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.

Attitude can make all the difference...

Lola, like all people and horses, has her good days and her bad days. Her responsiveness and willingness varies depending on her surroundings too. She's young and green so she naturally gets distracted easily. People, horses, dogs, cats, rocks, dirt... well rocks and dirt only when the fly out from under her feet and hit a wall. Oh, add to that walls, doors, gates, and the wind, while we're at it. The thing is on her good days she rides like a broke horse! So I sometimes have to take a moment to remember that she still has a long way to go, and a windy day getting her riled up is part of the process.

Today was a good day, a fantastic day. Last Thursday when the weather had that "about to storm" feel to it, she was all over the place. I think the contrast is what gets me the most. A few weeks back we worked out side in the pasture with the craziest wind. Here's a picture to prove the point:
Lola is never really naughty, because she doesn't really know about that. She is definitly "expressive" though. She occasionally bucks on the lunge when she has a little too much pent up excitement. The windy days was one of those days. Some bucks, some striking out with her inside front leg while trotting or cantering, and lots of looking straight at me and shaking her head (note the expression in the picture) but then she just continues on with what she was doing. Those days, though, are never very productive days to move on. We usually do simple things, because she's just not that focused.

Then we have days like today. She started out quiet on the lunge, she picked up the canter quietly at just a kiss, and she was nice and relaxed with her neck stretching down to maintain contact on her side reins. So when we got on she was actually able to make some progress on things! She really got the hang of stretching her nose to the ground at the trot. She was nice and relaxed and really swiging through her body. Fantastic. So we tried a little canter on a 20 meter circle. We started on the left since that's her stronger lead. She was great! She was even listening enough to come back down to a walk nice and relaxed. We've done some canter work in the pasture, mainly straight lines or huge circles. Earlier this week we cantered inside the indoor for the first time so she got over being convinced she couldn't do it! But I was so pleased that we pretty much just stopped and I hopped off to give her pats and hugs. So cantering on a 20 meter circle was a big accomplishment today.

She's not perfect, but its a start and she's so willing. Of course the camera was out of bateries today, so I couldn't get a picture to balance out the windy mane shake day.

So I took her to her first show last week (her REAL first show) and I never blogged about it! So no fear, the show recap will come. I'm waiting to get pictures from my parents. Hope to blog tonight!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Learning to cope with chaos...

Every time I ride this little mare I forget that she is so green. She is doing so well. The thing is, once she knows something, she REALLY knows it! We've been working on side passing in hand over the last week, and I've started leading her through gates exactly as if we were opening it from in the saddle. This was she has to side pass up to it, stand while its opened, and side pass to push it open, then shut again. Tonight I hardly had time to cluck to her before she scooted right up to the gate. What a good girl! Next is doing it on top! She knows so much already. The thing is she is super smart so I guess I've been pushing ahead to keep her from getting bored by being drilled with the same stuff over and over again. I think giving her a lot of different things has kept her fresh and engaged.

We are still are tackling the green horse things though. Tonight for example, we had to share the arena. This is something we don't do much. It was a new step, and a very useful one if I'm going to ride her in a busy show arena on Sunday! The arena is small, and there were two other horses in there. One was a beginner rider who practically rode over the back of us while we were standing in the middle. The other was the barn owner warming up a horse and doing a lot of stop, go, stop, spin, go... etc. Then beginner rider exits, and a young guy gets on the now warmed up horse and decides to do a whole bunch of loping and roll backs. It was absolute chaos! It was the most fantastic test for Lola to have to learn to cope. She did pin her ears occasionally, which I responded to by asking her to get busy doing something. She did spook sideways once, but nothing naughty that we couldn't recover from. Over all it was a great learning night. Another box on the long list of things she needs to experience has been checked.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hurray for daylight savings time!

I was hardly functional getting up this morning being the first work morning since the switch. This evening of riding outdoors after work MORE than made up for it though!

I got out and tacked up by 6:30, and I really thought about maybe riding in the indoor, it is still wet out in the pasture. So I said, "Hey there little miss, do you want to ride in the indoor tonight?"

Lola responded with a resounding, "NOOOO!!!"

So we stuck to the dry spots in the pastures and did a good walk/trot workout with just a little canter at the end. It was the best ride yet. Plus we got to watch the gorgeous sunset!

Monday, March 15, 2010

First show... sort of...

So today Lola and I went to our first show. It doesn't really count as our first show since we didn't really go to show. We just went for the experience of getting out and used to the commotion of the show grounds. Next week will be our real first show. This week was a pretend first show. Does that count?

So we got all dressed up in our western gear so that we could take advantage of the western show. I took her into one rail class for the experience. I picked a smaller class so that I wouldn't be in people's way and made sure it was an 18+ class so I wasn't going to be sharing the ring with kids, for my safety more than theirs! As any green and inexperienced horse, she thought the people lining the fence were freakish, the loud speakers were spewing out demons from hell, and there was an awful to look at! She did just fine.

She wasn't going to stay on the rail much without it being an issue, so I chose an inside track which not only allowed me to school her but to pass up all the western horses and their itty bitty tiny step strides! I looked like a freight train to them, I'm sure! So I looked around and there was not a snowflakes chance in hell that I would place, so I sort of said screw trying to make her jog when what I really want is to keep working on her really awesome trot. So we did a little of both, jog a bit then trot forward, then jog (break in to walk, oops,) trot again and so on. I probably looked out of control, and I was POSTING! For shame... I just wanted to make it a good schooling day. I could have dealt with that, but then I did the most shameful thing that you can do at a western show... I lost my hat! AND it hit Lola in the butt on its flight through the air! Loud straw hat hitting horse butt makes quite a sound... and sent Lola rocketing. I don't really blame her. I might start throwing hats at her every so often though. It gets a great reaction! She didn't buck or try to dump me though, and once we gathered ourselves back up, retrieved the hat, and remounted, everyone was lining up. It was a "whatever" moment in my life. She was a good girl. Thats why NEXT week is really our first show!

I did end up with a pictur of us hanging out by the arena afterwards. She was super calm about the show grounds. She was happy to be lead around and snack on the grass. But overall this is what Lola thinks of the announcer over the loud speakers:

Don't we all Lola, don't we all.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Feeling awesome about my little mare!

Well Lola and I had sort of a check up tonight, an evaluation of where her training is and how she is perceived by an objective party; I had a LESSON!

Now first lessons are a little nerve wracking because, let's face it, we're trying to impress, and usually it is more evaluation than work. Especially in this case, where I've never had any sort of feed back on her training or progress. Everyone in the barn comments on how sweet she is, how well behaved she is, or how friendly she is. I've even had a good comment from a mom who thought she was such a brave and steady horse for standing still at the tie rail while she and her two kids worked very hard to roll one of those 250lb barrels of feed past Lola into the grain room! Now I've had someone really look at where her training is at, and the verdict was good!

The trainer thought that Lola was doing really well for 2 months under saddle. We talked about the things that are harder for Lola, and why that is, and it all comes down to her being young and unbalanced, and they are totally normal things for a horse at this point in training and physical condition. This was so good to hear. I know quite a bit, and I feel like I'm doing a pretty darn good job training her, but I'm not a professional so I don't have a point of reference to see if I'm not pushing her enough (which is my natural tendency with horses) or pushing her too fast for things she is not ready for. Sounds like I'm right in the happy medium, she's coming along at a normal pace. It was a good reminder of how long it takes horses to build the strength to physically do what you're asking in a way that is comfortable enough to not either stress them out or make them overly tired, sore, and sour.

She gave me two exercises to work on over the next few weeks, so we have some homework. This is fantastic because I was getting bored with our exercises, so I'm sure Lola would have quickly followed. Plus these are things that will really help us move forward in her training. So we've got a few more building blocks to put in, and I'm feeling really good that I haven't left any gaping holes in what she should know by now.

Anyway, its an awesome feeling to see that all my hard work shows in her training, but more than that, I got to hear the trainer point out some of her great features. I think she's a darling sweet horse with a whole lot of sense about her, a good nature, and a fantastic work ethic, but I'm also her owner and although its only been a few months, I'm totally in love with her. So it was nice to hear that someone with a more objective eye was seeing those characteristics also.

Overall it was a great way to end an otherwise hectic and stressful day. Thank God for horses!!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Second month under saddle... one big recap

Wow, where did February go???? I mean I know it’s the shortest month of the year, but only by two days… how is it that it always ends up feeling like its two weeks shorter? I didn’t blog once in the month of February. I started a couple, but never posted. So here we are, the very brief wrap-up of the month. I’ve been busy, too busy… but still finding ways to get out to ride the little mare regularly. She’s a funny one. Even on her naughty days when she’s not paying attention she still is so sweet that she makes me glad I’m out there. She always tries to follow me back out the gate when I put her back out to pasture. Silly pony.

The first Saturday I actually got out to the barn during daylight! Hurray! I also ended up tacking up right as one of the other boarders got out there to tack and I got the chance to go ride out on the property with someone! The back pasture must be at least half the 90 acres, so it really is riding out on the “back forty”, and it has some water to cross, a sort of dirt road running through the center, and lots of little ups and downs. I’m super excited to have such a fun place to work outside.

I had Bear tacked up in the western saddle so that I could pony Lola. This other boarder has a super cute Friesian and an older arthritic Appendix Quarter horse. His routine is that he lets the older gelding loose when he gets into the back pasture, then rides his other horse and the old guy just follows. It was super cute how the old guy tagged along! It also added two calm horses that are confident out there to give my two greenies some courage. It was great to be outside, its been ages since I’ve ridden anywhere but the indoor arena. I think I’m getting a little cabin fever! I can’t wait for the ground to dry out so that I can actually do more than walk when outside.

Skipped a weekend since I was out of town…

Then the weekend after I took Lola out in the pasture for some serious “forward” time… aka finally getting her butt cantering without pissing her off. I had lunged her out in the pasture one night the week before since it was bright and sunshiny enough to have a real sunset where it stays light until the sun goes all the way down. She did great, but since it was getting dark I had only walked and trotted around the part of the pasture closest to the barn. So on that Saturday I went out in the western saddle with a dressage whip to beat off the herd of horses in case they got to friendly, and we cantered! I let her kind of pick her own path as long as she cantered, and if she started heading towards the herd we stopped and took a breather and turned the other way to canter again. It was in no way training on picking up the canter from a cue, or work on getting her leads. I just wanted her to have confidence that she could canter with me on her. And I wanted me to have confidence that I could canter her without bucking or running off and then stop her! So that’s all we worked on. We’ll get to the rest of it later. For now I wanted to keep it simple and I knew she’d be more likely to step into the canter out where she has room to run. That next Sunday I convinced one of the girls that I met out at the barn to ride Bear while I rode Lola. She has a big hot thoroughbred, so I figured handling little laid back Bear wouldn’t be an issue for her, and since her horse is rehabbing from an abcess, I didn’t have much trouble tempting her to come ride with me. So Lola got a real trail ride all around the pasture, and she was fantastic. We mainly walked, and just trotted a little down the middle road. Fun and simple, and SUPER relaxing!

The rest of the rides in between have been me trying to squeeze in time to lunge and ride and groom the endless hair that she’s shedding! Not working so well, I could use three hours just for grooming! She’s coming along though. She is definitely comfortable cantering the circle on the lunge with side reins now, and I’m starting to push her more physically.

This last weekend was not super productive. More rain over the week made the pasture too wet to ride in, and made Bear’s feet so wet that I spent all my time Saturday treating his ankle grunge. Ugh. Sunday I got back into the swing of things and worked her butt off in the indoor arena. She was feeling spunky and darting past sun spots on the ground and leaping into the canter, so I made the most of an energetic horse and worked her good at the trot and canter with the side reins. Not just running around like a maniac, but insisting that she stop or transition down to a slower gate when I asked, and not two circles later! So although she had a lot of workout, I also got her tuned up on listening to me. Then I hopped on and trotted some more! She got her legs and chest hosed off afterward since it was nice and sunny out, and I spent some time really washing and brushing her tail while her legs and belly dried off.

Tonight was a fantastic night, best for a while. Since she was being spunky and silly on Sunday, I had really drilled her on the lunge line. It made a total difference, and was clear from the we walked out into the arena tonight. She has been spooky about the far end of the arena, which is understandable since instead of being a solid wood wall like the rest, it is a big metal sliding door that moves in storms and is loud when dirt hits it. She didn’t even look twice at it tonight. She was only paying attention to me. Its funny how these things creep up. Night after night I started letting her get away with little things here and there until she just got used to tuning me out and focusing on every excuse to be silly. It took just one day of saying, “Um… no… you need to me more concerned about me in the middle and looking for when I’m going to ask you to do the next thing, because I expect a response NOW.” Today she is back to her old self, her GOOD self, where she is super quiet and responsive. She did what she was told and RELAXED! So we had a good lunge workout, but with a calm demeanor, and I just hopped on to do some turns on the forehand and haunches while walking around to cool her off.

Highlights of the month:
• Her canter is getting stronger and stronger, and she looks lovely cantering with the side reins.
• She’s been out of the arena and been challenged mentally.
• She’s shedding out great!
• Her body is starting to look really good with cute haunches.
• She’s a star at crossing water.
• She stops, even when cantering out in the open pasture!
• Her attitude and work ethic has been great, not crabby or sour, she’s easy to catch, and always tries to follow me back out the gate when I’m turning her out again.

I’m feeling like these are all great achievements for her second month under saddle!