Saturday, December 18, 2010

Good golly when will the rain stop?

You'd think I lived in the Pacific Northwest with all this rain! I thought living in California meant I could still ride in the winter!

Well I've had two lessons canceled in two weeks... I guess I'll try around Christmas. One Friday afternoon lesson was scheduled due to the fact that I'm middle management at my office and expected to drop everything for the good of the whole. Then yesterday's lesson was canceled due the steady drizzling rain that came down all... day... long. The rains came just when the arenas seemed to be manageable again, not dry yet, but at least you could ride with risking trotting into a lake or a horse eating bog. Now it looks like another 7 days straight of raining, and enough inches to have flooding. UGH!

I need some creative ideas for the indoor arena. It really is the size of a two 20 meter circles. That's it. Cantering in the tiny space is not conducive to building her confidence because she's worried about balancing, but trot circles and other figures could be good. I've been playing around with more leg yielding, and the beginning of shoulder in, so the walls will be a good tool to continue that. I just hate being so confined, but I need to look at the positives.

I am tempted to trailer and out test my luck with muddy trails, but can't really convince myself to actually ride WHILE its raining. Maybe I'll catch a break on a day that I have time to trailer somewhere.

Any good "tiny arena" excercise suggestions????

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Trail class!

Of course this is several days to late to really hit what we did last weekend, but Sunday I hauled Lola out to a little schooling show for some trail classes! We had fun. The point was to get her out to a show environment, and give ourselves a different sort of challenge to keep things fresh. We were challenged and she was fresh! This is how I wanted her head..This is where she wanted to keep her head!

We did all right. You can see the course behind us in the pictures. Sadly my volunteer photographer had her 10 month old son strapped to her chest, and he decided that he just couldn't wait around. So I don't have any pictures of riding the course. Just one walking around warming up.

Lola was quite distracted and that was a huge obstacle to work through. She was nervous and it took a few tries to walk through the "chute", but she was good with backing the L, side passing, walking and trotting the poles, and going over the bridge. In general I though we did well. We had to weave around some stumps at the jog for two of the patterns, and this proved to be very difficult! It was like tight little serpentine, small half circle while making her keep the jog. We got it the second try though and I was very pleased. Basically we did three different patterns through the same obstacles, so it was slightly different each time, but she got to see the obstacle again which let us improve each time. Except for the gate... the gate that wasn't a gate.. the gate that was two jump standards with a slithery-snakey rope on the top. Lola can do gates, we do them all the time. This was not a gate to her, she didn't get it, and she REALLY didn't like it! It was something she'd never seen before, so I didn't fault her for it. We just spent some time trying to make some training progress with it each try. We didn't successfully complete the obstacle even by schooling show standards, but I made her work and try non the less. At the end of the last patter, the judge commented that I had put in some nice schooling on that gate. Always nice to hear a little encouragement for training since I wasn't going to get it by winning!

We follow up the trail classes with a little ride through the park. It was pretty chaotic there with horses and just regular families, plus the wind had really picked up, so there was a whole lot to spook at. She did alright, I got the challenge that I wanted!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What to do with sweaty horses after dark...

I took Bear out for a fantastic trail ride today, but that meant that I didn't get back to the barn until almost 5pm. So inevitably it was getting dark and cold by the time I worked Lola. I was just planning on lunging with the vienna reins so that we could have a short and non sweat inducing work out, but that never works out like planned. She was doing so well tonight, and she was eager to offer the canter. This is huge for a horse that was convinced she couldn't canter a 20 meter circle in the indoor last winter because it was too small! She was coming down to the trot and just asking to canter again and again, and she was doing it so well that I let her. She clearly needed to blow off some steam after being left behind today, and they were such beautiful canter departs that it seemed like making the most out of the situation. It meant, however, that she was plenty hot and sweaty by the time we were done, and after 20 minutes of slowing it down gradually through trot then walking, walking, walking, she still was wet.

I have been having this problem lately. What do I do with this wet horse when its getting colder and colder, but she's too hot to put the blanket on??? So I made the most of the long cool down ahead of us. I took the saddle off, threw a cooler on her, and hopped on bareback. I figured if she was going to have to walk it off for another half hour minimum, I might as well be training. We worked on a good quality walk on the bit with collecting and lengthening her stride. We worked on backing the L that I set up with poles, and then started some leg yield and side pass warm up attempts. She can side pass both directions, but her leg yield to the left is never like it is to the right. So I really worked on getting her to move her haunches, we made a square and at each corner I asked her to move her haunches out in order to turn the corner. Like a turn on the forehand each corner. We then moved that to more of a constant pushing of her haunches out around the circle and then tried another leg yield. Magic! It actually felt halfway correct! And really, halfway correct is as good as any of my yielding or lateral work feels.

We played around a bit more with side passing the L, and then opened and closed the gate to the arena. By time we had done all that, she was dry! She was all cooled out, and we both had more fun than if I had hand walked her for 30 minutes! I bet are all suspicious about all this playing around with trail obstacles! More on THAT tomorrow....

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

All of October in one go!

Well, I guess I might as well just do one attempt at recapping October, that way I can just move on to the current fun we're having without losing too much continuity.

We did a great poker ride at the beginning of the month. They stuck the cards in big white feed sacks and hung them from trees! So I definitely had to get off and lead her to the first tree! Really, big white bag swinging in the wind, and I expect her to walk up close enough to reach my whole arm in????? Well we got there by the end. She was a pro and swaying white crinkly bags by the end. AND we didn't do too badly with our poker hand and I was able to pick out some hoof supplement from the prize table! Of course its going to Bear... sorry Lola.

We had a great trail ride out at the lake early in the month, and after being gone all summer I was surprised to see so much beach and so little water! I'd forgotten what a difference there is in the fall versus the spring when its a reservoir lake like that!

Lola got her shots in October, and again she acted like we stuck a knife in her! Silly girl. Just provide the biggest possible contrast, Bear hardly blinked. I didn't even realize the vet had done it.

What else... we've had some great dressage lessons. She's really coming along each time. I really enjoy riding her each time! That's always a nice bonus! We've been working mostly after dark since I work all day, and she's adjusted to working in the big arena with lights really well. She's not a big fan of it when is sloppy and wet, but I can't blame her. She's also adjusted to the overly tiny indoor arena and we can actually get some lunge work done in there now. Just goes to show how much more balanced she is! Also, her canter work is becoming not only more consistent, but more balanced and more confident. It is no where near perfect, but enjoyable is a good place to start!

I guess that's the most of it. The weather has been a bit on and off. We went from sweating in the sun on Friday and Saturday to storming all day Sunday and switching to the heavier winter blankets on Monday. I still have the rain sheets out because I'm not convinced we're all the way into winter yet!

I'm looking forward to some drier days this weekend. I think we might actually go out and have some fun too!

Monday, October 25, 2010

We’re back in the lesson routine…

A still from the video of the trainer taking her through some of the "bigger" jumps,
but seriously Lola is jumping it like it was a house instead of 2 foot.

So I updated the summer, by September we were getting back into a groove.

We have a very talented eventing trainer in the area, and I’ve been hoping to take a lesson to try her out for over a year and a half. So while Lola was still living at my parents (a little vacation after Santa Barbara before heading back to boarding) we were much closer to the trainer and we went out for a jumping lesson. I’ve done about as much as I’m comfortable doing on my own. Lots of poles, cavelettis, grids, and low cross rails courses. I’ve basically been trotting up to everything and then cantering though the grids so she learns to jump from the base and stay relaxed. So for our very first lesson Lola calmly trotted up to the cross rail, picked up her feet and landed trotting away. The trainer laughed that Lola didn’t seem very impressed. I told that had been my goal. Easy peasy.

So she pushed us to jump a little higher x’s and some oxers, she had us cantering away and mixing things up a bit with some cantering around the arena. Then she got on to try her out and we popped the fences up a little higher to see if we could wake her up. The great thing about this is that I can work up to where I’m comfortable, and then the trainer can push her a little farther. I like this idea A LOT!

For the second lesson I dragged my boyfriend out to video. I was really pleased with the lesson considering Lola and I are both out of shape after about a month off. There is plenty of room for improvement in my jumping, but I could at least pick out some things to be happy about. Then when the trainer got on I was pleased with Lola’s willingness to keep going even though she was tired and this was more physically and mentally than I had ever asked of her. At the end, I was beat, she was beat, but I think we both felt pretty stinking proud of ourselves.

We did some canter poles...

Then we started with the easy cross bar with a pole down to help her with distance.

Then that got bumped up to a vertical...

And finally we tried an oxer! YIKES!
1st attempt is a little wiggly

Second go is a little better.

That was about the end of my comfort level since my legs were screaming from all the canter over poles... You can see I'm getting tossed about like a rag doll in these last two. But in my defense, she's jumping it big, and she's still jumping it a little awkwardly. When I freeze the frame it shows how much she's clearing the rails by!

So we did a different sort of pushing the comfort level. We cantered while approaching the cross bar! She was great.

Now if I could just keep this up at home we'd be jumping courses at shows in no time. But sadly time has been scarce and money for lessons is almost non existent. So we're taking it slowly. We've jumped twice since then very successfully, but we also kept it to 18 inches! I figure I better not push my luck. We'll jump real jumps while the trainer watches. We'll jump little fun things to keep our minds and bodies fresh in the mean time.

Silver lining shines through the worst thunder cloud

Well, I’ve briefly updated Bear’s blog, but Lola’s post is a bit more complicated. While Bear had a summer sitting in pasture, Lola’s summer was a little more like a long hard day full of emotional turmoil and dinosaur fights (my favorite quote from Meet the Robinsons). :) Basically I had the best bad news ever.

Lola’s nervous choppy trot seemed to be turning into explosive canter departs on the lunge line, and a general inability to work productively due to what seemed to be nervous, anxious, and overall negative energy. Mix into this some of the most productive and impressive rides I’d ever gotten out of her. Total craps shoot every day. I mean she gave me the best relaxed and on the bit trot I had ever gotten from her while enormous tractors were mowing down the 5 foot weeds all around the edge of the arena. Seriously, what horse behaves that well! Then other days she was like a bottled up rocket. I was pulling my hair out trying to sort out what I thought was a training issue. And then the life-changing event took place.

One evening, about 5 minutes into lunging she bucked when asked to pick up the canter, and then just wanted to stop. She seemed dead set on not behaving, she was nervous and dripping in sweat. I didn’t have a clue what was happening. I tested her out at walk trot and canter thinking anything under the sun. Maybe she hurt herself. Maybe she’s being super naughty. Maybe she’s just plain gone crazy. She looked stiff and slow. She looked like each step was getting smaller until she was jogging like a western pleasure horse. So with the trot-canter test failed, I thought maybe I could walk her out of this. Nope. Still dripping sweat, still stiff, and also shaking uncontrollably. So after maybe 10 minutes of desperately trying to figure it out, I was slammed in the face with the reality that something was seriously wrong. She was still sweating and shaking, and once she stopped, she was stuck there, couldn't move. Anyway, one complete and total emotional breakdown, and one emergency vet visit later, I got the best bad news ever. Sounds like she has PSSM, and simply put, she can’t metabolism feed high in starches. Feeds like the corn, oats, and barley grain, and the oat hay I was feeding her over the summer. Or the feeds with high sugar content like all the spring grass she was eating while in pasture up until May. Basically, since I’ve had her, I’ve been feeding her stuff that would trigger symptoms. These symptoms can include muscle tightness, a stiff choppy stride, reluctance to canter, a nervous or uptight demeanor due to just plain being uncomfortable, and most severely, PSSM horses will tie up, which is what happened that night. So good news from the bad news, once diet is managed something like more than 75% of horse have no more symptoms, a noticeable change in gait, and no more episodes of tying up! That one night sucked, I’m not going to lie, but I count myself lucky to have figured out she needed a diet change.

So long story short, I have a whole new horse. Well, not exactly, I have my good version of Lola. I had glimpses of her all along. My trainer had commented back in May that she seemed to need a 45 minute warm up before she could really work and use her body, like she just couldn’t do it early in the ride. The first time she saw her after the summer she commented on how different she moved, and that her muscles even looked less tight and contracted. Amazing difference! Canter departs are no longer a source of anxiety for her. She’s got better quality gaits. She’s relaxed and happy to work. She’s the good Lola all the time now. Also have heard in the prognosis for diet change that it can take four to six months for the changes to be complete. After that, if the diet is working, its just plain working. So I don't think she'll have another tie-up episode, and she's moving loads better.

So that’s the major update. Lot’s more good stuff to follow!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Lola's vacation home

Well here we are, a whole week into my Masters program, and I'm finally finding time to update the blog. Lola survived the LONG drive down here. We stopped about midway down to give her a 45 minute break to eat a "sloppy" with some electrolytes in it, and munch on the hay that she wasn't really eating while we drove, and to offer her some water. Aside from that we had a short gas station stop before and after, and one quick pee stop for me about 45minutes from our final destination. So with all that, it took 9 hours! Ugh... She did great. Luckily it was a nice cool day for driving. She didn't seem overly stressed, and she settled into the student boarding stables right away.

So the first day she got to just chill and take in the new surroundings. Monday I pulled her out and lunged her and worked her in hand just a bit. Tuesday we started back to work and she got a good ride. Wednesday she got an hour turn out. Thursday and Friday, more good training rides. I think this will end up being our pattern. Mondays and Wednesdays will be hard to fit in much of anything. In fact Tuesdays could get tough too. But Thursday through Sunday, I have the luxury of just enjoying being out at the barn and loosing track of time, which I inevitably do.

Saturday we did something awesome. We had a GOOD rider put a ride on her! Not that I'm a bad rider, but we'll just say that this rider has more experience at higher levels of dressage AND in bringing young horses along, AND she's just plain more talented than I am! I was very lucky to have the chance to see Lola go so well. This rider got a ton more consistency from Lola than I do. Where I get to see little glimmers of beauty her and there with a her feet flying every which way the rest of the time, this rider could keep her moving more the way she's supposed with only little bumps of chaos every so often. Green horses are always seeking to balance themselves and a rider that can create structure for the horse using their body to regulate the tempo. I can do this to some degree, but I'm also a work in progress. It was a huge treat to see her moving so nicely! The good news, it all stuck with her the next day! She was a fantastic steady horse when I rode her the next day! Let's see how long I can keep up the good work!

I am hoping to get her out on the trail soon. Since its a little complicated as to where we can ride and where we can't, I need to go out with someone that knows the trails the first few times. I'm hoping that this next weekend it might actually happen.

Monday, June 7, 2010

First jumping show!!!

We had a very successful little schooling show. It was a small show that was really geared to creating a safe environment for beginner riders and green horses. Perfect place to set Lola up for success.

The first class we did was a hunter course over just the ground poles. She did fine, she was just a little inconsistent by getting a little quick down one line, and her head was sort of all over the place as she kept finding her balance, but over all she felt like she was listening well and relaxed. The whole point of the first class was to get her in the arena, and get us both relaxed. Its no big deal, its no big deal, its no big deal...

Next class we did the exact same course, but trotting it over poles. Again, my whole goal was to create relaxation, focus on what I'm asking of her, and a steady forward tempo. We totally obliterated one jump! I mean come on Lola, they're cross bars! Actually they were quite easy to knock down because they were the hollow pvc type and were not weighted at all. A little knock or rub that would leave a regular wood pole in the cups sent these poles flying in all directions. Now that I've watched the video, I see that it wasn't nearly as bad as it sounded!

Third and final class (because we had been there FOUR HOURS for just three little classes) was the exact same course, just a maiden class instead of 18 and over. So my goal was to not destroy a jump (of course) and to get at least one line where she maintained a canter between jumps. She was understanding the idea of cantering away, but was unsure of herself and her stride approaching the next jump. Its fine with me that she trots to the base and jumps better because of it, but I do need to start challenging her. First line I just developped the idea of cantering away, but let her trot the second fence. Second line she tried to eat dirt. So on the third line, I suggested to her that she keep the canter. She got a little squirrely and started looking sideways, but still took the next jump like a good girl, I encouraged again, and, again even though she was looking to veer a little she jumped it from a canter. I was pleased! So we went right back to trotting, and finished the last line at a good trot to regulate her mind and rhythm after something new.

We ended up with thirds in both cross bar classes! Hurray for small schooling shows awarding our small training successes! I should also mention it was 95 degrees!! Officially summer, and I was officially beat!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Jumping, lesson, and accidental swimming...

Some of the same, some different version of the same...

Monday, I had a limited amount of time, but still wanted to ride. Lola did really well. I've realized she needs to build up her conditioning some, so I set timers and stuck to one gait until the timer went off. So we cantered for two minutes, which is surprisingly only a few laps around the arena.

We had another great lesson on Tuesday, despite the weather! We were stuck in the little indoor arena because it poured all day Tuesday. (Plus is was drizzling all through the lesson. Stupid rain!) So even though the indoor arena is perfect for free lunging over jumps, its tight for riding. So we worked on 20meter circles and started working on figure 8s. She was feeling silly, understandable for the weather, and was really looking and shying from a corner of the arena. This was great actually, because it was the first time the trainer has ever seen her have an issue with spooking, and gave us some great tips on how to work through it. The thing is, if I have her full attention, she's too focused to look at things. We didn't try any canter work since it is a small space, and there were some slick spots from being over watered.

Wednesday I went out at lunch and just turned Lola and Bear out to run through the puddles in the big arena, good enough footing still to gallop around like wild beasties, but I sure didn't want to ride in it! They had fun, and rolled, and that was it for the day.

Thursday we had our free lunge over jumps session. She did fantastic! Plus I got video! YEAH!
Here are just a few clips of the fun we had!

Then I hopped on her bareback with just the halter and rope (and helmet) and she was great considering she wasn't too sure about the whole yielding from the pull of the halter on a turn. She figured it out pretty quick.

Friday I was able to sneak in a quick ride before other plans. We warmed up really good with the circles and serpentines at the walk, then big trot circles. We had to get creative to ride in the very wet arena without hitting the deep mud spots. It meant splashing straight through puddles a few times, so she had to get over that. We ended with a big canter. Overall a good ride for the time I had.

Saturday was trail day!! Yeah! We had lots of ups and downs for building their butts, then came back to the trails that were a little less rocky to do some trot and cantering. Lots of fun! We did have two scary incidents! While crossing through some water up to their bellies, Lola suddenly hit a hole or a sinking spots because her head suddenly crashed into the water! She took two huge leaps forward to get out of it. She came out fine and the friend riding was fine, but watching it happen was scary, I thought they were both going down in the water! The second incident happened to Bear. The was a big old snake in the trail (rattler I'm pretty sure) and when Lola passed by it she trotted forward without my friend even seeing it. But having a horse walk right passed it got the snake pretty pissed off, so just as I came upon it and the snake came straight at me and Bear with its head raised to strike! VERY AGRESSIVE! I FREAKED out! I hauled Bear backwards as fast as I could and started to turn to go back the other direction, but as soon as I gave the snake a good five foot space again the snake slithered off to the bushes. CRAZY! It was like three feet long!

Sunday she had off, so Monday night I went out and did a little over fences work.

We started with just trotting over the poles on the ground.

Next we went to the little cross bar with trot poles leading in.

She was going really well, so I put up just a tiny vertical.

The vertical got better the second time since she got the canter stride after the poles.

Then made it into a little 2ft oxer. Excuse the equitation, it was 80 degrees with major humidity, and I was beat before I ever got to the barn, so I was very loose in the tack and getting left behind. She looks cute though!

We ended by just going back to the easy relaxing trot circle. She still isn't relaxing and stretching down in the bit because she's all hyped up about the fences, but over all it was a great improvement over last time. She's staying pretty steady up to the fence.

Monday, May 24, 2010

More jumping, more lesson, more RAIN?!?!?!

Wow, a whole week since last update...

Well Monday she got her feet trimmed, as usual she was a perfect angel compared to my four year old gelding!

Tuesday we had our dressage lesson. which was more work than that either of us have had to do before! The trainer had us just going for a half hour solid of hard work without much of a breather! He trot is getting great, very easy to push out or collect back, and she's really getting into the long stretchy trot that we do at the end! We worked on pushing her hind leg underneath her more, especially to the right, to pick up her right lead correctly. Tough stuff! She had to mover her haunches towards the outside, but she really got the idea. Lateral work has always come pretty easy to her.

Thursday we had a continuation of our jumping gymnastics. Some were the same some were different. I also popped her over a cross rail a couple times on the lunge line since we haven't free jumped for awhile and I think that's important for keeping her confidence growing.

And then a little bigger to see how she's doing.

We started out nice and quiet, working on basic trot poles to small cross bars.

You can tell she's just a bit wiggly still on the approach, but once we get in straight she keeps going.

Our very first little course. You can see by the third jump she is starting to get a little fussy. She was listening pretty well though.

We had to change up the course every so often to keep her from anticipating too much, then started to mix the trot poles in to steady her back to her happy little self.

You can see by the end she started to get a little fussy and pop her head up and be resistant a bit. We had been working for a really long time, so we were both pooped.

So we went back to just plain trotting, she was up and down and all around. So I went back to the basic of just asking her to hold herself together at a good trot. She got antsy whenever we passed the jumps... silly girl. So we will just be working at this level until she can keep her cool and her rhythm going through little courses like this. No big deal, no change in pace, or attitude.

As for the weather... I've never seen this much rain in California in May! Crazy! Weird rain and cold weather, plus my busy schedule meant we weren't up to much this weekend. She got some well deserved time off, and we're back at it this week!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Another fun weekend of trail rides and new riders!

I had another friend come out on Sunday for a repeat of last weekend. She hopped on Lola at the barn and played around with her for a while. She cantered her around the big jumping arena, and even took her through the little gymnastics that were still set up from my big ride on Thursday. She was good as usual!

We took the two horses out to the lake after that. What a fun day. They were LOADS better than last time. Still a few piles of wood had monsters in them, but over all they tackled the rocks and steps and tricky trails like pros.
We got them to go into the lake, and then cross a spot that came just about up to their bellies.
We found something kind of cool sitting in the middle of the trail…

A turtle! After she picked it up, she informed me it was a SNAPPING turtle, and then asked me to hold it while she got back on! WHAT?!?!? Yes, she was determined to get him back to the water somewhere since some how he had wandered up to the top of the hill with no water in sight. There may have been some natural streams with all the rains, but now those are all gone and dry.
So she rode Lola one handed back down the tricky spots of the trail carrying a turtle. I just laughed!
We found a pretty little pond, where he quickly jumped in and hid under the water. So the turtle was saved! That is he was saved unless he really WANTED to be at the top of the hill! Then we sort of ruined his plan!

Anyway, we had a blast. Its been so much fun to be a 5 minute trailer ride from some of the most fabulous trails in northern California. My weekends are starting to get so crazy I think I'll see about squeezing in a weeknight ride!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Jumping! WEEEE!!!!

So first of all, I have to say how proud I was that I successfully squeezed in a lunch ride on Wednesday! Totally has nothing to do with this post, but I had to buy my supplement feed and drop it at the barn while on lunch break, and I couldn't resist throwing a bridle and bareback pad on Lola. I set my phone timer for 10 minutes so I didn't get carried away. We did some really good walk to sitting trot transitions! Fun! Then I went back to work and work didn't seem so bad... Nothing like a horse to put you in a good mood!

Tonight, though, is the big post! Tonight we actually started doing the jumping gymnastics under saddle! Its time. I've put it off long enough, and that's because I'm chicken. So we stuck to really easy low stuff, because I'm chicken. But despite the fact that I'm a big ol', that's right, CHICKEN, Lola did fantastic! We even got video! Thanks to an ever so patient boyfriend.

So its all pretty low, and after looking at it, it doesn't seem very impressive, and I realize I need some major work on myself jumping... which is why I'm so chicken... my sense of self preservation tells me I'm wobbly! Despite that I felt GREAT right after the ride!!! She was being SO GOOD! Considering it was her first time, she did fantastic! She tried her little heart out, and she was focused and paying attention, which are all good things!

So in this first one we weren't too straight, my fault, but she jumped it anyway, just a bit bigger than I was expecting... See my butt come up in the air??? Lola's response was, "Hey I'm working hard enough down here, at least keep yourself up right!" You could read that in her "bouncing" canter after the jump!

I also realize now that I'm looking at the footage, that he was in a terrible spot to get video! I REALLY don't want to look at myself from THAT angle! But he doesn't know what angle to get horse shots from. So its unfortunate that he never got one from out in front. Next time...

She was good about trotting in right to the base. She was quiet and responsive. She cantered off nicely each time, and halted when asked. Pretty darn good start!

These are taking ages to load tonight... so there pretty much in here in no particular order. I'm not even sure which is which anymore...

Now I'm off to bed...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tuesdays rock!

I love these lessons... a good combination of hearing that I am sort of a crappy rider and a freaking awesome one for getting anywhere at all! ;D

Lola is really good when I just ride correctly. The rest of the time, she is patient, which I appreciate! We had some good break through's tonight. She is really trotting well now with bend and suppleness and rhythm and she responds to my seat to slow down or step out again. She also is starting to learn to stretch her neck down at the trot. I love when horses know how to do this because its such a great warm up and cool down exercise.

We also succeeded in a balanced relaxed canter depart while staying on the bit! WOO HOO!!!! We had a great canter for a half a circle and a good transition back to the nice calm trot, without loosing contact. I was amazed how different it felt from her uncoordinated attempts to figure out what I wanted as I was half running her, half dropping her into the canter like I have been. This was wonderful. Now lets hope I can recreate it alone this week!

The trainer also recommended lunging as little as possible now that we are building her idea of a "tick-tock steady clock" trot and canter rhythm. The lunging just wasn't helping. So instead of warming up with that each ride, we'll save the lunging for the handful of times that I lunge or free lunge over fences. She's not a hot horse that needs lunging before riding... I've just always done it as a courtesy to the horse to allow them to warm up their muscles. But as it is we're spending a half hour undersaddle doing warm up exercises, so I guess we'll be just fine.

Man oh man that canter depart was good. It was the kind of ride that lingers with you. I'm looking forward to cantering this week!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lola is going to make a fantastic jumper!

I've been taking the jumping training slow with Lola. I think that too many people push horses past what they physically and mentally can do in the beginning, and you end up discouraging and souring the horse before you even get started. So we've done as much as possible to build up her confidence and her athleticism by lunging and free jumping over plenty of poles, and low gymnastics. Tonight I made the best of the rain and free lunged in the small indoor and I was finally able to get some video of some of the stuff we've been up to over the last few months.

She's learned to trot through the trot poles...

She's learned to canter through a bounce, going left...

Going right...

And then building up one side of the bounce...

Then raising both sides...

Gotta do it both ways...

She's learned to see a one stride distance between fences.

Now she's learning to jump a little bigger...

Tonight was the first time she jumped a cross bar this size. The funny thing is that the center of the cross rail was no bigger than the caveletti, but she still over jumps everything, and you can see when you pause the video that she's actually jumping higher than the tops of the barrels! Silly girl... the jump really was less than 2ft, and she gave herself a whole foot of clearance!

I hopped on her bareback again for just 10-15 minutes of walking around doing our bending and circles and stretching her nose out and down. I think she had a blast tonight!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A couple new things to add to her resume

A couple new things to add to her resume Well, having a green horse is all about exposure to new experiences. So we're starting to check them off the list!

Thursday I didn't have much time, so I free lunged her over a few jumping gymnastic combos in the indoor arena, and then tried something new... I rode her bareback! I slipped on a bridle and bareback pad, and tested her out a little by lying over her back and walking off, then sliding back to the ground. She did fine, so I took her back to the mounting block and got on. She was fine! We worked on the circles and stretching her nose down at the walk exercises. Next time I'll try a little jog, but as usual, we're taking things in baby steps so that she's set up for success.

Friday we had a workout ride. We're trying to do one other big ride a week outside of the lesson ride since that’s always a work out that pushes both Lola and me past what we’d putter around and do on our own. So we did a little bit of everything. Warming up with the side reins on the lunge line, some trot poles both on the lunge and under saddle, walk-trot-canter under saddle, circles, bends, stretching, and everything in between. I was pooped! Lola seemed just fine.

Saturday we had the next big adventure… trail riding! She also got test ridden by a friend of mine! Double new…

I had the friend come ride because I want to make sure she is calm and safe for anyone prospective buyers who come to try her out. She’s a good rider, so there were no worries, I just wanted to see how Lola behaved with a totally new rider. She was just fine! Of course I have a pretty good idea how to get the best out of Lola, so with the new rider Lola was obedient not as quick to really work to trot correctly. She wasn’t nervous or naughty or quick, she was safe, and probably quite happy to not have to work too hard. By the end of about 10 to 15 minutes, they had figured it out and were trotting along nicely. She also cantered her, which was about as good as when I canter her, a little disorganized, but Lola is always good about trying! We’ve got work to do…

So since the friend had started on Lola, I had her stick to her on the trail, and I rode my 4 year old gelding who has more trail experience, but has not been trailered out somewhere since last fall. Now, Lola has been out on a couple of hand walks down the road, she’s been ridden out in the 40 acre pasture, but until Saturday, she had never really been down a trail. It was more difficult terrain than I was hoping for this first time out, but she got the hang of it. Those rocky spots are extra scary with shadows and patches of light across them, so she certainly stopped to look, and they both needed a little encouragement to go on. There were a handful of spots at the beginning where we both got off to walk them past, and by the end nothing really bothered them! It was great progress, and very impressive for her first time out. I mean we saw it all… horses, dogs, people, bikes, boats on the lake, slick granite spots, tricky stair spots, birds, creeks, mud, you name it, we saw it. We even walked into the lake with the help of some more seasoned trail horses that went in first! Such good brave ponies!

Overall it was really successful weekend and I feel good about keeping her on a balanced training schedule. I think she’s going to continue to improve by leaps and bounds this month. It seems like every month she’s a whole new horse!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Consistant work makes for a consistant horse

Lola is getting better and better each day. We had our lesson tonight, and of course I briefed my trainer on how the show went. I told her all the good stuff first... then the stuff that I should probably be working on.

So we started with this exercise. Of course she prefaced it with the comment that she starts all her horses with this as soon as they are steering and stopping under saddle. (Which means I'm about 3 months late starting it!) You start a small 10m circle at the walk really asking them to bend around your leg, and as soon as they start to take some steady contact on the outside rein you give a little to encourage them to lower their head while still maintaining the contact. If they keep the steady contact then you start making your circle bigger or change direction, if you loose it you go right back to the circle.

I've used small circles through my whole riding career, in different ways for different reasons, but somehow I've either forgotten this exercise or never quite understood it. Its awesome! She really got it and it really helped her to understand stretching down at the free walk. Now our task for the next week, every walk break that she takes in between working is still a time to be working on the free walk.

Then we started trotting, and boy oh, boy, did I get a lesson! Last week we worked on my right shoulder and right leg, basically I need to turn my shoulder to the inside of my turn more when we are doing circles to the right, and bring my right leg back. I was struggling because when I got into the position that was correct, I felt funky, even though it was the position that helped Lola to turn and use her shoulders correctly. Then, even though Lola did great at the show, my picture tattle on my right side not riding it right.

Tonight we broke it down further, and really its my right hip being too far back that isn't allowing me to get my leg back. So hip forward, shoulder back, leg back, it felt AWFUL! But it was correct. This means I ride crooked... and Lola's right hind is not naturally as strong as her left so she's showing off my problem, and I'm showing off hers! Going to the right I felt like I was fighting my right side to turn correctly. So going to the left I expected to have to do the same to the left... no... still the right side causing problems!

So the moral of the story is, sometimes your horse feels different on one side from the other because they are naturally stronger or more flexible on one side or the other. Sometimes they feel different because YOU are naturally stronger or more flexible on one side or the other, and YOU are causing them to move that way!

She is very steady on the bit lately. We worked on extending just a little then collecting without shortening her next. We'll be practicing that for the next week too. Extend out and let her start stretching her next out and down, then collect back using just my seat and body and encourage her to keep her head and neck stretched and relaxed on the contact.

We also worked on spiraling in and out on the circle as another way to encourage her to bend and step under herself. But then we got distracted by my hip, so we sort of got off track.

Great ride over all. Lots of good stuff to think about and work on. Again, my trainer just raved about what a fantastic girl she is! She's so sad that none of her students are looking for a horse right now, because she'd love to have Lola in training.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Fantastic end to the weekend- Sunday's dressage show

What a fantastic day!

Today we did an Intro Test A and B, and we were awesome!

The first one was only halfway decent. She was pretty consistent, and really everything was rider error. I didn't leave enough time to warm up before the first test, so she was just a little bit sticky and stiff still. Our 20 m circle to the left was not a good as I would have liked, she was not bending and moving off my leg like I wanted so we ended up making it a funky shape. Surprise, surprise, that was the judges comment. I also tried to get more out of her free walk by pushing her forward hoping to get her to step out and start to stretch down, but she broke into a jog for a few strides. Again, this was my fault. Over all it felt ok, but I spent some good time between the tests warming up for real this time.

The second test (test B) rocked! We were on our game. I really nailed the circle to the left this time, had a good free walk as far as the shape. Instead of being across the diagonal its a broken diagonal, so starting across the diagonal up to X then heading back to the same side you started on. Plus we didn't break gate, I just let her do her thing. I also felt her step to the side with her front left at the last minute at our halt which was a shame.

The few riders before me had walked up to the judge and chatted with her. It was a schooling show, and the ring steward had said she was a really cool judge who was more than happy to offer some additional comments. So I started walking over there at the end of the second test and she said, "My question for you is... Did you go out and get another horse before coming back in??" I had to laugh. Of course I knew that we needed more warm up before the first test, and I could feel the difference after, but it was funny to hear just how different she was! She said she looked like a completely different horse. Warm up is important!

The results...

I got a 66 on the first one (Test A), with comments about her being counter-flexed a few strides, plenty of comment about her not stretching down at the free walk with a note that she jigged at X, and of course a note about the second circle (the one to the left) being a poorly shaped figure.

I got a 72 on the second one (Test B). YEAH!!! Comments were on her resisting my hand twice, again not enough stretching her nose down, and of course the shoulder moving over at the halt.

Other than that she did really well! I got lots of positive comments from people about what a nice horse she is. The judge definitely said that she looked like she had a lot of potential for dressage! This from a judge that has received Horse of the Year seven times on four different horses!

There were not that many riders out for the Intro classes, so its not like I beat out a ton of people, but I walked away with first place for both tests!!! I am SO pleased! What an unbelievable feeling.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A good start to the weekend

I hauled Lola just down the road today to a little schooling show.

We did a pattern class, which we blew because we didn't really get the pivot until the last half of the 180 degrees. We also halted crooked both times... hmmm... something to think about. But I also realized that one of my stirrups was shorter than the other from cleaning the saddle this week, so that might have contributed to that.
Leaving our class... she CAN stretch her nose to the ground!

We did a walk-trot equitation class that I felt she looked really good in.

I apparently looked reasonable enough to get fifth place. Not too shabby!
She still doesn't have much patience for standing too long for the line up. She starts out good then get bored!

We then had AGES to wait until we had a trot poles hunter course class. The idea was to give her something new to challenge her. It was certainly new... there were flowers! She also got really crabby about being tied to the trailer while waiting. It did take a very... long... time... We were fine for the first pole of the class, but the second two across the diagonal had the flowers that would eventually go under the fences, but for the time being were split to the sides creating a sort of flower shoot. She did not think much of those. Just as we got up to the pole, she looked at the flowers on the left, spooked right, saw that there were also flowers on the right and spooked back to the center. We walked over the pole! Then trotted up to the next pole, only to have her slam on the brakes and walk snorting over the next pole. Then she went right back to being a happy forward trotter.

My boyfriend reported to me that three little girls in the stands made fun of me! They thought it was pretty lame that she spooked at THAT! I wasn't there to defend myself, so I informed my boyfriend loudly that Lola has never seen flowers before, and that's the whole point of having her out at a schooling show, to have new experiences. Flowers don't eat horses... lesson learned.

Friday, April 30, 2010

One more great lesson to get ready for the show

Lola seems to be listening more attentively than me in this picture! No wonder things went we'll, she went straight to the source to figure out what we're doing!

I do appreciated that she's a placid and patient little thing!

We had a really good lesson tonight. Still working on the same stuff, but making sure I know what's going on with the dressage tests also. I convinced my boyfriend to come out to video, so that's been fun to watch a second time. Unfortunately its too big to put on blogger without some editing or posting elsewhere and linking, so it will have to wait. :(

I also started using a different bit, a D-ring with a copper mouth piece. Seems to be working well.

I'm tired, and have to work tomorrow, so here's just the pics with no commentary what so ever. I doubt I'll get to it at all in fact... there will be too many other things to comment about with all the fun planned for the weekend! I hope to at least post the video though. The pictures make it look like stood around for 45 minutes then walked a bit and called it good! That's because the camera was taking video of all the good stuff.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Good thing she's a patient and forgiving horse!

So I mentioned yesterday that my jumping saddle made me realize how out of shape I am!! It also makes me realize that if I feel that much more secure in my dressage saddle, maybe its time to purchase a more secure feeling jumping saddle... Sadly that will have to wait until grad school is done.

Tonight I was determined to work on getting my legs in shape. I mean I can't be very effective starting her over fences if I can't hold my position through all her green horse awkward take offs. So I set my timer on my phone and did 2 minutes of of staying up in two point while doing walk-trot-walk transitions. Then did another 2 minutes of trot poles back and forth. Then back to the two point position. Then we trotted over the tiny cross rail I set up. She was so good an patient about me holding on to her main and feeling a little off balance and tired. Some horses will take advantage of that, some green horses get spooked when you're out of balance, not her, she was patient and happy to just trot along and go where I pointed.

We had spent most of the ride working on the same things, bending on small circles, walk-halt-walk on a straight line, and trot-halt-trot. I figured theses were simple things, so I dropped my irons and finished the ride with some of the same exercises, just with no stirrups. We get the trot pretty pokey and collected since I was sitting the trot and focusing on keeping my balance square over both seat bones. I need a whole lot more work on myself! Funny how you forget these things are so important!

Overall it was a great night. She was good lunging in the beginning even though she was bothered by the sound of someone using some sort of skill saw in the garage by the arena. I also had my gelding Bear turned out in the arena with us and every so often he'd wander over until I chased him off with the dressage whip. She was good with that. Every so often he'd gallop across the arena bucking just because he's silly and it was windy. She was fine with that too! Such a good girl.

Tomorrow she gets a very well deserved day off! I'm hoping to get out at lunch to turn them out in the arena to have a change of scene from the pen, but I may have some other errands that can't wait until evening. Then I'm definitely looking forward to our dressage lesson on Thursday!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

New location is working great!

I've been talking about the anticipated move on Bear's blog, so I haven't mentioned it here. I packed up the horses and moved, to a great place, that will hopefully be more accessible for potential buyers. It also has a lot more stuff for me to play with! Jumps in the big arena, dressage court, indoor arena, and 5 miles to haul to the trail! I LOVE it!

Tonight I lunged my appy gelding first, then put him back in the pen and grabbed Lola. Despite the new facility, despite the wind of the approaching storm, and despite the fact Bear was screaming like a banshee and charging around his pen, Lola was a cool as could be. This was good, because I put on the jumping saddle for the first time! I am OUT OF SHAPE! Man... who knew? I'd like to actually start riding her through some of the gymnastics that I've been lunging her through, but I was surprised how wobbly I felt without my dressage saddle! She was perfect though.

We lunged so that she could some good canter work in with the big arena. We'll be stuck in the small indoor for the next few days with rain, so I wanted to take advantage of the big area. I started her into the canter, then would slowly shrink the circle down so that she had to work a little harder, then expand again. Good work out for her mentally and physically. We did the same at the trot since we're working on really bending through turns under saddle. I finished by taking the side reins off and lunging her over a little cross rail. She trotted over when I asked, and cantered over when I asked, she really listens to how I'm asking her to approach. I like that!

When I hopped on it was an easy transition to do some serpentines with tight 10 -15 metre half circles, then a straight line. Working both on bending her whole body through the turns, and going straight along the line. I'm also starting to ask her to maintain the slightest bit of bend along the straight. Then we mixed in some trot-halts-trots, she's not too quick on that. The trainer will probably want a more immediate response when we have our next lesson. I'll see if we can improve that over the next few days.

Her trot is getting more and more regular! Even with me feeling less secure in the saddle, she trotted along lightly on a pretty steady contact. I'll try the jumping saddle for a few days to get my legs back under me. The theme with the mare has proven over and over to be, "Once she know something, she KNOWS it!" She is such a happy little work horse once she understands the concept. Next week will be finessing the canter transitions!

But until then we're working on the dressage tests for this Sunday. Big day for both of us! And just because I always bite off more than I can chew, I'm taking her to another hunter show on Saturday! Not too much work for her really, we'll only do a few classes. I just figure it will be one more new place, and it has some really fun classes for greenies! I never thought I'd be so excited about a hunter poles class! I get to do a full jump course, at the trot, with only poles to step over!!! Sounds lame, but its perfect for her level right now. Yes, she's capable of more, but I like to set us up for success at the shows. We'll school the rest at home. So still sticking to walk trot classes until she feels really comfortable with her canter transitions. I think the light bulb will go on soon, and then she'll think its just one more easy thing that her silly rider seems so pleased about.

Blankets are pulled out of storage yet again and back on the horses, all ready for the rain!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Awesome lesson followed by a great show!

Wow I'm so excited to be sharing all the success from this weekend!

I had the BEST lesson ever with Lola! I guess its a good sign that the trainer is worth my time and money if I say this after every lesson. We worked a lot on her trot and getting her to bend through her body on the circle. Same thing over and over, create a tempo, insist she keeps that tempo by using my body, push her to step under herself and lengthen her stride and lift her back by wrapping my legs around her and using my calves in rhythm. Sounds so simple, this is stuff I know, but somehow the trainer gets me to do it all at once and the result is that Lola looks and feels fantastic! Of course Lola started out by looking out of the arena, and doing her pitter-patter trot and going with her nose poking out. Then about half way through the lesson, we got a great trot going and the trainer says, "There! NOW you're trotting! She's finally tracking up. That's what you want. So your homework is to do this everyday until you get THAT trot!" So there's my homework. Then we worked on some bending through the corners and walking straight up center line. Luckily Lola halts square almost every time, its awesome, but we have a lot to think about and work on before the dressage show next Sunday!

Today's show was a blast. I think Lola was pooped from the lesson... me too actually. She was super relaxed at the show and not spooky or silly at all. There was such a difference between this and the last show. We did a walk-trot pleasure class, which we didn't place in, maybe because she was being a little pokey and not trotting out much, maybe just because she wasn't an Arabian. It was a breed show. She's not in a perfect frame yet, but she's going forward while accepting the contact and that's all I can ask for a horse at her level of training. She was cool as a cucumber from beginning to end though, and that is a huge step forward from the greenie scardy-cat she was at the show only a month ago.
I ran into a friend there who had her chestnut TB mare out since she's for sale. So we decided to enter the pleasure pairs class, and came out with second place! it was a blast look at the pictures because we were just stride in stride every time! We looked awesome! It was a really fun little class, and I was so impressed with how Lola handled that. We also had perfect trot in to line up and stopped square and beautifully! So we got some great pictures, and hopefully some video, but I don't have the time or energy to even look at it let alone make decisions on what to upload. So pictures will do for now!

I love this time of year with the poppies and pretty wild grass everywhere. YEAH FOR SPRING!!!!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Long time without an update

Well, I haven't been updating on Lola's progress, because not a whole lot has been happening. So here we go, the last week and a half.

We've been working on trotting on contact and creating a tempo and lifting her back a little as her head goes down. Its hard work, and we're in need of more lessons. We're working on canter transitions, but still are not quite "lifting" her as she steps into the canter from a good rhythmical trot. She still gets quick, I am in need of some lessons! Unfortunately we haven't done a lot of work on that, here's why...

I work at a CPA firm, work has been crazy, to say the least, pretty much since mid January. Crazy marathon tax season turned into a crazy sprint the last week, so between that and bad weather, I just didn't get out to see the horses. Then when we closed the office on the 15th I took two days to get as far away as possible from all the hectic busy scheduled and structured things in my life. When I came back I found both my horses all scratched up and both had swelling and heat due to unattended cuts on their legs. Great!

So with all this Lola had just about a week and a half off. Not too bad all in all. All swelling gone, and cuts have nice scabs on them. So Tuesday night we lunged, and tonight we got right back to work.

Other big news, just before I disappeared from the barn, I had Lola's former owner come out. I promised I'd let her ride her once I got her started. She's a trainer, and like I said, she just doesn't have time to start all her horses because she gets side tracked with other horses in training, and Lola had sort of fallen between the cracks. She had done all the ground training and at least got her to the part of mounting when Lola was four, so she has a relationship with the mare, and Lola certainly has a place in her heart. It was great to see someone else on her. She looked fantastic! Being a trainer, she got way more out of Lola than I do! It was great to see what a really good rider could do on her.

Big plans for the weekend: lesson first thing on Saturday, and one or two classes at a little schooling show. Mainly we are going to the show to take advantage of a good arena! Everything is soaked again... I hope to get some good video of Lola while we're all cleaned up. Hope to be posting some good stuff early next week!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A little catch up...

So I took a little video of lunging the day of the lesson. Again, I had no one there to do it for me, so no video under saddle. She was definitely looking around at the new place. I just kept asking for something new each time she looked away to get her attention back on me. She was listening, even just to my body language without telling her to come down to the walk. But she still needs to keep her head to the inside better!

In the second video she was getting the idea that my attention was divided, and started getting a little quick. This is the trot that the trainer said "Needs to be erased from her vocabulary" when she's under saddle. So I am asking the same on the lunge line... at least when I'm paying attention! But look how strong her right lead is!

Sunday and Monday she had off. So tonight we got back down to work! We started by lunging over some trot poles again, and even a canter gymnastic. I kept the distance short so that she'd have to collect up a bit to do it. She was much more comfortable trotting in and cantering through so we mainly did that, and when she got the hang of it she could canter in just fine. Still nothing big, just letting her gain confidence in where her feet are at, letting her learn how to see the distances herself, and slowly build the strength so that the bigger fences seem just as easy. I forgot to video her doing. Which is ok since I don't think I could have made it work! So I tried taking a picture of it just to show, but I had it on video... lame. Here's a 3 second video of poles sitting still. Not as entertaining as poles with a horse going over them, but gives an idea what we're up to.

Overall tonight went well. I think she really likes the gymnastics on the lunge line. It changes things up. Then we lunged a little with the side reins on and I hopped on and tried to recreate the success from our lesson Sunday. I don't think I was holding myself together as well, but she is getting the idea and we got a few good circles of a real trot! We did one good canter depart. It wasn't perfect, but that's my issue. I have a tendency to "throw" horses into the canter rather than "lift" a horse into the canter. It something I'm going to be working on a ton while she's learning canter departs because its essential for her to do them properly. It was slick from the rain so I didn't want to push my luck doing very much tonight. She picked up the canter when asked, without rushing, so we called it good and went back to just a little more trotting so that she gets into the habit of going straight back to that balanced rhythmical trot and doesn't race around. Then we walked on a loose rein so that she could stretch her head down and relax her back. We ended by opening and shutting the arena gate! Gates are something I insist all my horses can do. But I'm still beaming with pride that she can do it.

Tomorrow she's got the day off again, then we'll be back at is full force on Thursday!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Great dressage lesson!

Oh what a great day! These are the days that I think I’m probably selling the horse that I should keep and compete on. I hauled Lola out for a dressage lesson and we had just the best ride ever.

Basically I got from the lesson that I need to stop riding her like a young horse I’m breaking and start riding her like a dressage horse and it will all come together! She is still figuring out what contact is, but as long as I rode her with a light, but persistent, contact, she would eventually relax on to the bit and lift her back. She doesn’t hold it very long, but we’ll get there.

I have been trying to regulate her pace with my body, and the trainer picked up right away on some of my issues in my position that are not helping me or Lola. I need to really use my abs to sit up tall when she starts to take hold of the bit and pull down. I need to keep my lower legs wrapped around her a little more and create the rhythm there, while holding and regulating her from quickening with my seat and posting.

She also worked with me on creating more of a rhythm at the walk. Lola’s walk is nice and forward with a purpose, so now we are trying to keep an engaged walk but slow the tempo down so that she can relax through her back and be able to eventually leg yield and all that! We did some good work on bending to the inside.

We ended with some canter work. We focused on the canter depart and the idea of “lifting” her into the canter from the trot. She did really well. I need some work! ;)

I was totally engrossed in what I was doing at it seems that Lola follow suit because she didn’t even think about looking around out in the pasture of horses by the arena. Just a fantastic feeling.

The trainer also thinks that Lola is a fabulous little mare with a lot of potential for dressage. So she is living up to all that I dreamed she could be when I first saw her scruffy mud covered self living free in a big pasture. Now the question is, do I have the time to get her to that potential?

I’ll think about that later. I’m just going to keep reliving our dreamy trot!

Friday, April 2, 2010

No rain means fun outdoors!

Lola and I hit the pasture this evening after work. It didn't storm and bucket rain like predicted last night, so it was nice and dry. We started out by going for a jog. Yep, a jog. Like if she were a dog. Not really, it was a little more than that.

The thing is I haven't been taking lunch breaks at work because we are just so busy. Now I'm not starving believe me! I usually eat lunch at my desk while working then leave the office for an hour to go jogging or work out in the gym. But no time lately... so I've gotten creative. So now I take one of the horses for a jog as a warm up. Its a good warm up for me too!

So once we go back to the front of the pasture where I left my boots and helmet we started working on some trot poles and canter on the lunge line. We also spent some time last Sunday dragging logs out as small cross country jumps. So she got introduced to those also.

When I finally got on it was getting cool and the sun was setting, so we didn't have a lot of time. We picked a good spot to keep on a big circle and trotted and cantered. She prefers her left lead, and in an open space like that where she feels she can go any direction she automatically picks up her left lead. So we cantered to the left first and she felt really good. Then after trying to pick up the right lead by holding her together like I would a broke horse (and just getting the left lead) I got smart. We trotted away from the barn at an angle that when I just started to turn to the right to head back towards the barn I asked for the canter and since she was focused on going that direction she picked it up perfectly! Cheating? Nah. She's young, she's just getting the idea of cantering under saddle. Once she's got that and she's more comfortable and stronger on her right lead we can pick up the lead by asking for it. For now, I'm keeping it simple and easy.

It was dark by the time we were done, and we both got quite a work out. Tomorrow she gets her feet trimmed, so any work I do will be limited to what can be squeezed in before the shoer gets there. A quick lunge will probably be all, so she'll get to have a more chill day tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Awesome night!

What a great night! Now that I've gotten the poles in the arena, I am determined to use them! I started by lunging her over the poles for about 10 minutes. I don't want her to get bored or sour on this because we'll be doing it A LOT! So as long as she went through them well twice in a row, we'd switch directions, or change the poles. She was doing great straight off the bat! Careful and collected and willing to go straight through. She gets it! I started with two poles, then added a third, then lifted all three poles by putting another poles under the ends. It gave her something different to think about each time. She was being so good that I decided to take things up a notch and do it at the canter. So I specifically set the canter stride just a little shorter so that she had to collect herself and think and NOT just rush through, and I used the poles under the ends to lift them so she really had to pay attention. We started on the left lead since that is easier for her, and she got a couple of canter circles to warm, then I just opened the circle up to include the poles and she went through them in a perfect hop-hop! She really looked, gathered herself up, landed square in the middle, and gathered for the second one. I was so proud. We only did it a couple times before switching sides. She had a little tougher time with the right lead particularly because she tends to fish tail a bit in the spot where she should have been turning to approach so she'd lose the canter. She got it after a bit. She picked up the canter right before it once in order to make it work, which was really smart of her! All that in the first ten minutes!

Then I moved her away from the poles just a bit so that we could do another ten minutes of lunging with the side reins. She was looking so good, both directions, and then I remembered I had brought the camera out! So after she was pretty much done, I grabbed the camera to get some video. She was not a perfect in the video, she fell into her habit of getting quick at the trot since she could tell I was looking at her through a hole in a little box and wasn't regulating her gait. But it was decent. I tried taking pictures also, but I never heard the camera click, and lo and behold, I have no pictures. I think I had the wrong card in and the video must have used up all the space! Even the video got cut short.

So then I hopped on and we walked and trotted over the poles, then I asked for a little canter on both leads. She did fine, just not as balanced on her right lead and tends to get quick and go all over the place... young horse stuff. While on the right lead I attempted to get her steered over to the left just a bit, I was just trying to move father to the center so that I could turn her back to the rail and keep the right lead. What started as my creative navigating ended in a sort of a test. What I was asking for, or would have been asking for if she was a well trained horse, was a counter canter to the left, what I got was a totally natural and balanced flying lead change! I guess she know where her feet are better than I think! Good news for her future owners. I doubt I'll get to the point of working on flying changes with her, but clearly she's going to be easy! We ended with some trot-halt-trot transitions since she had gotten a little fresh and forward with the cantering. She did great. We did really advanced stuff, and she did great.

She gets tomorrow off since I'm off doing my Wednesday thing. I would like to say that Thursday I'd give her an arena break and go out into the pasture to ride, but there is rain forecasted a week. I hope we'll get a break her or there to get out. Otherwise I'll have to come up with something totally different to keep her interested while trudging around the indoor arena once again.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

More poles... this time in a wind storm!

Crazy weather. I got out to the barn late, because I worked late and stopped by the store on the way out. The rain hadn't started yet, but it was windy as heck and the air had that "approaching doom" feel to it.

I figured it was getting dark soon and I didn't really want to pick a fight trying to ride in the spooky storm weather, so I just threw wraps on her legs and grabbed a lunge line. We did a whole variety trot poles until the light went away. (Hard to pick up your feet if you can't see the poles!) She did well considering the circumstances. She didn't have to work hard or very long or on anything real difficult. She just had to pay attention in a storm!

Hopefully tomorrow I can get out there early enough to get in a good ride.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Learning what poles are all about

So Lola's done some work over poles before, but not a ton. I hauled her out to a nearby trainer to get a "starting over fences" lesson. We really do anything more than what I had been doing at home, but the trainer gave me some great things to think about.

She set the trot poles a little shorter than usual so that Lola had to really collect and pick her feet up and down instead of rushing along through them. Once I got on her we really worked on making sure she was walking over the poles straight and not wiggling back and forth through them. Its such a simple concept now, but easy to skip over, and fixing a wiggly horse when cantering a line is much more complicated than telling her now, from the very beginning that she needs to be straight, and do it herself. It gives me some good stuff to work on.

She also made some good points that if Lola is going to be most suited to a teen or amateur, then she needs to be able to carry herself over the jumps, and do it quietly and cautiously. So to some extent, I can't ride her like I'd ride another horse. I mean she needs to learn to do it, and I can ride in a way that helps her learn, but then she needs to do it on a loose rein. She needs to be a packer. That's whats going to get her a good home. It gave me something to think about for sure.

She did really well for being at yet another strange place. We ended the lesson by having her stand in the center while the other lesson came in and started. Again, so simple, yet definitely needs work. She would stand for about the amount of time it took the pokey lesson horse to make half a lap, then she'd either take a step, paw, shake her head, or turn and look out in the pasture. So we have another thing to work on.

Over all she didn't have to work hard at all. Really, we did walk and stand work today. That's it! But I left feeling like we accomplished something, and that is the whole point I guess. Plus its always a good challenge just to trailer out and work some place new. So really she did great today.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

First Show Post!!!

I was waiting to post until I had pictures and video. So here we are a whole week later, but I've got pictures and some terrible video.

I took Lola into only two classes, both walk-trot only. In both classes she had moments where she felt really good, but the rest of the time she was looking to the outside and thinking that the monsters out there were pretty scary! That's the thing with green horses, they lack the consistancy and experience to keep their focus on the job at hand.

Looking at the video and pictures we looked better than I thought. My mom and dad very graciously met me at the show to be my grooms and cameramen and to get yelled at a lot by me who channeled all my nerves towards them so that I didn't direct them at my already nervous horse! My mom was still trying to figure out the new video camera, so most of the footage, while not great to start, was rendered un-usable because of the shaky camera, video of ground, bad zooming, or just following the wrong horse. Some of the stuff had really good parts, but then the camera is staring at the ground for the 30 seconds following. If I ever figure out how to edit it, I'll post it! Here's what we did get... not the best, but you can at least see a horse and rider in the picture!

Its nice that we caught something Lola does well: back up and walk! Yeah for small victories! I do have to say that she's doing this fairly calmly right next to the loud bleachers of fans that sit next to the scary judges box and speakers. So she was doing pretty well here! We were also about 10ft off the rail! ;)

We got at least one shot of her trotting... I think I was looking down to check my diagnal... naughty me!

We got a nice shot of her walking, this was the second class where I actually bothered to braid her mane. Looked pretty good, but I just need to get it stay!

She even stood pretty in the line up.

Overall it wasn't a bad first show! We're hauling out for lessons the next two weekends, then off to another schooling show the weekend after that. My boyfriend will be coming out to get some video at that one. So even if we have to do it in the warm up arena in order to get good footage we'll have something to showcase all our work!

I plan on getting batteries in the camera and getting some more regular pictures.