Saturday, December 18, 2010

So many goals... so little riding time!

I've really been struggling to find time to ride the two beasties as of late. I am working long hours at the office, and then it seems that I have time to ride only on days where its raining or its super muddy the previous days of rain. Then I've been even less successful in convincing my boyfriend to come out and ride with me. I am hoping both of these will soon change.

The boyfriend very cleverly suggested that we ride BEFORE work. I say clever, because he knows how much I HATE mornings! Thus if I say no, its my decision to give up the idea of teaching him to ride. So I agreed. We made it through one very early morning session with enough time for me to get to the office, shower at the gym there, and get MOST of my clothes on with 2 minutes to walk across the parking lot to our building. The problem was that I was lacking the final piece to my outfit... I had packed everything but my skirt! Hmm... knee high boots, tights and a sweater REALLY don't work without the skirt!

Other than the wardrobe emergency, it was a fairly productive ride. Bear was not in his calmest mood, so I really just spent that first morning making do with what I had. Once we get a bit of a routine going with this early morning thing, Bear will settle in quickly and get down to work. But for the first day I mainly spent time lunging him and getting his attention before putting the BF up there for a lunge line lesson. He did well, and Bear was a good boy.

I think the mornings will actually work out quite well. I was in a fantastic mood when I got into work, despite the fact that I had gotten up early enough to be out at a cold dark barn at 6:30 am! The barn owner laughed at me. She was coming out to feed as I was packing up to go, and she commented that one way or another, I'm always out there in the dark! It does seem to be a rare occasion that I seem them in the daylight.

With a good morning routine I'm hoping to have the BF turned into a confident and effective enough rider to be my spring trail buddy! It would greatly help me to keep both horses in shape if he could come out with me for some conditioning rides. We'll see how long I can get up for before-light rides though...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Today we broke a sweat!

Oh what a glorious fall day!

I had arranged to go out with a friend to ride Bear and Lola at the lake today with the idea of doing some trot and canter work out on the beach. At the last minute she had to cancel, but I was still so excited about going out that I decided to take Bear out alone. Its been AGES since I've taken Bear any where with out Lola. She goes out to things alone all the time, but he tends to be the one left behind if I can't take two. So he was a bit vocal about being put in the trailer all alone!

I took Bear because he's been so sluggish in the arena. He's obedient, he'll move forward when asked, he'll trot or canter when asked, but I do feel like I'm nagging him to have a little more energy with every single step. I figure its a twofold problem: I don't feel like I've really gotten him back into good condition since the summer so he tires quickly, but mainly he is getting bored with circles in an arena. So we took the trail ride to help with both of those problems, good conditioning ride, and there's nothing like an open space to make trotting and cantering fun again! It worked like a charm. I can hardly get him to work hard enough to get warm, let alone break a sweat. Today we got hot and sweaty and had a blast!

Bear was calling for Lola the whole way to the trail parking, and he was super jazzed up for the beginning of the ride. He was a little spooky on the trail, but nothing unexpected since he hasn't had to brave the trail solo in a long time. We did spend about 10 minutes slowly approaching a log though. He was convinced it was hiding a monster.

We had spent about a half out on the trail just walking along and getting all the benefits of climbing the big step ups and rocking back on his haunches to go down the hills. By the time we got to the beach he was nice and warmed up, and had settled his nerves a bit. We started out trotting because every time we got to a divot where last week's major rain storm had created streams down the beach. He slowed to look EVERY time! So silly! So we made a point of trotting over these for a while, then started trot over the drift wood and logs out there. He just felt so great! He'd trot up to the smallest logs and gracefully canter away. I had a blast! We cantered around a bit and I'd like him start to lengthen and really stretch into a big stride, but I don't think we are mentally or physically fit enough to go for an all out gallop. I was certainly sitting myself up straighter than usual! The best reminder not to lean in front of your center point is the threat that your trusty steed is going to slam on the breaks suddenly! I was so impressed with my boy. Each time I asked him to come back he'd collect back to his lovely rocking horse canter and then into a great balanced and relaxed trot. Really I'm still floored how much great trot I got today! I mean on the bit, swinging trot and stepping right into the canter! What an awesome horse I have.

We made it a point to walk around a bit on the way back to the trailer. He was all sweat from ears to girth, so I wanted to make sure he was well cooled. The trailer parking has a great wash rack, so I cold hosed his legs and at least washed his sweaty girth area. The rest of the sweat needed to dry before getting brushed away, so we just hung out in the gorgeous fall sunshine and he snacked on grass. What a perfect way to spend a Saturday.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I find as I go through these situations again and again that I'm a bit of an adrenaline junky. Maybe that's not even the right term. I'm driven by goals, that's clear, I love working with horses partly based on all the planning I can do. Little baby steps to meet the goals. But I've seen over and over again in my life that I tend to throw myself at extremely difficult things, not just to see if I can do them, but to give myself something stressful enough to incite some action. I finished my Masters degree this summer. The very first week of my very first summer I was pretty sure I had bitten off way more than I could chew. I finished because I am stubborn. It was insanely difficult for me, partly because it is a high level of education, but mainly because it hit on some of my biggest weaknesses. So why did I throw myself at that? Bigger question, why did I find some much motivation to finish it?

Motivation is a funny thing. There are many days where the only motivation to go through the motions of the day is that some piece of it HAS to, absolutely must, happen. Mornings are not my favorite thing. Without a concrete event to incite action, my morning mode, where I don't quite engage with life, can be prolonged up to the point I go to bed again. I had this happen surprisingly often when I lived abroad. There were vacation days where I didn't have to work and those few people that I knew were out of town, and after a few days I would realize, that I hadn't spoken to a soul, for several days. I read books, I walked, I sucked into an interior life that didn't allow for an outside reality. I found out that I can be an extreme introvert, to the point of being a recluse, and it didn't really seem alarming. I was living without a dog, cat, or horse. I think that made a difference.

My days, most often are incited to action by the fact that I have a job that expects to be in there sometime around 8am. I don't clock in, I don't get written up if not in at a certain time, so the motivator works, just give or take about 20 minutes. Once at work I usually engage in what I'm doing, new things, challenging things, extremely overwhelmingly filled lists of things, they capture my attention while there and then I forget that I need motivation to get things done! Then there are other days, where once I'm there I'm not sure how I can convince myself to do anything other than think about going to get more coffee. The days where everything is easy and simple and straight forward, I hate those days. Somehow I don't end up doing half of what needs to be done, and yet the day before I had twice as much to do and managed to do it all! Apparently I love to be stressed!

So the conclusion drawn here is that if I were left to my own comfortable, unstressed, uninterrupted life, I think I would probably cease to shower, clean, leave the house, then eat. I'm sure it'd be a slow process! But it is the interaction, or even confrontation, in life that motivates me to get out and do something. I think this could be true, except that I have animals. I have people too, don't get me wrong, I would have people coming to pull me out of my smelly unnoticed misery with in a day! But that would be an intervention, not a motivation. I'm sure this will all change when I have kids, but right now, the only things in this world that rely on me for their well being and happiness, are my animals. A dog politely encouraging you to get up because they REALLY need to pee, that's a motivator to start your day! Horses that will be cold or hungry if you don't go out to feed and blanket is a motivator. My horses bring satisfaction in a job well done, they creature to worry over, and tend to. They give you something to care for aside from yourself. Again, this isn't to say that I don't value human relationships, but my perfectly capable boyfriend is not going to go hungry, he doesn't rely on me the way my animals do.

Alright, so I have found my motivator, my catalyst for action, my horses and my dog drive me to get going, start the day, engage in the world. Then what, then I run into the same need for new, the need to be challenged, the need to believe that there's a good chance that what I'm doing could totally fail and yet I'm pushing though anyway. The need was filled by buying a 2 and a half year old gelding, and starting him under saddle. But then he got really too easy! He's so stinking easy! So I bought another horse to break, really honestly, to prove that Bear was a fluke and that I couldn't do it. Low and behold, Lola was tougher at times, but I've done it none the less. Now I have two, and that too many, there will be no third horse. So aside from quitting my day job for the highly dangerous and low paying job of breaking colts, what do I do now? I start focusing on my next goal, my next challenge, my next commitment that will leave me thinking, "Good gracious what have I gotten myself into?"

I'm short on time and energy to focus on a really big goal, but that is what inspires me. In the mean time I'm staying focused on keeping the momentum so that I'm ready. My ridiculously challenging goal for the moment, is keeping both horses worked regularly. Its tough too! I know that my next push with both of them will be getting them jumping so that as soon as show start up next spring, we'll be ready. To jump then need to be fit. To be fit they need regular and strategic work. So that is my goal for now, and it is working terribly well because it hits my procrastinator vein! If I can put off committing to jumping due to Lola's flat work needing improvement, Bear's general lack of condition from the summer, and other minor details that I can tell myself I'm working on, then I can prolong the moment of actually facing the fact that I really want to do something that I'm not terribly good at! So there is my next terrifying, stressful, and utterly motivating goal, I will jump courses bigger than two foot. I will learn to not get launched around with funky green horse mistakes. I will be a better rider, and I will become a better person in the process. That is were the motivation resides, the thrill of becoming something more than you were.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Where has the summer gone?????

Where do I even start? How do you recap after a 3 months hiatus from the blog world?

I think the photos say it all… the first pic is the last day before leaving the boarding place for the summer… the next is Friday just after getting their new blankets adjusted so the two would be warm and dry for the rainy weekend. Same two horses, same paddock, a whole season later!

Let’s see… I am proud to say I have a Master’s degree… and I’m ashamed to say it will be several years before I do anything with it. This is mainly because my current, completely non-major related job, offered me a promotion after I got back from finishing my school program. All these things explain my complete lack of blogs. I have managed to keep playing round with the horses though!

What else… August we spent just getting Bear back into some even remote level of fitness after his lazy summer in pasture. September I found a gal to half lease him! She has ridden a ton in the past but is just getting back into it after about five years off. He’s been a perfect fit for her! She is taking lessons on him with my dressage trainer, and it’s a great fit for me too since I can ride a couple days a week but not feel like I’m neglecting him the rest of the time. For now it’s great. So far in October he’s done a super fun poker ride, and moved back to boarding.

It seems like he grows every summer. I measured him the other day and he was just shy of 16 hands! He’s looking so much better weight wise than he was last spring too. He looks more like a real horse!

He’s been a fun treat to hop on bareback, or take around the arena for a quick ride. He’s so easy that it doesn’t take much mental or physical energy to ride him, just a treat, every time.

In other news, I volunteered as a jump judge at Woodside a couple of weekends ago, and had a blast! I hope to have both horses trained up to compete at Beginner Novice next spring that way if Lola sells before I ever compete with her, I’ll still have Bear semi-ready for the show season. It will be my first plunge into actually competing in the eventing world. I’m oh so excited!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Letters from home

Dear Mom,

How is school? How are your roommates? Are you studying hard?

I'm having fun out in the pasture at gramma and grampa's house. They still have the old red mare, and she still gets too tired to run around as long as I want to, and she still squeals like and elephant to say hi. They still have the dumb brown fur thing that goes crazy with the barking and runs the fence line incessantly. I some times go poke my nose at it when it settles down to see if it has enough energy to start again, yep! It start back up with the obsessive running up and down the drive way. Its been fun.

But I do have to say that I don't like grampa ANYMORE! He was always my favorite because he'd bring interesting things out to the pasture. He seemed to thing they were parts and tools for fixing fences and stuff, but they were so much fun to pick up and carry away that I think they must have been horsie toys! Plus he'd dangle them off his belt, or leave them sticking out of his pocket then turn his back to me. I think he was offering them to me to take! I really do! But then he'd always chase me down and take them back! Not fair! Anyway, I used to love him coming out to scratch me, but now... I just don't know...

So here's what happened. You remember we took the drive to the stinky place where the lady always pokes me with needles and sends me off to la-la land for a while and this time she took the scratchy itchy thing out from behind my eye ball? Yeah, that was kind of a relief. But THEN grampa kept coming out 3 to 4 times a day to squirt gooey stuff onto the inside of my eye lid! I was NOT a fan! I hope its all over with now. My eye feels better! It really does! Then the lady from the stinky place came out to look at it again, and I didn't even get the dose of la-la land. I hope she told grampa to stop torturing me with eye goop.

I don't know if I'll ever get over this... grampa was always so much fun before... Oh look, here he comes with dinner! I like dinner! I wonder if he'll give me some scratches... I like when he gives me scratches... Gotta go!

Love and horse kisses,


Monday, June 14, 2010

This is Bear here…

Hey guys…

This is Bear here… everyone else’s mom seems to let them take over the blog once in a while, so I told my mom it was about time that I got to say something! So with my 30 seconds of fame… while I’m standing here on my soap box… now that I’ve got a captive audience… here’s what I have to say to y’all… you gotta help me!!

My foster sis Lola… she’s GOT TO GO! I thought it was a great idea at first. I mean I totally have a thing for red mares you know. Plus she pretty much just follows me around and she’ll do whatever I tell her! It’s been totally fun.

But NOW I hear that she gets to go on some fun vacation to the beach instead of me?!?!?!? That’s just not right… her time is up. Don’t get me wrong, I like the kid and all, but seriously, stealing my vacation? Mom keeps telling me that I wouldn’t like the LONG trailer ride down there. I don’t know what she’s talking about, I LOVE trailer rides! I get to rock out back there creating all sorts of good drum beats on the floor, on the walls, on the divider, even the top when I stretch up and reach it! It’s a blast! I try to entertain her when we stop at traffic lights with the new rhythm I made up. I don’t know why she doesn’t tell me how good a drummer I am… I rock!

So anyway, while Lola gets to go to have the cool ocean breezes all day long, and long gallops on the beach, I have to roast in the NorCal sun. Hmmfff… So here’s my plan, I will take it upon myself to find her a new home! Now it has to be a good one, hear? I do really like the girl, and I want the best for her. Plus I’d really like to be able to see her at some of the shows next year… you know say a friendly hello… catch up on how our winters went… kick her plain red butt in a friendly competition! He he he…

Yep, let’s send her off… I’ll take carrots, oats, apples, and pretty much anything else you want to offer that I can either eat or pick up with my teethies and toss around my pen! My mom might think she’s getting money for my sis, but I know all that is going straight into feed and goodies and giving me new things to destroy.

Well that's all I've got for now... I think its about time for me to kick my bucket around for a bit.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Pretty much everything revolves around Lola... hope he's not getting a complex

So Lola is for sale, which means I don't feel like I can even skip a day of her schedule. So again, all the action is on her blog. Check it out though! And if any of you know of anyone who wants a fun little eventing prospect, she'll be a blast! I just want to make sure its the right home! I'll even make this easy...

Plus there is an awesome little incident with Bear from last weekend's post... craziest thing I've ever had happen to me on the trail! EVER! If I've been riding since 4... that makes just about 24 years of riding trails, most of those being in northern California, and I've NEVER had this happen to me!

Now you're curious, huh? Go look! But then come back and read more about Bear...

So we had a really good ride tonight. He's so SO different from Lola. Body-wise he's much narrower, so its different to sit on him. He's not that much taller, but he sure feels it. He carries himself very differently, and he'll have a whole different set of challenges to learn to really be on the bit. Although he's greener than her in some ways, he's got a personality (and we have a longer relationship) that makes him very easy to just pick him up once a week and still feel like we're getting somewhere. He's physically less mature than her, but he's so naturally athletic that in some ways they're even, in someways he's better, and in someways he's never going to be a long hard journey to be as good as her. Its been a fun experiment to ride the two of them back to back on my lesson days. I try to apply the same lesson on him, only to find that it doesn't really apply! Its either too advanced because I need to introduce steps 1, 2, and 3 first, or its focusing on something that is not a weakness of his, so I don't need to use the creative steps to get to the goal. Its funny. It does give me the chance to put to action the equitation corrections that I've been hearing for the previous hour, and THAT always helps our ride. It gives me a lesson plan to work with so I don't go crazy trying to do too much in one ride. Its been fun.

He's been a blast on the trail lately. We've been going just about once a week, so he's getting slowly put back into shape. He didn't even break a sweat tonight, and I gave him a pretty solid 40 minute ride, so its not like he's outrageously out of shape. But I always think its important to start the conditioning at the walk. So he's been getting nice long walks on the trail. We've got some really good ups and downs to build muscle, and lots of steps and rocks to teach him to be careful and think about where he's putting his feet. Last Saturday we added in some trot and canter to our ride too. He's so happy and relaxed about all of it, its great. He was pretty tired by the end of a 2 hour ride though!

So that the fun we've been up to. I've got high hopes for him next fall! It will be a lot of fun to focus just on him again. He's come a long ways this spring, and he did it without consistent time under saddle. I really think that giving him the spring off was actually a good thing, not intentional, but good none the less. He's come back into work a much more balanced and steady horse than he was last fall. Its amazing what physical maturity can do for a four year old! I'm ok with the time he had off of training because now that I'm starting to push him, he's much more capable to step up to the plate.

The sad thing is that he had just lost so much weight at the last place. He's starting to look a little better, but its been a month already, and he's still got a little bit of ribs showing. I keep telling myself that once he's back up to weight, it will be easier to maintain, and that its just the process of getting him there that makes it feel like he's eating twice as much as the rest of the horses. I think the problem is that Lola eats twice as fast as him and so he gets less food. Starting last week he's getting his supplements separately, so I think just that will make a visible difference. They get three hay meals a day (plus I feed the "sloppy" mix when I'm out there), so I can't ask for much more!

The summer plan for him is 6 weeks of pasture vacation with the old mare. He'll get grass all day, plus hay morning and night in a separate pen where he can take his precious time eating! He's such a silly boy, I can't figure out if he just likes to savor his food, or if he gets too easily distracted. I can give the two horses the same amount of their "sloppy" in two separate tubs and watch Lola finish before Bear makes the halfway point. Crazy. He will have spread it twice as far as Lola though! If he were human, he'd be the kid that painted the dining room table with his spaghetti sauce instead of eating. I love my silly boy.

I feel good that he'll be fat and happy when I get back. I feel really confident now that I can pick up lessons with him in August and have him ready to hit a couple shows before the winter weather hits. That is if I'm back to one horse by then.... I can only hope. I'm exhausted just thinking about still having two horses this fall!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Managing to have fun with two horses!

So last Saturday I had a friend come out to the ride with me on the trails at the lake! I figured since she was coming out, I would have her test ride Lola since she needs to have some experience of other people on her back. Then I sort of thought, why not have her just ride her once we got out to the trails too? So I got to ride Bear! A nice treat since I'm used to giving him up since I sort of consider him the safe bet. At this point she's come so far that she's probably the nicer ride now!

We had a blast! Much more challenging trail than I had planned, but they both did well. We even convinced them to go into the lake up to their knees! So fun, and I've already booked another friend to come out this Saturday! If I could spend at least one day a week on the trail between now and when I sell Lola, I will count this whole working to keep up two horses thing as worth it!

Tonight we had another good "post lesson" ride. I cantered him, which was a blast because its the thing that he's so good at and I have to work harder with Lola with that (but then again she stops on a dime...) They all have their strengths and weaknesses.... Anyway, it was fun, and I'm exhausted, so it must be time for bed.

Two big new flashes:

His feet seem to be too big for the "most awesome and too damn expensive" easy boot slip on's that I bought him last fall. Grrr.... He did fine on the trail though without them.

I can't see his ribs anymore!!! I realized today, that although I can still feel them, I can't see his ribs! Amazing what two weeks will do! He'll be a whole new horse in another two weeks. He doesn't seem to have any problems with the fact that he's not in pasture... Although now that I think about it, he did buck some good ones on the lunge line... So I'll start over... With regular turn out in the huge outdoor arena where he can play and be silly like he would in pasture, I don't see any drawbacks to having him in a large paddock instead. Let's hope he stays a happy, healthy, sane, fattened up, and un-injured horse for awhile!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ok, so I'm too excited not to brag...

The dressage schooling show that I went to on Sunday posted the scores today. I got high score of the day!!! Unbelievable! Little ol' me on a mare that I've trained, at her first dressage show, and, get this, MY first dressage show! Ok, so there wasn't a huge turn out of people. But still... I am just blown away, and super proud.

So none of this has anything to do with Bear, and yet has everything to do with Bear. I have so much more confidence and motivation to start getting him out to some shows once I'm back from the summer.

Plus its a huge personal victory.

I'll go back to being humble now...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

First real ride in AGES...

Tonight started with my lesson on Lola... (You can see the full description on her blog which might help since I don't want to run through it twice!) I'll be doing Tuesday night lessons with her until she sells, and since its a night I don't see my boyfriend anyway, I have the time to ride Bear afterward. This worked out great tonight since I could take all the exercises I had just been working on with Lola and apply them to where Bear is in his training.

So here's where he's at now:

He's come out of pasture in great shape. His canter looks awesome on the lunge line, nice and uphill and light.

He's focused and responsive to what I'm asking while lunging. He's getting back into the swing of things with the side reins.

The only rides I've done on him for the last two months have been bareback, so we just did circles, steering, little yielding shoulders or haunches, and picking up the trot for 5 to 10 steps then coming back down to the walk.

Here's where he was at this time last year:

Working well at walk, trot, and canter.

Accepting the contact, although never really on the bit.

Usually heavy on the forehand and rushing forward a bit. Needing work on tempo.

If I really held him together, we could for a do steady and reasonably balanced walk, trot, canter on a 20 meter circle with changes in direction from circle to straight.


He really got the concept of accepting the contact and maintaining a bend.

By the end we were able to do a walk-trot-walk transition that was balanced, with a bend to the inside, and with acceptance of the bit.

His tempo is great.

He is happy to be worked again, and it was a total light bulb turning on sort of night!

How it came together:

So we started out with small circles to ask for a lot of bend and encourage him to make contact with the outside rein and then even reach down for the bit. (Again, Lola's blog has got the scoop.) He wasn't really getting it. He was trying, but only succeeding in stiffly turning his head in. I awarded some near success by changing direction or walking off to another part of the arena, then tried again and again. Still not much.

Next we started the never ending trot circle. This is something that we did in the very first lesson with Lola. Focusing on tempo and rhythm and maintaining a steady contact even when they are resisting. He did that a ton... giraffe trotting around like I'm tearing at his face. I kept up the patiently keeping a light but steady contact no matter where he put his head, and he started, just a little to accept it. Still no bend, still no reaching for the bit. Again I rewarded the tiniest effort, but no real break through.

Back to walk circle exercise, and FLASH! The light bulb goes on. He suddenly gets round in his neck, bends both directions when asked, maintained a slight bend along the straight parts, AND started stretching his nose to the ground when I fed out the reins while pushing him along with my legs. What a difference!

So we tried it at the trot to the left. Start him bending and push him into the trot while keeping that bend. Magic! He's suddenly trotting so much better! Unbelievable difference from the resistance before. I even sort of thought it was a fluke. Like he was better on his left, and it was his right that caused the problem. So back to the right, and he was just as a amazing! He just plain got it. Of course he's not perfectly steady about the contact, and once he got it both directions so well I was so floored that I hopped off and gave him a big hug! He's taken the big step of understanding what I'm asking, now we just need the time to build up the consistency.

I'm really looking forward to getting him back into training mode. As much as I love Lola, somehow Bear is just more of my type of horse. I just feel better on him, which is good, since he's the one I'm keeping! I am going to make the most out of my lessons by applying the week's homework to both horses, and I really think he'll catch up to her in no time.

It felt so good to really be back at it.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Oh good boy Bear!!!

I'm slowly but surely getting Bear back into the swing of things. I hopped on him bareback on Friday, just because I had so little time. I had turned him out in the big arena to run around and buck while I lunged Lola. She didn't get ridden because we were going to have back to back shows this weekend. So then I let her go and threw a bridle on him and hopped on with the bareback pad. He was great. We worked on lots of big circles, and then small circles, keeping a bend. We worked on walk halt transitions, since he's pretending to forget this one, he stops, just not perfectly. It doesn't help that I'm comparing him to Lola who has stopped on a dime since the day I got on her!

Then today after the show with Lola, I got Bear out to work. I threw the western saddle on him since we'll be starting up teaching my boyfriend how to work and ride him, and we'll be going out for lots of trail rides with friends now that the weather is awesome. Once I had it all cinched down, I realized there was not clearance at his withers! The saddle just doesn't fit anymore! Its so frustrating because this is the saddle I broke him in! It should fit! Why doesn't it fit? He lost so much weight at the other boarding place... I haven't had it on him since January when I was using him to pony Lola. Then he started loosing weight because it was a cold hard winter, but he never gained it back despite 15 acres of green spring grass. Hopefully we're back on our way to being up to weight.

I lunged him in the saddle anyway, but he twisted and kicked out with front and back feet when he picked up the canter like it was pinching him. He got over it quick, so I don't think it was all that bad. Still, once I finished lunging him with the sided reins I took the saddle off and threw it on the fence and got on bareback instead. He's such a good boy. We did lots of walk work, circles, halts, moving his shoulders or haunches around, then halts. We even did some little walk-jog-walk transitions, keeping it really slow so that I didn't get bounced right off! I want him to be very cautious about his rider being secure on his back when my boyfriend gets on him, so bareback is a good warm up for that.

Watching him canter on the lunge line makes me realize how much he's matured since last spring. He's so light and graceful on the lunge line! I just love watching him!

Still most of the big new is over on Lola's blog. We had our first dressage show today! Video and everything! Check it out. I'm just beaming I'm so proud! Now that I've broken into the world of dressage shows (or I should say small community of local dressage schooling shows) I feel a whole lot more confident about getting out there and doing it! I hope to have Bear doing Training level tests this fall once I'm back from the summer.

Monday, April 26, 2010

I succeeded in working two horses tonight!

I didn't actually ride him... just lunged. I let him out to charge and buck in the arena, then called him over and lunged him. Perfectly relaxed and controlled walk-trot-canter. He's so funny. He'd just been galloping around calling for Lola, but the moment I put him to work he's Mr. Manners. I love my boy.

So then I lunged him over some trot poles since we now have an arena that I can leave trot poles in! YEAH! (I haven't seen a western saddle yet.) Then I lunged him over a little bitty cross bar, maybe six 10 inches, maybe more like 8 actually. He was nice and relaxed and cantered over it right in stride. So we did it three times and called it a day! A good start. Then I had to get going with Lola, but at least he got out. I'm determined to get him going again so that I can launch into his training full swing the moment I find Lola a home or at least a rider to lease to. I'll be deciding on a price (tricky thing that is) and listing her this week. The longer I keep her the harder it will be to let her go, so its gotta happen soon.

Rain is coming in again tonight... so it will be a couple days before I can be out in the big arena again. I'm looking forward to having poles to work him through some low gymnastics. This summer we'll be focusing on dressage, with hopes of competing next fall. So as far as jumping goes, we'll just be doing poles and gymnastics to get him to learn to put his feet where they need to go and develop some muscle from picking up his feet. I am so excited to have a big arena to do it in, with lots of cavelettis, blocks, and short jump standards.

So far I LOVE the new barn!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Officially moved...

I am feeling so much better. I found an awesome place to board just 5 minutes from work. Its quite a bit more expensive, but I will actually be saving a ton in gas.

They've got a dressage arena, a big outdoor arena with jumps, a round pen that is big enough that I can have something small and safe for beginner riders, and in indoor arena that is at least big enough to lunge in and keep working through the bad weather. They'll be in a large pen. So no more grazing out in pasture, but that pasture was going to turn to dry weeds soon anyway.

So I am looking forward to the new place! I am only 4 miles from the staging area for some of the most amazing trails in northern California. Literally access to 100 miles of awesome trails, I'm so excited.

I guess thats the first good news on the spotty appy front for awhile! Should be back to work soon.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The straw that broke the camel's back...

Bear is hurt again. Now this is just getting ridiculous! Pretty much I haven't been on him since mid February for one thing or another. Its not any one serious thing, but a bunch of little things that I'd rather give him a few days off for, but they're back to back. What an insane spring. He's had soft heels so wet and squishy I was afraid he'd bruise or split them, a cough, a banged up front leg bump and cut, and a heel bulb ripped open (partly due to being too wet again). I wasn't out there for a week solid. Lots of overtime at work, then a few days get away to recover from a crazy four months at the office. I got out on Sunday to take Lola to a little show only to find she had some cuts on her left hind leg and swelling from mid cannon bone down. Not terrible, and not lame, but not going to a horse show! So I clean her up, baby her, and I head out to get Bear to ride instead. Guess what, he's even worse off!
His hock over all was the size of a small melon, with lots of swelling down to his hoof. Once I cleaned it up I found a puncture wound on the side of his hock. Since I haven't been out there all week I don't know how long they had been injured. Could have been a week, could have been two days... long enough to be infected! I was SO frustrated. He also has a pretty big cut on his front forearm and lots of bite marks across his back. After cold hosing the leg for a while, the scab came away and it started to drain some, which is probably good. Bear is now on anti-biotics and cold hosing for the week. The two horses are in a large pen for the time being, and I'm spending this week figuring out a game plan.
I'm guessing its not just a coincidence they are both hurt at the same time. Something happened. I don't know what, and I never get a straight story from anyone out there. No one noticed that my horses we're hurt, even with what I think is obvious swelling. They're being flexible about allowing me to have the horses in a small private pasture while I deal with this, but I can't ask them to help feed the meds because I don't trust it will happen. So I'm going out at 5am to do it before work! I love having Bear out where he can run, but he's managing to hurt himself pretty regularly out there, plus they don't check the pasture horses for wounds, plus they keep changing the herd and stirring up trouble, plus I just plain don't trust them anymore. Its time to move.
Bear has never lost his slight rib showing rangy look out there, and he's been mildly hurt for ages. So I'll be telling them the situation is not working out for my horse, and that's that. No point in telling them I think they're horse care sucks, I don't want to make enemies in a small vengeful horse community, and I've got a feeling they'll figure it out themselves as people start fleeing with their horses.
I felt like the situation was too good to be true when I moved there, and it was. I've found another place that seems like it has what I need. He'll be in a paddock, which I'm not sure about, but with pasture turnout every other day. I have May and June, then I'll be gone for 6 weeks and I think it would be best for him to be back in my parents' pasture then. So I guess if I don't like the place after two months, I'll just take him home for the summer, and figure out a new place from there.
I'll be going out a second time to the new potential place after the rain to see how the property handled it, and to ask all the questions I forgot to ask the first time. I'm trying to be thorough with my questions without seeming like I'm badgering them or subjecting them to a job interview, but thats what it is. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I'm a drama mama...

Ok, so maybe his foot wasn't as bad as all that. I scrubbed it up again yesterday and it was already all dry and scabbed over. It doesn't seem to bother him a lick. I'm still waiting to work him until I'm absolutely sure that I won't be busting open a scab or anthing like that. Ugh... I hate blood. If its bleeding I'm pretty convinced its dire! Guess I was over reacting a bit. It still ruined my Sunday trail ride plans... :(

Rain, rain, and more rain. I don't remember California ever having this much rain. I guess its good since I want the spring grass to last as long as possible, and its normally dried up by the end of April! So I'll put up with it. It does mean I may not see the out doors again for a week. It sounds like its back to the indoor for me! That's alright for Bear though since it does have the softest footing, and once his heel looks good, that's were we'll be working until its 100%.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ho hum has now become RAARRRR!!!!

So I hauled the project mare out for a lesson today, and had the afternoon all planned for Bear. I had chatted with one of the girls at the barn that has a huge thoroughbred that she jumps, and we agreed to take them out for a trail ride on Sunday afternoon.

I get Lola back, feed her a sloppy, pull Bear out of the pasture, tie him up, walk away to get the grooming kit, and when I get back I notice he has some very black mud on his left front heel. I was hoping it was just very black mud. But no, it was blood mud. He has completely shredded his heel bulb! Now the banged up shin was really nothing. He wasn't lame, just hot and swollen. This is something. Still he's not lame, and its nothing that can get stiched up or bandaged, so I just have to wait it out, but shoot, if I didn't have a project horse I would never ride!

So I at least put the time to good use. I recruited the help of the barn owner's nephew who works around there, and we got all the poles in the arena so now I have something to use at trot poles and make some little cross bars out of. Then we got really creative and started hauling poles and logs out in the pasture for a bit of a cross country course! Yeah! So we have a little cross rail, a brush jump, two huge logs, and a skinny wall (one that about half as wide as a regular jump). So now at least we have some fun to look forward to. But Bear and I have a lot of homework to do before then, and his beat up legs are helping the situation!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ho hum...

So the vet visit went fine, he got his sheath cleaned and the vet pointed out two spots on his pink skin that I need to watch. Darn pink skin. She didn't think much of the lumps, and they've gone down since. We talked about his feet and skin, and he got his shots. Totally uneventful.

So I got back into the swing of things this last week. We had a great ride in the indoor arena on Monday, on Tuesday I through on his western saddle, rigged up a sort of draw rein fixture to lunge in, but then put on running shoes and took him for a run out in the pasture. Creativity is the only way I get things done these days. I need to get back into running which I can't do at lunch break if I don't have time to TAKE a lunch break! So I got a workout and he got the equivalent of trotting with side reins, just on a straight line and with a little more give than regular side reins would allow for if he tripped on the uneven surface... which he did. Then I hopped on and rode back in. He felt great.

Now we get to the "Ho hum..." part! Wednesday I was off doing my thing as usual. Thursday I pull him out of the pasture and his front leg is hot and swollen! You've gotta be kidding me! He seems to have caught his leg on something. He's all scabbed up there, but not lame. I have been hosing it and medicating and watching it. So he's not done a thing. What a silly beast.

Seriously I think I need to keep him in a bubble from now on!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Taking action

Last night I said another offhand remark to my boyfriend about the pasture horses being fed last and the blankets not being put on. He tends to take a "Let me fix it" approach when I'm more looking for a "Let me whine and complain" reception. But last night his fix it approach got me realizing that I want things to be better magically. I want them to get better because I'm unhappy. I express my unhappiness to all the people that can't make the situation better. I need to take action. I need to step up and say something each time I'm not happy, and either the problem gets fixed or I move my horses. Simple as that. I jokingly told him that if I told the barn owners that I was moving the horses it would be because my boyfriend just can't handle any more of my complaining about the place!

I also realized I can regret and feel guilt until the cows come home, but until I took action and actually got back into the swing of things with Bear nothing would change. So I did. He has an appointment with the vet on Saturday. Check the neck swelling, check his teeth, clean his sheath. The second two are working towards making sure that other stuff is not working against us in the effort to get him in good show condition. The teeth are obvious thing to check since he's still showing just the slightest ribs despite spring grass. The sheath cleaning is the less obvious. It seems to be the solution to his tail rubbing! Being an appy he is pink down yonder, and the pink skin tends to have more issues. So despite my best efforts to keep up with it, I think he's in need of some cleaning up higher in his nether regions, because the tail started to go bare again a few weeks back.

I will also take full advantage of my $150-$300 visit to ask every question I've ever wondered about him. Itchy skin, supplements, feet, sleep patterns, you name it, I've got concerns about it!

Other part of taking action. I spent time with him first tonight! Not as much time as with Lola, but he got the precious outdoors daylight hour. I lunged him out in his pasture for 5 minutes solid trotting or cantering each way. I was trying to get him out of breath. It didn't work, he just got lazy. No coughing though, so that is great news. Then I climbed up on the gate so that I could get on him bareback and we walked all around, and even jogged a bit. He felt great. It never ceases to amaze me how cautious he is to just barely jog every so slowly for me when I'm on bareback, but under saddle he launches into a speed that could challenge a trotter! He is a fantastic horse. My goal with him is to make sure he's back into shape before I sell Lola so that I can launch straight into a training regimen with him. Nothing relieves the absence of a sold horse better than a steady training schedule with another.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Poor neglected Bear...

So I've been realizing just how much I have been neglecting Bear's training lately. I thought I'd have time for two horses, but Lola takes the priority since I'll never sell her if I never train her well enough that I can have people try her out successfully! Although its does seem like lately there is something or other with him that worries about working him anyway.

He had the scratches (grease heel) out break which is at least not spreading, but the scabs are huge and nasty. The same wetness also made his heels so soft that I was afraid to work him.

Then I took him out and lunged him and noticed he coughed twice, seemed odd. I rode him bareback, put him away, and didn't think of it again until I had my sister come out to ride with me and he coughed again. Bad news. For the next week I would go out to the pasture and trot him a few circles, he'd cough, I'd decide not to work him. I'd check his temp, he'd be fine and he'd gobble down his "sloppy". On Thursday I ran huge circles around the pasture trotting him as fast as I could until I had to stop and double over to catch my breath. No cough. Lunge him a little in the arena on Saturday, no cough. Lunged him tonight, walk trot canter, enough that I would imagine I he'd at least be breathing hard. One single cough, but wasn't breathing hard at all. I would hope that means he's back.

Saturday I notice he has two swollen golf ball-like lumps on his throat. (NOT strangles! Everyone relax!) Of course I didn't relax, I called the emergency vet line and made the vet talk me out of my "freak out" diagnosis. Worried about the neck swelling... what's next?

I think I am going to try to work in a vet appointment this week, Saturday I can't work out an after work appointment. He's got balding patches and he's constantly cut up, so I'm guessing he has some major itchy skin going on. I was reading into all the possible "itchy skin" issues, and many referred to secondary injuries and infections due to "self mutilation". Yep, that would fit Bear, he loves a good smack, and I guess if I'm not out there to smack him one, he'll just find a post to cut, bruise, and mutilate himself on! Seriously, I'm selling the wrong horse... but I don't think I could part with him. I'm just hoping this is a horse version of nasty teenage acne!!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Boarding barn blues... or maybe I should say horse mom rage!

So when I first made the choice to board I knew this day would come, the day I realized what the rest of you have been complaining about! I always hear people who are frustrated that their horses don't get the type of treatment they want them to get. It comes down to the boarders having a higher expectation of the level of care that should be given than the barn is giving. Any horse that I have actually owned, has been kept at my parents' place. That means that all the time I was off in college and then off exploring the world, I rode in many kinds of barns, with many kinds of problems, but never owned a horse there. In eash situation someone else had to be the horse's advocate in the age old battle of owner versus caretaker. So I realize now that when I moved back to the area and threw a horse into my parents' pasture that they were taking exceptional care to follow my desires for his upkeep. They took way better care of him, they didn't get paid for it, they had to deal with him at his brattiest 2 to 3 phase, and they did it because they know what good horse care standards are (and maybe because they didn't want to see my full wrath!)

I've been fighting the battle of getting the boarding facility to blanket/unblanket consistently, and the only consistent thing this winter has been that I feel like I must be being unreasonable. I thought it would be a given that if I paid for blanketing services on a horse pastured out where he won't be warm and sheltered, that it would mean that the blanket would come off in the morning, go on at night, and stay on for rain and other circumstances. The circumstances seem to be everyday. If the blankets are off, they want to leave them off because its not that cold at night, if the blankets are on, they always have reason to leave them on. I was asked if I'd like to blanket at night since I was out almost every night. "Sure!" I said. I figured that I'd at least make sure they got on right. But then the next week I had almost no time to get out to the barn and found myself making extra trips out just to blanket, only to find out that they had never taken them off that day! Then I start finding that the buckles have been take off wrong, straps put on wrong, blankets on the ground in the mud. Worst of all I found back leg straps still hooked in the back and crossed through eachother just as if the horse stepped out of the blanket. How does a horse step out of a blanket? It happens if you take a blanket off in a way that when the horse spooks the blanket flies off while still strapped to the legs. Do you have a good mental picture of that? Let me help. My lovely long legged 4 year old has all buckles undone but the ones around his legs, runs off through the pasture dropping the blanket off the side, spooks the other horses into a stampede with his winter blanket dragging along, now underneath him, tripping him until he finally stomps it to the ground freeing himself of it. Now maybe that didn't happen that way, but its the picture stuck in my head.

Now March comes, the sun comes out, they say it seems like nice enough weather, so why don't they refund the blanketing fee from my board that I've just paid. I'd been insisting on the blankets coming off in the day because Bear had shoulder rubs, so I took this as a hint that they'd had enough. But they are being super nice, saying they feel bad having me pay when its going to be such nice weather and never necessary to blanket. So I agree, since I don't think they'll do it anyway, so why pay, and they agree that they'll still blanket once or twice if its bad weather or rains. Literally the cold came back in two days. Raining, and storming and back in the 30s at night. I was the one to put the blanket on, I don't think they took it off, fine, whatever, at least its on. I mentioned to them that its really cold, that Bear has a cough suddenly, that I'm going to put it back on. I go out tonight, its not on. Its in the low 40s. It's an issue. I'm not afraid of being assertive, but I'm afraid of passive aggresive retaliation if I piss them off. It's like living in constant fear that your food has been spit. Imagine you've had to ask for a clean glass, remind the waitress you have no silverware, get up to tell the hostess you can't find your waitress so maybe they could do something about the hair in your butter, then you have to send back the plate becasue its not what you ordered, then again to be cooked all the way through. By the end you're so afraid that they hate you and they've done terrible things to your food that you don't even want to eat it. None of it was your fault, but you're at their mercy. That's how I feel with the service at the barn.

Well that's my rant, I guess this has been building over two months, so I needed to get it off my chest. I'm not sure what I can do since I know this place is the only one that has all I need to train with this good of a price. If we can make it past blanketing season I'm sure I'll have no other reasons to be pissed off. At least I hope... I'm afraid the blanketing issue is a sign of an overall lack of horse care at the place. I'm worried. Tonight I'm really in the ranting mood because when I went out to ride tonight there was no power in the barn! Nothing. Who knows what's going on, maybe wiring issues. But seriously if I hear they got their power cut off for not paying the bills, I'm looking for another place to board!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Where the heck did February go?

Wow... what a month! I wish I could say I was so busy riding my handsome horse that I just didn't have time to post, but I was busy with other stuff, stuff that pays the bills if you get my drift.

Highlights and lows of the fastest 28 days of the year... (I swear it flies by every time!)
  • Good: Bear was ridden by another girl out in the barn! Great to have some one else on him.
  • Bad: Bear has scratches, ie: super grunge skin condition from too wet conditions.
  • Good: He stood quietly while I scrubbed up his ankles, dried them, and clipped them.
  • Bad: I suck with the clippers, and it sort of looks like what a 4 year old does to their bangs when they get a hold of scissors.
  • Good: The nasty scabby grunge hasn't come back.
  • Bad: His coronet band (peripole I think?) is so wet and squishy all the way around that its starting to separate from his hoof and I'm really concerned about his feet.
  • Good: I've been tying him in the barn while I ride Lola so that his feet dry out at least for an hour, and low and behold, the boy doesn't act like godzilla hooked to a tie rail anymore. Or at least not as much.
  • Bad: He's got blanket rubs on his shoulders again this year!
  • Good: I swapped the horses blankets and since it fits differently they are getting better not worse! Phew...
  • Bad: Weather has been terrible! So I don't get out to the barn because I can't face trudging out to the pasture to find the horses in the storm.
  • Good: He LOVES being in this big open pasture, and the herd seems to get along, and he can run and play and eat all the grass he can yank out of the ground.
  • Bad: I haven't been riding him much at all. The other horse takes priority because I bought her as a training project, and that means a certain level of commitment to make it happen.
  • Good: I found a summer schooling show series that I'm excited about taking him to! I need a goal to get motivated, he needs to get out and about in inexpensive ways this summer so that if and when I can really start showing him I'm not wasting my show fees getting him (and me) over show nerves!
That's a brief run down of our month. More bad weather sadly, but soon an extra hour at night will help motivate me to get out there with enough time to work both horses!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Two hours and counting…

So I’m shocked every time I leave the barn and realize that I’ve been there for hours, literally at least two hours pass, and I feel like I have about twenty minutes of work accomplished. I think my frustration stems from the fact that I’m looking at it from my work-minded productivity stand point, and I keep thinking of how I can cut back on unnecessary things, streamline the workflow to ultimate efficiency, and get the most out of my time at the barn. Then my mindset while at the barn is total relaxation, do what I want for as long as I want because this is my zen time. So I guess I’m trying to find a happy medium.

Some things should be allowed to take as long as I am inspired to do them. Training can’t always be planned to the last minute, sometimes you’re on a roll, sometimes you’re working through something. I do need to limit myself how many different things I’ll try to work on in one night, for example I will lunge to warm up, then either lunge with side-reins OR lunge of poles, not both or I’m lunging too long for by time frame and the horse’s attention span. Grooming is another thing that I never think was a waste of time, especially during the spring, if I’m motivated to groom for an hour, I better take advantage of that inspiration, because I’m sure they need it!

Other things just seem like time suckers, and productivity goes down the drain. Running back and forth to the tack room is always the first place I start going wrong. I am trying to have a plan of what I’m doing and what I’ll need and grab it all before getting the horses so that it is sitting out and organized. The one I’m really struggling with is getting the horses from pasture. I don’t notice the time going by because for the most part I don’t mind the walk out there, but I timed myself this week and it took me 18 minutes one night to get ONE horse from pasture! Crazy! It was the worst case scenario, and was so pitiful that it warrants the story being told.

The weather has been so awful. The pasture had four inches of water/mud, the kind that really suctions off your rain boots, so walking is tough. Then part of the pasture has turned into a lake, and there is a stream that’s formed across the pasture that is 6-10 feet wide. So I go out to get Lola and of course my two horse end up being a the farthest end of the pasture, past the stream! So I slowly start making my way through the water, hoping it didn’t get too deep. I picked what looked like the shallowest part and it still made it to within a few inches of the tops of my rain boots, so maybe 10 inches deep! Ugh! So I halter her, and it starts to pour on us, so I start the long trudge back, splashing through puddles and dragging my feet out of sucking mud holes, while getting bucketed on from above. It takes ages to walk through that mess! (Add to this the fact that I forgot to blanket Lola before putting her back out and didn’t realize until I was all the way at the gate and had to turn back around for the barn, and you can imagine how much I was dreaming of having them in stalls!) I can’t wait for the rain to stop!

I do have to remember that by the time I leave at night, no matter how late, I’m in a better mood, and I’m less stressed than when I left work. That’s the whole point of it now isn’t it?

A little fun in a week of amazingly bad weather

What a crazy week. Monday night was one of those lost causes, nothing went as planned. Two and half hours at the barn, and all I really did was lunge in a halter. Should have taken 20 minutes right? Not when I’m waiting for the horses eat at the barn since they’re missing dinner outside, and when a certain appy-butt gelding doesn’t believe my promise of food at the barn and refuses to be caught, and when I’m unexpectedly cold hosing the leg of a certain mare that I had planned on riding!

The good thing is that I did get to meet my tack room neighbor; she has a HUGE standardbred and a thoroughbred, both off their breed specific tracks. It’s good to get to know people so that I’ll have someone to go on trail rides with!

Bear did great lunging, his canter is already much stronger than two weeks ago. He is comfortable cantering on the lunge in there, and we trotted over some cones that I had laid down on their sides. (I had to get really creative! I’m bringing the trot poles over this week.)

Tuesday night I checked on Miss Big Leg and things went so terribly wrong getting out there, and it was raining so hard that I was drenched by the time I found them in the pasture. So I gave up and went home for food and warm dry clothes.

Bear has been getting slightly more attention towards the end of the week. Friday and Saturday he got lunged and I hopped on with the bareback pad. He’s so comfy bareback, he’s got a good back for it! I still use the pad because I feel like my butt bones would poke him. He’s so good about it! Every time I get on him bareback I think, “This is the day… the day he dumps me…” Real positive, I know. But he stands still while I climb on, and he jogs along so smoothly if I trot a bit, he really doesn’t get that he could take advantage of getting me off balance, I love that! Also I think doing some bareback is really helping him pay attention to my body asking him to turn. He felt awesome tonight, just right where I wanted him each step. I kind of like this new game, keeps things fresh.

When I lunged Friday I put the side reins on after warming up a bit. His canter is good and strong on the lunge line now, but I didn’t canter him with the side reins because I had them on the bareback pad and that’s not really designed for that! I was lazy and cheating on tacking up, and it worked just fine for some trot-walk transitions.

Saturday when I lunged I put some trot poles down (YEAH! I finally took them out there!) and he got to pick up his little feetsies. I slightly raised one end of each pole with the raised side being left on first pole, right on second, and so on. This created the visual guide of a lower center to encourage him to trot straight down the middle, and it raised the poles just enough to really make him pick his feet up and pay attention. He trotted through like a champ, nice and relaxed but with good cadence and stride. Then I rearranged things to have a tiny cross-rail jump. Tiny in height at least. He trotted that a couple times and thought it was no big deal, but did have a hard time picking the middle of the jump. He got it after a few tries, so much easier to jump the lowest part! So I asked him to canter of the little X a couple times and called it good. I want it to be easy and interesting, I want him to enjoy jumping!

The rain broke for Saturday, but it sounds like it’ll be back on and off all week. LAME! I want to go out on a non-muddy trail ride, and the way things look now I feel like even with out more rain it won’t dry out until March! Oh, winter… I guess that’s why he’s at boarding school with the indoor arena!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Working on the same old trick…

I am anxious to finally start progressing with Bear. I have been repeating the same lesson since last April because I haven’t been consistent enough! In May he was a super star, way beyond my expectations. He was balanced and responsive at the walk, trot, and canter even on a circle. Then he had three months off. September we started again, and by October he was pretty comfortable trotting again. Then he had November and December with hardly any work. So we’re back to balancing. He’s got forward, that’s good! But then he just gets more forward and starts falling forward. This make his feet quicken to catch up, and takes away all hopes of steering since his shoulders are just trying to keep everyone upright, and he starts diving in on the circles to catch his balance.

So we’re back to the same exercise. Walk-whoa every half to quarter of a circle, then trot-walk every half circle. By the end he’s anticipating the downward transition and holds himself upright more in order to be prepared to stop. He has a more collected gait, he is carrying more weight in the back, and he is listening. I forget how simple the fixes can be when you break it down to a simple exercise that the horse can feel confident in doing well, and something that doesn’t get me over-thinking and screwing it all up!

I had my mom ride Bear for the first time tonight, and just had her do the same thing with him. It worked so well. It gave them something simple to concentrate on, and kept him balanced and working well for her. It was a huge success for him to do so well with another rider on his back. For the next few months while I have this project horse he’ll have quite a few other people riding him since I’ll be on the mare, so I really want them to be safe and for him to still have a positive step forward in his training each time. So tonight was a good sign.

A little picture of Bear being so patient while helping train his new friend.

Now if he would just stop eating things off shelves at the tie rail… wait, now that’s asking way too much!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Nature vs. Nurture

Bear is Bear, what can I say. I love him to death, but now comparing some of his manners to the new horse, I can’t help but wondering, have I created a monster?

Nature vs. Nurture is debated in the human psychology fields depending on the realm and which philosophies they follow. Nature versus Nurture asks if there are certain behaviors in humans that a created by the environment that the individual was exposed to (nurture) or are they innately predisposed to those behaviors through genetics (nature). Let’s take a serial killer for a very general (and extreme) example, is this outrageously unacceptable behavior because of poor nurturing, say from severe neglect and abuse as a child? Was this killer naturally wired wrong and this behavior is a reflection of his mind not working?

The answer most often is both. Sometimes in extreme cases of mental illness the social behaviors are never quite right regardless of the best nurturing. Sometime the most neglected child can grow up to break the cycle and become something completely removed from the violence and chaos they thought was normal for so long. There are exceptions on either side of the spectrum, but most cases have a little of both. If mom had a history of mental illness and dad had a history of violence, both of those factors are surely going have an effect on the child and later his chances of being a successful adult.

So now we get back to Bear. What behaviors are there because is, after all, only four years old and seems to have a natural curiosity about what things are and how they would fit in his mouth? What behaviors are there because I haven’t been consistent enough in laying down the lines of what is expected of him?

Example: Lola ties quietly, occasionally paws, but can be trusted to stand tied alone. Bear dances, paws, puts his head down and gets the lead rope over it, bites, chews, eats his lead rope, eats anything around him: tack, blankets reins, his neighbor… you get the point. He has to be supervised! The tie rail at boarding school is chaos for Bear. I have to tie him super short or he’ll stick is head under it. He started clearing off the shelves while I tied the other horse. He’s a menace! Why? I tied him in the arena so he wouldn’t destroy things and he started playing a game by moving the gate back and forth, sticking his head through slots as far as he could. Plus more dancing, pawing, and neighing.

Here’s the even worse problem: this is exactly the same issue with trailering him. With standing tied I can at least discipline him (although I think he secretly loves being smacked) or I could hobble him while tied to quit the pawing. But what the heck do I do in the trailer. He gets bored and creates entertainment for himself! I tried feeding him while trailering, but he stuck his foot in the feeder on a regular basis.

His naughtiness is such a nuisance. In fact I think either of those would have been great names for him! Will it ever go away? Or is this is personality? He is a work in progress though, I guess I just need to remind myself that some changes will only come with training and maturity, and look back at all the success we have had.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Doing better already

I guess every horse is bound to have his bad day, and I was certainly not my most patient when I went out on Saturday, but Monday when I went out was a 100% better.

Everything about him was better, tacking was much easier, and he was sort of back to himself. I lunged him a bit, and then put his side reins on and spent the rest of the time dividing my attention between him and a phone call. He did really well lunging off just my body position since I stopped talking to him, and then we just walked around on a loose rein since I was still on the phone. Not the ideal situation, but I got out there late and when your boyfriend calls from out of the county you can’t just say that you’ll call back once you’ve spent enough quality time with your horse!

I tied him up and went to get the new project horse out of pasture and we did a quick training session to teach Bear to start ponying Lola. To start with I just walked between them to lead them together, then looped her lead around the horn as a pulley and lead him on his left and let her get ponied like she would. Bear still turns and looks at her every so often like he just doesn’t get it, but I’ve ponied the old mare from him so many times I think he’ll get the hang of it quick, it’s more the adjustment to it being a new mare.

He seems to love the pasture at “boarding school” and he had totally buddied up to Lola already. So I am super happy with the situation so far.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Like stepping back in time...

So I got out to boarding school yesterday to ride Bear and I was not pleased with the day. We made the most of it, but it was like I was riding Bear from a whole year ago, fresh and all over the place.

I got him out of pasture just after three girls had pulled a few other horses out to ride, one being the alpha mare of the pasture. Apparently Bear has a big crush on her, because he was simply beside himself when he saw her in the barn! He likes the mean ones that kick!

He was anxious while I tacked up, he was anxious and wouldn't listen while leading around, and so the plan to just hop on and trail ride around the ranch was shot. I felt like I better take him in the arena since he was so hot, and it was pretty wet out. There was already one of the girls in there, and the other two came in just after. Four horses in a small indoor is a whole lot of distraction. Bear never calmed down. There was no option to lunge while sharing the only place dry enough to lunge, so I just made the most of it. I just walked and worked on lots and lots of turns, walking pirouettes, turning on the forehand, stopping, and backing, I tried a little trot but he was just sticky, trotting too fast then dumping on his shoulder and walking, and it was not going to work to try and pushing him forward with three other horses trying to run barrel patterns! So I decided we'd try outside now that he was more focused.

I hopped off and lead him around outside a bit, and he got all hot and anxious again. I finally got on, and did some more turns and circles outside in a grassy area by the trailers, then finally walked out to one of the fields that hasn't been fenced off yet. We trotted some since now we could just focus on going forward in an open space and he relaxed a bit finally. My back has been killing me for about two weeks now, so I couldn't really do much. (Add to that that Bear yanked me forward when a horse bit him while I was pulling him out of pasture, and my back was awful by the time I was done.) So I was crabby and in pain, and mainly just really disappointed that he's regressed so much.

He's in a new place that he's still getting acclimated to (he's only come out of the pasture twice now), and has no training routine going, so all this is my fault and the fix is simple: consistent work. That's the plan for him being there! I just have to follow through now. I'll be taking the new mare out to join him at boarding school today, so I should be able to get out to ride the two most nights after work. I'm thinking I may wait until more like 6:30 or 7 so that they won't miss dinner in pasture and so that the indoor arena will clear out. I have no idea what the riding traffic looks like on a week night but I would assume its the worst right after work. Since I need to lunge and do other things with the new mare (like ground driving) that requires the arena to myself I may end up working horses at 9pm in order to have the place to myself!

Monday, January 4, 2010

A new friend...

Its official, I have a training project. Now Bear is going to have to share my time and attention. It should be fun! If you want to see what the fun is all about:

She's a cutie! It will be a great experience trying all this again with another horse with a totally different disposition and body type.

Bear will still be getting way more work than usual though since I'll be determined to get out to the barn to ride the new girl (consistent work is more than just good training, its a safety thing) and with the lights I will end up staying until both horses are done.

They won't meet until next weekend since he's off at boarding school and I took her to my parent's property for this first week. Hope they get along!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Bear is off to Boarding School!

I was pretty impressed with my dad for coming up with the oh so cute label for Bear's new home. He's just at boarding school! Adorable, and fairly accurate. He's not in training there, but I will finally have the facility to get cracking on his training myself. I am very excited to see some progress this spring.

I trailered him out this afternoon, it was later than I wanted, but I at least got him there a half hour before dark so he could meet the new pasture mates and figure out the fence line. He was high as a kite when I got him out of the trailer, prancing and snorting and spooking at blanketed horses. When we put him out to pasture he prance straight out to the middle of the herd and arched his neck and stuck his tail straight out! I so wish I had taken a video camera out! I don't think I've ever seen him move so beautifully! He sure is gorgeous when he tries!

I threw his blanket on him once the all settled down to eat. He was warm, but not wet with sweat, so that was good. I spent the last two weeks switching his feed so that he'd be ready for a new program, so he should be good there. He's already made a friend in the pasture and figured out which mare is to be given space at all times! I think it will be great.

I still need to move my tack in and clean up the various piles of horsey items around my parents' house, then the move will be official. I'm so looking forward to riding after work in a covered arena!