shop to see if he was working...

...and suddenly were were at the border crossing! With two horses with no passports! Yikes.

T made a 70-point turn on the highway and we went back to the right road. Drove down to the tack store, and no one was there either. And there was no where to turn around!

T tried backing up but we weren't making any progress. : ( She asked if I wanted to give it a go? Um...

Really, I just knew we needed to get the trailer out, and not get stuck on this narrow, deep ditched back road in the middle of nowhere!

And did it! I even impressed myself!

T asked me what I wanted to do? I suggested we check out the Provincial park up the road, since we're in the middle of nowhere and there likely isn't anyone there. So we could just ride around the park and its marked trails!

We got to what turned out to be a beautiful park and...there were 3 bus loads of children there!


Moon posing...until some kid screamed!
Unloaded the horses anyways and just hand walked them around and let them graze. We had our lunches and then loaded them back up just as the little kids started screaming "There's POOOOONNNNIIIEEESSS over HHHHEEEERRRREEEE!!!" Phew. Just in time! Moon's eyes grew HUGE any time one of the kids would start to cry and whine! :P

T suggested we drive back home to Birds Hill. Um, Birds Hill is 3 miles from W's place. We just drove 3 HOURS! :O I'm a little sad and dissapointed.

So I ask if we could go back to his place to quickly use the bathroom. Maybe he'll be back?

Turns out, he was!! : ) Actually, he asked why we were late... : P

The man, Fred, tacked up and we all headed out onto the trails. Up and down the side of the valley, across open fields, through cattle pasture (Moon's first experience chasing cows!), and across little streams. It was amazing country side. I had Moon walk up many of the hills, trying to encourage him to use his back and build some muscle.

At one point, the guide's horse didn't want to cross a really muddy little stream flowing down the side of the valley. He gave it a kick and the horse bucked back and double barrelled T's horse to the chest! Thankfully Chico was okay. Then when he kicked him again, the horse (a very stocky thick 14.1 quarter horse) rocked back onto his haunches and LEAPT across the mud! Impressive.

So I encouraged Moon, who KNOWS how to jump!

...and Moon leapt INTO the mud. Oye.

I was COVERED! It was on my glasses, on my forehead, everywhere. I think Moon thought himself funny...

After 4 hours of solid riding, we headed home. The horses were tired and we were sore. Poor Chico was dripping sweat!

I have to say, it was the most amazing trail ride ever. Just perfect.

Then we loaded everyone up and headed for home. It was dark when I got back to the barn, and Moon seemed happy to go into his warm boxstall.

Saturday I had all to myself, so in the morning I went straight to the barn. I tried on his new saddle, managed to get my aussie girth to work with it and started working him before anyone else was up.

And he called. And called, and called. I worked on just ignoring it and making him work. It wasn't perfect but after about 45 minutes another girl was having a lesson and I decided that I should call it a day.

He was also terrible to mount, wouldn't stand still, yanking the reins and just bratty. Couldn't even tighten the girth!

He refused to stand in the cross-ties, and didn't want any treats. Oye I thought. This whole move thing is NOT going well. Plus, at this point the barn was packed and I just wanted to get out of there!

W said that he drank all of his water and was STARVING. Poor guy. He had feed in the trailer, but he never really seems to eat it...Plus, I think W's hay tastes sweeter...

Oh, and he didn't fit the trail boots. : ( I'm hoping when he's trimmed on Wednesday, they'll fit...

Put him out and headed to spend the afternoon with my dad.

This morning, I was in my car by 7:45 am, and at the barn by 8:10. Again, first one there. W was just leading the first horses out to the paddocks, so I didn't have to fetch Moon.

He was again, nervous and not wanting to stand in the cross ties. Deep breaths...

Tacked him up and out to the arena...

Serpentines, leg yields, trot circles, turn-on-fore, figure 8's...we worked and worked. He called and called.

After 45 minutes, I FINALLY had my horse back. He started reaching and moving. He called less and less. After an hour and ten, I was happy with how he was going. After an hour and a half, I called the practice to an end. FINALLY, he was getting his head back in the game.

So I spent 15 minutes working on getting him to stand while I mount, and stay there till I tell him to move. He did. : ) I think he's just sooo wired sometimes!

Same with the cross ties. Great boy after our ride. I even brushed out his tail!

W said to toss him his hay when I put him out. She also said he was going nice when she got sight of us working...

The other thing we both noticed? He's actually looking a little thin!

His spine is very prominent, you can start to see the outline of his ribs and his hips are visible! I'm not sure what he SHOULD look like to be honest. He no longer resembles that overweight, hay-bellied horse I got in the winter, and I'm uncertain if he should start getting grained or not?! Is my horse truly an easy keeper, or was the other hay such that he always seemed full? Is it all the work lately? Is he stressing a bit from the move???

Tomorrow, I'm going to measure him and see how he's doing. He's normally at 1100 lbs...I also dewormed him just before we came...

And his tie-stall? Still not built! Not sure if it'll go in today, or if he'll continue to live in the box-stall world? I won't complain, and really appreciate it.

I was out of the barn by 10:30 and feeling good. No one was there yet (other then W and her family) and it was nice to have the place and arena to myself. I think I'll remain the early morning rider...

Now, I have to go pick up a mystery parcel at the post office...address is 2 numbers off and my last name is, I haven't ordered anything... ???

P.S. His new hood is more like a small cape... : P He really DOES have a short neck!