Friday, December 16, 2011

Off to Christmas.

Today was my last chance to visit Mr. Moon before leaving for Christmas holidays. Despite getting the afternoon off thanks to the boss (after a yummy Christmas lunch), I didn't get to the barn until 2:30. By the time I had Moon groomed and tacked it was closer to 3 pm, and I have to admit I wasn't in my best form. I suspect I was just too impatient to make progress before I left. To end 'with success'. Foolish, since the more you push, the harder it is to make progress.

In the end he did some nice stretching and reaching for the bit in our difficult direction. The reverse, we just seemed to be fighting each other. My impatience, I'm sure.

His canter work was crazy. He LOVES cantering and does it with soooo much speed and intensity lately (for a horse that previously wouldn't canter in the arena). Now he barrels down the long side like a crazy horse and slams on the brakes before the corner, since he can't make the turn. I suspect in our 5 attempts, we didn't once get the correct lead.

Never mind, he was unwilling to really slow down, his trot remained fast and his circles were sloppy. He just wanted to GO. I finally just brought him back to a walk, relaxed him and finished our ride working on reaching for the bit. If things are working and you're getting frustrated, go back to what the last thing you did successfully. That's what I learned in the first chapter of Anne Kursinski's "Riding and Jumping Clinic" this evening! : P Library book that I'm gonna study up on while on vacation. A girl needs SOMETHING horse!

Afterwards I finally got a chance to fix his blanket. I LOVE Schneider's repair kits now. I cleaned the fabric around the rips with some rubbing alcohol and let it dry. Cut patches from the repair kit strip (stick-on fabric) and rounded their corners. I pressed each stick-on patch to the blanket and then opted for the optional 'warm iron' to finish it off. Largely because it was still pretty cool in the barn and I wanted a good hold. The warm iron seemed to improve the hold even more, and I'm pretty sure those patches are going to stay on just fine (knock on wood). All in all, while you can see them in the sun if you're looking, it's a cleaner, more discrete and very waterproof repair. And THAT is something I can get behind. My $3 kit is about 1/3 used and I repaired 5 rips. Score.

Moon was back out in his paddock and I was back in my car, headed home. I miss him already though I smothered his little face with kisses. I love that horse. W has promised that Santa-hooves is coming to town, and I know he'll have a wonderful Christmas with his pony friends, especially with the care of W and her family. Happy pony.

For me, I'm gonna hope there's some pony-supplies under the Christmas tree. Last year I got Mr. Moon for Christmas, and I'm happy to know there won't be a horse this year. But I'm still searching for a show-jacket, some black webbers, a pair of show gloves and some pro-choice smbs. Yup, we're nearly ready for show-season.

So as I head MIA for the next couple of days, I wish everyone a Merry Christmas, that's full of horses, loved ones, and the magic that makes this season truly special.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

New Year, Old Goals.

Reflecting back over our first year together (conveniently it occurs so close to the New Year), I can only say that I'm thrilled to have Moon, thrilled with his progress and thrilled with our training. 

Goals Dreamed:
2) To Ride Moon at LEAST Twice/Week for 1 year
New goal, with the potential for an indoor arena, is 3 rides/week in the winter!
8) Maintain regular lessons for at least 1 year.
9) Teach Moon to ride consistently 'on-the-bit'.
12) To complete my EC Rider Levels 1 and 2.
14) Complete Moon's AQHA Transfer papers, and join the 'Ride' Program.
15) To develop a slow, controlled canter on contact

24) Work on getting Moon to flex from the ground
25) Head to our first dressage show in 2012
26) Improve our jumping, by incorporate poles into our rides and progressing to jumping three 2' jumps by the end of winter (in a mini course)
28) Establish an EC English Rider Theory Group at W's place
29) Become successful in my stall plaque endeavor to fund our 2012 show season
30) Improve Moon's hooves so that our intermittent hoof-soreness disappears
31) Win a show ribbon. Place doesn't matter

We had a very successful 2011.

Moon now gets a trim every 4 to 6 weeks, almost to the day. His hooves don't flare as bad as they once did and while we're dealing with some post-trim soreness, we're making progres. He received his yearly vaccines last spring, we're set for the next round come March, and he's been dewormed three times, with the last one due at the end of December. Oh, and he finally got his teeth floated for the first time in years. I DO think it helped some with his sensitive mouth issues, though he'll always need a light hand.

11) To trailer to BHP with Moon for a trail ride.2011-07-23
We trailered a LOT this summer, from weekly lessons at W's to trail riding with T at Birds Hill Park and even out to Pembina Valley. A true dream come true. Moon trailers beautifully and I'm excited to haul out to shows this spring.

10) Build noticeable topline muscle. (while it's small, W claims it's noticeable!) 2011-08-24
He HAS topline now. He'll never not have a curvy back and he'll need a lot more regular work to develop that curvy neckline, but we're making progress. And progress is excellent.

13) Buy a better fitting saddle for Moon and I 2011-09-26
We wound up with an awesome priced Wintec Isabell, which fits us better then my old Blackburn. Is it perfect?? Not certain. I'd love to see a sweat pattern but he doesn't sweat in the winter! I think my leg position is better, but still not 100%. I do have a pad with inserts coming in, so maybe that'll improve things even more.

19) Move MoonSox to a barn with an indoor arena for the winter, so we can continue our training. 2011-08-17 - Barn Chosen. 2011-09-28 - Move-in Date!
In October we moved to W's and I'm not sure I ever want to go without an indoor again. This has been an awesome experience for both of us. Truly blessed.

18) Get Moon spending the cooler days in his summer sheet, to reduce coat bleaching, and protect him from being picked on. 2011-09-07
Well, we did a good job of it over the summer, despite my driving back and forth to add and remove blankets. I admit, I'm glad his winter blanket protects him now. He spent a day without it and has a ton of bites on his rump.

22) Investigate the possibility of keeping MoonSox indoors over the winter W made my dream come true! 2011-09-07 ...Then he was moved back outdoor to keep another boarder company, but gets a stall when it's cold out. 2011-11-22
He's not indoors a lot anymore, but he did get to live at least a couple weeks in a lovely box stall this year. And on the miserable days he still comes in, which is more then I can ask for.

23) Purchase necessary blankets/gear to make it through the winter 2011-09-26
We're doing it. Making it through the winter without mishap! Just one blanket repair!

16) To find my confidence and STOP putting both myself and my horse down. 2011-10-02
I think I found it. Seems now I just can't stop raving about my love for Moon! Granted, I still blame him and W for our successes! ; )

3) To Determine Moon's 'Healthy Weight' and Attempt to Get and Keep Him There. 2011-11-25
When I got Moon, he weighed about 1260 lbs. This summer I had him down to 1080 lbs, and after the move to W's, he measured at 1030 lbs. Today he weighs about 980 lbs, and I've determined he should stay between 950 and 1000 lbs.

21) Develop my sitting trot seat and 'get it right'. I can sit it...not constantly, but more then ever! 2011-11-25
And now, even more. Constantly improving on that sitting trot and LOVING it. I swear I don't want to post anymore!

27) Trail ride out of Wendy's place. 2011-11-12
We only trail rode once this year, but it was wonderful. Moon just loves being out there and so do I.

Goals Forgotten:
7) To Attend ONE 'Competition'. Perhaps the Interlake Riders Club Fall Fun Show (September 17th)
5) To Teach Moon Gymnastic Jumping, such that we can complete an 8 jump course at 2'3 height.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Get it Framed.

Let's talk first about the newest stall plaque. I'm obviously pretty excited about it.

While I love doing the silhouette style, I've been dreaming of trying some new designs and styles. I love pen and ink drawings of horses and thought, wonder if I can mimic one? I chose a sketch from google and gave it a go (someday I'll dream up my own images, but beginners need to start somewhere). I spent an evening burning it, and was pleased with the result. This is a Christmas gift commissioned by a friend, and I hope they enjoy it...

Now on to Mr. Moon...

Yesterday I had my last lesson before heading off on Christmas vacation. Which means a week and a half of no pony-riding : ( I actually was disappointed and a part of me didn't want to leave yesterday. He's becoming a different horse to ride, AND W gave us a ton of guidance and homework. All of which I want to start working on!

To add to things, there was freezing rain last night, soaking the poor ponies. Since Moon's blanket was sopping wet (on the outside, though those tiny holes let some moisture in), I couldn't repair it. *sigh*. There's an even bigger rip near his butt that I NEED to fix before I leave. Friday I'm hoping for one last visit and WILL fix it. Poor bugger.

To make me more anxious, there's a 3-point Buck (deer) that I keep seeing when I drive out to the barn. Waiting to leap in front of my car and write it off. Seems every time I turn on my high-beams, there he is standing in the ditch. Yesterday's road conditions and the fact it's dark before 5 pm doesn't help. Ger.

Anyway, on to our lesson...

For starters, we worked on his counterbending when going left, coupled with encouraging him more to reach down and into contact. This is one of those things I really appreciate having W for. When he braces or doesn't do what I'm trying to cue him, I struggle for awhile, try a bunch of different things and then quit, frustrated. W explained to me that I need to keep asking what I want of him, the same way and waiting for him to figure it out. Patience.

She advised me to bend his head in and hold it there until he softened and bent. THEN release the pressure. A little outside leg to keep him upright, a little inside leg to help keep him out. She also assured me that it's better to get bend in a messy circle, then focus on trying to stay on the circle but missing the bend. Apparently when a horse reaches and stretches around the circle, they will automatically move back out to the wider circle. I wasn't so sure, but as we worked on it he actually started giving me a wider circle on his own. Hmmmm...

So below is a picture of Moon from this summer when he was first learning to soften into the bridle. You'll recall his evil rabbit face and head in the sky...

And then the video clips from last night (granted, he didn't move like this ALL the time, but it was more consistent then ever and I learned a lot of things to encourage him to keep it there).  These pictures were at a trot too, which he's had a harder time stretching down for. I'm just so thrilled!

And that was the impressive thing. The last couple of months, he'd throw his head down and then put it right back up. Now it stays down longer and doesn't come up so high when he does lose contact.

W had me drop my stirrups at the trot, and Moon was hilarious. Whenever we'd be trotting around and I'd slip them off my feet, he'd halt immediately. It was honestly like he thought I was falling off and needed to stop! Finally I had to remove them and lift them over my saddle BEFORE walking off. Silly sweet boy.

At the end of the lesson, we worked on our canter!

And he cantered for me. W gave us some excellent homework of using a circle to improve our canter. We do a nice stretchy circle and as we come into the short-side, I ask for canter. This means he's bent the correct way when he hits the long side of the ring, assisting him in getting the right lead.

We had one decent canter depart when we tried it that way. When we tried on just the long side, he propelled me backwards with the sheer force of his canter and went wildly dashing forward only to collapse through the corner. W explained to me that he counterbends before take-off every time and we wind up on the wrong lead. Oh fun. We're going to have a ton of work there!

Finally we called it a night. I was sweating under my layers, but Moon still looked calm and cool. I was proud of how easily he came back to 'calm and sedate' after his wild cantering, and considering a month ago he wouldn't even canter-depart in the arena, we're making progress.

W looked at us and said "I think you guys might be ready to show Training level in the Spring".

Um, W, no. : P

I am sincerely looking forward to at LEAST two shows at walk-trot, just to adjust to being at a show. Maybe we'll get things together enough for Training in the Fall, but at this point I'm so thrilled with his progress that I don't need to rush it. I honestly believe that W's training style is the perfect horse physio. People often want quick easy results. They want someone to hop on their horse, position him so he looks like a magazine pull-out and bring in the high scores. They think that a couple pinches of magic 'feed' or a couple of 'pops' and 'cracks' to the joints will make things instantly better.

It doesn't work that way. It never has. Everyone I know that's successfully come back from injury or pain has done it through long and grueling physiotherapy. It's about slowly rebuilding and restructuring. You can't collect a horse until you supple a horse. You can't supple a horse until you teach him how to relax and loosen. It's a long and slow process with no immediate gratification. No one leaves feeling like "Wow, things are way better today". It's months of hard work, repetitive work, mistakes and repairs and convincing and encouraging. Slowly but surely you make progress. Progress built on progress.

We far too often now expect things to be fixed too quickly. Time however, will always be the best medicine. Time coupled with patience and practice.

But enough on that. I'll be physio'ing Moon till he's well into his 20's and only time will predict how far we get together. But I'm willing to spend the time and have the patience. I care more about how he's feeling and developing then in ribbons and accolades. He's worth it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Solidly Ridden, Poorly Jumped

For starters, I had another lovely ride on Moon. W caught the end where she exclaimed "He's in a frame!" followed by "Don't stop! Keep riding!" I smile every time I get on him lately, flabbergasted by how much he changed in a year. He's just a great pony to ride!

So after he went fabulous for 45 minutes, I noticed he had plenty of spunk. So I started asking for his canter. Let me say, I found it. But it needs repair. He LITERALLY throws himself into the canter with this HUGE transition that caused me lower back pain every time. And I'm not prone to lower back pain. It was just impossible to sit that transition, as his whole body threw me from my saddle every time. Oye. Tomorrow in our lesson, we'll be working on that canter.
I admit, after the transition, he was easy to sit, though the movement was huge. A part of me at times felt he was actually slowly galloping instead of cantering...hmmmm...

He did however, manage to hold ONE right hand corner. He lost it after coming through the corner, but that's a big improvement! He also was almost 'snorting' with each stride, something you often hear those big warmbloods doing when they go around Spruce Meadows (fancy show jumping facility) at that pretty hand gallop. I'm not sure it's good or bad in Moon, but I finally felt like he was working. And felt like I was riding a lot more horse then I was (when 14.3 hh feels like 17...).

After a couple of energetic canters (no collection there!), I decided to set up some jumps. Two! A little cross rail and a 1.5' vertical.
He was NOT in a jumping mood. He refused the cross rail three times and then finally stepped INTO it, knocking the whole thing over, poles everywhere...oye. The vertical? Kicked the plastic pole riser.

I hopped off, re-set everything up and reminded myself that most of the time, I'm part of the problem. So what was I doing wrong?

For one, I was rushing him towards the jump. Confusing speed with impulsion. Second, I was staring at the jump. Okay, let's try this again...

Beautiful rythym coming through the corner, maintained as we headed to the jump. Instead of staring down at it, I looked at the door ahead, released and went with it. Right over, no knocks. Ahhah.

We did it three more times successfully, and then threw in that vertical again. Nope, he wasn't thinking it was a good idea. Breathe. Rythym. Stop staring at it thinking that I didn't even put the risers straight...

We did the cross-rail again, rounded the corner and I felt him stall out..."Come on buddy!" and he regained his momentum and carried himself over the jump. Woohoo! Look back and realize our loss of momentum? Yeah, that was him pooping midstride...whoops. Didn't even slow to a walk ; )

I called it a day at that. He made it over and he did as I asked. Good pony.
Treats, carrots, Christmas presents. Back out to his paddock. Unfortunately, I learned that his girlfriend is leaving in March, headed to a jumper barn in Ontario. Boourns. Poor Moon-pie.

Lastly, the new stall plaque design...will be unveiled tomorrow night! I decided to give it a second coat of lacquer and because of that, didn't drop it off tonight. And since I want to surprise the individual who commissioned it first, you'll have to wait one more day. I sure hope it's worth it...


Now, let's talk about the newest stall plaque. I'm obviously pretty excited about it.

While I love doing the silhouette style, I've been dreaming of trying some new designs and styles. I love pen and ink drawings of horses and thought, wonder if I can mimic one? I chose a sketch from google and gave it a go (someday I'll dream up my own images, but beginners need to start somewhere). I spent the evening yesterday burning it, and was pleased with the result. This is a Christmas gift commissioned by a friend, and I hope they enjoy it...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Pleasurable Short Rides.

In the spirit of Missy and Mare, I headed to the barn Sunday morning with a santa hat and Moon's new stocking in hand. Only to discover my horse is impossible to pose and I hadn't enough time to try and get good photos if I wanted to ride him too. And I REALLY wanted to ride!

So I wound up with the one above picture. I'll need to get one of that stocking...I made a little "Moon-face" on it that looks just like him! And now it's hanging outside his stall, waiting for Santa Hooves to come visit.

The BF caught me last night staring, over and over again, at the below two pictures. I think I'm just soo proud of how Moon's progressing that I can't help but stare! The top pic was from April, the bottom, from this weekend. Look at the shiny pony! (who's not impressed with my photography...). Anyone see the little stocking hanging??

Our ride was short but wonderful. 25 minutes of walk-trotting, he did tons of transitions and just went great. I'm falling in love with sitting trot, it just improves your communication tenfold. For those of you that said you canter bareback, I dream of becoming you! Perhaps by spring?? And for those that commented on your TB's high wither...have a look at Moon's! Ouch.

 Today I drove down to North Dakota to pick up my parcels, though sadly the new girth and show gear hadn't arrived yet. And won't show up till after Christmas. Boourns. I'm gonna have to gear up and get some 'dressy' photos of us.

I did come back with Moon's new blanket liner, and am IMPRESSED. Schneider's can make a $34 liner look better constructed then some much more expensive products I've come across. From the rubber-reinforcements where the straps run through, to the inclusion of the adjust-a-neck, I'm thrilled! For a liner! For $34! Plus a big back of treats for Christmas, the repair patch for his blanket (going on tomorrow) and some $2 dewormer. Score. Happy Christmas Moon-pie! And of course, all the Christmas presents for the boyfriend : P

After I put Moon back out at W's, I headed over to T's place to give carrots to all the ponies there and drop off a Christmas gift for her. I snapped the photo above as I headed out. It's sad to think Moon's not there anymore, as the place was like home, though when I look at his shiny photograph, I'm thrilled. It'd be hard riding in the ice and snow (and cold...I'm from Manitoba, but I'm still a wimp at -40...).

Hopefully everyone else is well on their way on their Holiday prep. I finished the last of my stall signs due for the holidays, and have a pretty one to show everyone...Tomorrow!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Barely Backed

Friday I managed to get off work a little early, and of course squeezed in a visit with Moon before our annual friends' potluck dinner. I had work's snazzy camera along, but of course couldn't remember how to adjust some of the fine settings and since it was freezing out, couldn't snap a lot of photos before my fingers froze off.

There was a car in the lot so I knew I wasn't alone but am feeling confident enough in my riding abilities that I don't mind sharing the arena. Granted, I still tend to run into people but I'm pretty sure that's a me thing, not a confidence thing!

Inside the barn I noticed Moon's blanket is worsening in condition, and there stood the culprit with his owner. Unfortunately, she's a nice enough woman and it's hard to be held responsible for your horse's misbehavior. The patches come on Monday...

I learned that Curly-horse has a name, but it truly doesn't suit him, not as 'Curly-horse' does. We wound up in the arena together since his owner was just tacking up, an aussie saddle, trail rider who made it pretty clear she'd shown up when she did with the expectation of being alone in the ring. I understand her self-conciousness, having been there myself, but I wasn't about to miss out on my opportunity. After W later asked me how they went in the ring, I think I understand now too why last week the owner wandering in with Curly and then wandered back out...she's apprehensive to ride with others.

I do think she got to feeling a little more relaxed, as we had some conversation towards the end of her (20 minute) ride. Curly-horse is 7 years old, she had him for a year and a half and they've predominately trail ridden. He's better outside then in the ring, she doesn't think he'd do well in a stall (I may have let slip that he's been spending the nights inside when it's cold...funny how some people believe their horse's far less capable then they are) and she was planning on moving him to their new property in the spring.

But enough about Curly-horse. Let's talk about Moon.

We had a first.

I was lazy, so I skipped the saddle. And was nervous about it, since I've never successfully ridden bareback at anything faster then a walk. Except for a terribly bouncy, messy trot. That lasted five short strides. On ANY horse.

Until that day. He warmed up well, I put him into some trot, and while it started out a little rough, I wound up trotting the full lengths of the arena, even doing quick transitions from trot to walk to trot without feeling like I was losing my seat.

I was floored! Or seated I suppose.

We did circles and I could FEEL him trying to push my seat to the outside, which made it easier to consciously sit to the inside. My hands got steadier, my seat got solider (not a real word) and I couldn't stop smiling.

Granted, it got a little messy again after we stopped for a 10 minute break of chatting with Curly-horse owner, but really overall, I'm thirlled.

Last winter when I got him, I tried and tried to ride bareback and just couldn't. Yesterday I proved that he has come SOOO far in his training...and so have I.

I feel like I joined an elite team. Of superheros. Who can sit the trot, bareback. I'm gonna do it again and again, I swear I will. This is a whole new world where my horse is a luxury sportscar instead of an old beater lawnmower. He just feels incredible to ride and I'm loving it.

I'm still grinning. Especially when I think back to when I walked out of the tack room yesterday and did a double take of him standing there. Wow. He is looking amazing.

Couldn't have asked for a better ride! 

I tried to snap a few more pictures afterwards, but the first couple came out black (whoops) and then Curly-horse became...Curly-horse. See his typical "Pay attention to only me" routine. He also hollers to Moon constantly; Moon doesn't even pay attention.

Unfortunately, after I couldn't get them away from the fence for a better pic. Boourns, the light was even gorgeous.

Today, all I managed was to burn another 6 plaques for the Send-Moon-to-a-Show fund...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

In the Dark.

So it occurred to me today, that I didn't even mention that yesterday's ride started out pretty interesting. And had a good lesson before the riding lesson.

W and I were in the arena, and I was warming Moon up for our lesson. The wind was howling outside and the temperature was dropping yet again. I'm slowly walking Moon around the ring, when suddenly the lights go out.

Pitch black.

Lesson #1? While automatic garage door openers are a wonderful convenience, they become a bit of a giant hazard when the power goes out...especially when the pull-cord to disengage the motor and allow for manual lifting is on the OTHER side of the door!

Our arena has no man-door. Which meant W had to squeeze past the tractor, harrows and jumps to lift the garage door that leads outside. And then walk back around into the dark barn. A windowless barn. In our case, with a young student and a cross-tied horse standing in the middle of it. Thankfully, an old, sedate lesson horse that was content to stand in the dark. Where we left him as we hauled the student out into the arena where the moon was providing light through the fabric walls once your eyes adjusted.

No surprise, the horses are freaking out in the barn, even though it's not like they're never in the dark. Well, I suppose there are night lights in the aisles so to them, it's normally a little light. Calling and banging and general signs of panic ensued.

Thankfully, Moon is a wonderful horse and calmly walked around the arena as though nothing was happening, save one loud reply to the horses calling in the barn. "Clomp, clomp, clomp, whatever", he seemed to be thinking.

Lights suddenly going out: Moon doesn't care. Riding in a dark barn: Moon doesn't care. Horses freaking out in barn: Moon doesn't care. Wind howling in the arena: Moon doesn't care. Small dog wearing jingle bells dashing unannounced under the 1' opening of the arena door in the dark as he's walking by?: Moon CARES!

Jumped half out of his skin and proceeds to snort and stand wild-eyed, ready to bolt if necessary. GER. Seriously time to rethink.

Shortly thereafter, the lights flick back on and W reappears.

Tripped a breaker with all the lights we had on in the barn, tackroom, arena, tackroom heat, watertrough heater, furnace... : P

W's gonna think about putting some flashlights in the barn and relocating the tractor so that we can escape easily with our horses should this ever occur when we're riding alone. Phew. No harm, no foul. But I certainly gave my first thought to emergency planning when at the barn.

Anyone else every think about what they'd do in an emergency? Power outages, being trapped in the arena, even things like if you fell off and were injured when no-one is around or if you found a sick or injured horse? I've got my cellphone charging right now, entered the key numbers in and found a flashlight to keep with me!! : P Important thoughts.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Expense of Experience?

I seem to be back in the swing of things, finally getting a lesson in on Moon and am looking forward to a few more practice rides before I head off on Christmas vacation.

I've a thousand times posted about how Moon will always be the horse I met a year ago in my head, but lately, especially after having a short break in riding, I can't help but see how much he's changed. I attribute soooo much of that to Coach W and her teaching. That's not to say I've been a passenger, but her guidance is what has taken us so far. I was doing the math the other day in preparation for our year end "Financial Review" post and was taken aback by our lesson costs.

Since we came to W in May, I've paid about $850 in lesson fees. Which is equivalent to about 2 months of training fees, but in exchange I've learned a great deal about training a horse in addition to improving a ton of my own faults. Plus learning and improving on a bunch of things I never used to do. Or didn't understand how I was doing!

$850. I don't even feel like that's a lot. Not for what we have gained. It's a small expense to pay for so much knowledge, experience and learning.

Today he was a dream. Granted, he's a bit of a lazy bugger at times and I finally had to pull out the dressage whip. One light tap and he was great the rest of the ride to the point where I got to put it away and carry on.

His transitions are so improved. He's learning to reach down, he did some great 10 m circles, my sitting trot is improving in leaps and bounds and he did a great shoulder-fore down the long side. Leg yielding, awesome. We even did some extension-collection work and he gave it a good effort.

W helped me correct his counter bending on the circle, giving me a great analogy. She compared him to a tipping chair. When he's falling out, you're not going to correct him by pushing him out. As you can't keep a tipping chair upright by pushing it in the direction it's falling. You instead need to push from the opposite side, and straighten the chair. THEN you can move it back out.

So I began straightening him with outside leg, THEN bending him into the circle, with a little lift to get him to lift his shoulder. Since it's the stiff side, it was a bit more work but when he got it, he got it. Woohoo!

She promised next week is canter...we hope! : )

Some arena observers were commenting on his lovely trot, which apparently is soo big for a little horse. W says he'll excel at piaffe and such because of how he rounds his little body and moves...*shrug*, okay. To be honest, all I want is a canter circle. Screw piaffe and passage. ; )

No matter what though, I'm in love with him whether he's spectacular or not. Truthfully, he'll be whatever he'll be, and I don't care. He's already a thousand times more amazing to ride then I ever expected, and we're only 8 months in.

Someone remind me how much longer it is till show season starts??!

Life is good.

With the temperatures back on the rise, my cold nearly forgotten and the promise of hot chocolate afterward at a close friend's house, I was off to the barn yesterday in great spirits. Moon and I walked in the door and as I approached the cross ties, something

Laying on the ground was a glove. A piece of hoof. A brush. Odd...Wendy is not sloppy and while there's stuff in the barn, it's never a mess. I opened Moon's stall and tucked him in, knowing something wasn't right...

I rounded the corner of the barn to the long row of stalls and was greeted by a big black head. And blankets strewn about, boots, buckets, halters and leads, everywhere. Nice silly escape artist-pony. Opened the culprit's stall and he wandered right back in, ignoring me as I slide the bolt across. And then resumed his cribbing, the likely cause of his escape in the first place.

W wandered in as I was picking up the debris, clearly wondering why the heck I made such a mess of the barn! Of course, she'd been out just a half hour earlier letting everyone in for dinner, so she didn't expect anyone to break out and start throwing stuff around. Silly pony. At least the feedroom is always closed tightly and the extra feed behind a solid door. The only thing they can ever get into is the rabbit food, and that's only happened once.

When I went to grab Moon I found he'd soiled his stall and the barn rule is to clean up any stall messes made before turn-in. Since the weather was supposed to be warming overnight I started cleaning up knowing he'd be out for the night, only for W to let me know that he'd actually been in during the day, since a cold wind had been blowing. Spoiled! Regardless, I learned how terrible I am at cleaning stalls! There's a true knack to it, lemme tell you. I can pick a pasture wonderfully, but separating poo from straw without throwing too much good stuff away is near impossible!

Our ring ride was awesome, though we didn't get to work on extended trot to canter as there was a lesson going on and I have serious crash-issues. Some days I'm amazed I can drive on the right side of the road and make appropriate turns : P

Moon remained stiff headed left, and was going so far as to invert and twist his head and neck through his 20 m circles as well. He *almost* seemed to not want to ride on the outer hard frozen sand and when forced to would counterbend. But I could also be making excuses for him, since he'd ride happily in those areas going the opposite direction. W at one point yelled "That can probably be fixed with a little leg!"...except a little leg only made him push back into it. Bugger. Which meant three quick leg cues and suddenly the Mr. realized he needed to stop shoving into me. Not that he was happy about it, and continued to try to avoid it every time we came around.

The highlight for me, was walking up the centerline and asking him to trot. He transitioned beautifully (W even commented) and stayed round enough for me to proceed down the line in a smooth sitting trot, and walk to halt perfectly at the end. Man I love riding this horse!

Of course, shortly thereafter J came into the arena to take some photos and Moon's eyes lit up. "Cookie??" As we came around the short side of the ring he comes to a grinding halt in front of J and W and pokes each of them for a cookie. And manages to get two dog cookies for his cuteness!

When we had finished up, a solid 45 minutes of practicing, we headed into the barn and got to meet Curly horse's owner. Who had brought him in to see Moon because he was outside calling. And put him back out. Okay...

W let us know that the barn Christmas party would be closer to New Year's due to everyone's busy schedules, which is absolutely awesome since I'll hopefully be able to attend then. There's some really awesome people at the barn and I think the party will be a blast. I'm hoping to make cupcakes with little fondant horses on top, provided I have the time!

There's just one thing from yesterday I can't put out of my mind...

A little orange kitten.

Him and his brother have moved into the barn and taken up residence. He's the little guy who curled up between Moon's saddle cover and his saddle while I tightened the screws on it, playfully batting the screwdriver. Yesterday he was swatting at Moon's tail while I was grooming him, then proceeding to chew on it. He curled up in his stall in the thick straw, mewing quietly, and chased invisible mice in the ring while we rode.

I'm just smitten. He's a wonderful, sweet adorable kitten, and I lost our childhood family cat last year after 15 or so great years. I kinda miss that presence.

Of course, I'm not fond of cleaning litter boxes, of worrying about the cat clawing the furniture, or dealing with having him looked after when we vacation. But he's soooo cute, and last night when I was telling the BF about him, he came ridiculously close to tell me I could bring him home. DON'T DO THAT!

Doesn't help our dog is a cat lover, and the little furball needs a proper home. And that W's given me permission to take him home if I want...

Which I won't do. A friend played the worst Christmas song yesterday about a dead cat, and I'm feeling sad about it. But I'm not going to take him home. I won't. Someone tell me not to. BAD idea. Not till we move to the farm. Must control self...

Putting that aside, after my ride I got to visit an awesome friend, enjoy a big cup of steaming hot chocolate and gab about ponies, farms and life. The perfect end to a great evening! And I get to do it all over again next week. NOTHING makes it feel more like the Christmas season then yesterday. Friends, family, warm fuzzy creatures and sweet memories.

Life is good. Life is really good.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Baby it's cold outside!

It's cold outside. -24 degrees F, or -31 degrees C. Either way you look at it, it's cold out there. People are already plugging their cars in (I've a new battery with a bazzillion cold cranking amps, so I'm not bothering yet ; ) ), and the command-start is making me feel a little spoiled. Like this evening when I hopped in my pre-heated car and headed out to visit my buddy.

When I walked him through the large door into the barn, he headed RIGHT to his stall door and stuck his head over, almost like he was saying "Can I go in here and warm up? Pease?"

Poor guy. It made me kinda sad, 'cause I hate him being cold and wanting to be inside. Especially after his spoiling last month. Was that really the first time he spent the cool nights curled up in his own little personal space on a fluffy bed of straw? I truly wish I could give him that every night...makes me feel kinda crummy. Which is silly since he used to be out all winter, pushed out of the shelter and with no blanket. Just his warm fuzzies to keep him warm. He hasn't got it so bad now, no he hasn't.

Regardless, the barn was nice and warm, so it didn't take long for him to start thawing out. His whiskers were icicles and he didn't seem very happy with the cold metal of his halter against his cheeks. Poor fellow. But quickly he was standing in a little puddle of water and happily enjoying the warmth and the grooming that came with it. I'm certain that my new blanket liner will arrive just in time (picking it up next Monday), and he'll need it during the DAY by January for sure!

Just as I was starting to tack him up, W's dad came in and told me not to put him outside when I was done. Say what?

Well, they just can't bare to leave the guys outside when it's that cold, so Mr. Moon and Curly-Horse each had a stall for the night. And apparently were in for the night last night too. AWWWW! It's things like that which make me rethink my earlier "I want my pony at home". Granted, I'll always wish he was in my backyard (some of you are so incredibly lucky; please don't EVER take that for granted, even when you're throwing hay on the cold nights or building smudges on the hot ones). But it's nice to know that there's people caring and loving him. Sure, blankets will be beaten up, but it's a small price in exchange for my buddy's warm night's sleep. : ) Thanks W and W's dad and mom. : )

Of course, W's dad lavished Moon with some more praises. Apparently he needs to give lessons to the other horses in stall keeping, since he's the perfect tidy horse in his stall. : ) One more reason why it'll be great when he's at home. Easy keeper.

Out in the arena he felt wonderful. It's amazing when you get back on your horse after a week off. I could tell how much he's changed since I got him. Even more since when we started lessons with W. Even the way he LOOKS when I'm riding him; his stronger neck and movement.

I did some AMAZING sitting trot going STRAIGHT down the centre of the arena! omg, too wonderful. I felt like a professional (okay, it wasn't NEARLY that good, but for us, it was spectacular). I wasn't even bouncing everywhere and when I neared where I wanted to halt, we sunk into a beautiful halt, with just one back hoof out of place. Score.

Our sitting trot circles to the right were great, but to the left he was noticable stiff. Err. We practiced and warmed up and transitioned. Finally I worked on our extended trot...which led to Canter! I'm not sure who suggested it (sorry, I'm too lazy to look back in the comments, but you know who you are, and yes, I was listening to you!), but it worked. GRANTED, unfortunately he just couldn't keep it together for the turn. Even for a stride. Boourns. But we'll figure it out. That we will.

Then I figured, let's jump.

Setup a cross rail, higher on the edges then we've done since moving to W's. And had an interesting discovery, which all of you must already know.

DRIVE. Apparently your horse won't actually jump if you let him slow to a crawl on the approach to the jump. And then will just sort of smack into it and stumble over. Huh. You don't say (yes, stop laughing, I AM this clueless sometimes!).

So I started driving him when he would slow on the approach and voila, JUMP!

Second lesson learned. Don't jump with your stirrups set for dressage work. He WAY over jumped it twice and I had zero support since my legs were too long. Thankfully I kept my hands out of the way from bashing his mouth and he landed nicely and slowed right away. Hmmmm...noted for next time.

So after a couple of passes over the jump and him not whaleping...waleping...okay, I can't figure out the spelling on that one...whacking himself on the poles, I decided to call it an end to our ride. He'd done well and I was proud of him.

And not following my own advice, I got out the lunge line and practiced that : P

Going right he did great, going left he was confused. Or maybe that was the earlier stiffness still in effect?? I DID ask him for an extended trot and he gave it to me...but on the circle would not transition to a canter. oye.

What did I do next? Lunged him over the jump for the first time. : P

I love that horse. He gave it some funny eyes and then popped over on the lunge line! Awww! The second time, guess who forgot to drive him forward to it? And guess who then decided that they'd stop and just kick at it with their front hooves while standing still? Moon, that's who. So I got in front of the jump and led him over it. My bad.

Finished with a nice trot circle and a couple steps of walk. All done. Really. I promise this time.

And after a quick grooming he was in his warm stall, lapping his treats from his bucket and searching for leftover hay. I think I left a very happy horse tonight, which makes me very happy too. Can't wait to see him again tomorrow : )

Wanna go home.

So as time elapses in my pony-ownership adventure, I realize more and more how desperately I wish I could take Moon home. Home, being to live in a big pasture next to me, where I'm his primary care giver, where the other horses in his paddock are horses of my choosing and where I'm responsible for his food, his care and his everything.

Some people would say they'd rather not, as not being the primary gives you more free time, to ride say. But the care part is an enjoyable part of the process. It's not a time-eatter, it's time to be spending with him.

All of this has left me contemplating some awful, near impossible sounding thoughts.

...I know a fellow close to home who has an old cattle barn and pasture, that's been sitting vacant for years. A couple years ago he had it listed as for rent...

It's a cute little barn, and with some replacement fencing, it'd be perfect. I've already got a spool of HT wire at home and the small paddock already has posts...The large pasture I was planning on fencing eventually anyway...

I'm set-up to haul hay, have a tractor on-site for clearing the snow for access and there's electricity for a water-trough heater...

Would it be nutty to move him there next winter? And look after all of his care?

Yeah, it probably would. : (

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Thousand Christmas Wishes

In2Paints recently had a contest where participants had to choose a template from My Memories Digital Scrapbooking and identify the memory they would want to capture.

For me, it was an easy choice. A beautiful template that proclaimed "Christmas glows with love". That is Christmas for me. And one of my fondest memories was last December when I opened a box to find a beautifully framed photograph of MoonSox, complete with every girl's dream: the words "All I want for Christmas is Sand to be my owner". He was mine. All mine. My first horse.

So In2Paints, I promised you a preview of my first designs in the awesome new software I was lucky enough to win thanks to Lilly's discerning taste buds. Thank you for the opportunity to capture that special memory, and I will definately be having this one bound.

"A thousand Christmas wishes,
A thousand more that came before
'Till that single Christmas moment,
when she found what she'd been praying for."

Know when to hold'em; know when to fold'em...

The BF and I went out to visit Mr. Moon this evening since I wanted to drag him to a local tack store to show him what long lines and a surcingle is. The saleswoman kept trying to convince me that draw reins were the same as long lines (which aren't even close) and then decided I could just use two lunge lines...NOT what I was going for.

I did manage to find a local store that sells 'ground driving reins' which are essentially the same as what I want. Gees, tack store people can be so clueless sometimes.

Off we went to the barn, and it was wonderful to see my boy again after soo long apart. Inside the barn I was sad to see what Curly horse is the brute I believed her to be. Moon had two nice scabs and patches of missing hair on his neck (clearly bite wounds), plus three beautiful (that's sarcasm) small holes in the arse of his new blanket. *sigh*

The fabric had lots of marrs from what is very clearly another horse trying to bite him. Thankfully the holes are quite small and the runs don't go through. Bless 1200 denier Schneider's blankets. And here I was thinking I needlessly purchased that patch kit from them last week! Looks like I'll be using it.

Irritates me a ton, largely because before Curly horse his blanket didn't have a single mark in it. He's sooo easy on blankets but no blanket can win against a bully. Looks like my cheap sheet idea is gonna turn out badly as she'll rip it off of him in one go. Aurgh. His girlfriend Ebony NEVER touched his blanket. Ger. Other people's horses are expensive.

We took the Mr. out into the ring with his lunging gear on since I wasn't feeling up to riding yet. Too stuffy to breath properly and no stamina yet. He started out lovely and the BF was amazed by how well he responded to my commands. He transitioned great and was moving beautifully...until some foolish person (aka. me) decided they wanted to get him to canter.

Remember how Moon won't canter under saddle in the arena for me? I thought maybe he would do better without me there on his back, plus he was flexing nicely and soft on the lunge...there was no better time...

Apparently there is.

He didn't get it. I was pretty sure he just didn't understand what I wanted. So I snapped the whip at the ground near his hinny.

90% of horses out there would take off. I can promise you that much. They would either move into a lovely canter or bolt in a freaked out gallop. I've never cracked the whip near Moon before (didn't touch him mind you), and certainly this behavior would illicit a faster moving horse...

Not in my Moon.

He stopped dead.

So I snapped it again.

He jumped sideways and then turned in to look at me on the circle. Standing stock still. FROZEN.

And wouldn't move off again. Nothing I did would get him to go. Even irritatingly poking him in the bum. He just shook a hind leg or two at the lunge whip. And stood there glaring at me.

The BF, the awesome guy that he is (keep in mind, he's not a horse-person) walked up to Moon, grabbed the lunge line near his cavesson and started walking him around in front of me. Then he jogged so Moon would trot. Back out on the circle and I pretended I was lunging him (well, both of them....anyone ever lunge their boyfriend before??!) hoping Moon would simply carry on.

He didn't. As soon as the BF stopped, Moon stopped. And even when I tried to keep driving him forward, he would FREEZE and turn in to look at me. Yes, my horse's reaction to pressure is ALWAYS to push back. Bugger.

I tried and tried and tried. I was getting frustrated, I must admit. I wanted at least ONE circle to prove I hadn't ruined my horse. I was the one who taught him to lunge, he's only had maybe 12 sessions over the last 8 months and now I'd ruined it all. Aurgh.

Then I hear the BF: "Maybe this is like Cesar Milan? Maybe you're asking him too much? You're like 'Trot, trot, trot, snap whip, snap whip, trot, snap whip, trot'. Cesar would tell you to only ask once..."

Best boyfriend ever. And god bless Cesar Milan.

The BF offered to hold the end of the line at the center of the circle. I moved out and TOLD Moon to move out at a trot. When he didn't do it, I stopped asking and just increased the pressure. And kept increasing it until he moved out. Then I stopped moving the whip at all. When he slowed, I reapplied the pressure until he listened.

The nice thing was that having the BF at the end of the lead  was that as I needed I could walk forward towards Moon to apply more pressure, without the lunge line going slack. Eventually he was moving well again (although he had too much tension on the line and was braced against it), and I managed to slowly move back into the centre of the circle and take the line from the BF.

We did two more trot circles before the BF reminded me to end on a good note. I walked him, halted him and brought him into the middle of the circle. And we lavished him with praise.

Oye. This lunging thing is going to be a bit of a training thing again thanks to me. But at least he ended today doing the right thing. Tomorrow we'll practice again and then I'll put a little ride on him. Maybe I can drag my Horse-Trainer boyfriend out with me again to assist! : P

And Moon's still good sweet horse, even if his reaction to scary things is to stand stock still...good thing the lunge whip wasn't a wolf : P

My lesson from today? "...know when I should walk away; know when Moon should run." ; )