Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Did I really?

I am loving this weather. Finally, the cold seems to have abated, at least for now, and we're consistently in above freezing temperatures. It got up to 60 this week! 60! I can't even believe it. I'm probably jinxing myself, and it's going to be back to cold again next week, but I'm okay with that. The end is in sight!

With the warm weather comes more time spent at the barn and fun surprises to be had. More on those later. The great news is that with the weather warming up, I'm getting out to ride a heck of a lot more than I was when the world was covered in snow and ice. 3-5 days a week, which is awesome. 5 is my goal, at her age and level of training. I don't think she's quite ready for a full 6 days of work a week. The work has been showing too. Her canter is coming along so very nice (although I have a feeling that the right lead is going to give us some difficulties) and she's starting to get the idea of the basic lateral work I've been introducing. She's starting to get softer in her jaw and, through the literally thousands of transitions we've been doing, she's finally starting to engage her topline. Just a little bit, and only for small moments in time, but it's starting to happen. She's accepting contact more readily every day. Well, except for a few days ago.

I came out to ride and she was in an awesome mood, if not a little on the lazy side. I carried my whip with me for the first time, deciding that she was finally starting to get focused enough that she wouldn't catch sight of it out of the corner of her eye and flip. I mostly wanted it for the canter transition, since we're having trouble finding the right lead. I figured if I carry the whip and tap that outside hind in the transition, it would get it to engage and strike off correctly. Which worked, but the promptness of the canter transitions was overshadowed by my concern that throughout the entire ride she was completely ignoring my right rein. I could turn her, but she wouldn't soften, she just felt like there was a brick attached that rein and I had no subtlety to it. I was starting to get worried, as stiff to a rein has never been an issue with her, if anything, she's TOO sensitive. I worked at it for a while to no avail. Finishing my ride frustrated at this new development.

As I walked around her head to put my stirrup on the off side up, I glanced at her bridle and just about fell over laughing at myself. Also kind of wanted to kick myself, because I can't believe how stupid I was.

My cavesson noseband was fastened around the outside of the cheekpiece on the right side.No wonder she wasn't responding to my subtler rein cues, the snug noseband had the ring of her bit strapped to the side of her face, no subtlety possible! I thought back to the countless tack checks I did for pony club events over the years and couldn't believe that I really had forgotten to check that. I made a point of double-checking all of my equipment before I mounted up today, and the stiffness issue was magically resolved. Funny what a difference having your tack on correctly will do!

Today was also the first "bath" day of the season, as well as some good quality time spent on the tie post. Which she didn't particularly appreciate, but got over. You can see the pit she started digging herself though. She will likely be spending more and more time out there as the weather improves. And I can see if I can find a new home for that pallet board. Hmmm.

Anyway, the one time I tried to hose her off last fall, after going for a ride with another girl from the barn on a very warm day, was a nightmare. The hose was a vicious snake monster spewing venom as far as she was concerned, so I decided to start slow and see where we were at. I was totally prepared to bathe her once a week all summer if that's what it took to get her used to the process, even though I know that would be murder on her skin.

We just did a partial bath today, since it's still a little on the chilly side and the wind is kind of nasty. And I didn't want to spend the time to scrub out her white spots only to watch her go roll in the muck in her pasture. That might have made me sad. So I washed her tail, (attempted to) clean her udder, and washed all four stockings. I know her legs will be just as muddy tomorrow, but it makes me feel better that I know that they CAN be kind of clean. Sort of. And her tail made me feel a lot better. This is what it actually looks like, btw.

I can't decide if it's black and white or tri-colored. More thorough washings will have to see. But it felt good to brush it out and put some conditioner in it.

As for the promised surprise...

It might be possible that that isn't just "winter weight" on your mare!
Baby filly was born yesterday afternoon. She's healthy and nursing and standing and very friendly towards people. Mama is a touch suspicious about the whole thing, but seems to be taking to her job well enough. I believe her name is Liv, but I'm not 100% on that. I don't think the new owners have quite decided yet, they're still a little floored by the whole thing. But isn't she PRECIOUS??

Legs are still a bit on the wobbly side. She has a great time cantering circles around mama when they're outside or in the arena though. Her owner is a little disappointed as she was hoping to get the mare ready to run barrels this summer, but I think she's warming up to the delay. It's hard not to be happy with something that adorable.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


I think the reason that I love dressage (besides a possible tendency towards masochism and a perfect outlet for my type-A tendencies) is the fact that, really, if you're not learning something new all of the time, you're failing. I feel like if your job was to put 60 days on a colt, and you had horses coming and going constantly in that, yeah, you'd have the odd memorable one. But mostly, they'd blurr together. You'd have your system that you follow and you'd put the horses through it. But that so doesn't work for dressage. I mean, it kind of does, there's the training pyramid, but there are so many OTHER things that go into it. It's mind boggling. Maybe part of it is being the little low-level underling that I am, and I quite literally have EVERYTHING to learn. But I don't think that's it. You hear the "masters" saying all of the time how they're still learning. The horse is the greatest teacher, and every horse teaches you something new.

So I try to look for something I can learn out of every ride or every work out. I try to get inside of my horse's head (easier in some creatures than others). Whether it's an actual desire to learn something new or just to figure out why they're doing what they're doing at that moment, I like to get to the root of things in their little walnut-sized brains.

So today, I noticed something interesting as I was lunging Indigo. For one, she was a hellion. She did NOT want to stand tied while getting ready any let me know this by rearing repeatedly. This has been a recurring problem, and she will likely have a date with the Post of Knowledge once the weather gets reliably nice and the ground thaws. Anyway, headed out into the ring to lunge.This normally takes maybe 10 minutes. I don't want to wear her out, just work on lunging skills. It's something I want her to know how to do. Anyway, I send her out on the line and she breaks into a frantic trot, then bucks into the canter. So I send her on for a few circles, then ask her to transition back down the trot. We spend a few minutes working on the trot-canter-trot transitions and she's getting pretty good at them, and her balance is definitely improving. But I noticed something interesting.

She always strikes off on the left lead. Every single time. She seems to prefer to canter on the right lead, and when we're going right she swaps over to the right after the first stride. If we're going left, then she strikes off left, and only swaps to right if she decides she wants to run away (which happened frequently today). Her changes are still lovely and clean, which again, gives me hope for someday teaching her to do them on command from her back. I'm a little worried about counter canter, but that'll come with time. I'm just really curious about this. It's not like she just picked her favorite lead because she was on a straight line, she was on a circle, going right, and struck off on the left lead every single time, then would swap back to the right. Like clockwork.

I'm not quite sure what this means yet. It will definitely take some pondering.

We're also starting work on basic lateral work with leg yields and leg yields down the wall. She's picking it up rather well, faster in some areas than I expected, but focus was a major issue today. Didn't help when The Horse Whisperer came into the ring to do "groundwork" with his mare. I have nothing against any of the natural horsemanship practitioners. I understand that selling DVDs and clinics and such is how you make your living, so I get why you try to get the "my way or the highway" attitude going. But seriously, this kid needs another DVD set. Of someone, anyone else. His theories aren't wrong, but he's not getting them. He's just trying to emulate what he sees. Which is alright, but frustrating when I'm trying to ride at the same time and he's spewing a TON of white noise to get her to listen to him. Not productive for him, and spooking my mare when he cracks the whip. She was also finding the open doors quite distracting. I was thrilled by them because it meant that it was finally warm enough to not need the heater going in the barn to keep the water from freezing. 48 degrees baby!

Unfortunately, won't be riding the next two days. I'm working the later shift and until I find a shower that I can borrow in town, I can't ride before work. People tend to get upset when you come to make their food and you smell like barn. I can't figure out why. After that we're back on schedule though! I'm loving the beginnings of spring!