Monday, November 30, 2009


It was 40 f here yesterday, which seemed ridiculously warm. I took advantage of the last day of break to ride. Izzy started out well. We went to the right first to mix things up. he warmed up nicely at the walk, then we started trotting. She was pleasantly forward, and after a few large circles, she offered a lovely canter. So far, so good.

Things started well to the left. Walk was good, trot was going well... just as I thought that we would canter and be done, she threw a massive fit. She was bowing her neck to the left and pushing out her right shoulder into the side of the fence that she usually hates. It was strictly locational; only on one side of the circle did she try. I tried changing my balance. I tried circling right and moving her off the inside, then holding that bend for counter-bending circle left which would have shifted her weight onto her inside shoulder and eliminated the problem. She would have no part of that. I tried keeping my outside rein short to keep her from overbending her neck.

Nothing was working. Sh quit going forward at all and just ran sideways out her right shoulder. She absolutely wouldn't cooperate. I could tell she was mad by the way she flipped her nose and threw herself around. Unfortunately for her, I was just as mad, and I wasn't getting off until she trotted forward around that corner without throwing herself at the fence.

Eventually, she did it. It wasn't perfect, but it was ok. I immediately dropped the reins, patted her, told her she was a good girl, got off, and loosened the girth. I don't know why that was so hard. She's done it hundreds of times before. I don't know what I would do differently if she does that again. I seriously contemplated calling my trainer and asking her to ride Izzy this week while I'm tied up with homework, but she knows us too well for that. If I'm not comfortable on a horse, I doubt she'd just leap blindly aboard. I do want to be there if/when Cathy rides her, though. I learn the most by watching. If I had more free time, I'd have Cathy ride her, than I'd do a lesson on her. Hm...

Izzy is getting her feet done this week, so I'll be out to hold her for that. Maybe I can get Cathy to ride her around the same time and do it all in one trip. I want to see her with someone else up, but I have to balance that against the fact that Izzy likes testing new people to see what she can get away with... Any ideas? Exercises that will help? I'm pretty sure I'm not dealing with a saddle fit/pain issues because of the way she manifested her anger. If the saddle hurts, she immediately stops. Besides, with our ansur, it warms up with her and begins to soften and move better, so the longer we go (to a point) the better it should be.

I want to pull my hair out. That may be related to the homework stress I'm experiencing right now, though.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Good Pony

I turned Izzy out this morning before riding her because she'd had a long weekend. That was a pretty good idea. She galloped and bucked and bucked and galloped for a long time. Usually, she'll buck once or twice at most. This was pretty nuts for her.

After that performance, I thought it would be a good idea to lunge her before getting on. She was an angel on the lunge, so I did ride. It was almost a carbon copy of last time I rode. Again, she didn't want to go forward, but once I rode her through the token resistance, she was lovely. We went walk, trot, and canter both directions.

I'm working on making larger circle than I used to. I think part of her leaning problem might be that I'm asking her to do something more than she's ready for. It's easier for her to balance on say a 30m circle than a 20m circle, so I need to mentally adjust and move out for now.

All things considered, we had a lovely day. Also, I took one of my old saddles to the tack store and put it on consignment so it would stop sitting in my house.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving break!

I was out of town all weekend, so Izzy didn't get ridden and obviously, I wasn't online here. I'm enjoying my time off of school. I'm celebrating it by doing lots of homework, going to doctor's appointments, and giving a surprise birthday party for my husband tonight. (It's ok. He doesn't read my blog, so he'll never find out.)

I will try to catch up with the rest of you soon. I hope all is going well!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Happy Feelings

I went out to ride yesterday and had a frustrating time. Izzy was leaning out both shoulders, spooking at random things, and generally ignoring me like an obnoxious teenager. We had a few good moments, but they weren't connected.

When I got home last night, I spent some time thinking about our ride. I was using an inside opening rein to turn, but that just encouraged Izzy to pop her outside shoulder out and lean through it. For obvious reasons, I'm not a huge fan of this maneuver. In an ideal world, I would be able to open my inside rein and ride her from my outside aids, but we're simply not there yet. It's coming.

Today we needed to work on the same things we did yesterday, so I tried to approach it carefully. It was late, so I didn't bother lunging Izzy. She was fine. I worked on keeping both hands pretty much together on top of her withers and riding turns from my body at the walk. This is a pretty basic concept, but Izzy's young and inexperienced enough that it seems earth-shaking to her. She does lean either direction, so I tried keeping her balanced and centered by holding the outside rein steady and giving the inside rein while using my body to turn and my legs and whip as a reminder.

Izzy had a meltdown.

She didn't want to work, didn't want to go forward, didn't want to listen. She backed way off and tried to get behind my leg. I just sent her forward and kept asking. We made big circles, even in the scary areas, but she had to go forward, first and foremost. Then she tried running in to canter, but she didn't realize that she was simply playing in to my plans. I want her balanced at all three gaits, and what we were working on was not gait-specific. So I rode the canter and continued to ask.

It took several circles, but she started listening and moving. It almost seemed easier for her at the canter, but maybe that's because she's not as coordinated so I can influence her more easily. When she could trot a circle in each direction, staying under my weight without leaning out either shoulder, we were done.

And thank you everyone for your input on the previous post. It's a topic that I may revisit.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Trouble With Learning

I did manage to get out for a short while yesterday afternoon. It was windy but not cold, so Izzy and I did some walk/trot work after I turned her out to run like a wild pony around the arena. She's a good girl. I put her back before working too hard because it was time for the evening feeding.

As I'm sure most of you are aware, my first and foremost occupation right now is being a student. I'm in a social science field that I enjoy, and I'm a very active student. I research (sometimes for pay), and attend academic conferences. I like reading research.

This is why the horse world bugs me. So much of what we do is based on tradition with zero research involved as far as I can tell. Person A says, "You absolutely must do this", while Person B claims that if you do what Person A said, your horse will be lame for the rest of it's life. Don't even get me started on Person C.

The only rational response is the one that I think we've all adopted: we listen politely, evaluate what we hear based on our knowledge, and do a lot of trial-and-error to see what works. That's ok, I guess, but horses have been with us for centuries. Millenia, even. There is a lot of money in the horse industry, even if none of us are blessed enough to have it. Why is there not research to support any of these assertions?

For example, on a yahoo group I'm a member of (Jean is the founder, I think), a question came up on how to best store a saddle. I gave an answer that while slightly unconventional, came from my direct experience. I was immediately shot down by someone who claimed that what I said was wrong. Maybe I am wrong. I'm open to that. I'm just irritated by an argument with no supporting claims, no research, no anything.

Sadly, that type of argument is the one we hear the most. Am I just a crazy nerd for wanting some evidence?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I Miss My Pony

I've barely seen Izzy lately, and it shows. My husband and I were at Borders last night. I (surprise!) ended up in the horse section. I love to look through their books, but I rarely buy anything. It's usually a bad selection and overpriced, so if I do find anything I like, I just go find it online. I know, I know, that's not going to keep Borders in business.

There were a couple books that caught my eye. One, Beyond the Track, is very tempting. It's all about retraining an ex-racehorse, from the pre-purchase inspection to advanced riding. I'm fascinated but I know better than to buy a book that is just going to make me want another horse even more. One project pony is enough.

I looked at two other books, and was rather appalled. One was on natural horse care or keeping horses naturally, or somesuch. Obviously, the book was promoting a certain agenda that I'm not totally sold on. It has some fairly solid-sounding advice about feeding horses, but when it delved in to tack, it just started to annoy me. In every picture, the tack was ill-fitted, cooked, poorly adjusted, and/or dirty. It's one thing if I put up pictures on my blog of dirty tack, which I don't. I'm not getting paid by anyone for it. It's quite another to publish a book like that.

The other book was on fixing problem horses. I'd provide a link, but I didn't pay attention to the title and a brief amazon search isn't turning it up. In nearly every picture in this book, the horses were in either draw reins or martingales and the riders were helmetless. In addition, the riders' positions looked a lot like mine right now: unpolished. Another picture featured a barrel racer with a tie-down connected to her horse's poll. Over the poll was a chain.

I'm disgusted. I know it's not "traditional" to wear a helmet and ride western, so I'll leave that alone for now, but english riders without helmets in a training book? Really? I can thank my helmet for the fact that I'm here today, so this bothers me.

Next off, while I acknowledge the book did not specifically advocate using draw reins and martingales in the text, certainly showing them in all the pictures has an equally powerful effect. What are they thinking? I'm not totally anti-draw rein. I think they can be used briefly and tactfully to further a horse's training by an experienced rider. That certainly does not extend to someone who is buying a book to train their horse. And martingales? Really? I used one on Izzy briefly after she gave me a concussion from throwing her head. I became convinced that she threw her head due to discomfort at her withers, and after getting my new saddle, took it off. She hasn't thrown her head since. I understand some high level jumpers and eventers wanting martingales to prevent accidental concussions like the one I got, but beyond that, I do not support their use. If you are training a horse, the martingale should become unnecessary and again, they should not be marketed to people who will use them because they saw them in a book.

As for the chain over the poll... I have no useful words. Maybe it would help if we made the rider and photographer try doing similar athletic feats with their arms chained down. Hm, sounds like it would be easier and kinder to instead do things slowly and let the horse develop balance than just chain their head down and hope for the best... just a thought.

The other treasure I found was a book by Mark Rashid, who Kate is a fan of. While looking through his book, I realized that he is the author of a book I read when I was pretty young and haven't been able to locate since. Score!! I love his methods and writing style, so when my bank account has recovered from ordering my bridle, I'll be looking in to getting some of his books online. The book I read of his years ago was the one that gave me the idea for dealing with Izzy's sticky spot problem. Hooray!

Oh well. I'm hoping to sneak out and ride this afternoon, which means I need to get cracking on homework right now.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Good News and Bad News

After one of the worst weeks of my life (I only wish I was joking), I still have 50 pages to write by Thursday. Also, it's frigid outside.

The good news is that Izzy is happy and well, if a little neglected. She certainly doesn't mind a little more time off. Also, my teachers have been very understanding, so I won't have to turn in all 50 pages on Thursday.

The bad news is that my Thanksgiving break will now be spent writing a very important paper instead of riding. Such is life.

So again... I may not be blogging much for a while longer. ;-) Thanks for understanding.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

May Be Offline...

Izzy was wonderful this morning. She probably wouldn't have made a dressage teacher happy, but she made me happy, and that's the point.

I have had a pretty serious family situation come up. Coupled with the massive amount of school stuff I still have to do, I will probably not be posting much for at least the next week or two. Send prayers, happy thoughts, and good karma my way.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Thank you for all your input! Here's the plan for now:

1) General fitness. I used to be in incredibly good shape, but the past couple semesters have been dreadfully busy, and I let it slide. To remedy this, I'm trying to incorporate more activity into my routine. For example, I have a few free minutes in the morning, so I'm doing cruches and pilates before getting breakfast started. I'm trying to walk my dogs at least a half hour a day, which is good for me and them. I'll look for other ways to add to this.

2) Reading. It's been a long, long time since I had regular lessons, so I need reminders of how I'm supposed to ride.

3) The riding buddy is a good idea, but it's hard to find someone who rides at the same time I do and my schedule isn't flexible enough to change right now. I can probably find someone to swap lunge lessons with or something like that. It's not so much that we'd teach each other as just have another set of eyes on the ground, keeping the horse going forward. Izzy wouldn't be much good for this, but Flash or Cassie could do it.

4) I'll just say it now. I'm terrified of seeing myself on video. I don't like the sound of my voice recorded and I don't like to see what I look like. I think it's a lot worse since I've put on weight, too. This is something we can work towards, but I'm not ready for it yet. (And yes, I hear the argument that if I do it now I'll be able to see how far I've come, but some things are best forgotten.)

Now that I'm aware of the magnitude of the problem, I think I can make strides to fix it. As Kate mentioned, I need to realize what I'm doing and how it affects (effects? I can never keep those two straight) Izzy and any other horse I ride.

And now, back to the homework that's kept me away from Miss Izzy the past several days. :-(

5) As the weather gets worse, I do traditionally ride bareback. I have ridden Izzy bareback a couple times, and she's ok with it, so we will move on to that when it's too cold to do much else. In the mean time, we'll work as hard as we can with a saddle.

PS Bear with me on the header. I'm trying to change the picture, but it's more complicated than I thought.

Monday, November 9, 2009


I am blogging twice in a fairly short period of time, so if you haven't seen it, there are Izzy pictures in my previous post.

That said, I'm still dismayed by my fairly dismal equitation. I am working on a remedy. I can't do a lot of lessons now. Maybe after the first of the year I can work more and afford some, but then the weather will be crappy.

So I'm making do with what I have. The USDF Guide to Dressage came in the mail yesterday, and I'm already 60 pages in. It's supposed to be a pretty basic book, so I can use it for position reviews and the like. Plus, once Thanksgiving break hits, I'll have a little more time because I'll have turned in all my paper and I won't have class, so I can ride a little more. There are several horses in need of exercise. The field looks like this:

Izzy-obviously. She's getting to be pretty fun, so I should be able to focus more on position and technique than just going forward. I can already see huge improvements in her from what we learned in the clinic, so there's hope.

Cassie-she's pretty much just standing around. Cathy wants me to ride her more to get her in shape for someone else to lease her anyways, so this is an excellent option. The only reason I haven't ridden her is that I just don't have time right now.

Ellie-Izzy's pasture mate. She was quite happily on a lease, but the girl leasing her had to give it up for her sports season. College scholarships have to come from somewhere. Ellie is a difficult horse to ride, which will give me some variety.

Gabe-He's a TB gelding of uncertain age... I think in his early teens. His owner is away at college and can't ride him right now. He doesn't have much dressage type experience, but he's pretty easy-going. I rode him a lot two summers ago, before I had Izzy.

Flash-A paint mare trained through second level dressage. This is another case of the owner being away at college. She's a friend of mine, so I may even try to take a lesson on this mare. It's the closest I'm going to come to an advanced horse, I think.

My advantages are that my saddle (loving the treeless) will fit all of them, so I won't have to compete for tack. I have a bridle for Cassie, and Ellie and Gabe each have their own unique bridle.

I will also try to watch as many lessons as possible, but I think clinics are pretty much over for the year. :-/ I've never watched horsie type videos, but they're fairly expensive and I don't know anyone who has them, so that's out for now. Any other recommendations?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Lovely Weekend

The weather was beautiful and Izzy was in a mood to cooperate. It was great. A good friend of mine came out and took pictures of us on Saturday. She got some marvelous shots of Izzy, but a lot of the riding pictures emphasize just how much I need lessons. Ugh. At least now I know what I look like, and it's not pretty.

I have enough pictures to keep posting them for a while, but here are a few.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Lunging Day

After a monumental effort towards school work yesterday, I was back out to ride this morning. Or at least I thought I was. It was warm, but the sky was threatening, so I tacked up Izzy quickly, then started lunging. As soon as we got in the arena, the wind picked up and the sky got darker.

She was pretty dramatic about the whole thing. She tried galloping and bucking. She tried whinnying to her friends. She even spun around and ran the wrong way, which was comical, because after three or four strides, she realized she was going the wrong way, so she spun back around.

I decided that it probably wasn't a good day to ride, all things considered. I lunged her in both directions until she settled, then worked on transitions on, then put her away. I don't know if she learned anything, but I didn't feel like riding a crazy horse today. Besides, if I broke my arm, I wouldn't be able to write the next 60 pages I need to finish to get my new bridle.

Seriously. ;-)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Where Izzy Is Good and I Feel Sick

Blogger just ate my post. WHY?

Anyways. The gist of it was that I'm trying to write 80 pages in the next 15 days. So far, I have 10 done. Also, I have a horrible stats test coming up. When I complete that goal, I will buy the beautiful bridle. You can see it here.

I did try to ride Izzy this morning. I got her all ready and felt like crap, so we pretty much just walked around and worked on changing bend until I went home. She was a good girl and after a few minutes, she really relaxed.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Some Improvement

This is going to be a really horrid week for me, school-wise, so I got a ride in this morning, but I don't know when I'll get to ride next. Maybe not til Friday, depending on how dedicated I am. :-/

We made some progress. Not much, but some. I turned Izzy loose in the arena to run, then groomed her, then lunged her. Fortunately, I ride early enough and it's cold enough that I rarely have much arena competition right now. I used two different large circles in the arena {(the top end and the middle) to let her get used to whatever she was spooking at yesterday. We didn't even attempt the end with trees. She was ok.

I didn't pick up my whip at first. We just worked on lining up at the mounting block, then standing to be mounted, walking off, halting, and dismounting. Strangely enough, she didn't even try to run for it today. After I picked up my whip, I spent a minute or two stroking her with it to make sure it wasn't worrying her. Then we went through the whole mount/dismount process again, and she was still fine. I don't know about her some days. At least she understands what she ought to do, which is nice most of the time, but frustrating when she doesn't do it.

I didn't want to try anything too challenging to day because I had too much homework and work to do today, so we just walked and trotted. It was ok. She wasn't as forward as she might have been, but she didn't slop around, either. My saddle slid around yesterday, so I rode in a breastcollar* today and made sure my girth was really tight. We had no slippage problems, so that was good. Once we'd trotted both ways, I just got off and put Izzy away.

Also, I realized that I've been talking about sending horses to trainers in a demeaning way. I do not mean that at all. If someone does not have the time, expertise, confidence, or energy to train their own horse, I absolutely support sending said horse to a trainer and then being involved in the training to form a better partnership. Due to my riding history, I think I ought to be able to train a horse, more or less. I've ridden and worked with all different stages of horses, but I've never had to put it all together before. So while sending a horse to a good trainer is a noble endeavor, it's also quite expensive and would be a big step for us. I'm hoping we can work through our issues without having to do that.

*I got my breastcollar on craigslist for $10 which included a standing martingale attachment. I just looked them up, and the same item on dover costs $150 and up. Win!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Problem Pony Drives Me Batty

I managed to sneak in a ride Saturday morning before having to take off and do other things. Izzy was amazing. She started out with a proper rhythm, maintained it well, responded to what I was asking, and listened to my aids. I was so happy. Thrilled, even. We could walk, trot, and canter both directions, no trouble.

Then there was today. Izzy lunged well. She looked half asleep. As soon as I got on, she decided everything was scary. She spooked at a cone (A), which has been in the arena longer than she has. She had a blow up over another horse being tied up outside the arena. She spooked at God knows what in one of her usually safe spots. I finally decided that I just wasn't going to accomplish anything on this clear, beautiful, non-windy day and got off. As soon as my feet hit the ground, she tried to run off. Thankfully, she's tried it before and I was ready for her, but it was annoying. I remounted and dismounted about four times until she more or less stood. I would have just let her run, but someone had showed up to ride.

It's so frustrating, though. I know baby horses are like this, but still. This level of inconsistency? How can she go from best I've ever seen her to absolutely unrideable in one day? It's a good thing I don't have tons of money, or I really would have sent her to a trainer by now.
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