Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Return of the Sticky Spot

After a pretty crappy day for me yesterday (which Izzy had off), we went back to work today. I'm trying to keep that freely forward that we developed while "hacking", but ask her to work again.

So far, I've had mixed success. She's doing really well to the right--walk, trot, canter--and I'm happy with that. The left is another story. She'll walk/trot ok, but if I ask for the canter, she gets very tense and just goes out whichever shoulder is more convenient at the moment. I'm thinking that it's more a psychological issue than a physical issue for her. I also think that it doesn't help that my left side is weaker and so I don't use my left leg as effectively.

So... I'm unsure as to whether I need to just not even try to canter on that side for a while and try to develop her (and my) muscling, or if I should just keep the reins loose and ride her forward to a messy-but-there canter. Fortunately, our lesson is tomorrow, so I should have a new opinion there. Then again, our lessons are so infrequent that we rarely get all the way to what I'm currently working on. There's always something that I glossed over that needs work instead. Thankfully, everything seems to be related, so it works out.

Anyways. Once again, as soon as she felt the pressure, Izzy returned to her "sticky spot" mentality. She didn't actually stop there today, but she sure wanted to. I found that I could ride her best through that area if I just clucked to her but didn't push with my seat or legs or anything. Throw in a random assortment of lessoners and boarders and a cold, windy day, and I'm pretty pleased overall with how things went.

Now I want to go home and make cookies. Stupid school, getting in the way of my dreams. ;-)

Did I mention that I lunged her this morning and she was a total doll who paid perfect attention to my voice commends? I love this pony.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Test Day

I'm short on time because I'm studying for a test, so I'm sorry if I haven't read and commented on your blog yet--I'll do it tomorrow.

Anyways, what's distracting me from the test is looking for another horse. Not that I can actually have one... Still, I really, really want a 16+H ex-racer TB gelding, any color. No real reason other than that I'm curious about big horses, and I love OTTBs. I DO NOT HAVE time, money, husband's consent, or any other crucial things like that. Still, a girl can dream.

Tack cleaning tonight. :-)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Summertime Saturday

We had a lovely ride this morning. The arena was freshly groomed for a clinic later on, but we were the only ones out. Again, I just let the reins be really long and the contact really soft. We just went freely forward and it was great. Izzy didn't even think about stopping in either of her sticky spots.

This leads me to believe that a large part of our problem was caused by me letting her meander around and get behind m leg. Nuts.

I was talking to a rider getting ready for the clinic on my way out, and mentioned how well Izzy was doing. She made a comment about how she wishes she could just work on her horse, but the focus always seems to be on her. It was meant as a sideways compliment, but I don't think she really understands where we're at. This lady is a very competent rider and horsewoman. I have lots of a respect for her. She's old enough to be able to afford horses, but young enough to still be a good rider. I, on the other hand, don't have much money, so I mostly work Izzy on my own. I have trouble judging my own equitation, so I know that when we are able to take more lessons, my form will be crucified.

Oh well. I'm looking forward to a lesson on Wednesday, hopefully a trail ride Friday, and maybe another lesson next week on an older, trained horse. I hope all your weekends are just as nice as mine.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Running Late

My husband had the day off work today, so I slept in until (gasp) almost 8 am. That's pretty late for me. As soon as I was up, I darted off to ride. Izzy was fairly good today, but because I was an hour later than usual, she arena was a lot more busy with people who don't steer well. It's really hard to do concentrated work when you're watching out for a beginner rider and trying to not get run over by a careening draft horse. Still, we had some really nice trot work to the right and a lovely, lovely right lead canter depart. It was our first time cantering in my new saddle. We didn't try to do too much to the left for the aforementioned reasons.

I think I've come up with one other possible reason for Izzy's resistance to going forward in areas other than the sticky spot. She's kind of a lazy girl anyways, and if we keep in mind her stiff side, and then throw in her tendency to get behind my leg and stop before, it looks like we have the answer. So, while the sticky spot problem I think was psychological and I hope we've overcome it, the non-forwardness is probably a riding problem. I need to focus on getting her forward and not letting her fall behind my leg. When I mentioned a couple days about that it could be a horse problem, a rider problem, or both, I wasn't thinking that it could be all three. My mistake, I guess.

I also rode two other horses for Cathy today. One was Cassie, my old OTTB girl. I call her mine, but I've never properly owned her. I just leased her for like five years. Someone else is now interested in leasing a horse, and Cathy wanted me to get on the girls to get them going a little bit. Cassie was really good until I went to lunge her, and then she almost ripped my hand off. Silly old girl. I ended up just taking advantage of a brief quiet time in the arena and let her run to her heart's content. She felt a little off from having her feet done, though, so we just walked.

Then I got out Ellie, a chestnut Hanoverian/TB mare. She's our resident example of bad conformation.
Here's a friend of mine riding Ellie. She (Ellie) toes in badly in front and I think her knees are twisted in slightly. That said, she a total puppy dog on the ground and very nice to be around. In regular work, she goes really well, and she could probably show comfortably up to first level dressage or so. She used to jump, but I don't think I'd do that to her anymore. She's just been hanging out in the pasture with Izzy for the past couple months, so she resembles a sausage right now. Poor happy fat pony.

A happy thing that happened today was that Izzy actually came up to me when I went to go get Ellie. She just wanted some attention, and was really sweet. Usually I go get her during breakfast time, so she's not too keen on being caught and certainly doesn't hang around when I turn her loose. It's nice to know my pony likes me too.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thank God for Cowboy Books

Even before I got to the barn today, I decided we were going to take it easy. Either there's something wrong with my riding or there's something wrong with my horse, or we're just not connecting well. If we had access to trails, it would have been a definite hacking out day. (Alas, we do not.) When I got Izzy out, I tacked her up and put her on the lunge line. I haven't been lunging her lately, but I wanted to see if she would be stiff under saddle. If she was, then I was going to take the saddle off and see if it was a physical stiffness or if we were having saddle problems yet again.

To my surprise, she actually went better to the left than she did to the right. Ok... at least that pretty much rules out a saddle problem. She still did try to lean through her left side a bit, but we can fix that. We did some walk/halt/walks in hand to get her a little more responsive. We're working on lining up at the mounting block, and she did a pretty darn good job of it today.

After much contemplation yesterday and this morning, I think that part of the problem might be my approach with Izzy. All along I've said that the advantage to starting an older horse is that they can physically go as far as you want to. This is true. I don't need to worry about interfering with growth and development. HOWEVER, her brain still isn't quite grown up and just as important, her muscles probably aren't ready to do quite as much as I was asking her for. Yes, she can bend and stretch and push from behind, but it's hard for her.

So, today I made it a point to keep her on a loose rein and just do some walk/trot transitions. I didn't worry about her head or her bend or anything like that. I made her stay out on the rail and change gait. It didn't have to be immediate and I praised her when she did what I asked. As usual, she was very good to the right. When we went to the left, I was kind of at a loss. I don't just want to do a circle in her happy area of the arena. She needs to go through that sticky spot, but I didn't want to stress her out. That got me thinking. Her mother, my old OTTB, hated pressure. Even the thought of heavy contact was enough to cause a meltdown. Izzy can cope a little better, but there's still that side of her. So, how was I to get her through the sticky spot without any pressure that would make the problem worse?

Then I remembered years ago when I used to read cowboy training stories and books. They were usually funny and not written as technical manuals, but they got the point across. I remembered one book (can't even remember the author or the character names) in which they got a horse that was afraid of water to cross a stream by making him stand by it until he got bored enough to go forward. I decided to give this method a shot. The worst that could happen was that Izzy would like standing in the sticky spot and not want to go forward, but she already does that.

So we did. We trotted down the long side of the arena, then I brought her to a walk before the spot. About 10 feet before she would have stopped on her own, I halted her.

And we stood there. We just looked around. I didn't let her turn her head too much, as I wanted her to think about going forward, but I didn't ask for it. We watched another boarder grooming her horse. We listened to the droning of flies. We stared at the grey mare next to the arena.

After a minute or two, I clucked and asked Izzy to go forward.

She didn't move.

That was ok. I wanted her to think about going forward, but I wanted her to go forward when she was ready and without any pressure from me. We stood a little while longer, then she took a step forward. I praised her, clucked, and we walked off. The next time around the arena, we did the same thing. She stood for slightly less time, then off we went again. After that, we went right through with no trouble at all.

Pretty amazing, if you ask me. I'd have never even thought to do that if it wasn't for that book all those years ago. I'm sure we'll encounter this problem again, but at least now I have a strategy to deal with it.

God bless you, old cowboy.

PS My pony is absolutely gorgeous. I <3 her.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Making Plans

I feel much better today, but Izzy was still very up and stiff going to the left. I think it's partly because she's stiff on her right side. When we go right, she stretches through her left side, but she's probably hollowing her left side just a bit. When we try to go left, she's stiff/sore, and doesn't want to stretch her left side.

At least, that's my opinion. I finally understand what a wonderful dressage clinician tried for years to drill into my head at least. She'd be thrilled, if a bit dismayed that it took me so long to get here.

There is probably more going on that I'm aware of. I know my equitation isn't what it once was, so now that we're working on refining the aids, things that I did that didn't matter now matter a lot. With that in mind, I'm on the schedule for a lesson next week, or sooner if someone else cancels. Cathy owes me a couple lessons anyways for working while she was out of town, so this should be good.

It's also possible that this is like Izzy's rearing on the lunge. We'd work through it, then it would come back, then we'd work through it, then it would come back... every time we worked through it, she understood a little more, and now she hasn't done it in quite a while. (Knock on wood.) At any rate, if she's not going forward, there is absolutely no point in trying to push her into jumping, so we're just waiting again. I was really hoping to get her started this fall, then let her have the winter off, then pick it up again next spring, but it's more important that she understand the basics well than that she can half do a bunch of advanced moves.

Oh, horses.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I'd recommend starting reading my post by going to Kate's blog and reading her post from today. I woke up way too early this morning and I was in a lot of pain. Back, neck, shoulders, head, everything from the waist up hurt. It was weird because I really didn't do anything out of the ordinary yesterday. I lifted some hay bales to help feed, but I do that pretty regularly and it's never bothered me before. I feel better now, but there are still twinges of pain.

I think it could be related that when I rode Izzy today, she was ok to the right, but absolutely not going forward to the left. It could be partly lazy green horse stuff, as she was doing it a little bit before this week, but to have it come to a head right when I'm hurting too? Seems weird enough to be related.

Also, I think I'll have pictures by this weekend or early next week.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Brand New Saddle

I would post a picture, but, typical of me, I forgot to bring anything like a camera out to the barn with me. Whoops.

Anyways, it came late Thursday night, exactly as described. It's an older Ansur KonKlusion, which is their eventing model. It's treeless, but it does have a gullet of sorts. The new model can be seen here: Here's a picture that the seller sent me:

It's a bit darker right now because I very thoroughly cleaned and oiled it last night before I went to bed. The scuff marks are mostly gone, but some things are just a part of an old saddle and that's why we love them. For those of you who are adamantly opposed to Ansur business practices, this one was actually made in the Peter's Tack era. (For the record: I am neither for nor against their business practices. I just like their saddles.)

It definitely feels different than the Classic I was riding. The Classic looks something like this. A Classic is basically a glorified bareback pad. There is no gullet. You sit on on (or into, I guess) the horse. Horses for the most part seem to really like them. I guess I'm so used to it that I didn't really think about gullets and spine clearance on Ansurs. Here's a picture of my best friend riding Cassie in a Classic:

It was one of Cassie's first rides this spring and my friend hadn't been on in over a year, so they look pretty good considering. The KonKlusion (or KK) has a seat to it and almost a twist. Maybe the newer models do have a twist; I'm not wealthy enough to find out. It's a bit more secure feeling than the Classic, but it sure was different.

At any rate, I'm unfamiliar with gulleted but treeless saddles. When I put the new one on Izzy this morning, it looked like the pommel was going to rub her, so I put a little wedge pad underneath it. That kept the pommel off her withers, but after I'd ridden for a while, the gullet was right down on her. So... I don't know. It wasn't hurting or pinching, because her head goes straight up in the air when something hurts. All Ansur saddles are built on the same basic Flex Core, and the Classic sits on the horse's back directly, so maybe it's ok? Still, it seems like a gulleted saddle ought to have gullet clearance.

If that's true, there are various pads made specifically for this purpose. They're kind of spendy, but maybe I can find one used. You'd be surprised what a little dedicated searching can turn up. ;-) Still, if it's not bothering her, is it a problem? I don't know.

In other training news, the weather changed this weekend while I was gone. That always gets the horses a little excited, and as such, Izzy was pretty distracted when I was riding her. When I asked her to move off my left leg and she wouldn't and then I made her, she threw a fit, complete with a nice buck and a lunge forward. After that, we finished out the day by doing lots of bending left and right with little leg yields. We didn't canter because I want to know more about the saddle issue before going much further.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

She's a Princess in Her Own Mind

Keeping in mind the advice about lengthening attention spans, I decided to work Miss Izzy a little harder today. We've had several days in a row where I got on and she was so good that after about 10 minutes I just got off again. While I definitely believe those days are a part of training, so are the days where we ride for longer than that. Besides, I'm leaving tomorrow morning to be out of town for three days, so she'll get a nice break.

My plan for the day was something like: get her stretching and bending in the warm up. Do some big trot circles to get her going forward. Work on trot/walk/trot transitions. Work on trot/canter/trot transitions. Do a little turn on the forehand/turn on the haunches, and then finish up with some nice walk trot transitions so she doesn't think she's done after she canters. While executing this plan, I wanted to work on remaining loose and supple in my body, because I know that my stiffness will make her stiff and resistant. (See? We're finally incorporating some dressage principles.)

Sounds reasonable, right?

It ended up being a pretty hard workout, but we did pretty much stick to the plan. However, there are things that Izzy has been doing that I've been letting her get away with. Today, I decided that it's not ok anymore if she just wants to run straight through her shoulder. She does need to respect/listen to my leg and seat rather than just try to lean on my hands. She did not think those things were nearly as important as I did. Our transitions weren't as pretty as they've been other days, but by the end of the ride, she was doing them. We did a lot of exaggerated bend/counterbend type stuff, with a little leg yielding to get her to pay attention to my legs. I think I'll be sore tomorrow and I'm sure she'll appreciate the day off, but I'm glad we did what we did. I want her to actually start listening to me now.

And my saddle is supposed to come today. I'm pretty psyched.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

50 riding things

Fifty questions about riding, of which I’ll answer most…

1. How old were you when you first started riding?

I've ridden the pony rides since I should just about walk. I started taking lessons at 9.

2. First horse ridden:

Sundance, a white appaloosa gelding who was a total saint. Last I heard, he was still packing around the kiddies and doing a fabulous job.

3. First horse trotted on:

Same. He didn't like to turn right, though. My arm ached by the end of the lesson.

4. First horse cantered on:

Oh... probably also the same. I'm not sure.

5. First Horse fallen off of:

Simon J, a black grade morgan gelding. He taught me a lot. Especially about being exactly where he wanted me to be over a jump, or he'd dump me on top of it. That was probably my first fall.

6. Most recent horse fallen off of:

Izzy. It was one of our first rides. She did a major spook that I wasn't ready for and I came right off. Conveniently, the weather was really crappy (it was march), so we got to do lots of ground work before I had to get back on.

7. Most terrifying fall:

I've never really been terrified. My most humiliating fall was when good ol' Simon J dumped me on top of the biggest oxer (all of 2'3") at the 4-H English show in front of everyone. And then I had to get back on and do it again. The judge said that she'd lower, which I thought was a marvelous idea, but my instructor jumped right in that and said that no, I would jump it at the same height. So the judge backed off and I had to make that stubborn old horse jump a humongous oxer. At that point, I think we got over it because I was more scared of being further embarrassed by my instructor telling the judge what to do than the dear of pain. It was good for me, though. Going over that jump again, and then having to do it in the next class really taught me to get a handle on my fears.

8. First horse jumped with:

Simon J

9. First horse who ran away with you:

Cassie. She was pretty fresh off the track and she (rightly) thought I hadn't lunged her very much. Since it was a nice, cool morning, she took me for a racehorse gallop around the arena. We made 8 laps. I lost my stirrups, then my reins. When I finally fell off, she did a sliding stop beside me. She had no idea why I got off in the middle of her workout.

10. First horse that scared the crap out of you:

Shower, a flea bitten grey thoroughbred mare who was never on the track. She was blind in one eye. As we hacked up a trail to the show arena, she didn't realize that her blind side was a fairly significant drop off. My 12 year old legs could hardly keep her going straight. That was a very bad show.

11. First horse shown :

Simon J.

12. First horse to win a class with:

Shower. After dumping me twice at the terrifying show, she cleaned up her act, and we won ribbons in all our classes at the next one. To include, of course, a beautiful blue ribbon in the maiden rider class.

13. Do you/have you taken lessons:

I took one lesson a week from 9-17. At 17, I started college and horses faded to the back ground. I had a couple lessons and rode in a clinic once on someone else's horse, but I'm just now starting to get back into the swing of things.

14. First horse you ever rode bareback:

Simon J.He was pretty old and fat at that point, so the hardest part was trying to grip with anything at the trot because he jiggled so much.

15. First horse trail ridden with:

Prince was his name. Or at least, that's what I called him. We went up to an outfitter's in the mountains because my dad knew how badly I wanted to ride. As we were waiting for the horses to be saddled, I caught sight of the most beautiful chestnut I had ever seen and knew I wanted to ride him. Fortunately, I got to. He was an excellent trail horse, as were the rest.

16. Current Barn name:

Uh... I try to keep it a little anonymous here. Not that I think you're stalkers, but no sense leaving that open, right?

17. Do you ride English or western?

English always. I confess, despite living in the west for most of my life, I still do not know how to put a western saddle on.

18. First Horse to place at a show with:

Shower. Simon was steady, but it took us a while to do well together.

19. Ever been to horse camp?

Nope. Those were expensive and usually required both a horse trailer and owning your own horse. I just got my first horse this spring, and I've never owned a horse trailer.

20. Ever been to a riding clinic?

I used to do dressage clinics all the time. Maybe next year.

21. Ridden sidesaddle?

Only in my dreams. I really want to, though.

22. First horse leased:

Cassie, the OTTB who ran off with me. She was/is amazing and I love her.

23. Last Horse Leased:

Cassie... I'm a one-horse kind of girl, I guess.

24. Highest ribbon in a show:

1st. I also got a medal when my team won the regional championships. Go us!

25. Ever been to an ‘A’ rated show?

I'm a low-budget rider. To me, an expensive show costs over $100. I can't imagine paying $1200 for a show.

26. Ever competed in pony games/relay races?

Yes. Super fun.

27. Ever fallen off at a show:

Many, many times. It's pretty embarrassing at first, but I'm over it now.

28. Do you ride Hunter/Jumpers?

I hope my horse will be a hunter/jumper. We'll see.

29. Have you ever barrel raced?

Yes. Once on Simon J and twice on Cassie. Simon was happy to trot around, but Cassie really got into it.

30. Ever done pole bending?

Yes. Not Cassie's favorite event. She just likes to straight-up run.

31. Favorite gait:

A nice smooth, morgan trot.

32. Ever cantered bareback?

Yes. Also galloped and jumped. I like bareback.

33. Have you ever done dressage?

Yes. Cassie got a 70 once and I was very proud. I think it was first level... maybe training 4. I don't recall. She's too nervous to go far in dressage though, so I took First Class to regionals instead of her.

34. Have you ever evented?

Yep. That was Cassie and I's favorite thing to do.

35. Have you ever mucked a stall?

Ask me if I can remember a week between turning 9 and now that I did not muck a stall. There were two. Once I was so sick I couldn't get out of bed for a week. Once I was on my honeymoon. That is all.

36. Ever been bucked off?

Yeah, but it was my fault. I didn't tighten the girth enough, so when I stepped into the stirrup, Star, the paint horse, felt the saddle slide and took off bucking. I hit the ground pretty hard.

37. Ever been on a horse that reared:

Izzy... but again, it wasn't really her fault.

38. Horses or ponies:

I've actually never ridden a pony outside of pony rides. It's too late now. I'd smoosh the poor thing.

39. Do you wear a helmet?

Always. Except the first time I rode Izzy after she reared. It was so hot that it felt like I had a helmet on. Once I realized I didn't, I got off very quickly.

40. What’s the highest you’ve jumped:

3'9". That was the summer before I started college. I just kept putting the jump up. I was so sick that every landing hurt terribly though, so we finally stopped there. After that day, the weather changed and I idn't get to ride seriously again until this year.

41. Have you ever ridden at night?

Yep. Not on trails or roads, though.

42. Do you watch horsey television shows?

I don't even have the converter box hooked to my tv, so I haven't seen a television show since sometime in June. I don't really miss it.

43. Have you ever been seriously hurt/injured from a fall?

Nope. I'm lucky there and I know it.

44. Most falls in one lesson:

Probably two. I used to be a pretty timid rider, so my instructor didn't push us too hard. <3 Cathy.

45. Do you ride in an arena/ring?

Yes, but mostly because the city has moved in and enclosed our barn. :-( We should be moving out to a place with trail access this winter, though, and I'm excited for that.

46. Have you ever been trampled by a horse?

No. That would be awful.

47. Have you ever been bitten?

Yep. Cassie was the worst bite I got, but again, it wasn't really her fault. Cathy was pulling her mane, which Cassie hates, so Cassie snapped and my hand happened to be in the way. That hurt.

48. Ever had your foot stepped on by a horse?

Yep. Worst one was Shower; she stepped on me from her blindside and I couldn't get her to move. Thanks to my always wearing safe footwear, however, no serious damage was done.

49: Favorite riding moment:

Finishing X-C at our first big event. We were galloping up to the final fence and I realized that at that pace, if anything went wrong, we would both get very hurt. I just trusted Cassie to take care of it, and she did. I don't think we placed because we missed a fence, but it was a glorious ride.

50. Most fun horse you’ve ridden:

So far, Cassie. Izzy's getting to be pretty fun, though.

Attention Spans

Yesterday, the new farrier (Toni), commented that Izzy's attention span is roughly 20 minutes. She recommended working on that by asking her to focus for longer periods of time and gradually expanding what Izzy is capable of doing.

That seemed like sound advice as I reflected on it later. Then I realized something: my attention span is only about 20 minutes as well. That's why Izzy can only focus for that long.

Nuts. Yet again, Izzy problem comes from one of my weakest points.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Trouble in Pony World

Remember how a week or so ago I was promising that I wasn't going to go nuts and get into all that "natural" stuff just because I'm getting a treeless saddle? Well, I still mean it, but Izzy needed her feet done in a bad way. The regular farrier, who I wasn't too thrilled with, wasn't scheduled to come out for several weeks, which irked me. His schedule never seems to line up with when she needs her feet done. I talked to a friend of mine about it, and we had her farrier come out early to do both our horses.

Yes, she (!!) is a barefoot trimmer (!!). First off, there aren't a lot of female farriers in Idaho. It's just sort of a man's job, and Idaho is old school and patriarchal enough that not a lot of women even want to do that. I don't have a problem with a female farrier, but it was unusual enough to note. Second, yes, she does barefoot stuff. I figured it's not a big deal. Izzy isn't wearing shoes right now anyways, so what's the difference?

I was actually quite pleased. She was good, quick, and gentle, and she talked to me about my horse's feet. I like that. The other guy was fast and efficient, but he never said anything and rarely answered questions. Izzy threw a fit about her last hoof, so we just turned her out, did the other horse, then came back and finished Izzy. It was mostly an attention span problem, and I was pleased with how she (the farrier) handled it.

All's well that ends well. Plus, she's $10 cheaper than the guy I didn't like.

In other news, I got Bear out again today. I'd left him alone because with the presentation last week, I just didn't have time to deal with his form of neurosis. I really didn't have time today, either. It was 10 by the time we were done with the farrier, and I needed to get to work. I hate being late to work because I always have to leave early anyways to get to school. Nothing like a full schedule.

That said, I didn't rush Bear. He's one, like most others, that just needs time. I find him frustrating because he just doesn't have an attention span. He kicks almost constantly when I pick up his feet because he's forgotten I'm there and can't figure out why his feet are stuck. It's not malicious; it's just dumb. He was ok to groom, fussy about the saddle, and then absolutely wouldn't take the bridle. Michelle assured me she'd put it on him in the past few days, but then managed not to be there when I was trying. In her defense, she spent yesterday in the emergency room. (Needle in foot=much pain.)

I finally got the bridle on him with another boarder's help. She's a shorter lady used to dealing with tall horses, so she showed me how to ask for him to put his head down and eventually he just gave up and took it. He was awful in the arena. I think he needs more turnout, because he would just jump straight up in the air, then explode bucking, then stop to look at something, all the while forgetting I was there.

Apparently, his owner is claiming that a friend of hers beat this horse around the head and that explains his behavior. I don't really buy that. First off, just being a big, dumb, pushy baby explains most of it. Second, he's not headshy. Sure, he's not wild about complete strangers running up and grabbing his face, but he doesn't have a meltdown, either. Third, and I guess this is a completely different topic, but who on earth just lets their "friend" beat a horse around the face? Maybe I'm imposing my high standards on others, but there's no way I unleash a newbie around a horse until I've drilled into their head that they will absolutely never hurt it. As for more experienced people, I never let them alone if I distrust them at all.

Anyways... I'm soldiering on. I'm thinking about asking for a contract type agreement so we both know what we're working with. I don't feel like training someone else's horse just because I'm a nice person. (I'm really not that nice. Just try beating my horse around the head and you'll find out.) While I know the owners intend to pay me, I think the best path forward is to discuss exactly what they're willing to pay, what I want to make, and how trained the horse is to end up being. It's hard to make decisions without knowing this sort of thing. Also, I rather want them to provide the tack. It's their horse and if does something stupid, I'd rather mine and Cathy's not be damaged. Is that so unreasonable?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Amazing Weekend

I rode Izzy yesterday and today and she has been great. I'm finally able to get her up off her right shoulder a little, which makes left lead canter circles dramatically easier. (YAY! We can turn.) I meant to work on taking her out on straight, long lines at the canter to improve her balance today, but we started by doing some walk/trot transitions. Her first one was lovely. No resistance, no pushing up into my hands. We did another. Same. I let the reins out a bit and we walked. Without picking up the reins, I softened her mouth just the tiniest bit and asked for another transition.

She did it. Same, soft, lovely motion she'd done before, only this time she stretched all the way through it. We walked and lengthened the reins and did one more transition. She was lovely.

Then the stupid neighbor kid started zooming around on his battery powered car behind a wood fence so all Izzy knew was that she could see shadows behind the fence and hear weird noises. I could have made her work through it, but after the lovely relaxation she'd been demonstrating, I just let her be done.

And did I mention that I didn't lunge her today or yesterday? Yep, she's fiinally developing her adult brain. Today she seemed to have a little sauce, so I did warm her up with a few big trot circle on a long rein, but she didn't even offer to do anything silly.

Have I mentioned that I love my horse today? What a wonderful girl.

As an aside, I've been worrying about Izzy a little bit. I really want to jump again, but I don't know if she does. I keep wondering what I'll do if she's not a jumper... dressage is great, but I really want to have a go at those fences again. Then again, even if she doesn't jump, if she stays this amazing, it might not matter. We'll see.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I am so ready for my own saddle

I met a new student of Cathy's today. She seemed very nice and competent. I liked her, all except one thing.

We both were riding horses that used the one ansur saddle.

And where she was a new student and I didn't have a lesson, I obviously bowed out of this competition before she ever knew it was an issue. I don't like other people to feel awkward because they're using something I want to borrow. I thought about doing another lunge session with Izzy, but we already did one this week and I know it's not great for her joints, so I just groomed her well and put her away. She was thrilled.

In other news, one of our boarders has a horse she wanted to event on. He came up lame a couple weeks ago, and the vet's diagnosis was arthritis in the sacroiliac joint, which means no jumping, no serious dressage, nothing. He can still be ridden, but obviously, he'll never do what she wanted to do. She took the poor horse home, but brought out her other. The new boy is an absolutely adorable haflinger pony. I like him. I'll have to take pictures.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

School Project

My presentation is almost ready to go. I'll get to see Izzy tomorrow!

Plus, I just sold one of my horsey items that I need to sell to pay for the new saddle. Hooray!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Not a Jumping Horse Yet

The weather is surprisingly cool here, which seems to have Izzy more alert and forward than usual. When I lunged her, I had to wait a while to start asking her to do anything because she just needed time to settle. She was quite good and we ended our lunging session by having her hop over the small crossrail we finished with yesterday. So far, so good.

I did mean to try to actually jump her over that under saddle as well, but other things came up. We did a lot of walk/trot transitions and shorten/lengthens in the trot. She was a little sticky about her upward transitions at first, but the more we did them, the more relaxed she became. Her canter transitions aren't quite as efficient as they used to be, but I think that's a residual effect of the fitting saddle. Before, she didn't want to go forward, so she'd tiptoe around in the trot, then leap into the canter when asked for it. Thus, the transition was immediate, but the gait was choppy. Now that she's using her back, she's more comfortable going forward in the trot, so she'll do a really big trot instead of a one0stride canter transition.

Oh well. It's coming. I have encountered a new behavior, though. She's learning to stretch down and she's learning to carry herself a little bit. She hasn't quite sorted it out yet, though, so now she's stretching down and curling. Right now when she does that, I lift my outside rein and ride her forward, but I'm open to suggestions. Any ideas? Anyone else dealt with this? I don't want to hit her in the mouth (obviously), but I'd prefer she reach forward and down.

Oh, and no Bear updates because I have a big presentation this week in school and I'm focused on that... as you can tell by the fact that I'm posting here...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Three days off!

I just got back last night from a few days out of town. Miss Izzy was somewhat happy to see me, but I let her run in the arena for a few minutes before I tried to get her to focus on me at all. Even though she lives out in a pasture, she still needs to blow off steam before she works.

Anyways. A lesson rider needed the treeless saddle while I was out to ride, so I worked Izzy on the lunge instead. We did transitions, then trot poles, and finally graduated to a tiny crossrail that she jumped very well. I was pretty glad I wasn't on her though, because she was kind of spooky and jumpy and it was nice to work through that without worrying about falling off or getting hit in the head.

Izzy looks super cute in her surcingale. I think I've mentioned that before.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

When Things Go Right...

I had another pretty good ride on Izzy. She had several wonderful moments, notably two (that's right, 2) stretch circles at the trot and of her own volition. She also learned how to do a turn on the haunches in less than a minute. She had to learn because today she decided to lean through her left shoulder instead of her right. I switched my whip and focused on riding from my inside leg to my outside rein, but she still leaned through, so we stopped and did a turn on the haunches to get her to move her shoulder. I was impressed by how quickly she picked it up.

I'd say she's doing very, very well. Apparently, other people have noticed, as now a fellow boarder has asked me to train her daughter's 4 year old know-nothing gelding.

I'm flattered and I'll probably do it because I need the money to pay for my own pony, but I'm not thrilled about it. Here's why.

1) The horse is a big boy (like 16.3ish). His owners are/were scared of him, and he learned to push them around. After a couple months with us, he's finally learned not to chase people, but there's still that mentality.

2) The daughter is a girl I have zero respect for as a rider. She's the one that Izzy pinned her ears and lunged at because the girl couldn't be bothered to look where she was going and kept running up her tail. This is the same girl who only ever rides the horse her parents bought her (so she could win) in lessons and shows. The four year old? Yeah, he was raised at her house and she never bothered to handle him. At all. This girl rode her horse in draw reins and PULLED HER OVER because, well, I don't know why. It was scary. The poor mare clearly hated the draw reins. The girl wouldn't let up. The horse lost her balance. Girl pulled her over almost on top of herself. The other boarders were rushing to see if the girl was ok. I just wanted to slap her. Her comment after what was clearly a traumatic experience for the mare? "Well, I hope she learned her lesson." What? That draw reins are scary and bad and painful?? I think she already had a grip on that. Grrr. I know said girl can't train the horse herself (she's never ridden a greenie in her life), but I feel bad prepping a horse for someone so useless.

3) The people who have worked with this horse since he got here taught him some lovely habits. Today, he tried to roll on the saddle and struck out when I wouldn't let him. He kicks when his feet are picked up and has an attention span shorter than that of the average gnat. I know all these problems are fixable, but it's irritating to have a horse with this many bad habits and zero useful training.

Oh well. I'll keep you updated on how it goes. I console myself by realizing that I already blew my USEF amateur status by shoveling horse manure, so I might as well get paid to ride horses, too. Oh, and new boy's name is Bear. He's a Holsteiner.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

She's a Lady

Izzy was really, really good today. It's almost like riding a trained horse now. She still flips her head a little bit during transitions, which I think is a remnant of trying to find her balance just a few short months ago.

Today, we worked on figure eights and changes of bend through both the trot and walk. The figure eights consisted of two 15m circles. Since I'm aiming towards an eventual jump/event career with Izzy, I want to get her used to changes of bend and direction. I'm looking towards maybe hunter/jumper flying changes by the end of the fall, so I need her to understand both a figure eight and changing gaits at the middle. She really picked up on it quite quickly. We also worked on spiraling in and out of a 20m circle and we've started being baby lengthen/shortens in the trot to help her learn to carry herself. Here's our most exciting news: we did an actual canter each direction. Up to this week, her canter was more a slow gallop at which we careened around and tried not to run into the fence. Forget lateral aids or trying to turn. It was a survival thing.

No longer. Izzy has mastered a nice, slow canter that I can actually ride forward and work with. It's a beautiful thing. I want to start working over trot poles and small crossrails again, but I'm waiting for the new (jumper) saddle to come. I figure that gives us about another week and a half to continue to finesse what we're learned. I probably need to get with Cathy and discuss what reasonable goals look like for the next few months. I don't like to just train aimlessly.

A funny thing about Miss Izzy: I tacked her up this morning without her princess hat, as we call it. It's just a crocheted ear net to keep the bugs off. I figured that she can't do dressage or hunter classes with it, so she needs to learn to go without it sometimes. She did not think that. As soon as we stopped lunging so I could take the reins down from her throatlatch, she thought, "THERE ARE BUGS ON MY EARS!!!!" and wouldn't stop shaking her head. I actually had to have Cathy hold her while I went and got her princess hat so she could focus again.

This from the pony who doesn't even get to wear a fly mask because she's always letting the boys take it off.
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