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?
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