Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking Back

I'm leaving for my lesson in a few minutes, but I want to post briefly on our progress this year.

I started working with Izzy in February, at which point she had barely been handled, and the handling she had taught her that she could dominate humans, and it was fun.

The most important thing was that I was consistent with her. She could spin and bolt and rear, but I'd just pick up where she left off and make her go back to work. I was in school at this point, so we didn't do much under saddle, but we had enough to work out on the ground that when I got out in May, it was just the right time to start under saddle.

Izzy seemed to learn fairly quickly, but it didn't take long for us to be hampered by saddle fit problems. She's a very picky mare, and I want her to be the best she can, so we are being very careful with this issue. Once we switched to a treeless saddle, we were able to progress much faster than ever before.

A big milestone was our first dressage clinic together. It helped us to take a big leap forward and learn about developing her rhythm and regularity.

The next major milestone was having Katie ride Izzy. I needed to see someone else ride her through some of her problems and know I was on the right track.

I would say our latest milestone was on Tuesday, when Izzy and I conquered the indoor arena together. It's maybe not as big of a deal as the previous two, but it shows the progress we've made, and the whole thing was done without commotion or flaring tempers or rearing or anyone getting upset. To me, it's a marker of how far we've come in ten months.

On to the New Year!!

I don't want to just stumble blindly through these years with Izzy, so I'm trying to make plans that will allow us the maximum amount of progress. My long term goals for her something like this:
--Be a successful event/dressage horse
In my world, however, successful means fun and safe. I don't care if we go to the Olympics. I doubt I'd ever want to ride past prelim, even if Izzy has the talent and motivation for it. I just want to go out and have fun and not worry about my physical safety.
--Be a fun, safe trail horse
Again, we're not looking to win the Tevis Cup. I just want to be able to saddle up and go trail riding with her. I want her eventually to be ok in company or alone.
--Be a calm, safe partner for whatever we end up doing
I want to jump and compete a bit still, but I'm ok if Izzy decides this isn't her cup of tea. We'll find something. In the mean time, I just want to enjoy my relationship with my horse and the benefits it brings.

I'll post more specifically on our goals for the coming year next time... I have to go to my lesson now.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Another Excellent Day

My friend who usually rides with us on Tuesdays and Thursdays had a pretty busy day yesterday, so she wasn't able to come out and ride. Still, I had warm new socks and a new jacket ($4.50 at the Idaho Youth Ranch. Score!!) I headed out, despite the fact that yet again, it hasn't been above freezing in a week. Aside from being cold, it was a pretty day. The sun was shining and there weren't any clouds.

Izzy was happy to see me and even happier to try the new peppermint flavored treats I got her. I think her favorites are still the berry kind, though. She'll actually suck on those ones. Funny mare.

Anyways, we had to brave the bubble of doom by ourselves, as Cathy was tied up helping the farrier trim the babies. She did say she'd probably come over later to ride one of the neighbor's horses. After tacking Izzy up, I bravely led her to the road to walk over to the arena. This has become a part of the routine for her, so she wasn't too worked up about leaving her friends behind. That's what I love about nasty mares; they don't really like other horses to begin with, so it's not a big deal if the other horses don't go with them.

We made it to the doors of the doom bubble, and I had to muster up a little more courage. I had to convince Izzy that she was going to go in there with me, unassisted. We didn't have plan B. There was no one around to help if she decided she didn't want to go. I led her up, and the first try, I got her to stick her nose inside the claustrophobic box. Then we circled around and tried again. The second try, she got her front feet in, too. I reached outside the door and trapped her flank with my whip, and she walked right in. Hurray!!

I think it helped that it was so light outside; it's a little less claustrophobic when we can actually see. Once inside, I lunged her. It was nice that we were alone, because I just gave her as much line as she wanted, and she galloped and bucked and worked off all that energy she's accumulating from not getting to run around much in the crappy weather. After watching her for a while, I was pretty glad that Cathy was cming over to join us. I really didn't want to get on Izzy by myself, shielded from everyone else's view, especially when she's that rambunctious.

Once Cathy arrived, I got on, and off we went. Izzy was really, really good. She used to be scared of the end of the arena by the door, but that was her safe side today. We did more walk trot transitions, and she had one big spook at a car driving by too fast. She settled down ok after that, and I was quite pleased with her. She's so good, really. She bucked like a maniac on the lunge line, but didn't even try it under saddle. <3

I was working on keeping my hands soft, which I think I did fairly well, but I realized that I'm keeping my body fairly rigid, I think partly in reaction to being nervous about the indoor, and partly because I'm just plain out of practice. I'll try to work on that more now that I'm aware of it, and we're supposed to have a lesson on Thursday morning. Wish us luck!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Success at Last

On Christmas Eve, I took Izzy over to the doom bubble one more time. Again, we went with a friend who was taking a lesson.

To my great surprise, Izzy was really quite good. She actually walked into the scary box of her own volition, though she did bolt out again when I turn around to close the door. She got back in without too much fuss. She was much better about lunging, and I was able to get on with Cathy standing next to us, but not holding her. I felt like we were finally ready to do canter transitions in there, but between avoiding the scary side and trying not to get in the way of the lesson, we didn't have the space.

Next time we go over, I want to be able to refine her more. I'm trying to stay relaxed, stay centered over her, and I need to trust her a little more. She's been really good, and even her spooks are only a couple strides. I need to soften my hands and start asking her to work like I did a week ago, when we were able to ride outside. I'm not sure when we'll be able to go back... hopefully Tuesday.

In other news, I got a gift certificate to a farm store, so today I purchased insulated work gloves, horse treats, and lined wool socks. I'm looking forward to trying them out tomorrow. Merry late Christmas and happy early New Year!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Bubble of Doom Revisited

Yesterday, we made Izzy's third trip ever to the doom bubble (aka the neighbor's indoor arena. It's inflatable). A friend of mine was having a lesson on Dart, the schoolmaster, so we trooped over together.

To my surprise, Izzy was actually fairly good. She still wouldn't go in the dark 10x10 box we have to enter and close off to keep the arena from losing air pressure, but when Cathy came out and encouraged her, she stepped right in. She managed not to run over the top of me when I opened the door to let her in the arena. She was quite happy that Dart was there.

We lunged for probably 20 minutes. I tried to pretty much ignore the fact that we were in a scary bubble of doom and focus on getting good transitions while on the lunge. She did a couple of aeronautical leaps when launching in to right lead canter, but other than that, she was good. So good, that after 20 minutes, I was actually ready to get on. (You may remember last time, in which we simply lunged for 30-40 minutes and she never really settled down).

Cathy held her for me to mount, but after that, we were on our own. It was no where near as good as when we rode outside, but I maintained that feeling of security I'd had outdoors. We did a lot of walk trot transitions, but the half of the arena farther from the door is where Izzy was comfortable, and that was also the end that the lesson was on. Dart is a good old boy, but he moves really SLOW, even when he's actually excited. After about 20 minutes of trying not to run him over (which he wouldn't have minded, but his rider probably would), it must have started to warm up outside. The snow began to slide off of the translucent roof in sheets. I have to admit, to a frazzled mare, that probably looks like the sky is falling, and she reacted accordingly.

I was staying on all right, and she was being better than could be expected, but I figured that was enough. I hopped off, snapped on the lunge line, and we just stood and watched the rest of the lesson and the snow sliding off the roof. To her credit, Izzy only spooked one more time, and then seemed to realize that the snow wouldn't hurt her. She stood quite well for the rest of the time.

Dart has some pretty serious separation anxiety issues, so the lessoner took him out first. Izzy, the typical cranky mare, could care less if she was left alone. I was impressed. She even walked home very calmly for the most part.

Whew. I look forward to taking her back over there tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy Day

It was really sloppy out yesterday from all the rain, but it was 50f. I was so excited to finally be back and able to ride. I turned Izzy out in the slop to let her run around, and she was much less nutty then she'd been on Saturday. It didn't take too long to tack up, and then after lunging briefly, I got on.


This was my first time really riding since Katie rode her for me, and it was incredible. I feel like we've taken one of those big steps forward that only happen once in a while. When we rode with Donna, we worked on going forward, and pretty much just threw the reins away. When Katie came to ride, we had some forward, so she was able to pick up contact and ride Izzy in to it. In addition, she rode Izzy through some things that I probably would have backed off about.

When I got on yesterday, it was like riding a whole new horse. I remembered what Katie had told me about Izzy, so I did some things different with my riding. First, I picked up a pretty strong (but soft) contact. Izzy is more confident and comfortable with contact. Next, I reminded myself that Izzy does know the aids. She's not the baby horse I started anymore; she's making progress towards being all grown up and trained-ish. Finally, I didn't let Izzy get away with her basic evasions. These evasions are anything from spooking to getting behind my leg, to jumping in to canter to avoid going truly forward in her trot.

What a difference. I carried my whip in my left hand, which made me think a little more about using it. I think because my right is more dexterous, I would catch Izzy in the mouth when I used the whip, which contributed to her confusion about it. Despite the mud and slop yesterday, Izzy was forward and moving easily off my legs. She went into the contact willingly, and she didn't spook at anything, despite one long look at the subdivision next door. We stayed with walk/trot because I didn't trust the footing enough to canter, and we had a wonderful time.

It was a whole different feel than I've had on any horse all year long. I used to feel really secure on a horse. I knew I wasn't coming off. When I came off of Izzy early this year (after several years off of riding), I lost that feeling. Yesterday, I had it back. Instead of feeling like an inverted pendulum precariously perched on a pony, I was on Izzy and I felt secure and comfortable. I've never felt that way on her before.

The weather was so nice that when I got done with Izzy, I got Cassie out to ride. At this point, a lessoner had showed up, so Cassie and I just played lesson pony and slopped along behind the lesson, copying what they did and staying out of the way at the same time. Cassie was lovely. I didn't try to make her doing anything because she's getting older and stiff and hasn't been in regular work, but she was really, really good for w/t/c both directions.

What a wonderful day.

It snowed last night, so I think we'll head over to the Thought Bubble of Doom later this morning. Cross your fingers for us.

Also, I just have to throw in a note on my tack. Izzy looks fabulous in her fancy bridle, and I am LOVING my ansur saddle. I rode Izzy and Cassie in it and both went well because they're so comfortable with it. Treeless for the win!

Monday, December 21, 2009


Graduation and the associated parties are over with. I was out with Izzy on Saturday and Sunday, but the footing was bad Saturday and I had a friend with me who didn't have a horse to ride indoors, so we didn't go over. Sunday I barely had time to feed and clean before racing home to get to Christmas dinner with my in-laws, which is ok, because I actually like my in-laws.

Today, however, I will be back out and riding Miss Izzy as soon as I can get away from work. It's a miserable looking day, but I don't think it's that cold.

Also, I have a to-do list a mile long to get ready for Christmas. Speaking of which, Merry Christmas!! I'm excited.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Weather and School

We went a whole week with temperatures below freezing and even below zero overnight. Then it warmed up and it's rained for the past three days.


It's just as well, I guess. I'm currently embroiled in finals at school, and I graduate on Friday. Hooray for graduating! I saw Izzy this past weekend, but I'm forcing myself to study this week, so I won't be out until after graduation.

I miss Izzy. I took some pictures of her in the snow last Saturday, and she was really cute.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Thought Bubble of DOOM!!

Yesterday, Izzy and I were supposed to have a lesson in the neighbor lady's covered arena. Unfortunately for us, it wasn't just an arena with a roof. It's covered by a white bubble... like an indoor sports facility or something. I hope you know what I'm talking about.

Anyways, because the inflation is dependent on air pressure, to go in, one has to go into a tiny little stall thing (probably 10x10), close the door behind oneself, and then open the door to the arena. Needless to say, Izzy was not a fan of this procedure, but she did ok. Once inside, it's like being in your own thought bubble. Shadows reflect on the sides of the arena. Sounds echo around. Sounds from the outside come in, but they are quiet and muffled.

Izzy was a mess. Fortunately, she was the only horse in there, so I was able to lunge her back and forth up the arena so we got to thoroughly panic about the whole thing. After about a half hour of spooking and trotting and spooking some more, she calmed down enough that I got on and Cathy led us around a couple times. Then we called it good.

Today, we went over again, this time just to lunge. Izzy's favorite friend on the trails, Irie the Halfie, was already there, so that help. Cathy had to actually get off of Irie, come into the scary box, and help me get Izzy inside it, because treats may have gotten her up to the door, but she had no interest in going inside, treat or no treat.

She did make it in, once Cathy stood behind her and encouraged her by waving (but not touching her) with the whip. Izzy was happy to see Irie inside, and we actually managed to work on some transitions on the lunge line. I probably could have ridden her, had I been dressed in riding clothes.

I have hope that within the next few weeks, she ought to be manageable in there. Hooray Izzy!!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Crazy Horse People

I was reading Denali's blog today, and she talked about something I've been thinking about for the past several days: horse expenses.

Oh dear.

I do not even want to know what I've spent on Izzy in the last ten months. (I got her last February, so it hasn't even been a year yet.) I work off most of our board and lessons, so I don't really have to account for that, but bear in mind that I'm still a college student for another eight days. I work a part time job. I know I could get paid more elsewhere, but I really like my job and the hours are really flexible, which is awesome in the summer time because I can ride every morning.

If I started adding up tack, farrier visits, clinic expenses, show fees, and miscellaneous expenses (books, blankets, gas...) ugh. That would be a lot of money. If I decided to factor in my total income versus what I spent on Izzy, it would look even worse.

And then there are the ways that having Izzy effects my life. For example: pretend I have $80. Will I A) Buy some new practical shoes to replace the ones I have that are nearly falling apart B) Buy some clothes since I haven't bought any since I got Izzy C) Buy a heated water bucket and a pair of warm barn gloves?

Pretty sure we all picked C. It's a good thing that I bought a lot of clothes in the year before I got Izzy because I have no desire to divert money away from her now... weird, huh? No, you probably get it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

It's Snowing Outside

It was so cold Saturday and Sunday that I didn't even try to get Izzy out. I just gave her treats in her pasture and let her keep on eating breakfast. It doesn't seem fair to get her out and make her work in weather like this. It started snowing Sunday night, and it's still going. We have 4" or 5" of snow, which isn't a lot for you people from winter states, but it's kind for a lot for here. Did I mention it's still snowing?

Obviously, I can't ride... poor Izzy must simply stand in her pasture, wear her warm blanket, and eat. The lady next door has a covered arena. I'm going to see how much she charges to use it. I'm hoping we can maybe get over there twice a week, but that will depend on her willingness and my budget.

In other news, tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of us having Chaucer, our darling beagle.

He was a darling puppy:

And here is he today(ish):

So cute!

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Mental Break for Me

A friend of mine came out to ride today. I'd never seen her ride before, so we saddled up Cassie (my old girl) and off they went. I was quite impressed with my friend's riding, so I offered to let her ride Izzy, too. I lunged Izzy and rode first, then Katie got on after seeing where we were at.

It was pretty fun. I've only gotten to watch someone else ride Izzy once before, so that was novel. Izzy is very pretty to watch. More importantly, Katie is a pretty advanced rider, so she was able to take Izzy from where she's at to somewhere more productive. Izzy threw a massive fit. She tried not going forward. That didn't work. She tried throwing her head up and running. That didn't work. She tried dragging down on the bit. That didn't work.

It was a pretty hard workout for both of them, but it ended well. Katie worked on getting Izzy forward, listening, bending a bit, stepping off the leg, and overall just looking good. She gave me some pointers for dealing with Izzy's specific evasions, and demonstrated them as she rode. It was really good to get some specific feedback on where we're at right now.

I think the most important thing I learned was that I need to be braver. Izzy threatened to do a lot of things with Katie, but didn't actually do any of them. She just wanted to see what she could get away with. I tend to be a bit backed off because I'm not secure in my riding like I used to be, but I need to just ride through some of her stuff.

Katie also pointed out that Izzy's overbending in the neck is just a way of pushing her energy out one side and not going forward. Again, I need to be braver (my words, not Katie's) and keep her straight and forward.

After Katie got off, she thanked me for letting her ride, since she doesn't have a horse right now. I almost laughed. I was feeling like I ought to pay her for riding since she did so much work. The good news is, she wants to come ride again and she really likes Izzy, so hopefully we can continue to improve together a little bit faster than we were on our own.

That is, until Katie decides to start charging. ;-)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Fun Things

I haven't seen my lovely pony since Tuesday, when she got her feet done. I will hopefully be out tomorrow, but first I have to get my senior paper finished. Don't worry; I'm pretty close.

When I was out Tuesday though, I managed to visit some friends of mine who live near Izzy. They breed warmbloods. Izzy was actually born on their property, though they didn't breed her. (Her mom was boarded there temporarily). I hadn't been over to visit in a while because I've just been really busy.

Willowgate Farms

It was fun to visit with all their horses. They really are lovely animals. Beautiful faces, amazing movers, nice to be around. She's not on the website, but they have a 3 year old buckskin warmblood mare (not sure of the specific breed) who is lovely. If I had a ton of spare money lying around, I'd buy her. And an OTTB. And my old mare. And a Halfie.

You see why my husband doesn't want to own property? I'd fill it up in no time.

Here's a picture of Izzy and I, because I like it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cold, Foggy Day

I'm still buried in a heap of homework, but I had to run out to the barn this morning to hold Izzy so she could have her feet done. She's still happy and barefoot with lovely feet.

While out there, I talked to two different horse people whose opinions I value about Izzy's contentiousness lately. I literally cannot walk away from her when she's tied up and there's another horse around. She will lunge at and attack them. She's pretty good about not doing it under saddle, but I'm careful not to get too close to anyone.

Both of them pointed to it as an example of insecurity on Izzy's side. She is in some way incapacitated and feels threatened by the other horse, so she attacks in order to gain safety. One of the people who mentioned this was the farrier/trimmer. She was working on Izzy in the pasture, so Izzy could eat breakfast while having her feet done. Her pasture mate tried to approach and Izzy pinned her ears. Before the situation went any farther, Toni (the trimmer) approached the other horse with an aggressive posture and told her to go away. She did,Izzy relaxed, and all went well.

I'm intrigued. I'm not one who usually speaks up for myself on other people's property. If Izzy pinned her ears at another horse while I was leading her, I'd be more inclined to discipline Izzy than approach the other horse because I feel the other horse isn't mine to control. This method makes sense, however. My only trouble is trying to figure out how to make Izzy comfortable at the hitching post so we can circumvent her lunging at other horses. Any ideas?

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.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Studying Again

There are some really nice horses available locally that I wish I was in a position to snatch up some days... Once in a while, it just sounds really nice to have a trained, going horse to ride and show instead of constantly doing the green thing and doing all the training on my own. I dunno. I keep telling myself that I'll be happy I did it myself in a couple years.

Oh well. I can't afford to buy another horse, much less board and keep it.

Other random thoughts:
1) A local trainer/dealer rides and shows Dutch Harness Horses. I think that's fabulous. They're beautiful animals, well behaved, well taken care of, and quite talented. I do not know this trainer personally at all. Like many in the horse industry, she's having trouble making ends meet apparently, so she's selling off a bunch of horses, including one DHH. However, she's marketing the DHH as a Dutch Warmblood, which is not the same thing at all. I doubt that anyone looking for a Dutch Warmblood would fall for that, especially upon seeing the horse in person, but it seems really dishonest to me. Sad.

2) I'm graduating (assuming I don't fail any important classes) in less than two months. I'll most likely be getting a job of some sort, which involves making more money than my current wonderful and very part time position. Most of the money will go to savings and paying off the house and being responsible, but it would allow for me to make a few more decisions about my horse. Izzy is boarded where she is because I've worked at that particular barn for years and I love the people. I don't love the facility. Yes, it's supposed to be moving, but the things I don't love about the facility are human caused (junk lying around, incomplete projects that sit there for years). In addition, I've heard some rumors from a rather unreliable source that there might be some people or a person at the new place that beats horses around the head or something. (We're merging with another facility that I'm unfamiliar with.) I will address that rumor with the barn owner/manager and see if there's any truth to it, but it brings up an important point: what will I do?

If there's someone beating horses, I'm not going. I know there is no reason for anyone to touch my horse other than me, especially because I'm out nearly every day, but that isn't good enough. I will not take this risk for my horse. Again though, I don't trust the source of the rumor, and I need to get to the bottom of this before making a decision based on this.

On the other count though, I'm curious. If I'm making an income and can afford to move to a different stable and at the same time can seemlessly merge in to something else, that interests me. I'm doing a bit of research on what's available. I think I'd like a primarily dressage- or eventing-related barn, but not an intense everyone shows type facility. I would like to have an actual barn, but those are pretty rare in Idaho. Smaller facilities aren't terribly practicable because I do not have a truck and trailer, so getting out to shows would be hard.

Hm. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Trail Ride!

We took a break from arena work today and went on a trail ride with Iree the Haflinger and a new friend whose name I didn't catch. He was a cute little paint/QH that Izzy towered over.

Overall, it was good. It was freezing outside and windy, but the mountains are beautiful. Izzy did much better about walking down hills instead of trying to trot all the time. Both the other horses spooked twice while Izzy, who brought up the rear, just looked at them. Not to be outdone, though, she had one major spook on the way back. I have no idea what she thought she saw, and I don't think she knew either. After nearly having a heart attack, she just snorted and walked on like it was nothing.

Good pony.



Apparently, you can now look up OTTBs race records online for free. Here's the link to Cassie, Izzy's mom.

How fun!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Back the the Beginning... Again.

We had a massive windstorm with some rain last night.

Apparently, it wasn't Izzy's favorite thing ever. She came out pretty well this morning; let me wrap her legs while standing nicely, didn't fuss much about anything, whatever, until we started lunging. I had actually contemplated not lunging her today because she's been working hard lately, but I figured it is good to get her going forward before I got on.

I'm pretty glad I did. We had some pretty massive fireworks in the form of bucking and galloping and swapping ends and then bucking the other way. I probably ended up lunging her for half an hour, just to get her settled and going forward. Then I got on and did some big trot figure eights, focusing on rhythm and relaxation, and when she did that, I got off.

Everyone has days, I guess.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Clinic Notes

After three days of being Miss Perfect, Izzy had clearly had enough. She wouldn't even walk into the arena on Saturday, which is kind of embarrassing because I was just coming in to lunge her before my lesson and Donna had to stop teaching and wave a whip at Izzy's butt to get her to go in. Ugh. That's the sort of day it was.

The good news was that her total naughtiness meant we got to work on a lot of things we would have glossed over otherwise.

Donna talked about how Izzy is (obviously) still pretty green and the most important thing for us right now is going forward. We got to work on the rhythm, regularity, and relaxation on the training scale. She also pointed out that Izzy isn't accepting contact with the bit, and when I use it, she backs off behind my leg, which is something she's prone to doing anyways. Also she didn't like my bit (full cheek single jointed snaffle). She took the keepers off and shortened up the cheekstraps because she pointed out that Izzy doesn't carry it herself at this point, and Izzy likes it fairly high in her mouth.

Because Izzy's green, her balance is still pretty all-over-the-place, which keeps her from responding to my legs much. As such, Donna had me using my weight to counteract when Izzy was leaning one way or the other. Basically, she needs to learn to move over underneath me, and to keep her balance centered. To do that, I need to throw her off balance when she leans into corners and such.

I also have a tendency to hold her with my right rein, which has created a constant and undesirable right bend in her neck. I noticed this when we were trail riding, but I didn't know the cause. To prevent this, Donna had me pretty much drop my right rein and ride with my fingers open on my right hand to remind me to not block her on that side. I did use a little contact on the left rein and some counterbend to the right to get Izzy moving straight instead of bent right. Because Izzy's isn't a fan of rein contact right now, Donna had me only take contact with one rein at a time, usually the left, so that Izzy always had a place to go forward to.

Speaking of forward, that was most of our lesson. I tend to let Izzy poop around at walk (especially) and trot. Conversely, I don't let her go forward enough in canter. Donna said that walk is our weakest gait because I haven't been developing it. We worked on getting Izzy to walk forward, then leaving her alone, so I'm not nagging constantly. I need to keep asking (and insisting) until she goes forward, so she understands what I want.

In trot, I need to develop her forward gear. Instead of worrying about contact, I had to pretty much throw the reins away (so she wouldn't back off) and just focus on riding forward. It felt amazing when we got it right. Again, in canter, I need to not black her motion and ride a little more forward.

When we got done, I knew we'd made progress, but I felt like I couldn't ride and I was just hindering my horse. I thought that if I just had enough money to ride in clinics and take lessons all the time, she'd be so much further along. Yeah, kind of insecure there I guess.

I gave Izzy Sunday off because she worked really hard on Saturday, and then rode this morning. It was wonderful. She was having another good day, so the things we struggled to get in the clinic came so much more easily. We started out more forward. It only took a couple circles to develop that big, forward, wonderful trot. It did take a while to get the right lead, but left lead was lovely. I'm starting to figure out when to lean which direction (well, not really lean, but that idea) to get Izzy's balance where we need it, and I think she's learning too. I did switch back to the french link eggbutt I have and I adjusted it higher in her mouth than I did before. She seemed quite happy with it, and even on the few occasions that I had to use it, she returned to going forward and reaching down within half a circle.

Fabulous. I'm really glad we rode in the clinic. It was definitely worth the money.

Also, I had to replace my half chaps beforehand. While at the tack store, I was looking at saddle pads, which I shouldn't have done. I ended up buying this in navy and light blue and loving it. I didn't get pictures of us because there wasn't really anyone around to run the camera. :-(

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Pre-Clinic Madness

Ok, it's not really madness. It's just fun and exciting. Izzy had her feet done earlier this week (I'm still loving our new trimmer), and the new white polos are sitting in my dining room, waiting to be re-rolled and used tomorrow. My half chaps finally crapped out for the last time, so I'm going to get new ones this afternoon, then come home and wash saddle pads and take the poor puppies for a walk.

We had a really, really good ride today. All nice, comfortable, and relaxed with no fussing or spooking. I'm crossing my fingers for tomorrow... Is it too much to want three good days in a row? Maybe.

The (not-so) problem pony will get wormed and have her teeth done in the next week it sounds like. This is new ground for me. I've never owned a horse before her, so I never had to bother with things like horse dentists. I assume her previous owner took good care of her in this regard, but I know for sure that no one has looked at her teeth since I got her in February. IT's a good thing to do, and I don't want her to start having problems in that area. Also, I'm going to have Cathy teach me how to do the worming. I've sort of watched before, but I'm trying to do everything right.

Someday, I think I want to be a barn manager. That's my current career aspiration, but don't tell my husband. He thinks I need a job that, you know, earns money. ;-) Oh well. I'll just enjoy horse care in the mean time.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I Really Shouldn't Be Here

I have a massive paper due tonight. I haven't even started reading for it yet.

So of course, I went out to ride this morning and rode both girls. Sounds like a good plan, right?

It worked well from a horsey perspective; I rode Cassie first, and she was really good. The poor girl's been neglected lately because between work, school, a house, two dogs, a cat, a husband, I only have just so much time for riding. I comfort myself by remembering that I only have two months left, but that doesn't really help Cassie. At any rate, we went w/t/c and it was nice to ride a horse who knew what she was doing, even though she's rusty. Plus, she has an amazing, beautiful, rocking-horse canter. That was lovely.

Izzy was also good today. We did lots of irregular serpentines and figure eights with changes of gait and direction in walk and trot. She was pretty good. She worried a bit much about the far side of the arena (monsters!!), but managed to focus most of the time. I tried to work on my position a bit and keep from being defensive, but I had pretty limited time at that point, so I didn't try to canter.

Sigh... I wish I had more time...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Lesson Day Again

To get ready for the upcoming clinic, Izzy and I did a lesson with our "usual" trainer today. It's hard to day usual when I think I've had five lessons this year, but who's counting? ;-) Basically, I wanted to be sure our issues from our last lesson came completely from the saddle pad issue and not from having someone in the arena with us.

Thankfully, the lesson went really, really well. Cathy actually did a little with my position to prep us for the clinic and because we're getting to the point where I can work on me again. Yay! I know that sounds selfish, but I think most horse people understand what I mean. We're to the point (at least today) where we can work on refining the aids instead of just going forward and stopping.

Our walk/trot work was really nice. I spent out warmup time just doing little serpentines and figure eights with frequent gaits changes to get Izzy relaxed and listening. Cathy liked our trot and had us do some lengthen/shortens. We're only supposed to shorten for just a couple strides right now because Izzy likes to stop and we don't want her too confused about what I'm asking for. The lengthen isn't a true dressage lengthening yet, but we're working on making her stride adjustable.

We actually did (gasp!) canter on the left lead. Izzy tends to get very up and tense and start pushing through her right shoulder when I ask for this lead, so we hadn't even tried in a couple weeks. I thought we needed to work on other issues before pushing this one. Cathy had me work on pushing my hands forward when her head came up instead of shortening the reins to keep the contact. This and keeping her evenly between my calves while not getting tight in my thighs... It worked! We had a nice upward transition into the left lead.

While in the canter, I had to work on keeping my body "swinging" with Izzy's motion instead of tightening up. Again, I had to push my hands forward and even a bit up (sounds weird, but I tend to carry my hands very low). It was remarkable how much even these little changes helped Izzy. He canter was nice, not chargy, and fairly soft.

The right lead was pretty good as well. I have done a bit on the right lead lately, but I knew our canter wasn't good, so we hadn't done much with it. Our last downward transition (to trot) from the right lead was really nice--balanced and forward.

I do need to work on keeping my shoulders loose. I'm pretty good about having them back and down, but I get tight. I need to push my lower legs a little farther back--I've been riding in a defensive position which is ok for a green horse, but it's time to move on. And, as always, I need to keep my thumbs up. I forever ride with flat hands.

I guess this is pretty involved for a lesson summary, but I don't take many, so I like to remember what I learned. Tomorrow, I'll practice wrapping Izzy's legs one more time before the clinic. We'll be riding with Donna Longacre, the director of region 6 and quite an accomplished judge. I hope I can get someone to take pictures. I plan to have Izzy all suited up in white polos with white bell boots and a white saddle pad. Her tack is clean, and I'll try to wear a white polo as well. So classy.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dressage Clinic!

My lovely lil' Corgi is making a trip to the vet this week, so the bridle has been put off for a while. Besides, I'm still waiting on my catalog. It will come, I'm sure. In the mean time, I have actually signed up for a dressage clinic this coming weekend. Woohoo!

I wasn't actually going to do a clinic until next year because I didn't think Izzy would be ready. I'm ok with taking a couple lessons from my trainer who's used to young horse problems, but I didn't want to pay clinic rates for someone to tell me that my horse wasn't trained. Obviously, I know that. The past few days, however, have been amazing. Izzy's been soft and responsive and forward and everything I want her to be. Canter is still a little stressful for her, but we cantered Saturday morning (right lead only) and she got a little excited, but when we went right back to stretching and bending, she settled right down again.

On Sunday morning, I didn't have time to canter, but we did do a little shorten/lengthen at the trot. I have to admit, I swooned a little at her lengthen. Realistically, it's probably just a good working trot that we lengthened out to, but it was so free and flowing and even smooth... beautiful. Izzy is really going to be a fun horse.

It's pretty cool what my girl can do when she's happy with her saddle. So... I'm on the list, and we'll get the schedule tomorrow or the next day.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Since I Got a New Saddle...

Obviously, I need a new bridle. And of course, since I got the super fancy saddle (ok, just super expensive, but my pocketbook doesn't know the difference), I want a really nice bridle. The last two times I bought a bridle, it was just whatever was cheapest. I picked a price, then bought a bridle for that. Hence, my first bridle cost $40 (which is a lot when you're 12) and my second cost $60 (still not a small sum for a 16 year old).

No, this time around, I want something classy. I've spent the last several days researching bridles, bridle quality, bridle measurements, bridle brands, and as such, I haven't really posted here. My apologies. I think I've settled on a bridle, long at last.

I want the "Nunn Finer Event Bridle".
It's good quality leather with buckle closures and (get this) NO FLASH. It is incredibly difficult to buy a new bridle without a flash for some reason. I get that they're the fad, but isn't there anyone else out there who doesn't need their horse's mouth tied shut to ride? Seriously. It's called equitation, people. If you don't keep banging the pony in the mouth, he won't keep opening his mouth. Duh.

Also, I love the brass fittings. They're so pretty... I like pretty things, not that you'd know from how I dress. ;-)

Of course, I didn't simply want the browband that is shown with the bridle. That would be way too easy. I am in general a solid traditionalist who dislikes all things blingy (it's not pretty; it's tacky). However, I'm currently in love with this:

Yes, the Nunn Finer clincher browband in havana with brass. So very pretty.

Unfortunately, the bridle is $210 (cheapest I can find) and the browband is $55. The bridle comes with rubber reins, but I hate rubber reins. That probably means that I'll spend another $50 or so buying matching, non-rubber reins. Total so far: ~$315 for a bridle that I don't really -need-, but do want.

That's hard to justify in my ever-so-practical mind. It would be easier if the old bridle broke and I was buying a quality replacement. Fortunately, I found out about a little (?) place called "Bartville Harness Shop" which is somewhere in Pennsylvania. It's run by an Amish family that actually makes the bridles that Nunn Finer goes on and sells. According to what I've heard, they're 30-50% cheaper than Nunn Finer for the same thing without the label. I've never been label conscious and I'd never heard of Nunn Finer before a few days ago anyways, so I've called for a catalog. Here's hoping the rumors are true and I'll be able to get the dream bridle for a much more dreamy price.

In the mean time, I'm saving my pennies.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Good Days

The weather was something between lovely and awful today--nice temperature, but lots of clouds and wind. Yet again, I'm so thankful that Izzy doesn't really care. She's not dumb about wind and trees, and only occasionally about weather changes.

We started with lunging again, and she did well, so I got right on and rode.

This lasted about ten minutes.

She was fairly soft, she was listening, and she was reaching for contact. As I'd promised her before the ride, I immediately got off. All I wanted was a repeat of yesterday, and when I had that, she was done. We did use the spiral in/out a little, and she seemed to do well with it. I'll try it again tomorrow and do a longer ride.

Any other ideas for what to do to keep a horse engaged and interested? We're starting to do some lateral stuff, but she's pretty green, so we can't really do extreme movements.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Another Step

Today was a perfect day to ride. Not too hot, not too cold, and no huge gusts of wind. I'm not a wind person.

I decided to lunge Izzy today because I want to see her work on both sides and make sure she's going forward before I get on her. I used to lunge pretty much all horses as a matter of course, but this year I've realized that there was no particular reason to do that, so I'm using lunging now as a tool that can be picked up and put down at will. I'm really glad that I did so much lunge with with Izzy when we started though, because she lunges quite nicely off of voice commands. We haven't really mastered the trot-halt, but I'd rather she learn to go forward than stop quickly at this point.

Anyways, today was good. I kept Izzy going forward, and we did several trot/canter/trot transitions to the left. She does them just fine on her own, so hopefully we'll get to start working on them under saddle in the next week or so.

As for the actual riding, it was interesting. It took nearly two full circuits of the arena to get her to trot without throwing a fuss or shoving her way through one shoulder or another. I decided to keep things low key today, so we just did figure eights on a 20 meter circle, walking the change of bend in the middle. It took about two circles before Izzy relaxed, reached for the bit, and really started using herself.

I was thrilled. I haven't had this kind of softness in weeks. We didn't even try to canter. After a few more circles, I took her out around the arena once, and then let her be done after a nice, fairly square halt.

I wonder what this says... she liked the routine of the figure eights. Her transitions were softer, her body was relaxed. I'm thinking that she's like her mother enough that she gets bored with just going around. She needs something to think about. If that's true, we should probably do more lateral type work to get her thinking as she goes around. Maybe if we start with figure eights, then move off a circle? I don't know. It's something more to file away, I guess.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Things I Like About My Horse

1) She's really pretty.

She's my first horse, and she's absolutely gorgeous. Need I say more? I love seeing her out in the pasture and thinking, "Wow, that's my girl."

2) She's not spooky

I'm not saying that she's spook-free, but I can ride her on cold windy days like today and she doesn't get all hot and bothered. So she's opinionated, but she's sensible about it.

3) She has a princess complex

As well as adding character to her already complex personality, this ensures that my constant striving to be better and nitpicking at what I know actually does help. Despite my frustration, I actually do like rising to the challenge of figuring out what's going on. I'm getting a little tired of saddle problems, but I think it's finally worked out.

4) She's Cassie's daughter.

It's fun to have the daughter of a horse that meant (and means) so much to me. She's not just the one I happened to end up with, she's something special.

5) I dunno, she's just plain cute?


We made more progress on going forward today. I used the new padding arrangement, and she seemed quite happy. I still haven't attempted to ask her for the left lead (a tough one for us right now), but she's more willing about the right lead and her trot has definitely improved.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Forget You Ever Knew That

Due to being stuck in a long boring class last night, I spent about an hour doodling horses. Then I moved on to drawing specific diagrams of Izzy's back and how the saddle sat on it, what pads I was using, and why I was using them. I remembered that she again (sigh) had funny sweat marks yesterday after another frustrating ride. I should probably scan those drawings, if only for amusement's sake.

Anyways, the sweat mark made me think that it must be a saddle problem. She is exhibiting similar behavior to the last time we had saddle trouble. When I drew the diagram, I realized that the funny marks appeared the be under the stirrup bars, and I remembered reading in a tack book that treeless saddles had trouble in pressure reading with pressure in that area. It's a good thing that I didn't have Jean's phone number handy, because I wanted to call someone who knew what I was talking about and ask if that was the problem. (It was 9 here, so probably almost midnight there.)

I didn't have time to go to the tack store this morning, but one of my other diagrams made me think it might be a padding problem. A couple days ago I screwed around with different pads without actually tightening the girth, so I had a pretty good idea of what was available and how it fit Izzy. This morning, then, I pulled out a new pad. I had been using a wedge pad to lift the pommel up off her withers. Today, I tried just a simple foam pad that was even all the way through. It's completely counter intuitive, because we all know that if a treed saddle camps on a horse's wither, it's like the bad news bears moved in to your house and threw a party.

The new pad obviously didn't lift the front as much, so the saddle looked a little different. I was concerned because it gave her back VERY little clearance over the spine, and I thought that once we'd been riding a while, it would sit on her and make her hurt. And of course, you know her reaction to hurt is rear. That's not really my favorite thing about her. I lunged her before I rode (she was wearing blue polos with a matching blue lunge line. So cute!) and she was kind of looky, but really good.

Our ride started out kind of bumpy. She fussed, she didn't want to go forward, and then... she did. I like the new pad better because due to the nature of treeless saddle, I could feel that I was sitting on the wedge, and it interfered with actually feeling Izzy underneath me. The new pad didn't cause that at all. It was almost like riding the gulletless Classic again. I could feel Izzy's back again and she was much better.

Progress is good. She was much happier, and we were back to having the problems we had before she decided not to be happy again. I think we took a couple training steps backwards this past week, but we're ready to go forward again. Of course, now she has a couple days off while I go out of town.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Plan to Move Forward

First off, I finally have some Izzy pictures. I'm sorry it's been so long without them. It's just hard to take pictures of oneself while riding and she's hard to photograph because she won't just stand still and let me walk away. She wants to be in the middle of what's going on.

See? She's so darn cute. Also, what would you call the marking on her face? It's not in any horse book I own. It's too long to be a star, too short to be a stripe... You can't see it, but she has a tiny snip on her upper lip, too.

Here's another picture from the same day:
This was as close as she would come to posing. In this picture, she's wearing a collegiate plain raised snaffle bridle with a full cheek single jointed bit. That's an Ansur KonKlusion saddle with a random girth I borrowed, and a neckstrap in case I feel insecure. She is such a good looking horse.

Here's today. (The previous shots were from a couple weeks ago.) I successfully put on wraps without making her legs look like potatoes, so I left them on. I had just been putting them on and taking them off the past few weeks to get the hang of it. I'm not a fan of nontradition colors in general for dressage/jumping, but my dad got me these years ago as a Christmas present. I figured I should at least learn how to put wraps on properly before I branch out and get some in a more conservative color.

As you can see, I obviously needed conservatively colored wraps for all the formal work we had to do today. Yes, it was bareback day #2. Day #1 was yesterday. It's rained so much that the arena is a total mess. I like to use weather like this to just muck around and work on little things.

And here's Klasi Renee', Izzy's mother and my beloved old OTTB. She's 17, had three gorgeous babies, won just about everything there is to win, and still going strong. She doesn't like having her mane pulled, and at her age, I don't mess with it. She's done enough.
Izzy was Cassie's (her barn name) first baby, then Tristan's Fortune, the gorgeous holsteiner gelding whose video I posted her a month or so ago was the second. Her latest was by an awesome Friesian stallion, a little filly named Natasya. I'll have to take more pictures of all the babies while they're still around.

As for the rest of our problems... I think I'm going to rearrange how I address them. The U Gard that someone (Kate?) recommended is the least expensive, so I figure I'll buy that and give see how it goes. Worst case senario, I'm out $25. I will continue to play with padding once we start riding with a saddle again... probably next week, since I'll be out of town again this weekend visitng my inlaws. The chiro is going to have to wait until next time, which will be much easier on my bank account. Hopefully, it will be more fully recovered from the saddle purchase by then. Still, winter's coming on quickly if the weather's any gauge, so we may be done with any serious riding until spring anyways.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Major Issues?

I just typed out an excellent (in my mind) post on possible causes of Izzy's issues. Then my browser somehow magically closed out the tab and ate it. I'll summarize what I said.

There are 6 possible categories of problems that could be causes our complete lack of forward problem, listed in the order that they occurred to me.

1. Saddle fit.

I absolutely cannot afford a new saddle again. I'd love to see how she'd go in one of the new ansur models, particularly the new konklusion. Alas, I don't know anyone who has one, and it's so far beyond my price range that I can't even see it. I can play around with creative padding options. The advantage to being at a boarding barn is there's lots of stuff around that people are fairly willing to lend to me to try. (Yes, I'm one of those who always asks first.) Ansur also makes a special pad that might help for about $80 and skito pads (which I have no experience with) run $110-$170 for what I want. I'll probably inquire of treeless people on this option. Ideas, Jean? I'll query the ansur group, too.

2) Chiropractic Issues

Another expensive but important option. Thanks to Nina for her updates on Sam's progress in this area. It would be easier for me to swallow if I knew Izzy had done something, tweaked something, or, you know, if she just came out and said, "I need to see a chiropractor." Cuz if she said that, she can have all the fancy crap she wants. You know how much money I'd make, exploiting a talking horse? Mooooove over Pat Parelli. Haha! Alas, her vocabulary is currently limited to horse, which makes this difficult. We'll give it a go and hope for improvement. A very expensive go. $120 for an adjustment. Oh well... Car gets an oil change, Izzy gets chiropractor, and I'll wear dog chewed shoes for another month or so. At least I bought my husband's birthday present a month ago.

3) Ulcers

Kate has some experience with ulcers in her own horses, so she's presented this as an option. We have a couple boss mares with ulcers. I don't really think this is it, but of course, it's possible. It's certainly something to keep in mind. If saddle and chiro work don't change anything, we'll try this next. I just don't want to do everything at once and then not know what worked. It's a bad research model. ;-) That's my inner nerd coming out. In the mean time, I'll do a little more research and see what I come up with for pasture-kept princesses with attitude.

4) Mental/issue or boredom

This is possible. I don't know about the likeliness. If this was it, Izzy would show improvement after going out on the trail, and since I haven't been able to ride, I haven't been able to evaluate this. I guess it's possible, but I don't think it's likely. Izzy not a hard keeper or hard to please. She's pretty happy doing what she does, until she's not, and then she lets you know in a big way.

5) Training problem

Again, this may be it. I don't want to rule it out, but I want to look at physical issues first. The rearing under saddle wasn't a training problem per se, it was her telling me that her saddle hurt and she was absolutely not going to work like that anymore. She hasn't even thought about rearing since we switched saddles. On the other hand, the rearing on the lune line was absolutely a training problem. We have worked through it and I doubt it will come up again, as she doesn't like to work that hard if it's not going to get her anything. So... this is a mixed bag. Maybe, maybe not. Time will tell.

6) Soundness/soreness problem

The problem pony is sound. She's been sound. Her feet are beautiful, or at least as beautiful as a warmblood's feet can be. She moves well on her own and on the lunge. Her back certainly isn't sore--her favorite thing in the world is a good back rub. I don't think this is an issue with us, although it would certainly explain a lack of forward, especially in a mare with a princess complex.

Any other ideas? Let me know. I'll certainly keep you updated on our progress.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Rain, Rain, Go Away

No riding today or yesterday. It started raining, and it's just not nice to take poor Izzy's blanket off and get her all wet. She's very happily wandering around the pasture. I got her out and groomed her yesterday, but I was just really cold and wet after cleaning pens today, so I gave her a good wither scratch and let her be.

The chiropractor will be out sometime next week. I'll have to see if I can muster up the money to get her on his list. I think it's $120 for him, but she's also getting her feet done and my car needs an oil change. Oh, and the beagle ate my shoes (that were already like 3 years old), so I need those. It's getting a mite chilly to wear flip flops everywhere that riding boots aren't supposed to go.

Oh well. I need to rule out physical issues, and this is one angle I haven't attacked yet, I guess. At least the problem pony is still sound. Here's a picture of her being cute from earlier this year.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Glimmer of Hope

The vaunted trail ride was today. Izzy was wonderful. We went with Star, a cute paint who wouldn't be fazed if a train came out of no where and was headed straight for him. He'd just calmly step out of the way. Also along was Iree, a darling little Haflinger pony who apparently doesn't mind when mares bounce off his rear end. Needless to say, their respective riders accompanied us.

I was pretty happy with how Izzy did. She had never seen the foothills before to my knowledge, but while she was a little looky, she didn't get too worried. She was a bit strong (more on this later), but never bucked or spooked or did anything untoward. Because she's never lived in the mountains, her technique was kind of lacking. She thought it was just of good of an idea to trot down a steep hill as to sit back and walk. Fortunately, I just stuck her nose in Iree's tail, and we'd bounce off him all the way down. If I ever become a full time trail rider, I'm totally getting a bombproof gelding like the two boys we went with.

She was perhaps not surprisingly much more forward than she had been in the past few days. In one flat sandy spot, we all cantered. Izzy was trailing a little bit at that point, so she kicked her speed up a notch and we almost blew through the calm boys. That reassures me as to her ability to one day do cross country. I certainly didn't want to have to force every stride around a course, and today she showed that there is a forward gear. Good.

So... I don't know where that leaves us. She was forward today. I've at least temporarily ruled out ulcers because she doesn't get too upset about anything (feeding time or otherwise) and she hasn't really exhibited behavior change in anything other than not wanting to go forward under saddle. She also lives out 24.7 with a friend, so I think she's ok. She does go forward nicely on a lunge line and, obviously, on trails. There could be a chiropractic type problem that I aggravate by riding her. She could be cranky about the weather, since it's been dramatically colder the past few days. She was good today and she had her blanket on last night. Are the two related? I don't know.

Any other ideas?

I'm thinking she'll get tomorrow off, since the trail was pretty hilly and she's not used to that sort of exercise. Besides, I'm teaching a lesson and letting someone else try my saddle. It will be a full day.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Who are you and what did you do with my pony?

In an ironic twist of fate, the weather went from mid nineties and sunny to mid fifties and blustery in the matter of a day. When lesson time rolled around yesterday, I wasn't even sure I wanted to ride because it was blowing so hard. Izzy seemed ok, though, so I went ahead and got ready. As far as spookiness goes, she was a superstar. She had one stumble/spook thing, but that was our only mishap. She wasn't even worried about the rest of it.

Unfortunately, nothing else about the lesson was superstar like. I was prepared to hear a lot about my position and how I needed to change to best help her. Unfortunately, she decided she absolutely could not under any circumstances go forward. So, instead of actually working on something that could help us out in general, we spent pretty much the entire lesson just getting her to trot either direction. When we wanted to canter, Cathy had to chase us around with a lunge whip for like three laps, just to get her started. It was frustrating.

I figured that she was probably tired, since I'd turned her loose in the arena to test the waters as far as spookiness, and then I'd lunged her after that to make sure the spectacular airshow she'd put on wasn't going to be repeated. Cathy mentioned that it might also be her reaction to the temperature change and wind; instead of being spooky, she just kind of locked up. I guess the lesson was moderately useful, but definitely not what I was looking for.

So today I go get her out... WE HAVE THE SAME PROBLEM. It's so frustrating. It's still cool, but no longer windy. I even got Cassie out first and lunged and groomed her, to make sure it was plenty warm when I got Izzy out. Still nothing. I got off, held the inside rein in one hand and my whip in the other hand. We practiced going forward when I cluck, even without the whip. When she seemed to understand, I got back on. Still nothing. I got off again, put the lunge line on, and repeated the lesson. What little trot I had gotten out of her before had been short and choppy, so I tried to keep her calm, and ask her to go forward. There's no sense in getting her tense, because then she won't understand what I want.

After lunging both ways with an emphasis on her going forward when I ask for it, I got back on for the third time. This seemed to go better. We didn't get stuck anywhere, but she still didn't want to go forward. I just pushed her through it, and made her trot and canter both ways. As soon as we finished our left lead canter, I got off, loosened the girth, and lead her out of the arena.

Why is this so hard?

We're going on a trail ride tomorrow with some calm horses. Maybe the change of scenery will do her good. I'm crossing my fingers that it doesn't get me bucked off.

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.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...