Friday, September 26, 2014

Actively riding

My last post I talked about how I was riding my mare. Or more like perched on her doing a whole lot of nothing. What I got from her was exactly that. A whole lot of nothing. No engagement, no suspension, no roundness, no flow and a whole lot of crap, crap, crap. Lol

I will post links to the videos since Blogger doesn't seem to want to cooperate. It has been a total turd lately about letting me post pictures or anything so links it is instead of embedding the videos.

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Going to the right, her better side. Mine not so much. I have a tendency to twist my upper body at the posting trot. Being a bit 'top heavy' doesn't help either. Check the hands- narrow. Which equals my elbows sticking out to the sides.

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Going to the left. My better side and hers- not so much. I have a tendency not to pick up the correct diagonal when starting off at a trot. It has been a long time riding issue for me.

We don't canter yet. We both obviously have things to work on at the trot so let's just not get ahead of ourselves, ok?  I had ridden her in the German martingale before this, to hopefully put an end to the 'Stop & Pop' going on. When I ask this mare to stop, she stops and instantly pops her head up.

Fast forward to a few nights ago.  I tacked Aruba up with her cowgirl clothes because on my western saddle, my stirrups are one hole too long and it sort of forces me to ride off of the movement of the horse rather than rely on my lower leg and the stirrups... I don't post so far up out of the saddle this way either. Also on her western bridle, my reins don't have the little rein stops on them so I don't know how long or short they are, I just know this is working or it isn't. There's no 'cheating' on this. I need to either take up the slack or let her have her head a little and the rein stops don't get in the way for either one.

We started out at the walk. I used my legs to engage her rear end and asked her to reach further up under herself with each step. She responded and started stepping out, but also swished her tail at my leg with each step in protest. Going to the right as her right hind came up, I put my leg/spur on her to get her to step a bit further and she would swish her tail to the right. Going to the left it was the same thing. Step, spur, swish. It sort of had a rhythm to it.

*A note on spurs. I wear spurs on her because if I don't? She either leans on my leg or ignores it completely. With the spurs on, I can use just my leg or turn my heel a little and back it up with the spur if she doesn't respond. If I could not ride well enough to manage this- then I don't belong on a horse like her. When horse people speak of "Earning your spurs", this is what they mean. You have learned to control your lower leg and can use them independently with or without using your spurs and you know when they are needed and when they are not.

I had to remind myself to widen my hands. This is a BIG mare (16.2) and she needs somewhere to GO. My friend had told me to use my hands as a channel and guide her new found energy forward between them. makes sense to me.

Raise my hands up off her withers. Keep the straight line from the elbow to the bit, instead of breaking it up and 'blocking' her movement. At the same time though, I needed to shorten the reins and take a hold of this mare, making her work. Give her the steady contact to support her, but don't hang on too tight and get into a game of tug-o-war.  Let her find the happy medium and she will start to balance herself. Use soft half halts with the outside rein to keep her from breaking into a trot, unless that is what you want, then let her pick up the trot. At the trot, keep using your legs to ask for more reaching up underneath with the hind end.

Magic started to happen. Aruba found that sweet spot a few times of soft self carriage. She was balanced and moving really nicely underneath me. Posting was easy as her movement lifted me up out of the saddle. My legs felt like they were still back underneath me where they belonged and when going to the left, picking up the correct diagonal just happened as she started trotting.

As long as I kept my hands up, open and wide, she started to soften and was quiet and steady in the bridle. And once again as soon as  told her how good she was- she wanted to stop. I kept her going, but then this happened a few times without her popping her head up in the air.  She wasn't thrilled about having to work, but she did it without much protest either. A couple of times she got a little pissy and popped her front end up as if offering to bounce into a canter. I wouldn't mind if she cantered, but I'm not going to let her bounce into it like that in an act of defiance either. It will come with time and work. When we get there- I have no doubt it is going to be a helluva ride!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Taking it all in

When I hauled my mares down to Cindy's place to ride them, I was hoping to eventually get some decent photos of my WB mare to post in an ad to sell her. I figured this time around would be a test ride of letting the mares get to see the place and accustomed to it so that later when they were working like they should and comfortable there, then we would worry about photos.

Cindy had different plans and her cameras did too. The batteries kept playing havoc on things and dying on her. She did get a few photo's of Aruba after our ride, I got a few of her tied at the trailer with my cell phone and my camera freaked out not reading the SD card. When I rode her, Cindy had to take a call. She was a bit preoccupied with that, so we were lucky to get what we did. No biggie.

I thought Aruba did pretty good considering. I tried to focus on certain things, what I asked for, praising her when she did it...  The feedback I got from a friend of mine though, was a bit of a different story. Things are about to change. For the better of course, in both my riding and how the mare will be working. Hopefully. As long as it all goes well.  *rolls eyes*

Cindy finally got to upload the videos and I have watched them several times over, just about daily.  Studying them, looking at things. Watching what I do right and looking for things I need to change to make it better. There are a few people I have sent links to and waited for their feedback. One of them, a respected friend in the driving club, came back with some suggestions of how to change and fix what needs it, cleaning up our appearances a lot, but mostly how this mare's way of going is and how she's working. Or at this point- isn't.

For one she mentioned my hands are too low and too narrow. My elbows stick out because of this and my reins are also a bit too long. I need to engage the mares rear end and make her start to actually work. This will build her topline from stem to stern. Also use my legs more and actively encourage her to step further underneath herself. This was in one of my dressage books as well, stated in much the same manner, so yes, it obviously does have some merit.  Lose the German martingale and don't worry about my lower leg coming back underneath me more, at least for now. Fixing the way I ride will in turn fix the horse. Fixing the rest will follow later.

So I will be trying these things in my next ride and those to follow, start making the changes that I need to make. I won't be able to get any video on my own, but hopefully I can get another one soon and show the new updated version of how this mare works. I'm excited.

Another thing that has been an inhibitor has been trying to get a farrier out to do their feet. Mine took a few weeks off without saying a word and I couldn't for the life of me get anyone else to commit to coming out, let alone show up. Unless you want to count the farrier across the street.  I had used him in the past and it wasn't so good of an outcome. We have since exchanged a few words on a few occasions and as much as he begged, I stand firm with my decision. No. I still won't be using him. I don't like to, but I will trim my own when need be. It's hard on my back and I hurt the next day, but I know it is done and the horses are good to go until the next time.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A ride on my TB mare & long line work

Now this mare seriously lacks confidence to move forward. At home she's fine, a little hesitant to move out away from her comfort zone, but otherwise fine. Being in a new place, a new arena, new sights, sounds and everything else, she did okay. Lunging she tried to cling to one side, one corner of the arena, but we worked it out. When I got on her she froze and didn't want to move. She stood there watching and taking it all in. OMG! So much to process....

I finally got her to walk and we made several circles but still didn't venture far from the one end of the arena.  She seen Cindy and Trax going around, this end to that end, serpentines, circles and everything in between.  Not once did her mind let "Race Horse" mode kick in and she want to take off and follow him, even when they did a canter depart in front of us and went to the other end of the arena. 

I did manage to get her into a trot a few times both directions. She did not want to settle down into the bridle though and pick up her comfortable trot. I tried taking up contact with one rein but still I bounced and it sucked.  We made a few more laps around the end of the arena at a walk and I called it good. It was getting late and I still needed to work Cindy's mare in long lines before leaving to take the mares back, drop them off and feed before coming back home.

Sassy did really well as Cindy told me she hasn't worn a bridle much before. I started her out with the lines through the lower rings and let her move out. She picked up a trot and acted a bit like she was expecting the outside rope to slide up under her tail and give her an excuse to buck. It never did so she just kept moving along and soon she relaxed and stopped. I moved around behind her to keep the outside rein from sliding up as I asked her to turn around and reversed her direction. She walked and soon trotted and did really well. Her head was still a bit high, but each time she dropped it I praised her and told her how good that was. Before long her head came down as she relaxed and moved forward. The contact was soft and steady and gave her support when she needed it.

I changed the reins up to go thru the rings where my hands would be if I were riding and moved her off again. She did really well and again I kept praising her every time she dropped her head and relaxed. Before long she was trotting around on a semi loose rein and looked beautiful doing it. We finished up with a bit of softening work, serpentines and I tried to explain to Cindy what I was doing and how as I did it. Sassy even seemed pleased with herself. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Saddle time

I have thought of something to do for a monumental post. Not sure how it will come together and when exactly because I'm still working out the kinks as well as several details. I will keep everyone posted as to when and how and all of that good stuff.  For now though, I have made progress. I was able to haul my two mares over to Cindy's place and use an actual arena. Wahoo! 

This is the first time the mares have been there and they both handled it amazingly well. Her neighbor has goats, a cow, turkeys, a llama or alpaca- I didn't check to see which, dogs and probably a lot more critters I didn't see, hear or smell.

When I got ready to load them at home I showed Aruba the door to the trailer and she said no. I showed it to her again and again she said no. So we went over to the round pen, I got the whip and this time she said "Okay, no problem." as she walked right up and stepped inside.  My TB mare, I have found that if I run a lunge line up thru the ring in the manger and back to her halter, she will for the most part, load herself.  Up and in she went with no hassle.

When I unloaded them Cindy was out in the arena playing on the tractor. When she came walking up, Aruba was on the side of the trailer closest and her first impression of my mare was "DAMN! She's a BIG mare!" Yes, yes she is. At 16.2 she's nothing little to sneeze at. I tacked her up with my dressage saddle and tacked up the TB mare with my western saddle. Since the western saddle has a horn to hang my bridle from I led her over to the arena and tied her to the fence where she could wait, watch and just chill out.

When I grabbed all of my stuff and brought Aruba over to the arena, one thing that caught Cindy's eye was my mounting steps. She joked and offered me a 6 foot ladder.  Back in the day I used to be able to mount a horse like her, bareback with nothing. My gelding was 16 hands and I could fling my leg up and over his back and off we went. Not so much anymore. I can still get on her without the steps if she's wearing the western saddle, but the two English saddles- nope. Besides, after seeing the long term effects on an English saddle tree, of mounting from the ground. I'll use the steps thanks.

Cindy was going to ride, but said her saddles were all in various stages of being taken apart for cleaning and what not. So I offered her one of mine. My close contact was in the trailer, she was welcome to use it....  She politely declined, saying she could hardly stay on in western tack sometimes, to which I told her I call bullshit on that. I have seen her ride and she's not near as bad a rider as she was making herself sound. Besides, I have seen in her words on her blog, some of the stunts her horse has pulled and she managed to stay on him thru all of it and ride it out. So I called bullshit on that, but she still declined the offer.

Cindy was off tacking up while I was lunging Aruba. I seen her pop out from around the corner a couple of times while my mare was going around and around and around. The girl can move and it has been too long since she's been out where she can actually move like she needs to. She even rolled into a nice canter for a while and held it for a few laps before easing back into a trot. Usually her canter departure consists of a bounce or leap up and into it, but this one was as smooth as they come.

When it came time to get on, Aruba stood patiently and waited for me to get on and settled. She didn't think she should have to move from there, let alone work...  Cindy had gotten some video of her on the lunge line and whenever she gets it uploaded I will post a link. She was trying to get her other camera to get video of me riding her, but that didn't work out so well, so we'll just have to try for another day. As it was, we had a good ride and kept our distance from the animals next door. 

Then it was my TB mares turn....