Friday, May 31, 2013

Shake it off

Over on the blog Behind the Bit, she posted a video about a horse having a bad day in the ring. It happens. It happens to ALL of us. It happens to our horses. It happens in ALL levels and it happens in ALL events.  None of us are immune.

Some days in driving, for me or my pony- it all goes to total and complete crap! Hunters/jumpers or eventers- same, cutting- same, barrel racing- same, roping- same, gyhmkanna- same, trail riding- same, green horse- same, seasoned horses- same and the list goes on... It doesn't seem to matter what you are doing, what you are practicing for, what you set out to work on that day, you, your horse or both of you, just can't seem to get it right for whatever reason.

When this happens you just have to stop for a moment, shake it off, take a deep breath and let it all go. It's tough to do sometimes though. We get caught up in the moment of IT not coming together, we feel pressured at a show or event to do well, impress people and show off what we have learned or taught the horse and it all. falls. miserably. apart.

Frustrating? check
Aggravating? check
Annoying? check
Feelings of failure? check
Feel like you want to cry? check
Pissed off? check

Have I listed the range of emotions we have all gone through at one time or another? If I missed any, feel free to add them in the comments.

There are times when all we can do is swear like a sailor under our breath, fake a smile, hope nobody could read our lips and laugh it off, when we would really like to scream and knock the holy living snot out of something.  Boy have I been there! When Kat had an almost absent halt at the end of our dressage test at the CDE, got fidgety, stopped on an angle and offered to rear before asking him to back up... I wasn't happy with him at all. He is soooo not like that at home.

What could I really do though? I quietly swore at him, laughed at his bs and just sucked it up as best I could. I asked for the 3-5 steps back, walked him forward, halted and saluted the judge while smiling (thinking my pony was a rotten [insert liberal swearing] for pulling that stunt) and left the arena.

When you think it is all going horribly wrong- the horse is shying, trying to bolt, crowhopping, offering to rear or any of the zillion other things they can do, while it FEELS like it was a huge buck, feels like they bolted and ran laps around the arena or feels like they did any number of things in a big way- what it LOOKS like to spectators, the judge, your coach or trainer is often not nearly as bad as what we as a rider, driver or handler thinks.

When Aruba wasn't listening to my leg, not responding and I spurred her one to 'wake her ass up" and "get her attention", the resulting leap up and forward felt like an arched back/crowhop almost bucked and she was not happy. Hubby happened to get it on video. It was a leap up and forward, but in reality it was only a couple strides of canter before she stopped and put her head up. That was her little tantrum. When Kat had his meltdown at the horsepark, I remember him taking two nose dives in the dirt, him rearing, leaping, jumping and bucking and I swear it felt like we made at least two laps around the arena. Hubby watching said we made a lap and a half if not less.  I wish he had gotten that on video.

In our minds we tend to feel it happening so much bigger, so much worse and so different than it often does in reality. We may remember it differently too. What others see it as, may be a half step to the inside, a crowhop not a full on buck or a buck, but not a horse going NFR on us. Now I'm not saying the horse never has a total meltdown on loses it on us, because sometimes they really, really do. But a lot of times we imagine or feel it being so much worse. 

In the video, you can see a few times when the horse has a 'moment' the rider stops, reaches down and pats the horse to reassure him and they try again to move on.  The best thing we can do is stop for a second (or ten), take a deep breath, give the horse a break and try to start over. Start with something simple, something they can do without issue, let that be our happy note and quit there.  If you are in the arena, you might get ding'ed on your score, might slip a placing or two in the lineup, but if you can stop, correct things and go on with a quieter horse, sometimes you will be moved up a placing or two for how you handled it.  Instead of an all out war, you had a slight 'bobble'.  It's ok, because life will go on and you can improve on things from here.  It happens to all of us.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pop, pop, pop

I am trying to get more pictures of this mare under saddle, but with the twins it is not always easy to have a photographer on hand. We did have some fairly good workouts over the weekend though.

Saturday morning the farrier was out and Miss Aruba is now sporting size 5's on her front feet. For anyone who hasn't seen shoes that size- hold your hand up, spread your fingers out as far as you can and imagine connecting the dots of your fingertips and you will come pretty close. She has some Huge feet! I would rather a horse have bigger feet than not.

She wasn't actually due for a trim for a couple more weeks- at least on paper, but looking at her feet as I picked them out before a ride- she was due. The farrier agreed we weren't going to get away with a trim again for a while. Although he tried to explain some things about what and why, about her shoes, he didn't really get to as we kept talking about other things and getting distracted. Lucky enough though, I get it. Without him having to explain it I understand he had to bring the shoe back some under her foot- putting it where it should go to help things get sorted out as far as balancing the hoof.  No problem here and fine by me. 

As it goes, life happens and I wasn't going to be riding Saturday night since my sisters birthday party was right in the middle of when I would be tacking up. I did manage to slip in a ride on Thursday night. She did ok considering. She started off a little fast and really responsive, but as we worked she leaned on my legs, hung on the bridle and got exceedingly lazy.

What was really funny was that one of the neighbors to the north of us was shooting off fireworks. At first it caught her off guard. She sorta startled and stopped. When she seen the sparkles in the sky in front of her, she looked up, ears pricked and was interested.  I told her they were for her because she was doing so well. That was all it took.  Every time we came around the end of the arena looking towards the fireworks, her head came up, ears forward and she looked at her fireworks. Not scared at all, interested and curious, but not afraid. 

Last night as I fed, the neighbors to the west of us were shooting off fireworks.  Aruba couldn't be bothered and as the hay was put in front of each of them, the rest of the horses became less concerned with the sparkly sky and all the popping noises.  It's nice to know that if I am out riding and get caught out in the neighborhood after dark, that my horses won't be rattled by fireworks.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

English vs Western

When my friend said she didn't want to see my mares movement wasted through western riding, I thought of this video. The first one I had seen before and sent it to a new acquaintance to show them the differences between disciplines. When looking for it to post here, I found the second one too.
I like the music selections. 
Watch closely as the western horse is making his way out of the arena. The rider is cueing for lead changes and getting them, but they are a bit 'bouncy'.
While most of the four horses performances are not letter perfect, it clearly shows that you CAN ride either English or western and pull it off either way. If you can ride and know the basic cues of moving the hip or shoulders over, balance, contact, collection and everything else that goes with it- you can do it in either saddle wearing whatever clothing you like.
Now when I said their performances aren't letter perfect- I am talking mostly about the spins on the western horses. Neither one plants their pivot foot worth a damn, but I digress... Also the big bay dressage horse- the hind legs in the canter piroutte seem to hop together at times and should move more independently. Granted it is one movement out of how many??? But IMO, they should work on that and do it well or not at all. Is that really too much to ask?
Lynn Palm proved on Rugged Lark, that you could do a canter piroutte and go into a reining spin. I'm not a fan of her riding or training, but she was the first person to take the time and inititive to train the horse in both reining and dressage and actually DO IT. Now I'm not going to try turning my mare into a reiner or think she is anywhere near doing canter pirouttes, but hopefully one of these days I can get video or at least pictures of my mare under both sets of tack, doing the basic gaits. The movement and cues are all the same, just different tack and clothes. How many western riders have you seen posting? So why the big fuss or fight over which set of tack you use or what the gait is called? I have no idea.

One thing the hubby said to me was that I need to choose what I am working on with this mare. "Is she going to be a western horse or an English horse? Pick something to FOCUS on." This is along the lines of- Do one thing and do it exceptionally well or do a little bit of everything and be just 'ok' at all of it.  Ultimately she could go either way and looks equally as good under either set of tack. Did I mention she ground ties? Could you imagine her as a rope horse? That coming out of the box after a cow would be a helluv an adrenaline RUSH!  Lol!  
For now we will continue to work on the basics- rhythm, relaxation, balance, forward movement and a soft, supple horse. From there- we can go any direction. Once that's established it is up to the horse as to what she excells at and Wants to do. If going slower and collected is her thing- western it is. If she does well under English tack and my hunt saddle fits- we go that route and try cross rails to see if low hunters is something that excites her... Time will tell.  


Thursday, May 23, 2013


Let's give this another try, shall we?

Hopefully this will work...

These first four are a touch blurry so it is not your eyesight going bad or age creeping up on us.

This wasn't our best ride and although she is a little strung out in some shots and being a tad evasive in others, for the most part- it is what it is. Feel free to pick out the good, the bad and the otherwise in the photos and post them in the comments. We still have plenty to work on, one thing being consistency... but we are getting there. Or trying to!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

It's only appearances

I had sent out the pictures of me riding Aruba a few weeks ago to a few people, whose opinions I respect. Although in a few of them she is not looking her best and some of them I'm not either... at least there are pictures of us working on it.

Of the pictures I sent out there were a few that were fairly decent, a few she looked like she was moving downhill, some that were a touch blurry and some that were just 'ok'. One thing I did notice in them was that of the things I worried about, what I felt going on being up there and in the moment- were not happening like I thought.

Sure my leg needed to come back under me some, but my heels were down and lower leg looking secure. My hands were low and I was not asking for a bend to the inside and refusing to give with the outside (one problem I know I have) and although it felt like I was posting a mile out of the seat at times- it didn't look like it. I was also looking UP! As in watching where I wanted to go, not looking to see if my horse was still under me, which is another big problem I have....  

So with all of this out of the way as far as thinking about it, worrying over it or whateverthefluck I do that distracts me in riding, I could move on and focus on other things. Like her rhythm, balance, bending, softness, rating and contact.... One thing I noticed in riding her with the western tack was that when I posted, I did not rely so much on my stirrups. Mainly because they are still a hole (or two) too long. Which allowed me to sink into my lower leg and heel, posting off of my knees, while relaxed and letting her motion carry me.

When I switched to my dressage saddle, although I ride with my stirrups where they belong or one hole longer, it felt like I couldn't get my legs back and under me the same way as before.  One of my friends I had sent the pictures to, had commented on trying a few things to change how the mare was working. I had sent some pictures of her working in western tack and said I would be switching back for me to fix me and in turn, also fix the horse.

I'm guessing the idea of turning Aruba into a western horse to be doing the crab walk, slog and four beating trope sprung to mind for her because I was told she would hate to see the mares suspension and lovely movement wasted in that respect, but this was the dressage rider coming out in her.  Rest assured- Not on my watch. That is about as miserable to ride as it is for me to watch. Why would I want to do that??? 

Saturday night as I tacked up, I switched to the western gear. I assured my friend that all of the work would be the same, it's just different tack and different clothes. Besides, with the western saddle I would be using boots instead of polos and the foxtails wouldn't be working their way through the wraps poking her in the legs and irritating her while we worked.

Instead what I got out of our ride, was a noodly horse that drifted and was trying to do her own thing on her own terms. Going to the left, I would tug the left rein and signal her to start turning. What I got was her head turned to the left but we started drifting off to the right. If I put my left leg back to push her hip over to complete the turn, she drifted further, faster.  I put my right leg on her with the spur and shut off that exit route. No more evading that way, although she tried it a few more times to see if she could.

She also was anything but consistent. She would quit on me or try to, speed up and act as if she should be racing as a trotter at Yonkers and just about everything in between. The rhythm, consistency, contact and softness were just not there. At a walk things went well, but move up to a jog or trot and it fell apart fast enough.  We needed to stop and start everything over again. Refocus, recenter, rebalance and redirect the energy, but our daylight was fading and her attention span was going with it... It would have to wait until the next day, so I found a good place to stop and we quit there.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Game changes

Last weekend when I rode Aruba, I moved out to the front pasture where I typically drive Kat and also where the neighbors cattle are turned out. She handled the horsepark well enough, but obviously she needs to go there more often and learn that she is still to work and listen to her rider- no matter where we are, where we go, if we are alone, other horses around, etc. 

What I didn't mention about out trip to the horsepark was that the brakes on my truck were starting to fail on me. I'm not one to drive like a maniac with a trailer behind me, be it full or empty, but I noticed my pedal was a little 'squishy'. Everything went well enough and the brakes held out for me until Monday morning. Starting out on the way to work, I kept thinking "I need to check the fluid levels" but as many of us do, I figured I would do it later.

Well later turned into "Much Sooner" as in "NOW" when I approached a light before the freeway and had n.o.t.h.i.n.g. Foot and pedal to the floor and the truck was still not stopping.  Luckily I was far enough back that I had room to work with. I got the truck stopped at the light, but it was a challenge. Turns out the master cylinder leaked into something or other and I knew it wasn't something I could fix at home so the truck got to spend another few days back in the shop. It is good to have friends!

Back to riding, Aruba worked fairly decent in the front pasture. She was alert and kept looking around, but what bothered her for the most part was the foxtails.  These are a weed that has a bloom if you can call it that, that sorta looks like wheat. Problem is, this is the seed and they stick in Everything. This year, they are everywhere and foxtails can be a chore to get rid of. Since I had wrapped her legs in polos- they were loaded. 

We worked on bending and flexing, giving and releasing, but mostly what was missing was a steady rhythm. At the trot there were places in the pasture where she sped up, places where she tried to stop and places where she though trying to crophop and get goofy on me might make me give up. No giving up and she got straightened out in that respect and a stern "Knock it off!" was all it took for her to ditch that idea before trying it again.

Our workout was less than stellar and I am finding that when this mare is in heat, it is more constructive/productive to just stick to ground work. As a former broodmare now going back to work, let alone using muscles she probably hasn't before and if so, not for a long time, I can give her that. I know where she's coming from in that respect.  

As we finished up I moved her to the one corner of the pasture and we did some hill work. There are several mounds of manure/fertilizer to be spread out over the pasture, so we went up, across and down the other side. The we zig zagged our way back and forth across the mound from one end to the other. We trotted back across, went down the side, made a U-turn, back up the hill, part way across, down the left side, trotted around the end, up the other side and back across the top... I changed things up and kept her guessing which way, where, up or down and what next?

By the time we finished our hill work, she was light in the bridle, moving off my leg and incredibly responsive. So responsive in fact that when I would ask for a turn to the right, she was rocking back on her butt and giving me some nice rollbacks and ready to go the other direction as quick as I might ask.  We walked around some to let her cool out and the cows were slowly moving in on our work space so it was time to stop.

I would have let her move the cows around, but a few of them, Layla & Red especially, are pretty large and can be uncooprative. To get to the smaller, quieter cows, I would have to get past them. If we were going to play with the cows and let Aruba track them- even if at a walk- I want it all to go smooth and well, being a positive experience for her. With Layla and Red involved, it just wasn't worth the risk. Maybe some other day.

I am still trying to load the pictures from the beginning of May, so everyone can see them, and the plan for this weekend is to put her back in the western tack, use the boots instead of polos and ride her up front again. Hopefully I can get some pictures of her out there working, hopefully still, some more pics with me ON her and things going like they should. For now we will see how it goes.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A walk in the park

Sunday we made it to the Horsepark! Aruba wasn't too sure about everything and she could hear other horses in the barns and other arena, but we couldn't see them from the public use arena area. She hauled like a champ and was well behaved as I tacked her up. She was on alert, but well behaved for the most part.

I was running a tad behind because I had forgotten a bucket for water and my step stool to mount with. Had I used the western tack, I might have done without, but the bucket for a drink was needed as it was pretty warm and late in the day. I tacked her up with the dressage saddle, grabbed my gear, put it by the gate and went back for her and my lunge line.

Aruba was on high alert for most of the day. She lunged at the walk and trot/jog while looking around for other horses or a reason/excuse to stop. She wasn't too fond of the small building with generators inside of it or the bit of trash strewn from the tipped over garbage can at the other end of the arena, but on the lunge line she got to see they were there, not moving or going to bother her and we worked both directions as she started to settle down and be at ease with things.

I put her bridle on, gloves, helmet, dropped my stirrups a hole, grabbed my mounting step and prepared to get on. I wasn't sure how this would go, but I knew what I was hoping for. As I got on, hubby mentioned her 'wary eye' that is common in broodies. Yes she sure had that going on... She was looking for something, anything to be concerned about, interested in or afraid of.

She did really well though and stood quietly while I mounted and found my other stirrup. The whole time her head was up in the air like a giraffes might be and I felt tiny up there for a change. I squeezed with my legs, tugged one rein and asked her to walk off. I started with our usual routine of softening work. Bend and give to the rein/bit, move the hip over and make some big circles.

Our circles weren't exactly round and it took a while before she relaxed enough to begin to drop her head. We went both directions and started to work our way out to the rail. Eventually we made a lap or two, near the rail, going to the left. Going to the right, she was back to being on high alert. A bunch of circles, gentle tugs on the reins, a touch of a spur to move the hip over and before long she started to relax again and actually dropped her head and walked. We made almost a lap around (I think) before another rig pulled in with a horse and up went the head again.

I was losing her attention fast so I made a few more circles and quit there. The other guy had unloaded his horse and was headed over to the hitching rail when I had gotten off and was removing the bridle. Hubby grabbed my gear and had thrown it in the truck, while I haltered Aruba and we made our exit. Everything had gone well enough for our first ride at another facility.

While neither ride over the weekend had been great or even a solid 'Good' from start to finish, they were both good enough and ended on a positive note. That's how it goes with horses. You might get a good ride here and there, a great one once in a while and a bunch of mediocrity in between along the way, but as you keep building up the training, working on improving, things come together and it gets better and better as you go along. It's a learning process for both of us, that's for sure.

***I am still trying to get the rest of the photos from last Saturdays ride and figure out how to get Blogger to post them.***

Monday, May 6, 2013

Getting back to good

Last weekend our ride went really, really well. Sunday we nailed it and of course there was nobody around with a camera. This weekend- well I had someone around who could take pictures... but, yeah.

Saturday morning I fed and pulled Aruba out to ride. I don't think she was so thrilled with being pulled away from her food to go work. Her attitude showed. Lately when I go to bring her out of the stall, as soon as I get through the gate and close it, she starts bouncing around and gettin jiggy with it. She is in a big stall, but for anyone who has ever been kicked or in a confined space with a horse bouncing around, you know how quick the walls seem to move in on you and there is little you can do about it.

I started wetting my halter before putting it on her. Weaver and some of the Hamilton nylon web halters have this bad thing about shrinkage. They fit fine the day you bring them home, then shrink after the first washing. Wet them down again and they stretch to the size of one bigger than you bought or to fitting a small elephant. *eyeroll* With the weather heating up, I think she likes the cool, wet halter, besides it fitting like it should and being comfortable on her again. It works for us both so we will go with that.

I have gotten my dress boots back for riding her English again, only to have one of my spur straps break, so with those replaced, new ones all oiled up and put on, I grabbed the dressage saddle and tacked her up. I need to get her another bit so I don't have to keep swapping that back and forth, but for now I had put it back on her English bridle. I mounted up and moved her off in a walk.

On the bottom of the training triangle is the word Rhythm. A few of the triangles may change it up from there, but for the most part they all start with Rhythm. Aruba has a good, steady and consistent rhythm to her walk. We can be doing big circles or small, but her rhythm remains consistently the same.

Last weekend we discovered that going to the left for her is not her better side. Her right side it turns out is her stronger side and she does better going that way. Funny thing is, going to the left is better from my riding standpoint, where going to the right- it all falls apart. This is why I keep telling this mare it is not all about her. I need to work on things too.

So for Saturday I leave you with two pictures that I have gotten from hubby so far. They show the sorta good and the not so much. Both can be improved upon, so feel free in the comments to point out what you see and we can discuss it. This is good for us visual folks to figure out what to look for and what not to.

This first pic is a bit blurry, but for the most part you can see her position and mine.

So let's hear it...

***Edit*** Blogger keeps showing and removing the pics on me. Not sure if it is just my computer or if it is that way for everyone.  If you can't see them, let me know and I can email them or something.