Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Voodoo Pony-Dolls & Tiny Breech-Wearing Effigies

And for every day we find redemption, there is another to follow where it all falls away...

Yesterday I would have only summed up our ride as "WWWAAAAAAAA!", today it feels more like "BRAUGH!!!"

Yesterday I felt like yanking all of our gear off, throwing it to the arena floor, stomping on it a few times, maybe even throwing myself to the ground and banging my fists on the arena floor as the sand rose around me and dust filled the air. Perhaps I'd spend a few more moments clutching my dressage saddle, rocking slowly and just quietly wailing.

Perhaps. If I was, you know, that kind of person.

Instead I nodded, listened, bit back my frustration and self-doubt and carried on practicing for 20 more minutes. It certainly didn't make me feel as good as I'm sure pounding the sand may have, but at least there was no need for laundry or washing the debris from the bottom of the shower later that night. One must focus on the small perks...

I did at one point offer W the reins, in what I'm pretty sure she took as humor. I am a funny person, let's be honest. But in truth, it was a quiet plea to just spare me my own continued frustrations and failings. I don't often ask others to fix my problems, but this one has me plum tuckered.


I've spent the last couple hours trying to make myself feel better, saying all the things one would say to a person like myself. "Oh, it's only 15 minutes of practicing 3 times a week for 6 weeks! You think he'd get it in just 5 hours?"

5 hours is like 6000 dog hours. And...a lot of horse hours. So yes, yes I do.

"He's never had to do it right for 12 years. You can't expect it to change overnight."

It hasn't been overnight. It's been forever. Maybe forever plus a day. My calendar doesn't go that far back...

"You're not a pro. You can't expect it to go as quickly as a pro since you're both learning."

So why am I up here teaching?

"These things take time."


End of debate, end of conversation, end.


So let me tell you about yesterday.

We warmed up with another lesson going on in the ring. He was a good boy, perhaps a bit tired and slow from two days of work. We moved on to shoulder-in and I aimed to get the same beautiful canter depart in the corner that I got the day previous.

I got flustered, as I knew W had one eye on me, even though she had the other on her lesson. She knows we've struggled at this. We fell apart, had no canter, just a lot of rushing and we went back to shoulder-in.

We tried twice more and each time I could honestly SEE W watching us. Someone should probably point out that if you plan on showing, you'd best get used to people watching and critiquing you. You should. I haven't.

I've always struggled more with people I know then people I don't. It matters a lot more to me if W thinks I'm an incompetent ninny who shouldn't own a horse and if she teaches me for the next 8 years, I'll never manage a proper canter depart. Some people's opinions matter and I hate disappointing.

Finally on our fourth attempt we depart properly and make a half circle of the ring. We come back to a trot, slow to a halt and I'm grinning proudly and turn to W.

"Good, right?!" I ask exuding great pride.

"Wrong lead."

It was a merely a statement. There was no judgement, no condemnation, no disappointment. Just a statement. Like a scratch and win card saying "Please try again".


My mind suddenly reeled that maybe I have ZERO clue when I'm on the correct lead! Maybe I spent the whole day previous "thinking" we were striking off on the correct lead when really he's just perfecting the counter-canter?! Maybe it's all in my head and we're a great big freakin' disaster. I'm wholly inept. Perhaps I've been teaching him WRONG all these weeks and only taken things from bad to worse. 3 loops of COUNTER CANTER?! Is it possible? Am I that clueless? Or do we merely flop back and forth between right and wrong and I've only managed to confuse the poor boy because everything yields a reward because I'm too clueless to tell the difference?

I suddenly didn't know the answer to ANY of my questions. I desperately wished I had just ONE on video so I could reassure myself that Monday was not some success created by a desperate mind. What felt like the correct canter, was the correct canter. But now...

I don't know.


And that's where I wanted to unsaddle my boy and have a childlike tantrum. Where for the first time in our training I seriously wanted to hand him over for professional training before I made a great mess of it all. Where I wanted to admit defeat.

Not for Moon's fault. It's not his in the slightest. It's mine. And I don't know how to teach him canter properly.

And THAT pains me.


We continued to practice but I put the canter aside. It just stung and the wound was too fresh. I lost all confidence in my abilities and why practice if I can't even tell he's on the correct lead??

We worked on some more shoulder-in and bending. Finally I ran through a mock Dressage test, but he was completely obstinate to circling left. Either I was so stiff and frustrated up there that I was messing him up, or he was sore. I don't even know anymore...

After two failed attempts and him suddenly spooking at the stupidest of things (the mounting block, a know, things that have been in the SAME place in the arena for the last 9 months and he's NEVER even glanced at previously). So I made him move past those objects without shying and then called it a day. A long day.


I only noted two things after untacking him and checking every leg and hoof for heat or swelling, and neither is particularly notable. One was that he still has pretty obvious sole bruising on his right fore. The sole is bright red in two spots though he's not sore when I press on them with my hoof pick. Not a new phenomena since the bruising was there before his last trim as well.

The other is that his saddle or saddle pad is rubbing his back, just in front of his hindquarters. The hair on both sides has been rubbed short and scraggly. It's no longer shiny and just feels rough. I'm not sure if it's due to the new pad he's been using (just a cotton pad, nothing fancy), or perhaps he's gained muscle to affect saddle fit, or is using his hind quarters more to drive and in turn is more active in that area.

I swapped him back to his merino fleece 1/2 pad to try to alleviate the problem for today's ride and suspect it will take awhile for new hairs to grow. I'm going to contemplate saddle fit and what might be necessary to keep that back panels of our saddle from rubbing. My thought is that either it needs to come up at the back or down at the front. I have a pad that allows for inserts, so perhaps I'll add a back insert and see if that helps him any.

Finally I opted to give him a couple "stretches" from the Equine Fitness book, including the tail pull and leg flexes. Neither seemed to do anything for him, he just stood there disinterested. I also tried to give him a bit of a back massage, but he was more interested in making faces at a mare or scarfing through the garbage bins.


So now I sit at a total crossroads. Yesterday's sadness over our struggles has worn away to frustration and impatience. I'd LOVE to hand him over to W at this point and ask her to put 30 days on him teaching him what leads are and how to get them. But on the same hand, I'm very proud of what Moon and I have learned together and want to prove to myself that we can overcome this hurdle together as well. Except that I don't have the 14 years or so of steady training I suspect it will take.

Yes, I'm being dramatic. No, I'm not in the mood to care.

There is a clock ticking. And there can't be when it comes to training. But I celebrate another birthday in just 4 weeks. I head to our first show in 9 weeks. I see the end of summer looming, the start of winter approaching, the subsequent spring, summer, fall, winter consumed by building, the years that follow a mixture of life and work and farm development that leaves me yearning for just one simple accomplishment before life consumes my fun: To have a horse that has canter leads.

But perhaps it doesn't matter in the end? He'll always be my rock solid trail buddy, we'll always have plenty to compete at a walk-trot and one does not need leads to gallop across the beach or climb a valley in the woods.

Oh my MoonSox. I'm sorry I just can't get it right to teach you what you need to know.


And I should in advance, thank everyone for the likely words of support and encouragement that follow. Don't worry, I'm not considering the end to our dressage career, I'm not thinking of throwing away our dream of showing this summer, I'm well aware that at not even 30 I'm (hopefully) far from past both youth and fun, and have plenty of time ahead of me, and I'm never giving up on Moon and what we can do together. I'm just frustrated and being mellow dramatic makes me feel better. Lots better. Let me bathe in my sorrow and self-pity for a bit. Tonight's a lesson night so I'm sure W will coax me back into considering that the Moon-pie and I are the best candidates for next year's Olympics and such. But for this morning...and maybe this afternoon...I'll just wrap myself in the belief of utter failure until my annoyingly stubborn self resolves that we'll train six days a week twice a day for the next two months until that canter makes a frigg'en appearance.

Trust me, I'm stubborn that way.

And, should anyone want to include a miracle cure in their comment, something that in 4 easy steps yields perfect canter leads, I'll subscribe and do whatever weird or perplexing ritual is required to achieve it. Be it moonlight collection of herbs and the consumption of weird concoctions, or voodoo pony dolls and tiny breech-wearing effigies.

I mean, seriously, I'm getting desperate here. ; )

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Redemption Inc.

I don't know about any of you, but when I have a bad ride it nags me. Like a three year old who missed snack time. Over and over again, it's all I can think about. How I could have rode it better, what I did wrong, how I affected my horse, what may have been bothering Moon, what W would have said if she was there...

Yesterday I ditched out on yoga and went back to the barn. I wasn't sure at first it was a good idea but I just needed to get that nagging-nelly off my shoulder.

Especially with just 9 weeks to the start of show season! I kept imagining us, our first show, him being that obstinate and us managing to trot right over the little white ring markers and wind up DQ'd our first time out. Yes, I realize we're probably not going to be in the ribbons, but I'd REALLY like to at least finish the test!

Moon actually trotted up to the fence to meet me when I arrived. Since everyone else was still in the run-in, I have to wonder if he's actually looking forward to me bringing him in and working? That or he's a foolish little pony.

I started our warm-up focusing on me. Releasing my tension, stretching and relaxing into the saddle. Thinking about my position and how it should feel. Imaging my legs wrapping around his barrel, my body aligned, my shoulders back and my seat in contact with the saddle.

Then we worked on loosening Moon. Lots of bending and flexing and changes in direction. Trot to walk to trot and such. We moved to shoulder-in at a walk and then a trot. I focused hard on not tilting my body when I applied my aids, or cocking my head in the direction I wanted him to move. The whole thing reminds me of when I was a little kid, about 5 or so and we would play our computer games with a joystick. My mom would go CRAZY because when we wanted to turn our character to the right in an exciting portion of the game, we'd actually whip our arms and the controller in that direction! It seems instinctual. If I move that way, everything will just follow...

Fixing myself up, I actually found I was better able to apply my leg aid. At a trot, his shoulder-in going right was great for a newbie and I felt like he understood what I was asking of him. After he nearly broke into canter a couple of times coming down the short side, I thought, "maybe this is where we canter off?"

When we came around again, I shoulder-in'd him into the corner and then asked for a canter depart. I got the wrong lead out of him so we made a nice 10 m circle and tried again from shoulder-in.

Guess who got the correct lead? : )

When he went to slow down, I did as W had instructed and instead of trying to drive him with my seat, I stayed where I was and just gave him a quick "bop" with my legs. I probably looked like I was trying to make snow angels on his back : P

And he SOARED forward continuing around the ring.

We stopped and I lavished praise and treats on him. What a good boy!

Some change of direction, walk-trot transitions and leg yielding later, I felt like he was ready to try again. Shoulder-in to the corner and ask...

...Correct lead!!! : )

We whizzed around the ring. He unbalanced on his corner and slowed. Quick "bop" and he picked himself up and carried on. We circled three times around the ring, making 30 m circles. He wasn't beautifully balanced and he was certainly strung out ("bop" yields us a sudden surge in power), but we were doing laps, we were on the right lead and I didn't feel like I was working hard to keep it there.

More praise and treats. Little bit of a rest and then back to the routine. I'm really seeing with Moon that continuously doing the same thing leads to resistance and irritation in him. He decides that he knows what you want and is just going to bull through it, rather then wait for you to ask. So instead I need to constantly change it up, constantly swap back and forth, left and right. Keep him paying attention to me and what I want.

We went back to the shoulder-in down the other side and as we neared the corner, "Canter!"

Correct lead.

Around and around we went, less need for bopping at this point.

Once more on the far side, once again on the correct lead. SCORE!

I walked him out on a loose rein and then gathered him back up to try to the left.

Oh, Hello Mr. Stiff-Side.

I could FEEL that he wasn't being obstinate, he was actually struggling to do as I asked. He'd give me one or two steps of shoulder-in at the trot and you could read the tension and struggle in his body to get himself bent as I was asking. Then he'd grunt and fall down to a walk, usually moving his jaw all around and bending and distorting his neck. It was as though he almost "locks" when asked to move that way and it's uncomfortable and probably a little painful.

We kept working on softening and loosening him on the left side and while he'd reach down into the bit at a walk and into a trot, he really struggled at the exercises that required more bend out of his body. The shoulder-in frustrated him and after a couple of tries he dissolved in an irritable mess. If you can imagine a horse-hissy fit, he kinda had one. In a typical Moon-passive-aggressive I'm not listening to you sort of way : P

We tried one canter depart in that direction and he picked up the wrong lead. It was hard enough on him that I figured I wouldn't push for it after his success in the other direction. So we did one more to the right, got the right lead and I called it quits for the canter.

We finished up with lots of transitions and changes in direction to get him back to soft and listening. When he was doing a good job again I gave him a nice loose rein and he neck reined around the ring while stretching and cooling off.

So while our canter is not near perfect, I feel a sense of redemption from Sunday. To the right we're doing even better and I can actually see us making improvements and finding success at that gait in that direction in the near future. The other direction...

NOW, the question is, which tests do I do for our first show? W asked us each to pick one test to ride at our practice clinic in March and I can't decide which will be best for us. Tests A and B are very straight forward but I kinda don't think it'll be good for us since each move lasts a very long time. Tests C and D are more difficult but have a ton of changes in direction and in bend, something I could see keeping Moon both loose as well as focused.

Thoughts from anyone? Which tests would you choose??!

Monday, February 27, 2012

So yoga took a week's hiatus as I couldn't get yesterday's ride out of my head. Stiff and bickering it was NOT what I was hoping for some 9 weeks or so before the start of show season. I just couldn't. So I got in my car and headed to the barn this evening.

I had a game plan. I have solutions worked out to everything in my head and I was envisioning success. Yesterday was an off day. Today, we'll be back on track.

Things started out just right. Moon trotting up to the gate on my approach, even though everyone else was still hiding out in the shelter. He did his customary sniff of the garbage can on the way in and then was happy to groomed. I did manage to find ANOTHER bite in his neck with a chunk of skin missing and blood dried or frozen to his fur. I'd REALLY love my horse to have SOME skin left on him come show season...
It occurred to me during my drive out to the barn this weekend, that I have too many "to-dos" and not nearly enough time. I've planned my entire summer around doing EVERYTHING and as the weather starts to warm (...well, it's supposed to anyway...) I suddenly feel panicked that none of it's going to happen!

It's a terrible combination that I think we all experience: time meets dreams meets goals meets reality meets funding.

With all of the entry forms starting to roll out online, I scribbled down every event on my calendar at home. Then sat back and looked at it, mouth agap. The BF just snorted and rolled his eyes. And said "If you showed that to Moon, what would HE do?". We both know he'd eat it and that would be the end of that.

Really, how do you prioritize??! When you're green, new and everything is exciting and wonderful?!

With my frustration over canter, I currently don't see training level until the September competition. I *think* I'll be able to make ONE day of the May Dressage show, BUT that means I'll probably miss out watching one AMAZING event that will never come around again in my lifetime.

And do I do the practice ride Friday night and one or two classes on Saturday?? Where is the money better spent, since we're so new to this we're likely to be a bundle of nerves?? And only have one day to enjoy?

There's two fun shows I want to attend, but one (SIRAS) overlaps with the Eventing Clinic. So these are at a stalemate. I suspect I might have more fun at SIRAS since my confidence of our jumping ability of logs is stunted at the moment. But who knows how I'll feel come springtime and a couple good rides through the park??

There's one more fun show that I could incorporate horse-camping with the BF into. But there's only two classes I'd even consider entering and really am not that interested overall...

Then my new dilemma. If work-trip gets the golden approval, I could extend my stay. At first, I figured I'd take a day or two to just check out the city, but I got carried away on Google last night and had "a moment".

...I could set-up one of those "weekend riding adventures". You know, where you pack out for hours on end in a strange location, galloping widely across the land? The options are AMAZING and while the price is ASTRONOMICAL, I wonder if I'll ever have the chance again? Has anyone ever done one of these and thought "Wow, I'm glad I did that!"?

The logical part of me says I have horse fencing and wells to pay for this year, and this is just "wasting money". But how many times do you travel to London, England, all-expenses paid?? Whoops, just spilled the beans...

Technically, it's a part of my job (the great debate last Friday, of whether I'd be going to Vegas or London and what my job ACTUALLY is). London is part of my job, and now I just need the Associate Deputy Minister to agree. Granted, he said yes to the same job which took me to Mexico City last winter, so how much of a stretch is this one? And two yeses opens the door to the remaining G5 maybe this ISN'T my only chance...

So I'm looking at my calendar, my pocketbook and my dreams. And Moon, who'd be happy doing nothing but gallops across the park all summer. : P

Sunday I also realized that as much as I want to be making steady progress each week, we're struggling. I suspect it's because the lessons are harder now and take longer to physically and mentally adjust to. Getting three rides in between lessons is NOT enough time for me to feel like we practiced anything. He usually gets one ride where we just bicker, one ride where we have fun and don't care about form or function and that leaves one ride where we actually do work.

Staring, staring, staring at my calendar, I'm going to drop down to lessons with W every second week. That means 3 days of TRUE practice between lessons, so we can actually make some progress. We'll do this week's lesson and start skipping off from there. It works out well since I have a business trip to Edmonton, Alberta in two weeks and it's really hard to go away for three days then come back and do a lesson like you have anything resembling skills.

If I'm lucky, Easter Weekend will be the day I haul the pony-trailer home and initiate Project-Wheels. That weekend I'd like to get my rims re-painted, undercarriage and fenders painted, new brakes mounted and wired and the emergency brake mounted and wired. That leaves me two weekends, one to get my dad's assistance on some welding that's needed and cut new rear boards, and one to get it painted inside. Worst case I have to borrow T's trailer for the Beatrix Clinic and ride Moon over to BHP for the dressage show.

On a completely different topic, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are scheduled to perform a musical ride in Teulon for the Interlake Riding Club! How cool is that?! Especially since I went out and saw their head-quarters last summer in Ottawa, and now to see them live (minus the disapointing fact they aren't trained for years and years and years to that skill level...).

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Bicker-Fest

So I thought I was due for a great ride. Moon had three days off, but the fluid was gone in his rear leg and he seemed in a pleasant mood. Even trotted up to the fence to greet me when I arrived...

Things pretty much went downhill from there.
In the ring, he started out spooky, as a small van-full of kids were running up and down from the viewing room (ours is on the second floor) and there was a lot of conversation and noise coming from the barn. Certainly different from our usual late evening rides.
Then another horse joined us and he justed wanted to stare at her and follow her. Until they touched noses and she tried to rip his face off (hardly her fault...I mean, she's a gal)...and he tried to respond by kicking her in the chest (not that he managed to lift his leg that high).

We did some sucky shoulder-in. He was just brace-y.Yanking on my reins, throwing his nose in the sand, pulling on everything, pushing into my legs and just being stubborn. He wasn't remotely forward, and my legs were starting to burn. Even with the dressage whip, he merely turned into a wiggly horse and things continued to go downhill. Add W to the ring, and now I was conscious that I was so tense, frustrated and impatient that we didn't stand a chance at working on our canter departs. I just wanted to ride like a bull. And I knew it. So rather then go someplace I didn't want to, I decided to leave the arena. We'd only go backwards if I started fighting and punishing him, whereas if I just quit, we'd at least stay exactly where we are.

I walked him back out to the barn and then had a bit of a change of heart. I didn't have the patience to get him softening right now, but I DID feel like we would both benefit from a short run through the back field.

Except it was FREEZING out.

We went anyway. No surprise, we hit the open patch and Moon and I just broke into canter. A HUGE canter, since the snow was up to his belly. We rolled along until we got to the end, then turned around and he gave me a huge trot around. Canter back home. It was LOVELY (and cold!).

That was our ride. It was crummy. Really crummy. But the deep snow got him working his back and hind muscles and forced him to get his neck low and use himself. And we had a bit of fun doing it. Sure, it wasn't the ring ride I wanted, but such is the life of a rider. Better a fun ride that does no harm, then riding circles and bickering the whole time.

Untacked, groom and out to his paddock. Of course, lunch had been served and his was waiting for him. Sometimes I wonder how much missing lunch effects him. He can hear them moving around delivering everyone's feed, and he always has to share his when he gets back because otherwise Curly-horse just chases him away. So he really gets 1/2 to 1/3 of his lunch when I force him to work through it. Hmmmm...something to reconsider next time??

The only good news is that W is having a "Learn the Test" mini-clinic where we can sign up to ride through a dressage test under her guidance, get some pointers and learn how we're judged. Plus, a potluck lunch!

Moon and I are signed up for the morning and just have to pick our walk-trot test...hmmmm....any favorites out there???!


Moon'er and I, in our (better then expected with how crummy the ride felt) shoulder-in. Note the three tracks/three visible legs at some portions in the video. He falls in and out of it, but a good try for as resistant as he was.

And yes, I need to straighten my head up!

The Shows are Showing!

I think I've presented this conundrum before, but HOW do folks chose which shows, clinics and events to attend?! Especially when going outside their normal discipline??

It seems that this is the start of the release of every light horse show (LHS) entry form across the province. In the past week, announcements have been made for 5 LHSs and I'm finding myself staring at a stuffed calendar, trying to choose what and where to go. Yes, I want to do them all. Who wouldn't??!

At the moment, we've mailed our form and $$ in for the Beatrix Strebel Clinic at the end of April, which will mark the start of our travels. We're determined to make the three Dressage Winnipeg shows, and they normally have a fun show in August we'll aim for too.

IRC's western weekend is a go as well. Now, what about the rest?!

I've devised a system. Any LHS which is NOT on a dressage weekend and that has at least SIX classes I'd confidently enter, I'll aim to attend. And that's within a reasonable driving distance. That means the SIRAS LHS in Stonewall. Unfortunately, SIRAS is on the same weekend as the Eventing Clinic...

With 7 classes I'd be interested at SIRAS, I'm tempted to skip out on the Eventing clinic...
SIRAS has both a cross-rail class AND a ride and run class. Ride and run looks REALLY neat. One person rides a low x-rail course and then hands their crop off to a runner who runs through the same course. Fastest time wins. Now to convince the BF that he's gonna run it... ; )
This is the same LHS that has the Command class (simon says) I was blogging about a couple days back, and a walk-trot english pleasure, trail class and bareback ride. Add in showmanship and we'd have a pretty neat day. Since it's just one day, it's just a haul-in, haul out sort of deal.

The only other one I'm pretty focussed on, even though I have only a couple classes I'd be interested in, is the Boissevain LHS. Why? Because it's right next to the beautiful Turtle Mountian Provincial park which offers miles of trails and horse camping. Plus, the LHS is combined with their Fair, which has ATV mud bog races for the BF. So a couple days camping, riding the trails (he'll take his mountian bike), a horse show and the BF happy watching dirt being slung. Nice vacation!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Valkenborg Clinic

So I dragged myself out of bed this morning, when the weather was nasty cold, the snow had fallen yet again and the sun was just cresting. And felt like I was off to my first dressage show, rather just heading out to a strange barn to watch my first clinic.

The clinician was Grand Prix rider Armand Valkenborg ( who owns and runs Valkenhof Dressage with his wife. Team Valkenhof trains some of Canada's best young riders, and a morning (even an early morning) spent watching him was testament to his skill.

The first rider was...really talented. I could only stare and watch them move as Armand directed and praised and corrected. I was beyond impressed by the way he was fair in both his correction as well as his praise. If one is that way with their students, they are surely the same with their horse. And of course, it's probably the best way to get the most out of young riders. The clinic however, had riders of all ages and skill levels.

After the first rider (level 3?) finished, next on was a very talented girl (16?) who rode like heaven. Just the way she seemed to flow and mesh with her saddle and horse made me stare. And no surprise, she'd be heading to Armand's this summer to persue her own spot with Canada's young riders.

Armand made a quick comment about all horses from Europe having thrush and the lady who arranged the clinic explained to me that in Europe, they do something called "hot bedding". Which is where they put a thin layer of shavings down in the stall and do not clean it daily. Instead, they add a bit more fresh bedding each day, until at the end of the month, they moved the horses to the aisle-ways, and run a tractor through to scrape out all the old bedding. Then start again. Hence, thrush.

She assured me that this technique doesn't work well here because of the long winters, and it's a good thing because the levels of ammonia in some of those hot bedded barns is just awful.

The second rider was reprimanded a few times about not riding deep enough into her corners and I LOVED watching the clinician. In order to train her to get deep, he used her FATHER as a human pylon and forced her to ride into the corner around him...and if she didn't ride deep and use her outside rein and half-halts...she'd run him over. A few close calls, but she was a quick learner! I think her dad was pleased for a few reasons!

He also spoke about how we don't ride "on-the-wall" and often on a track too far off the wall. This causes our horse to not move truly straight. He worked and worked and worked her, until she had stunning deep corners, leading to a shoulder-in where her horse was NEARLY grazing the arena wall! And then swap over to travers, all beautifully!

Now, second last rider. Everyone seemed to be mounted on imported warmbloods by this point...the barn was packed full of them. One woman even had three or four and some of these crazy talented kids riding them. I sometimes wonder where these people find their riches?! Most adult ammies struggle to keep one horse in training, and these folks have a small arsenal of imported designer ponies (by pony, I mean 16+ was terrifying sitting on a bench IN THE RING as these giants whipped by!). Okay, I'll contain my envy!

Thankfully, while rider #3 was on yet another warmblood, this one was not your "classic" import. Rather, her sister's jumper, redesigned for the dressage ring when her sister headed off to university. Unlike the first two, this fellow was leggy and not as compact. They worked hard together, and I felt kinda bad for the girl who looked less then pleased by the end of her ride. Honestly, she did awesome, but I'm certain she's one of those girls that pushes herself VERY hard.

Last rider felt like she could've been me. Thoroughbred horse, middle age (11?) and they'd been together for two and a half years. She herself had only been doing dressage for that same amount of time and she was a typical adult amateur. Prior to that, she happily rode the trails and hacked out. She was currently showing training level. Yippee, someone to learn from!

I learned about straightness. She had a back problem and rode with one shoulder raised and in turn, her body twisted and her hips disaligned. Armand went into a great visual demonstration on how being uneven through the body effects your seat and your legs. He showed how if you tilt and hunch one side of you, you can't lift the foot on the scrunched side. Until you unscrunch it. Hmmmm...being even matters.

He spent awhile showing the girl where she needed to be to be straight, which she said felt so WRONG. But what was amazing, was what his correction to her position did to her HORSE. He was originally very audible in his breathing (she said it's normal) and his head was carried fairly high. Suddenly by straightening her out, her horse's breathing quieted (no joke!) and his head just dropped. I was FLOORED.

By this point it was lunch time and everyone headed off. I was pleased I'd attended and pretty excited to get out to the barn tomorrow to work with Moon on what we saw. Think about us, me and position. I have to say, I'm beyond interested in taking a clinic with him at some point. I wonder how many things I'm doing wrong that he could identify that would only help Moon??

In the end, I was beginning to reevaluate these "dressage riders" that people describe. The lady arranging the clinic was super friendly and the woman with all the warmbloods even rambled on for awhile about some great quarter horses she'd seen doing dressage (I hadn't even mentioned I had a QH at this point). I'm sure things change when you head to competition mode, but it's not like I'm competition to anyone there! I'm just someone who's truly interested in riding well, and the art of dressage.

Today, inspired me that our slogging around the arena is leading somewhere. Dressage is pretty darn cool, and we just need to keep ourselves challenged and working on new things. Back to the canter strides, right??

So everyone, go out and audit a good clinic. It often costs nothing and there's a wealth of knowledge to be gained!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Oh Crummy...good news?

So it seems, that if I'm REALLY lucky, there's a good chance I won't be able to attend our first scheduled horse show, and the first sanctioned dressage show of the season. If I'm even luckier, I might still manage one crazy and hectic day of showing on the Saturday. And by crazy-hectic, I mean crazy-hectic! As in show all day, bring my boy home, ditch the trailer, get a short nap in and then board a plane...

The details won't follow until everything is approved and finalized. Approval is always a gamble...let's hope my luck stays! I'll probably be bawling my eyes out if approval falls through, as this is a gamble that means no trip to Las Vegas.

Let me say, it would be worth missing out on one dressage show (even though there's only three and registering for membership in all of the groups has already cost me a small fortune).

In other news, tomorrow morning I'm off to watch the Valkenborg dressage clinic and just today discovered the entry form for a very cool light horse show in a nearby town. Early June and perhaps JUST the thing to make up for our (hopefully) missed opportunity. It has both low cross-rails, a walk-trot english pleasure class and a trail class. Also something I've never heard of, but a quick google informed me it's pretty neat, which is "Command Class". Kinda like Simon-says on horseback!

Oh, and a bareback dollar ride (ride bareback without the bill under your bum flying away) and costume class which would both be fun! $30 for unlimited classes all day, or $5 per class. I think I might just make this my back-up show depending on how things go...

Now everyone cross your fingers that I'm approved for my trip, and I'll be able to spill the beans!

Lastly, a picture of my Main-Man, looking all cute (old pictures, but he's been working too hard to model...). He fully supports me going on my trip over the dressage show, as A. He doesn't like working anyway, and B. I promised to bring him something cool home ; )
Moon, just a couple weeks after we first met (and almost two years ago now).

Moon-pie this winter, after a year of being his "only". 

Thoughts to Ponder.

There is probably, no better pick-me-up after a fall then a lesson with the most positive coach on the planet. W is said coach, always praising and supporting and cheering her students on, such that, even the day after landing arse-first in the sand, I can resume feeling like I'm mildly competent and in all truth, my pony does not suddenly hate me. No lasting harm done, right??

My little heart swelled when I walked up to his paddock on Wednesday and he came trotting over to the gate to meet me. It is not often that he comes to me (normally he just stands still wherever he is) and after our jumping mishap, I could only think that my pony does not hold grudges. Yesterday was yesterday, today is today. Inside, since I was early, I gave him a good grooming and found he had a slight bit of fluid buildup in his left hind pastern. Part of me isn't too surprised, since we've had some fluid problems in the hock of that same leg in the past and he'd worked pretty hard for the last two days. But there was no heat and it was something you'd expect of a horse that had been worked. Synovial fluid build-up. Such is the life of an aging horse that's working hard. And yes, he got Thursday and probably today off to rest and relax.

I figured I'd warm-up Moon before our lesson, so that when we started we wouldn't have to spend the first 15 minutes of the lesson on just the warm-up. When W arrived Moon was bending nicely and stretching down to the bit. We showed off our work on the shoulder-in and leg-yield, and boy, is he ever awesome at that lateral stuff. Forward, circles, meh. But lateral? Happy Pony. I swear he was born going sideways.

I've also come to find that I can actually start to control him on a microscopic level. Move just a foot, just a shoulder, just the haunch. And sometimes, I don't even have to think about my aids and such, but they just happen. Freaky.

We moved on to the trot and he was a really good boy, but found trot shoulder-in with a left bend (his hard side) to be pretty difficult. He'd often stop to stretch, roll his head and chew. Just so tight! By the end though, he was trying like a trooper and I could only lavish praise on him. W is impressed by how quickly he seems to get the concept, and while we still have to work on more angle, he's straight and seems to understand what is being asked of him...even if sometimes he just says "this is really hard for me!". I don't blame him. I was aching by this point myself!

She asked to finish with canter departs and boy, that was a struggle. Moon was TIRED with a capital T. He'd done 45 minutes of trotting and shoulder-in-ing and leg yielding and bending like a banana pony. And now I want canter?! Aurgh.

In his "good" direction, he kept picking up the wrong lead. W said she saw nothing troubling or concerning in his canter or depart, he simply didn't know that he had to pick up a specific lead. So he'd lean out onto my leg in an attempt to always depart on his "preferred" lead (being left). At one point, we did half the circle at counter-canter and W started getting all excited. Um, W, this isn't right?...

W explained to me that he balanced himself really well through the corner of his counter-canter, which exemplifies that he's STRAIGHT. Apparently straightness is needed in order to maintain the counter-canter through corners, which is why it's further up the training pyramid. Um, okay, but we haven't mastered NORMAL canter yet!

Finally on our fifth or so attempt, he departed properly and we made it three quarters of the way around the circle. And W stopped to correct ME. Apparently when he starts to peter out, I start driving with my seat. BAD habit from years of lessons, where they tell you to drive with your seat in the canter. W says, nuh-uh, no way. Apparently when I start to drive, he just braces against my seat and puts the brakes on. Counter productive 100%. Whoops...

Instead, once quick "bump" with the legs and back to neutral or bring a crop and one quick tap. Legs always back to neutral and always keep your seat neutral. No more driving. No more "polishing the saddle with my seat". <Insert guilty face>

She asked me to do one depart on the other lead and boy, tired pony wanted none of that. Kept slowing to a walk or trying to just run off. Finally he just did it, unhappy, sprinted a straight length, cut the corner and slowed back to trot. W and I both knew it wasn't a quality canter simply because he was a tired pony (we were over an hour already). But again, nothing to be concerned about. Just more practice and experience needed. She assured me that our shoulder-in would help tremendously with the canter and so, we'll keep practicing.

The Moon-pie was happy to return to bed, scarfing down the treats I handed him and wandering off to find a quiet place to relax. Lesson successful.

But there are two things left in my head after my most recent rides:

One is that some days, I'm bored. Perhaps it's the winter blues that have been plaguing everyone, but there are moments when I feel like we've spent 9 months traipsing around a ring. Today, 12 attempts at shoulder-in might be thrilling. Tomorrow, it's another lap around the arena, another trot depart, another loop. Riding is, a sport of patience I suppose, but right now, I'm impatient. Show season feels a million miles away, we seem to be stuck without a canter for over two months of trying now, and all we have to look forward to in the next two months is more canter departs and loops around the arena. Oh YAWN. It AMAZES me some days how people can be perfectly happy ring-riding for weeks, months, even years on end. It's most certainly, not for me. I think I'm officially ring-sour.

The other thing, is how wonderfully right for me, my Moon-pie is. I've read, watched and listened to a lot of people search for their heart-horse, even one coming to the realisation that their horse is not right for them this very week. Moon should be renamed "Jack". Because he is a jack-of-all-trades. He truly is not stellar at anything, but he has the heart to give anything a try. I am NEVER scared of him. After a fall, after a spook, after anything. He's always just my buddy, and always there for me.

Anyway, last night I was off to an IRC meeting that was moved into the city to spare me the long drive in the bad weather, and then Saturday morning I'm really hoping to make it to watch the Valkenborg Dressage Clinic. It'll be the first clinic I'll get to watch and certainly something to be learned. If I luck out, I might sneak in a short trail ride with the Moonpie in the afternoon. I have 8 or 10 projects to attend to this weekend, which is probably okay considering the cooling temps. Where IS spring?!

Lastly, I've had a couple of inspirational conversations lately and wanted to share them. While only one was specifically horse related, they both easily apply.


"Know your limits, but alike, give you and your horse some credit. You don't learn unless you try, you don't get better if you don't keep trying, and you'll never know if you don't try...It's just something you haven't done together. Bet you didn't know you could sit his trot either. Bet that was just as uncomfortable and weird for him as it was watching you come flying off his back :) hee hee. Maybe you threw the jump up a little too high. But heck, if we didn't push we wouldn't learn to slow down a bit :)"


A time comes in your life when you finally get it…when, in the midst of all your fears and insanity, you stop dead in your tracks and somewhere the voice inside your head cries out…ENOUGH! Enough fighting and crying and blaming and struggling to hold on. Then, like a child quieting down after a tantrum, you blink back your tears and begin to look at the world through new eyes.


You realize it’s time to stop hoping and waiting for something to change, or for happiness, safety and security to magically appear over the next horizon.

You realize that in the real world there aren’t always fairy tale endings, and that any guarantee of “happily ever after” must begin with you…and in the process a sense of serenity is born of acceptance.

You awaken to the fact that you are not perfect and that not everyone will always love, appreciate or approve of who or what you are…and that’s OK. They are entitled to their own views and opinions.

You learn the importance of loving and championing yourself…and in the process a sense of new found confidence is born of self-approval.

Your stop complaining and blaming other people for the things they did to you – or didn’t do for you – and you learn that the only thing you can really count on is the unexpected.

You learn that people don’t always say what they mean or mean what they say and that not everyone will always be there for you and everything isn’t always about you.

So, you learn to stand on your own and to take care of yourself…and in the process a sense of safety and security is born of self-reliance.

You stop judging and pointing fingers and you begin to accept people as they are and to overlook their shortcomings and human frailties…and in the process a sense of peace and contentment is born of forgiveness.

You learn to open up to new worlds and different points of view. You begin reassessing and redefining who you are and what you really stand for.

You learn the difference between wanting and needing and you begin to discard the doctrines and values you’ve outgrown, or should never have bought into to begin with.

You learn that there is power and glory in creating and contributing and you stop maneuvering through life merely as a “consumer” looking for you next fix.

You learn that principles such as honesty and integrity are not the outdated ideals of a bygone era, but the mortar that holds together the foundation upon which you must build a life.

You learn that you don’t know everything, it’s not your job to save the world and that you can’t teach a pig to sing. You learn the only cross to bear is the one you choose to carry and that martyrs get burned at the stake.

Then you learn about love. You learn to look at relationships as they really are and not as you would have them be. You learn that alone does not mean lonely.

You stop trying to control people, situations and outcomes. You learn to distinguish between guilt and responsibility and the importance of setting boundaries and learning to say NO.

You also stop working so hard at putting your feelings aside, smoothing things over and ignoring your needs.

You learn that your body really is your temple. You begin to care for it and treat it with respect. You begin to eat a balanced diet, drinking more water, and take more time to exercise.

You learn that being tired fuels doubt, fear, and uncertainty and so you take more time to rest. And, just food fuels the body, laughter fuels our soul. So you take more time to laugh and to play.

You learn that, for the most part, you get in life what you deserve, and that much of life truly is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You learn that anything worth achieving is worth working for and that wishing for something to happen is different than working toward making it happen.

More importantly, you learn that in order to achieve success you need direction, discipline and perseverance. You learn that no one can do it all alone, and that it’s OK to risk asking for help.

You learn the only thing you must truly fear is fear itself. You learn to step right into and through your fears because you know that whatever happens you can handle it and to give in to fear is to give away the right to live life on your own terms.

You learn to fight for your life and not to squander it living under a cloud of impending doom.

You learn that life isn’t always fair, you don’t always get what you think you deserve and that sometimes bad things happen to unsuspecting, good people…and you lean not to always take it personally.

You learn that nobody’s punishing you and everything isn’t always somebody’s fault. It’s just life happening. You learn to admit when you are wrong and to build bridges instead of walls.

You lean that negative feelings such as anger, envy and resentment must be understood and redirected or they will suffocate the life out of you and poison the universe that surrounds you.

You learn to be thankful and to take comfort in many of the simple things we take for granted, things that millions of people upon the earth can only dream about: a full refrigerator, clean running water, a soft warm bed, a long hot shower.

Then, you begin to take responsibility for yourself by yourself and you make yourself a promise to never betray yourself and to never, ever settle for less than you heart’s desire.

You make it a point to keep smiling, to keep trusting, and to stay open to every wonderful possibility.

Finally, with courage in your heart, you take a stand, you take a deep breath, and you begin to design the life you want to live as best as you can......

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Face-Dirt Phenomenon.

We've all had face-palm moments. Occasions when something that never seemed clear suddenly make perfect sense and you can only smack yourself with the realization.

Today I present to you, my face-dirt moment. A step above the face-palm.

Despite treacherous roads, I headed out to the barn yesterday. There had been a collision that led to a loss of life earlier in the day, but I knew I'd be driving nice and cautiously and the roads had been cleared by the increase in traffic by this late hour. Granted, as I rounded the first piece of highway on my drive I was greeted by a police car rushing past and a collection of emergency vehicles at the intersection. T-boned car, truck half lodged in the hood of it, and a van 200 yards away, stuck in the guy-wires of a hydro pole. Oye.

Needless I made it safely to the barn and despite the roads, there was a lesson going on. Moon was wearing one of W's old blankets (awww...) as I later found out his rain-sheet had frozen to a plank on him. W really does take amazing care of the ponies.

I warmed up with lots of stretching and flexing and for a horse that had traveled so many miles the day previous, he was a good boy. We did some decent shoulder-in practice and lots of leg yielding and small sitting trot circles. His leg yielding even seemed better in both directions and our trot circles weren't too shabby either. By the time the lesson ended and they were leaving the ring, Moon felt pretty loose and relaxed. So I thought, why not make today a pole day?? The ring was empty and it wasn't likely anyone was going to show up at this late hour...

I've been reading the "Jump with Joy" book I purchased last month and it's great. I decided to work through their second exercise which was a couple of trot poles to a x-rail. I set it up and Moon and I trotted beautifully through it a half-dozen times. He was solid and I felt pretty good myself. I thought to myself "Why not try the third exercise then?"

Problem. The book was in the tack room and I didn't really want to go out there to get it. So I tried to set-up the grid without the book for reference. I laid it out but we were short a couple of poles, so I had to make 1/2 an x-rail and remove a couple of trot poles. I set up the vertical after the x-rail at 2'.

Moon would come through the x-rail no problem but from his trot, just couldn't seem to want to attempt that 2' vertical. Hmmm, I thought, I should just pull out the x-rail to make jump wings and put him through at a canter.

Pure Genius (please note the heavy sarcasm. Occasionally I have the intelligence of a complete idiot).

We cantered up to the 2' vertical and Moon, bless his little QH heart, FLEW over it. I don't doubt for a second that he cleared it by at LEAST 6". We landed and trotted on, many praises and treats later. My pony can jump!!

The wise of us, would call that a day.

I am not so wise.

I made him do it again.

It was selfish. It was indulgent. It was foolish and impractical, poor training and completely my impatience to prove to myself he can jump. It was dumb. Okay, I was dumb.

I cantered him at it again.

But he wasn't so keen this time. He'd lose his momentum right in front of it and drop to a trot. You can't jump it when down shifting. Doesn't happen. He crashed into it once (I mean, he didn't even TRY to lift his feet), pulling the whole thing over. THAT should have been reason enough to quit. But he was avoiding the jump and I wanted to prove to him that he could make it over. He did it before, he just needed a little more drive and he'd do it again.

So I cantered him at it again.

He wavered for a second, considering deeking around the jump block. But jumped anyway. CLEAR over the jump standard (we use those plastic blocks) and I'm quite certain he cleared 2'9" as he didn't touch it with a toe. And I was staring down at it the whole time.

He cleared it by a mile, not a single toe tap and landed on the other side. I was still staring downward past his shoulder and in no way was ready, prepped or skilled enough to ride that big over-jump. After he landed, my momentum carried me onward and I tumbled over his right shoulder, squarely onto my arse in the sand. There was sand down my boots, sand on my face and even sand down my trousers.


Sitting in the sand, my pony standing over me (he didn't even budge as I tumbled off), it suddenly occurred to me: My horse can jump. I can not.


Jumping a lesson horse over 2'6" hunter course does NOT make you a jumper. Riding your horse through a beginner grid with trot poles and an x-rail does NOT mean being able to jump. Staying on during a couple of stupid moments is NOT being a jumper. Jumping a lesson horse over a series of jumps, is NOT being able to jump. I can not jump a greenie. And I've only proved to myself that I am insensitive to my horse.

It's not that he doesn't jump because he can't. He doesn't jump because I CAN'T.

I broke his trust yesterday. I got back on and it took us 6 passes for him to jump a little 12" cross rail. SIX PASSES!

Because of me.

We'll go back to our simple x-rail grid from now on. That's it until spring and lessons with B-A. I need to learn how to jump again, and I need to learn how to do it correctly with him. For him.

So after he jumped the little x-rail for me, I called it a day. Cooled him off and put away all the poles and jumps. Yet I felt like...I was being watched??

The viewing room was dark and the barn from what I knew, was empty. Weird.

We went inside and I untacked him and gave him a good grooming. Lots of treats 'cause he's a good boy. And felt more and more like someone was upstairs. Occasionally I heard a footfall, but no one came down the stairs. I worked slowly, wondering. Was someone watching me ride today? Watching my foolishness? My cheeks flushed. It's one thing to do as you please and make a fool of yourself. But to have someone watching?

Eventually, right as I finished putting everything away, W's mom came downstairs. We exchanged pleasantries. I'm sure my cheeks turned bright red. We didn't speak of any jumping or my riding. It was awkward, for me at least, as I hadn't a clue if tomorrow I'd arrive to find a big sign that read "No Jumping" tacked to the wall. Who knows. But it certainly is weird to know that someone may have been watching you when you didn't know. Weirdness. I literally looked up to see if the viewing room was dark a couple times when I felt like someone was watching, but it was always dark and quiet. Then again, maybe she showed up at the end and it's all in my head. Who knows. I just know our 2' jumping days are currently over. Okay, MY 2' jumping days are over. Maybe Moon can try some free jumping at the next place ; )

Tonight's lesson night and we'll go back to our dressage. Dressage hurts my arse a whole lot less...

Monday, February 20, 2012


So I headed out today to go trail riding with one of the gals from the barn. The horse she rides had some apparent past experience on the trails and it was the leasees first non-commercial trail ride. Ummmm...we'll see how this goes : P

We headed out down the back "forest" and everyone was a fresh but not stupid. We were happily stalked for a good 1/4 mile by a coyote (in broad was 1 pm!) and got turned about in a boggy section (frozen solid but the reeds and snow masked the fact we sunk a good knee deep within it).

Moon decided, in his pure wit and charm, to take a bite of one of these:

That's a bull-rush that went to seed. And my pony thought "Hey, that looks mighty tasty" (keep in mind, this same horse ate large quantities of thistles last fall...).

He quickly discovered, after it stuck to the roof his mouth in all of its seedy glory, that they are neither yummy nor palatable. And, you can't really spit them out. It literally stuck there and my pony stood, mouth agap, seed puff across his mouth like a fuzzy bone in a dog's mouth.


I kindly removed it for him and he seemed much relieved. All I can think was thank the horse-lords it didn't explode in his mouth...based on the mess of seedlings drifting across his hinny...

We eventually found the correct path and headed across a field. My companion (we'll call her J) is married to an animal guy (works in the field of...conservation?) and taught me all about animal tracks. Like the fact that wolves paths run in straight lines because they stalk their prey. Dog, foxes and coyotes track their prey and thus, their paths waver. And slow moving deer (and slow moving horses ; )  ) drag their feet when they walk. Too cool!

She was happily game for a good long ride (I wasn't sure at first if it was going to be one of those 4 mile loop sort of rides) and we made it all the way into the park. I have to admit, I sure got more then I thought I would out of this ride!

For starters, she's spent a lot of time working at the park and was an awesome guide. Every path, every trail. "Turn left here". "Oh, right up that hill...". I can NOW navigate through the park from W's and actually find INTERESTING trails.

We climbed up a hill where kids and their dad were tobogganing and visited the sites of Folk Fest, including all the outcroppings and stage sites. The best?

The wide open Folk Fest (it's a local "hippy" festival, complete with outdoor stages, dope and dancing in the mud...I say that with kindness : ) ) field. This "field" is really a huge expanse of grass with small rolling hills, which at this point is a great big field of virgin white snow.

I've been trail riding with a fair number of folks and it tends to be a nice slow walk over many miles. Fine for chatting but my pony and I love a good run. We do. But would someone on their first "true" trail ride on a leased horse feel like a run??

She did!

And the horses rolled out, perfectly side-by-side, paces matched in the most lovely canter. The snow was deep enough to both keep them from rushing as well as forcing them to have large, uphill movements. Oh and they moved!

We cantered like that for a good long time across that beautiful white field, both smiling from ear to ear. THAT is the REASON I trail ride.

HAD either of us been the other's spouse, it surely would have been something out of a romantic soddy movie. Well, minus the lack of a sunset ; )

We headed back down a trail made for horse-driving and back down the road towards W's, leaving the park behind us. It was already getting later and with the overcast that rolled in, it would be best to start on the 3.5 miles to home.

The horses were both lightly sweated, but we'd been free of any major mishaps (just one spook that didn't leave anyone on the ground). So we walked along in the wide ditch following the snowmobile paths.

At one point, Mr. Moon got into a deep patch and sunk up to his knees.

And kinda leaned over to one side, like he was laying down. And just stayed like that.


I thought maybe his leg had caught on something and broke. Or there was a hidden culvert that had debrided his legs. Or he had colic'd and gone down right there on the trail. Maybe it was exhaustion or a heart attack?!

So I stepped off him (my saddle was right at snow level so it was hardly any effort) and held the reins.

And Moon gave himself a good rub against the snow.


"Come-on. Get up boy" I said to him, holding the reins.

And he popped back up and walked over onto the harder pack. Not sore, not showing any apparent signs of anything.

My best guess, he was hot and itchy and just wanted a good rub. And since he'd already sunk to the perfect rolling level, he might as well ask me to step off and have his scratch and rub right there.

What was so strange was how he literally just paused right there and waited for me to get off. I wasn't half-pinned beneath him or anything. He didn't even rub my saddle, just his lower belly and side of his head and face. Weird.

The rest of the ride home was uneventful, minus a light rain rolling in and a cold wind.

Three and a half hours of trail riding awesomeness.

Hopefully Moon isn't suffering any sort of illness or malaise (he DID try to eat a bull rush...and THAT can't be easy on the system), and we can say we had an trail ride with a new barn-buddy. Maybe we'll even get to go again!

8 and a bit miles...

Wonder if he'll be wanting to ride much tomorrow... ; )

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Nuff Said.

Barn, barn, barn I went (last Thursday already!). A little later then usual, but still I went.

Moon was a moon-pie, easy going and generally willing. He starts out just spectacular for me and I can see real improvement in his ability to not only stretch and flex, but also the fact that I feel like we're starting to speak the same language. He responds to me in the way I want him to respond, and that just means lavish praise.

I'm very much hoping that we're building topline and actually engaging those muscles he needs. I struggle a great deal with finding the right 'pace'. Sometimes he seems almost slogging along and pushing into the bit, where other times I feel like he's rushing and just running into it. And in both instances during lessons, W seems quite pleased. So perhaps, I confuse impulsion with rushing and deliberate placement as slogging? Who knows.

Unfortunately, I forgot yet again my shoulder-in cues. I tried a couple times, but I was so confused that I was just confusing Moon. I kept swapping which seat or leg or hand I was asking with and wound up with a rubber-chicken for a horse. Oye.

Canter's were...meh. He just gets so excited that we wind up bickering about it. I'm seeing that he's getting a very clear confusion of the canter cue because of the method I'm using to help him get his correct leads. I work on leg-yielding him out of a circle and encouraging him to bend inward AND lift his nose with a little lift of my inside rein. Except now as soon as I lift, he canter departs. The cue Moon, is my leg! Or perhaps, multiple aids together. It's not the rise.

We didn't work for too long but long enough. He finished with some more neck reining and I'm impressed by how that's coming along. Unfortunately, I didn't realise that he could hear W in the barn and an apparent signal that his bedtime snack was being prepped. He felt it was time to leave, but since I was almost finished anyway, I didn't work him much more.

We currently have a rule that he must accompany me to pick up his droppings in the arena. I expect him to follow me WITHOUT being led around the ring to each pile and stand like a good boy while I shovel them up. He's gotten very good at it and even walks on at the click of my tongue. Except Thursday he would stop 1/2 way to the pile while I was still walking and start turning his head to look at the door. Almost like "I'll wait here. You pick that up and we'll get out of here, 'kay?". Not okay. I had to give a light tug on his noseband to move his little hinny along. By the third pile (he poops a TON when working) he was following nicely. Sometimes I even do silly loops and stuff just to make sure he's following.

In the barn we were greeted by his feed pan, full of wonderful yummies and water. Looked like grain and beet pulp? He lapped it up like crazy, slurping. At one point, he stepped into the dish and was trying to eat around his hoof. Silly pony. It was certainly nice to get to feed him, something I've never gotten to do at W's since I'm normally not there at feeding times.

I re-dressed him in his real cheesy rain-sheet since the weather has been mild but snowing. It fits terrible. His new lycra onsie keeps him from suffering any rubs, but the thing rides up over his hips (I swear it's long enough!) exposing his butt. And then shifts, exposing half his belly and making him look tubbier then ever. But it's keeping him from A. Getting a Chill and B. Sweating so we'll make do. Not everything has to be a fashion statement...

I have also now consistently heard his little 'woofing' as he works. It only appears once he's been warmed up and is feeling very 'loose'. It's so special to me. I can finally have something to judge how my warm-up is working, and at the same time, it's just...peaceful.

Not much else is new. H had an uneventful time holding him for his trim last Sunday, and let me know that he was good boy with all of the quirks I warned her of. Like sticking his head the garbage cans...The farrier had nothing remarkable to add and gave him his regular trim. He's not at all sore, even the day after the trim. His foot shape looks way better then it did previously and he's got a very clear growth line. He also shed a chunk of frog, which is pretty normal.

Today I might hazard a ride on him, but I've a couple odd and sods that are overdue that I need to attend to first. Tomorrow I'm *supposed* to be meeting a gal from the barn for a trail ride, which I'm looking forward to. Only uncertainty is how it'll go! I've never ridden with her or her horse outside the arena and she's never taken said horse trail riding before. Granted, horse is older and has supposed experience, which is to our advantage. Moon-pie is a good trail pony, but he certainly has energy to burn. I may just see if I can take him for a good run today and maybe have him a bit more tired for tomorrow. This IS a horse that will happily canter/gallop the three miles to the park... : P

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Shows you what I know...

Yesterday was one of those 'downer days' as I headed home from work. The office had been abuzz with recent talks of huge government spending cuts and the very real possibility of huge job losses as well. Talk of 30% across the board, which is enough to make even the indeterminate (permanent) employees start to worry. Now the talk is nothing new but it's only in the last couple of days that it's made it's way to my building, largely thanks to the roll-out of a series of meetings that teach managers how to deal with job losses: "For some people, losing their job is a good thing.". Right...

As someone who was a term employee for 2 years running, it's terrifying. I still remember the panic every spring of wondering if I'd have a job and finally managing to haul-a$$ out of there and find myself a place with what I hoped was more stability. As my boss said to me yesterday "Sure am glad we made you indeterminate right away". This whole thing just reminds me of watching term after term lose their job and wondering how the heck I was gonna get out myself.

The BF's union is also having strike talks after their contract lapsed. The last time this happened, we saw a month of lost wages and hardly enough of a wage increase to make it worthwhile. Let's compound that with the fact that the provincial governments have been FORCING strikes to end and often favoring the employer.

So of course, I'm worried about seeing the loss of both of our pay cheques, which is a struggle for anyone. We're probably okay to get by, but it wouldn't be roses and we'd be crazy careful with our spending. It'd be a hard time and there would be no summer of cross-country courses and dressage shows, that's for sure. And that's pretty sad in and of itself.

Reality and my bosses remind me that we'll be fine and our department isn't going to be seeing the grim-reaper of the job world, but enough gossip can make even the best of us start to worry. 

Now let's add in my charred lip thanks to a VERY hot piece of meat in my little Stoffer's hot pocket, an unimpressive day at work, snowy/slippery weather that's filled with bad drivers and a general malaise of one wanting springtime already, and I was pretty blue.

I headed to the barn early figuring I'd be able to spend some time with my boy and find some cheer there, and was greeted by more blue-ness.

I walked into the tack-room and it was rearranged with more hooks on the walls. No biggie, but my heart fell a little to see my tack box laying by the door, almost 'out of place'. It felt (though I know it wasn't) like I was packed and set to leave. Blue days just make everything feel blue. I'm not leaving for 2 more months, so why did I feel half out the door??

Then when I finally settled in to groom Mr. Moon, hoping to just stand there and whisper my problems away to him, someone else showed up. No more sweet quiet moments with my boy, though again, it's not like showing up was their fault.

So I tacked up Moon and was irritated to find 4 sets of claw marks all over the seat of my saddle. My beautiful saddle. That I ALWAYS keep a cover on. Let me say, I am NEVER letting a cat in that tack room again. IRRITATING. My body temperature raised about 10 degrees and I'm not much of an 'angry' person. But I was angry at whichever cat did that.

Finally I got out into the arena and I just KNEW it was going to be a crappy riding lesson. I just KNEW it.

Shows you what I know...

Moon flexed and bent and stretched down to the bit. He found a frame and held my hands through the bit and reins and was spectacular (for a Mr. Moon). It was...our best ride to date (as far as "dressage pony skills" go. I still love madly galloping over open fields or trail rides down hillsides with good friends better...).

When we moved into trot, he was "CANTER?!" all over the place. But guess what? He CAME BACK TO ME!

And carried himself just beautifully at the trot. Lively, energetic but attentive. We had HALF HALTS that WORKED! I could slow him down, I could move him around and I could lift him up.

So we shoulder-in'd.

And GOT CONSISTENTLY three or four strides where he was not only making 3 tracks, but HE WAS STRAIGHT! least in one direction...

For a horse who's only started learning shoulder-in, he was awesome. W thinks his lateral work will prove to be his greatest talent. I'm tempted to agree.

My heart was bursting when I felt like I was riding. I could CONSCIOUSLY move and place him. Direct him. Guide him. He was listening and we were moving TOGETHER. He was right THERE with me. Partners.

Oh he tried his little heart out. All of our little battles were resolved and BETTER once we worked past them. He was a dream pony to ride, so soft, supple and smooth. Transitions? Yes please! He was soo straight and I actually felt like my timing and responses were happening properly and at the right time.

We finished with canter. The first time he just wanted to GO, but settled nicely (GORGEOUS uphill trot with connection). Topline development? Yes please!

In his "good" direction, he did a full circle. In his "bad" direction, he did it even BETTER! The first time his "skipped" around the corner (W compared it to you rear wheels skidding out on a turn when driving a car), but did awesome the second try. W commented that she thinks from what she's seeing, he'll have a lovely uphill canter as well.

I must say, his "bad" side is becoming his good side. And I LOVE it.

When we finished that last canter in the bad direction and I slowed him back to trot (instead of falling out of it), I threw my arms around his neck and praised every bone in his little pony body.

My heart swelled with such pride.

And W looked at me and said "He loves it. He FINALLY looks like he's enjoying himself out there."

9 months of bickering, arguing, fighting and resisting, and TODAY, it all comes together. And my boy is HAPPY out there doing it. Oh to hell with everything else. To hell with ribbons, shows, breeding and pomp. MY BOY IS HAPPY DOING DRESSAGE.

And my heart bursts.

This ^^ was my pony last May...

THIS ^^ is my pony today... (okay, to me anyway)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Pony Valentine

My heart belongs, of course, to the BF, but let's face facts. Moon'er gets to be my valentine today as well. Who wouldn't love that sweet face?!

So Mr. Moon, I give you a Wordle today...

Make your own at

Monday, February 13, 2012

Dream. Dream Big.

I think there must be a fine line between being adventuresome and being unfocused. Unfortunately, I haven't yet been able to distinguish between the two. My boyfriend used to say that I dreamed too big; he's a realist in nature, perhaps with a healthy dose of pessimism. He obviously didn't grow up in the same rainbow covered world that I did. I blame my father for allowing me my unrelenting belief that we can be or do whatever we want; if we simply decide it and pursue it.

And so, I have a lot of dreams. Age has tempered me some. When I was in high school and we had to write about our futures, I proclaimed I'd A. Own a castle with a stable full of famous race horses in Ireland B. Marry the president of the united states (since I couldn't become president myself) and C. Have 6 children all whom would grow up to be doctors or lawyers. That was high school. In grade school I thought I might just own an entire island and act as overlord of all the people there...

Okay, age thankfully has tempered me a lot.

But I still suffer from bouts of "dreaming big". My failed attempts has taught me that while for some people, "realistic" goals help them move forward, I need BIG dreams. And am quite happy to end up with more reasonable accomplishments because of them. I don't own a castle in Ireland full of race horses, but I do own a beautiful parcel of land where one day my ONE special horse will reside, next to my reasonable sized home, which to me, will always be my castle.

I didn't wind up marrying the president of the united states. I technically haven't wound up marrying anyone. I remind him of that a lot... ; ) But I did find a man who could lead an army or protect me from any financial or physical war that might reach this planet. So who needs a president?

Sanity allows me to realize I no longer want 6 children. In my youth, I just liked a lot of names, so needed a lot of children...Life is simpler when you don't have to A. Bare them, B. Raise Them, C. Send them off to college.

Where am I going with this?

I'm seriously considering attending a clinic in 3-Day Eventing this summer. "Meet the Fences" as it's called.

Why would I even consider this?

I want to try everything. I want to dream big. It's about being able to explore the whole world of horse-sport with my horse. I dream that he can take us anywhere, though I'm realistic enough to know that we might not be stellar when we get there. We might not even be good or decent.

I wonder how many of us, jaded by time, stop dreaming big? We release those ideas that we could be the President, the ruler of a small dictatorship (maybe forgetting about this one is for the better...) or owning a stable full of race horses. Because we know that there's a good chance our dreams will never come true. And that's kinda sad. Kinda hard to accept. Better not to dream so large, then suffer the disappointment.

How much do we lose out on because of it? Maybe instead of a stable full of race horses, you just buy a 1/4 share in a local race horse. You win a whopping $100 and watch him race all summer long. Some day, looking back on your life, some says "Remember when you said you were gonna own all them race horses? Hahaha". You can smile proudly and say "I owned one. Dark brown filly name Oneforthemoney. 100 bucks and a 100 memories richer. Yeah, I did that."

You don't make president, but you get an awesome job leading a national campaign. Maybe instead of 6 kids, you start an evening program where you help 6 horseless kids fall in love with them? And realize that even though they're not of your blood, they're "your kids" and you're darn proud of them. One might even grow up to be a vet or a lawyer or something.

My point being, is that we shouldn't shy away from the big dreams, because we don't think we'll be successful. And we shouldn't hang back because we don't think we'll be famous or awesome or even reasonably good. What's the old adage? "You never know until you try." Try. Try it. Just once.

Showmanship, Horsemanship. Barrels, Roping, Reining, Team Penning, Trail class, rail class. Hunters, jumpers, and road hack. Hunt seat, dressage, wessage, eventing. Fox hunting. Polo. Both slow and fast, indoors and out. Racing. Quarter, thoroughbred and standardbred. Driving. Sulkies, chariots and chuckwagons. Just give them a try. Once. Don't care what others say because you're wearing a borrowed lycra show shirt with last year's sequin colors. Or that you hand-made your chariot in your backyard in the city and it tilts downward because you never did get to test-fit it to your horse. Play polo on your 17hh Friesien and just duct tape two mallets together so you don't have to reach down so far. Jump without worrying you're in an AP saddle instead of a CC, chase cows without ever expecting to catch one.

We need a world where people don't turn up their noses because you haven't done this before and you're not any good. We need a world that encourages everyone to strike out and try something new. Something they've been dreaming about trying their whole life, but never had a chance. And now is too scared to.

Two years ago, after dreaming my whole childhood of being a gymnast (I was obsessed...used to vault over the couch much to my mother's distaste), I took a beginner's gymnastic class. It was weird, yes. There were a lot of younger people there and I didn't venture into the full body suit. But you know what? I LOVED it. I even discovered that even though it's a mens-only apparatus, I'm awesome on the rings. And I'm darn proud of it. The first lesson was a real struggle, but to this day I am beyond proud that I did it. Vault, balance beam, uneven bars. I TACKLED that stuff! Have you?
(These ladies did...even if they're too tall, too old...)
Don't ever let YOU hold yourself back. Don't let fear of being judged or watched or ridiculed stop you. How can we look at the next generation and say "You can do anything" if we're too scared to try ourselves?

It is this belief that has me compelled to take my pony to an eventing clinic this summer. It's a greenie "I've never seen a log on the ground and been asked to jump over it" type clinic, for those who've never evented in their lives. I suspect, a lot of people at least have hunter/jumper backgrounds, but I don't want that to stop me. As long as we can safely get over a jump, I don't want to worry about what skills others already have.

But why eventing?? That comes out of the blue you must think. Especially with my horse and his renowned jumping skills (let's not mention my own...).

When I was a kid (there's many such stories) I got my first Grand Champions model horse (Breyers were much too expensive in those days). He was an attractive buckskin gelding named "Victory" (I promptly renamed him "Victory Gallop") and his little notecard read that he was a successful cross-country eventer. At that point in time, I knew nothing of cross-country but since my "first horse" was one, I'd best learn more about it. And I did. And fell in love. Both with this silly little tan painted horse and his imaginary success in the sport.
(a replica of my first model horse...mine now suffers a broken hind leg after a cross-country accident. Thankfully, my "veterinary" dad was able to save the leg with copious amounts of glue, leather wrapping and a promise to retire from the sport...)
Eventing is the only way the locals can try their hand at Cross-Country. And Cross-Country is what makes my eyes light up and my pulse race a little faster. Follow me to this imaginary adventure...

Where your horse gallops across wide open fields, the grass swaying in the soft early summer breeze, the sun beating down on your helmeted head. In front of you over the rise appears a large log and you boldly canter your horse towards it, only to fly over and continue your gallop over the broad landscape that stretches out before you. The birds call, the crowds quietly clap and yet the only sound that reaches your ears is the steady drumming of your horse's hooves...
(image removed as causing inaccurate stat counts...Google image searches DO NOT qualify as people actually interested in this blog!)
<This should be a picture of a gorgeous horse sailing over a huge log....>
My vision ^^ of Cross-Country jumping...
Does it not sound heavenly?

Now, in reality, I imagine for Moon and I it would be more...simple.

Moon gallops like the nutter he is in the open field, me clinging to him trying to peer over his shoulder for potential gopher-holes which I fear would lead to his demise. A log, a mere 12" off the ground rises before us and I come to the realization that neither of us are jumpers. And he either bounds ridiculously over the fence or we both come to a grinding halt before it. Hopefully still together.

<This should be a picture of a horse stopping at a log, and the rider flying over them onto the ground>
Yes, this ^^ would be me, with my horse stopping at the sight of a potted pine tree....
<And THIS should be a picture of a huge horse going a$$ over tea-kettle over an even bigger log...and rider following suit>
 I was initially going to use this ^^ picture, but realized there's ZERO chance I'd jump anything that large. Nor would Moon even let me try...

My adult mind tells me the whole thing is foolish and silly. I'll embarrass myself, people will point and giggle and poor Moon will be teased. But that kid who played with her little buckskin model horse still wants to have a try at it. She doesn't care that others don't think her horse is "fancy enough" to manage. She believes in him. She doesn't care that she'll have to borrow a used protective vest or that she might end up making good use of it. She believes in herself. And she does not care if she doesn't succeed...because she knows she did what others are too scared to even try. And she wishes they weren't, so she'd have more dreamers to ride along with.

: )
<Picture of pony and rider jumping a tiny log, successfully>
Who knows, THIS ^^ could be us someday...maybe even tomorrow if we only try.