Friday, December 31, 2010

Thanks Everyone!

It's my last post of the year, and I really feel like you guys deserve the credit for this one. As an adult re-rider on a limited budget in a non-english-riding area of the country, my options are not what they could be, shall we say. Nevertheless, my readers have really stepped up to the plate. Whether it was counseling me about saddle options, helping out with ground work, making supplement recommendations, giving me feedback on boarding facilities, or just generally being encouraging, I am so thankful I get to interact with all of you. The blogging community really is pretty cool.

I've been really discouraged the past week or so--Izzy and I aren't really accomplishing anything and I felt like we've been stuck in that mode all year. Last night, I read through most of my blogs from this year and realized how far we've come. At this time last year, Izzy and I were -barely- w/t/c and we were venturing inside the doom bubble. Now, she's a solid training level horse and a joy to ride.

So, thanks for your comments of counsel and encouragement and for blogging about your own activities, which inspires me to keep on going, even when the high for today is 17... Happy New Year!!

Izzy and I approaching the dip of death while XC schooling in May. We're off to the New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Some Pictures

We rescheduled the farrier (he said scheduling conflict, I suspect weather, but either way, it's cool). It was so cold and horrible that I just got Izzy out and lunged her again. I'm so thankful to have an indoor arena to do that in, but when it's 30f and blowing 30mph, I just don't have a burning desire to ride. I don't have burning anything at that point--it's just cold.

I will distract you from how boring this post is by posting pictures.

Here is a cute picture of Izzu in her western stuff. I think this is from last week. I've been riding her with her halter under her bridle so I can lunge off of it. Plus, it makes her look more authentic, don't you think?

It's sort of a "cool, tough trail pony" vibe instead of the "warmblood playing at western pony" which is actually what's going on.

Isn't she so very pretty? I want to get her a blue halter, too, but I haven't been able to find one in stores and the person I tried to have custom make one online flaked out.
Such is life.

In the nasty wind yesterday, the trashcan blew over. As Izzy is pointing out, this is a very scary turn of events. The trashcan is not supposed to look this way.

Silly mare. For all her posturing, she didn't even look at it when we walked by.

I am officially having trouble with the stupid uploader again. I thought I had it figured out, but apparently not. Oh well. You may see Izzy's unconcerned face below. I would add a few more pictures, but I am tired of messing with this... again.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pony Loving

I didn't have time to ride yesterday, plus it was pouring rain, which I guess is not a bad combination. I stopped by the barn for a quick lunging session just to get the mare out of her stall. I would have let her be, but the farrier is out today and we're trying to continue in the trend of not trying to kill him. Thus, best plan of action=keep Izzy busy and moving until he shows up.

So. I bridled her up and we waded off to the indoor arena. Did I mention it's been raining like crazy here? Also it's blowing snow sideways at about 30-40mph right now. Ugh.

Izzy was so good. Yes, she had a massive bucking fit, but I just kept her going forward and she looked a little sheepish. I don't worry too much about those; if she has something she needs to get out, I'd prefer she do it on the lunge line. Other than that, she was polite, forward, and responsive. I was so bummed I didn't have time to ride.

Then I got home and the new Dover catalog was there. I can't buy anything now, but there's nothing to stop me from making and editing lists, right? Sorry for the lack of pictures lately. I'll try to get some today, maybe. In the mud and snow.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I am going to Seattle to see one of my good friends who lives there. So, for those of you wh live in/near Seattle, what are some wicked good tack shops to check out? (She loves horses and will happily go along.)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Dressage Bridles

I am contemplating selling my current dressage bridle (which is pretty) to get one that is amazing. Nothing is set in stone yet.

Sooo... I LOVE LOVE LOVE this one. (You may have to be signed in to facebook to see it.) The only problem is that the model has been discontinued and I'm too late to the party to get one new. I have tracked down a used version that is reasonably priced, but it's in oversize. Not sure if we can swing that.

I also like this one. (No need for facebook.) It's not as elaborate, but it's pretty and quality and (best of all!) on sale.

However, the new line of bridles launches in late February, I think. They will be re-releasing the bridle I like, but it's hard to know how that will go. On the one hand, they might make it more awesome. On the other hand, it might suck. I generally just like original versions of things. I can always just cross my fingers and hope that one in the model I like comes available in the correct size, but let's face it: quality bridles are rarely sold used.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

First Western Lesson!

That's right, Izzy and I had lessons on two consecutive days. I feel like one of those cool rich people who can have more than one or two lessons a month, except I didn't pay for either of them. (Cathy is letting me use up residual credit with lessons and Teri doesn't charge for lessons).

This was our first ever western lesson. Heck, it was my first ever western lesson. The truth is, whoever put 30 days on Izzy before I got her probably rode her in a western saddle, so Izzy probably has a better understanding of what's going on then I do. Then again, she probably doesn't really remember it.

We actually did very little riding and a lot of talking about theory--specifically, the biomechanics of how a horse moves and how it effects the rider, which leads to how the rider can be most effective with the horse. I felt a bit overwhelmed by the volume of information, but I did better when we moved to applying it. Oh, how to summarize... I'll just highlight the main points that I plan on continuing to practice until our next lesson.

1) Halt. This is important. (Der... for most of you, I'm sure.) In order to achieve a quality halt, we need to focus on preparation--set the horse up to succeed. It is a 3 beat count. One, prepare your body, two, say "whoa", three enforce with the reins only if necessary. I think I have the sequence right. In order to allow the horse to lift her back and use her back end properly, I am to put my weight into my stirrups instead of my seat.

2) Back. This is an important step following the halt. There is a pause in between, as the horse must only back when asked. In order to ask for the back, push your weight into your stirrups and move your legs in rhythm with the horse. I need to understand and influence which legs she moves. Thus, if I want her to back starting with her right front, I need to lift my right rein, while pushing my weight into my stirrups and using my right leg. Then left leg for left front, and so on. On one level this made sense and I like understanding which leg the horse will use and being able to influence that, but it's different than what I've learned before (close the leg to engage the haunches, close the rein to block forward motion, allow backward motion).

Izzy had no problem with it. We're still ironing out my aids as far as selecting which leg she starts on, but when I do it right, she responds correctly. So. Weird. I'm barely grasping the concepts, and she's like, "Ok, now what?"

3) Jog. I was glad we spent some time on this, because it's been a struggle for us. I had been asking Izzy to jog directly out of the walk, which she would do for a little while, but then fall forward and either run on the forehand or break to walk, both of which are non-desirable. Teri explained that I basically want a slow collected trot (also not our forte). In order to get it, I take Izzy out on a loose rein (encouraging the long and low outline) in working trot. I am posting. Then, I sit and half halt, bringing her back to a collected trot. Right now, I also need to shorten my reins. We hold the shortened trot for a few strides (<5), then I give her the reins and we trot on, continuing long and low.

It worked so incredibly well. We had some of our best work ever, and Izzy only broke to a walk once. It makes so much more sense... slow collected work, then forward as a reward. Plus, it keeps Izzy thinking forward and should alleviate our stickiness problem. It only took a few circles for her to get the idea, and then she was fabulous.

Overall, Izzy was really good, though she did get bored of the standing and learning part of the lesson. It's good for her, right?

The only bobble we had was when a couple at the barn (who are very nice) brought their horses out in the indoor. They are Clinton Anderson followers, so I guess they were doing Clinton Anderson stuff. I don't know; I don't keep up with all that. Anyways. One of the horses got popped with a whip a couple of times (I wasn't watching, but it didn't seem excessive). The horse reacted rather strongly. Izzy and Panache (who Teri was riding) both got pretty worried and acted a little silly, but we kept things under control and they settled down quickly. Fun times.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dressage Lesson and a Thought

Our scheduled dressage lesson was yesterday. I wasn't able to make it out Monday, so I intentionally arrived about 2 hours before the lesson, turned Izzy out in the arena, then took her to one of the turnouts and let her graze for an hour. I figured that since she'd had a day off, she'd be wild and need all that.

Boy was I wrong.

She trotted and cantered in the indoor, but no galloping and bucking. She was very happy and relaxed in turnout, and when I went to ride, she was so ridiculously relaxed that I could hardly get her to go. At all. I guess it's good that she's always at her worst for lessons, since we get to work on more, but sometimes I wish she'd show how well we've been doing. Silly horses.

And of course, PAB (passive-agressive bitch, from my last post) was there to ride during my lesson. She was a little bit better to ride with this time, as she does know my instructor, but that meant she spent plenty of time watching me and commenting on Izzy to Cathy. It's fine, I guess, but it's annoying. I guess it's just that when I ride, I'm focused on me and my horse and staying out of the way, instead of trying to evaluate everyone around me and buddy up to the instructor.

Funny side note: PAB's horse has relatively crappy gaits. They are improving, but it's been a long, long road. So PAB says to Cathy, "Izzy has a pretty nice canter." Cathy, unaware that I want to hit PAB in the face regardless of what she says, answers, "She has three really nice gaits."

Har har har. Izzy win.

Basically, Cathy reminded me that I need to insist with Izzy and not let her get away with saying no to me. Ok. Be more aggressive. Check.

When we were done, I hopped off, pulled off Izzy's saddle and bridle, and put on her leather halter and her oh-so-pretty cooler. I left her pretty white boots on. I stopped on the way back to the barn to talk with another boarder, and a lady I'd never seen before came up. She introduced herself, explained she was an amateur photographer, and said she'd taken some pictures of Izzy. Then she asked if she could enter the pictures in a contest.

;-) I told her she could ONLY if she also emailed them to me, which she promptly promised to do.

Sometime soon, I may have some pretty pictures to post. Yay!

Ok, now the thought: in order to deal more effectively with PAB and her kind, I need to be more willing to assert myself. Part of the reason I don't usually do that is because I'm a really quiet person, and no one can ever hear me. Thus, I have resolved to work on projecting my voice to assist in my goal of being more assertive. Also, I need to be less naive and not totally floored when PAB acts like, well, a PAB.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Boarding Frustrations

I love where I board. It's out there. You all know it.

The problem is that I don't always love who I board with. I'm sure most of you who have ever boarded can relate.

For example: yesterday, I rode Izzy. Yay! Love that mare. For the second time in her entire life, I put a back cinch of the western saddle and I lunged her in a curb bit. (Note: I lunged her off the halter. She was wearing the bridle over it.) She was being really, really good, especially since Teri warned me that some horses buck on feeling the second cinch. Not Izzy: she was being fabulous.

I took her over to the rail to put away the lunge line and get ready to ride. Another boarder (who rides only dressage) was getting ready. She started talking about Izzy, so I mentioned that it was her second time in these accouterments and how proud I was of her. The boarder promptly informed me that the second cinch is the most useless piece of tack in the world and she doesn't know why anyone who is a non-roper would use one. Weird, but ok. Whatever. I didn't bother to mention to her that 1) my relatives own a working cattle ranch and I WILL find a way to bet the pony mare up there and 2) I firmly believe in getting Izzy used to just about everything so we never have an issue with new stuff. I mean really. She was giving me an unasked for opinion and I didn't feel the need to defend myself.

I got on Izzy and we rode around, mostly at the walk, just working on stopping, going, and turning, relying almost entirely on my seat and legs. If she didn't respond, I'd give a little 'bump' with the bit, but the point of a curb is to not use it, basically, and that was the plan. I want Izzy to be accustomed to carrying it and I want to be able to ride in it, but I have no aspirations to ALWAYS ride in it or anything like that. The dressage lady got on and went about her business. Now, our indoor arena is relatively small, so it can be a challenge to share. That said, we both have equal rights to ride in it, and I've never had a problem before.

Nonetheless, the dressage lady proceeds to ride around in n discernible pattern, constantly cutting Izzy and I off. I figure it's not a big deal; we're walking and working on stopping, so I guess that's as good an opportunity as any to put a stop in. I'm frustrated, but it's manageable.

The lady cuts us off again, but instead of going on, stops and says, "Izzy, you need to tell your mom that she's not backing you up right..." and goes on, criticizing us and my riding. I was floored. I was so shocked that I didn't say anything. I just moved Izzy around the lady and went on my way. Izzy to this point, had been lovely. She wasn't super-responsive, but it's a learning curve for both of us, so when she figured out the right answer, she would do it. I was/am very pleased with her.

Within one lap of the arena, I realized that I needed to get off, no ifs, ands, or buts. That lady had so gotten under my skin that I needed 1) to not be around her and 2) to not screw up the ride for Izzy. I dismounted (as out of the way as I could be), took Izzy's bridle off (no sense in leading by a curb and she was wearing her halter underneath), and led Izzy out of the arena with the bridle hanging on the saddle horn.

The lady rode up to the rail and halted. She then proceeded to berate me for (gasp!) using a curb bit on my horse. I looked at her, didn't speak, and took Izzy back to the barn. I was LIVID. Izzy is my horse and I'll do whatever I bloody want with her. I do not owe any sort of explanation to the other boarders for any reason. If I wanted their opinion, I would ask for it.

Izzy was (and is) fine. Throughout our entire ride, she was calm, relaxed, and soft. There was no head-throwing, tail-wringing, bit-chomping, back-hollowing or any other behavior that would lead anyone to believe she was anything other than comfortable and believe you me, she is a very expressive horse when she is not happy. I am willing to consider other options and opinions from people I pay to have them or people I respect who are equally respectable in sharing their opinions, but it just plain pisses me off for someone to butt in and give their (stupid) opinions unasked.

I don't think I have words to express how angry and irritated and upset I was. Fortunately, I am beyond wanting to just swear at the lady and tell her exactly what I think of her (not much). I know that it is in all our best interests to remain civil since we will continue to see each other on a regular basis. Yesterday, I tried the do-not-engage-and-let-it-roll-off method. Let's just say it failed miserably. I'm still pissed about this. Obviously, if this comes up again, I need to say something to let her know I don't want her opinion, but I need to say it in such a way (at least as first) that will not cause too many relational problems. I am not opposed to pissing someone off to get them to leave me alone, but I don't think it's a good first approach. You know. Peace and goodwill towards men and all that.

Picture of Izzy being cute for good measure.

Friday, December 17, 2010


I rode Izzy in dressage tack yesterday. She was great! All the work we've been doing on her maintaining her own balance and carrying herself really paid off. It was one of our best rides. She was soft and even into both reins. She moved over when I asked and didn't make a fuss about anything I asked her to do. I love it!

Then, today we pulled out the western tack again. I meant to do another dressage ride, but it was too cold to want to change into breeches. I went back to using the snaffle bit to work on some softness issues that we encountered last time in the sidepull. She was great again! The dressage work really benefited us in that was was calm, collected, balanced, and in tune with my aids. We worked primarily on her holding her own balance in the jog doing figure 8s. Anytime she got heavy on the forehand, I quietly brought her back to walk, halted, backed her until she lightened her front end, and then jogged off again. After a couple of tries, I was doing the whole thing off of my seat and leg.

So nice.

I'm volunteering at a jumping show tomorrow, so I don't know if I'll get to ride or not. I should be back in the saddle on Sunday, and we have a dressage lesson scheduled for Tuesday. Life is good.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Awkward Moments

Izzy and I had a much needed discussion last night about whether or not she had to canter when I asked her to. It went like this:

Me: "Ok, right lead canter... now."
Her: Trot a little quicker and otherwise ignore me.
Me: Smack her with the ends of the split reins pretty hard.
Her: Angry pony takes off bucking and galloping "Ouch, that bloody hurt."
Me: Pulls Izzy up and shouts, "Knock it off, you horrid horse!"

Unfortunately, the BO's husband walked in to feed just as I was shouting, so all he saw was the crazy b*tch who rides her warmblood western calling the poor thing a 'horrid horse'.

You just can't win some days.

Overall, she was pretty good, aside from being really, really distracted that everyone else was getting fed and she was not. That annoyed me, so I made her canter around the arena A LOT, then left her out there to roll while I put some stuff away, then tied her up outside the tackroom to groom and resaddle her (no way I'm toting that massive thing across the road alone), and then made her stand in the cross ties in her barn.

It wasn't all cold heartedness--she was soaked in sweat, and I put her new cooler on her.

It looks great and works really well. I let her eat her grain in the crossties, then left the cooler on her while I cleaned up the aisle, so about 20ish minutes probably. She was nice and warm and dry when I took it off before leaving for the night.

That makes me feel better. Before, I was nervous about working her very hard because I didn't want to make her sweat, then leave her wet and cold in her stall. No fun.

I'm looking forward to actually putting some english tack on and doing a real dressage ride this afternoon. I'm curious to see how it will go after our western work. (Plus, maybe the outdoor arena will finally be rideable).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It Worked!

In my last post, I mentioned the struggle that Izzy and I were having with the whole concept of neck reining. We just weren't really getting it with any regularity. I knew it was mostly my fault; she's a quick learner, but I know literally nothing about training a western horse. I've never even ridden a well trained one. The best I've done was go on a couple trail rides with dude ranch horses when I was 8 and 9. Since then, it's been english all the way.

Thanks to fellow blogger Chelsea's comments yesterday, I decided to try a new plan.

Yep. Split reins on the side pull. As she pointed out, the action of the snaffle is such that it directly contradicts what I'm trying to tell her with neck reining. No wonder the poor mare was confused. Admittedly, Chelsea recommended a bosal, which I do not own, but I figured the sidepull was worth a shot.

Magically, it worked so much better. At the walk and trot particularly, Izzy was so much better as far as responding to me with neck reining. We started out just walking and trotting around, going forward, getting settled. Then, we did serpentines and circles all around the arena. Hooray! It went quit well. Only very occasionally did I have to add in some direct reining to remind her of which way to bend through a turn.

Izzy says, "Ok, fine. We'll do this."

We still pretty much fall apart at the canter. That's not something I can do a lot about right now because I think the biggest problem is the arena footing. It's really deep, so it takes a lot of strength to maintain a good quality canter. Plus, it probably isn't overly great for legs and tendons and all that. The footing is part of why we're playing western this winter--it gives us a way to work and stay in shape without straining anything. The footing is just not appropriate for hard dressage workouts.

I really, really want to go on a trail ride, but the masive amount of snow we got has melted off. Then it dumped rain yesterday, and now everything is frozen. Boo.

In other exciting news, I did most of my Christmas shopping online last week, so stuff has started showing up this week. In general, it's nice stuff for other people, but I managed to sneak some Aimee and Izzy gear in there. (Lol, how kind of me to think of us...) Specifically, yesterday brought me a pretty, navy blue Horsewares hoody and Izzy got the Amigo jersey cooler in Java and Brick. I admit it: their marketing worked. I saw this picture early this year and thought, "Izzy needs that", but I didn't buy it. Then smartpak had a 15% off sale and I can always get free shipping and Izzy needs a cooler... and the result will be documented this afternoon.

This picture doesn't show it as well as I'd like, but basically, it's cold enough and Izzy works hard enough that I wanted something to put on her to ease the cooling out process. I don't want to clip and blanket and she seems quite happy with her fuzzy coat, so cooler it is.

She's so adorable in this (and every) picture. What it doesn't show is that when I stepped back to take this picture, she thought she was supposed to follow me. I verbally corrected her, which made her mad, so she trotted off to the other end of the arena to pout. I had to go catch her, remind her she wasn't in trouble, and then try again.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I'm reading "Western Training" by Jack Brainerd. It seems to be a pretty good introduction to the basic concepts of western horses/training, though it isn't as detailed and in-depth as I'd like. I want to know how to sit in the saddle, what the aids are supposed to be like, how exactly to teach a horse to neck rein (not so trusting of youtube), that sort of thing. Still, this is an excellent starting point. Mr. Brainerd sounds like an old hand from the respectable version of natural horsemanship stuff--he's friends with the likes of Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt. He has a lot of things to say, but mostly what I'm getting right now is that Izzy and I need some pretty serious trail riding time. Basically, in order to work on straightness, attentiveness, and a host of other important things, we need to get out of the arena and go somewhere.

Makes sense. It's just that it's been pouring down rain all morning and I'm not sure I'm that brave. Plus, all the "trails" are going to be super muddy. Hm... the new bravery challenge, I guess. If you have any book recommendations for me, please add them in the comments. I realize I've specifically cultivated a following of mostly english riders so this is maybe not the best place to ask, but whatever. I will distract you by posting pictures!!

I finally settled on a pair of boots for Izzy. What settled me was the matching saddle blanket. ;-) Basically, Izzy does tend to interfere up front a little bit. Since I'm asking her to do new and different things, I wanted to have boots to protect her. It could be argued that I have boots already, but I think dressage boots (or worse, open fronts!) look totally ridiculous with the western saddle.

Thus, I furiously bargain-shopped around town and across the internets, looking for good quality, affordable boots. Remarkably, the best deal I could find was at a local tack store. Win!! I walked in the door, determined to be professional and buy black. Then I was confronted with all different pretty colors... and I realized that I'm never going to be professional western anything... and that there isn't a national show for Oldenburgs doing western... and I could get absolutely any color I wanted.

I admit, I was REALLY tempted by the neon green ones, but I own absolutely nothing in neon green. Not even a pencil. That left blue camo, pink, pink camo, blue, and white. Also orange and some other colors I was less excited about. I have not been a "pink" person since I was like 3, but I was quite interested in those, too. The trouble with a black horse is that absolutely everything looks fabulous on her, so she doesn't rule anything out. Finally, I noticed the blue saddle blanket (on sale) that matched the blue boots and I picked up both of them.

Another view. Silly mare. I think she likes having her picture taken, though she is fairly convinced that most pictures should be of her nose only.

The lighting in these pictures sucks. Sorry... Maybe the others will be better. Don't get your hopes up too high.

These are pro equine boots. They are probably not as cool as the professional's choice boots that are the industry standard, but they are oodles cheaper and quite well made. I looked at the professional's choice and was impressed by the newer models, but even the used boots are so pricey. Yikes. I kept reminding myself that this is a fling and there is no need to invest my life savings in it.

Here is a close-up of our bitting arrangement. I was really impressed at the difference having a chin strap made. It's not that the bit actually came through her mouth, just that it had little lateral stability and slide side to side a lot. Leading and lunging and anything like that was a no-go because the silly bit constantly needed readjusting.

After I put the chinstrap on, the issues went away. Plus, now the bridle hangs better because the bit doesn't just fold. Not a big deal, but I like things to be neat. As Cut-N-Jump mentioned, it goes on the bit rings in front of the reins so that it doesn't interfere with them. It needs to be long enough that it doesn't affect the action of the bit, but short enough that Izzy can't get it in her mouth, which would defeat the whole purpose of it. Also maybe cause panic.

Maybe someday I'll even get pictures of me riding Izzy. Wouldn't that be novel?

I think I'll close out with some random adorable animal pictures.

The sleepy beagle, my loyal running buddy. I can't think of any human partner that would look out the door at 38 degrees and pouring rain and think, "OH BOY!! I want to go for a run", but this little beagley face does it every time. As soon as I put my shoes on, he starts leaping into the air and squeaking with joy. It's infectious. (The joy, not the leaping and squeaking.)

I can safely say that I would not be as devoted of a runner as I am without his faithful encouragement.

And Lewis, the faithful Corgi. He enjoyed running when it meant we went to the ditchbank and he got to run free. He is less enthused about running on a leash, and NOT INTERESTED in going more than 2 miles.

One time, I took him four miles. The next day, I got the leash out and he wouldn't even look at me. This boy does not do distance. Can't say I blame him, what with those short little legs.

What did cats do before there were fleecy blankets to nap on? I have no idea.

Monday, December 13, 2010

In the Shopping Mood

I've been shopping around for western-ish boots for Izzy. (Yes Nicku, like those fabulous lime green ones!!) So far, everything I've been interested in is way more than what I want to spend, but I'm going to the feed store today. ;-)

But you know how shopping goes... first you're looking at boots, then at headstalls, and then... this. Wow, he's pretty. I so want him. For the record, there are a lot of ugly AQHAs out there. This fine specimen, on the other hand... Yeah. If I were seriously interested in pursuing the whole western thing, I'd totally go for him.

It's been interesting to western-horse-shop. I'm used to looking at warmblood prices and thinking, "Oh yeah. $25k for a started horse? Totally reasonable." Of course, the odds of me EVER being able to plunk down $25k for any type of horse are nil, but that's the price tag I'm used to seeing. It's pretty amazing to see a pretty boy like that for a mere 4k. That is something I could afford, if I were in the market (WHICH I AM NOT).

I'm learning lots of interesting things, though. For example: western peeps tend to put a chin strap on their snaffles "so they don't pull through the mouth". I always thought that was kind of a dumb idea. Apparently, it's not. Perhaps because of the lack of a cavesson, the headstalls are not super stable. I'll be putting a chinstrap on mine... This also makes it pretty hard to lunge off of the bridle if your horse is kinda up and the arena is busy. Thus, I am also in the market for a rope halter with a detachable lead. I'm thinking I'll get this in a fun color, unless I find one at the feed store I like better.

Speaking of color--I'm clueless. I sort of want to try reining with Izzy, and apparently reiners are a bit like dressage riders, in that they use black or white boots and not nutty colors. You know, "professionalism" and all that. So. It would make sense to get black (since white is a total pain to keep clean), but I'm still tempted towards colors because the odds of Izzy and I ever being competitive enough for anyone to care are pretty much nil.

We had a lovely ride yesterday. I'm still loving how much good this experiment is doing for our dressage. She's learning to balance herself and stay soft. I'm learning to let her be.

Adorable pretend western pony on the snow.

Friday, December 10, 2010


I know, I've been promising them all week and never actually posted any new pictures. Sorry. Izzy and I continue rocking the western saddle. Hopefully soon we'll start with some lessons.

Here's the saddle we use: (Thanks to Izzy, my lovely model.)

It's like 30 years old and I think it's gorgeous. Silver and some rawhide highlights. It also weighs something close to a ton, which makes it super hard to put on. I'm learning how to swing it up, because I simply can't lift it on like I would an english saddle.

Despite the weight, Izzy doesn't seem to mind it (unless I accidentally clunk it down). I'm told this is because western saddles have much more contact with the horse's back and so distribute weight better. Nifty.

It's been interesting getting around at the barn. We had a ton of snow, which is melting off. The problem is that it hasn't been about 40f since it snowed, so it melts really slowly and then freezes over night. Nothing like ice, right? Izzy's resin wraps are supposed to come off soon-ish. I'm thinking I'll have a chat with the farrier about leaving her barefoot until we're past the snow and ice season. I prefer the traction she has that way.

Seriously. This is the parking lot at the barn, looking towards the turnouts.

All that white stuff is icy slushy nastiness. Also, it's been really foggy and overcast. My grandpa assures me it's convection fog, which is caused by an excess of ground moisture and something about the temperature. Regardless, it's cool looking occasionally, but it's getting old.

I suppose you all know that I'm a consumate tack whore. Imagine when the tack whore picks up a new discipline.
Yep. My pretty western bridle. I picked it up off a clearance rack. It's super pretty and it matches the saddle we're borrowing. Izzy looks pretty adorable.

I do apologize for the pictures being so dark. They look great in the (backlit) viewfinder on my camera. If I were more talented, I'd probably know how to make them look that great on here. Alas, you are stuck with non-pro-photography.

Izzy's doing really well (I think) with the western stuff. She's happily jogging and starting to slow our big, rolling canter down a touch. I find that I still ride slightly inside leg to outside rein, which is funny...

Despite the difference in tack, the actual ride is remarkably similar. When she starts running on her forehand, I sit up and rebalance her. If she backs off, I put leg on. I don't know if it's kosher, but it works well for us.

And here she is, in all her finery so far. Don't worry--I just set the rein over the rail. SHE IS NOT TIED. The pad is a 1" wool felt pad with wear leathers, a contoured back, and a wither cut out. I love it.

I'm somewhat amazed by the scarcity of technical advances in the western world. I mean... contoured pads are par for the course in pretty much any english discipline, but I had to search to find one. I know, I've heard the argument that wool felt conforms to the horse's back eventually so you don't need contours, but people. Really. If it starts out shaped like the horse's back, it will continue to shape and everything will work much better. Oh well. Just my general snobbery peeking through, I guess.

Despite all that, I confess that I so want a pair of professional's choice SMB combo boots in some obnoxious color. I know they don't help anything, I know they can heat up the legs, I KNOW!!! But really. So fun.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Right Horse at the Right Time

Several of you have posted about how you met/got your horses and it was just meant to be. There was a moment when you just knew that you were meant for each other. I think that's beautiful.

It never happened to me.

What I want to do today is follow in Kate's theme (initially brought up by Denali's Mom) about how you and your horse resemble each other.

When I was in highschool and riding, I leased an amazing OTTB mare named Cassie. She was light, catty, athletic, and really, really nervous. She was also aloof to most people, possessive of me, and touchy. We mirrored each other in a lot of ways--we even picked up bad habits from each other. To this day, I tend to walk backwards when I'm nervous--learned it from her. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was very sensitive to other people, not prone to making a lot of friends, and generally felt out of place, just like she did. Like her, however, I earned my place by my accomplishments, though I still didn't have a lot of friends. When she had her baby, I was one of two people (the other was the BO) who she allowed to come in the stall and see it. (Funny thing: the baby was Izzy). When I started riding other horses, Cassie let me know it was not ok. Instead of meeting me at the gate, she would pin her ears and make me come get her. The remedy to the situation was to feed her a treat before I even looked at another horse. Then she knew she was still first.

I pretty much quit riding in college--I didn't have time and I was exploring other interests. I still worked at the barn once a week for my horsey fix, but Cassie was having babies and I didn't have the time to invest in another horse, so not much happened.

In a gesture of absolute horsey-person kindness, the BO gave me Cassie's last baby, a lovely little TB/Friesian cross filly.
This is her first time wearing a halter, hanging out with her mommy, my beloved Cassie. FYI, Cassie is a super, super hard keeper with a baby on her. Yes, she's ribby in this picture, but she was eating like half a bale of fabulous hay a day, plus getting senior and vitamins and beet pulp. I think she just spent so much nervous energy defending her baby from any other horse ever looking at her that it was almost impossible to keep enough weight on her.

I really liked the baby whom I dubbed ' Natasya' after her Daddy, Nikolai.

Then this happened:
I hadn't seen Izzy since her owner took her away as a weanling, but I immediately recognized her--the funny facial marking, the friendly personality, the lovely conformation. I didn't need anyone to tell me who the tall, gorgeous new mare was when she showed up one day. Then her owner bought another horse, bringing her total up to three, and I heard that she planned to sell Izzy. At this point, I wasn't attached. I had patted Izzy and said hello, but I don't like to bond with other people's horses, so I'd pretty much left her alone.

The more I thought about Izzy being for sale, the more the wheels turned in my head. I was newly married and in college. I had plenty of time (ha!) to train a horse, but in a couple years, when my baby was ready to start, there was no telling where I'd be in life. I asked a few questions about money and horse value (none about training), and then proposed (through the BO) a trade.

Izzy's owner took a couple weeks to think it over, during which my feelings wildly vacillated. Half the time I thought I was making a huge mistake. I didn't know what kind of baggage Izzy came with, but I knew her owner couldn't handle her. Besides, my baby was super nice. What if I was trading a super nice horse for a mediocre one that I'd never really like? Ultimately, I knew I'd be ok whichever way my offer came out. I really liked my baby, but the timing was just better for Izzy, who was 5 at the time.

On February 1, 2009, I found myself as the proud owner of a barely-handled, quite muddy Oldenburg mare, registered name Isadora. I was elated.

And then I started hearing stories... the weather had finally started to improve, so I was actually starting to see other boarders. I learned that the way all the other boarders were introduced to Izzy and her former owner was by watching the mare break free and run off, then helping to catch her. They thought I was completely crazy for giving up such a nice horse to take on a crazy one. I went to the store, bought myself a rope halter, and went for it.

It was a long, trying process, some of which you have gotten to witness through our blog. One of our more memorable early moments was when Izzy decided to pull the same prank on me that she did for her previous owner--she pulled back while tied. Fortunately for both of us, I had actually tied her with the rope halter. There was nothing I could or would do but stand back and watched. She pulled with all her might for about 30 seconds. Then you saw the wheels turn in her head; her ears flicked back and forth, and then she just stepped forward and gave. She's never done it again. Smart girl.

I don't wonder if I did the right thing anymore. Izzy has turned into a fabulous horse. Really, we've been able to grow together. She and I very much mirror each other at this point in life. We're both pretty calm, but there's always the potential for nerves. We're willing to try new things, but we tend to prefer our routines. We're relatively even-keeled, but we definitely have a temper that we'll express when pushed. We figure stuff out... hard or easy, we'll get there. We express when we're not happy, and you will always know where you stand with us.

Plus, you can read everything in our faces. We can't lie for anything.

A Study in Unsuitability

I got to the barn late yesterday afternoon and there were several people riding in the indoor. Since I knew Izzy need to run around and that wasn't possible, we decided to have a much-needed second groundwork day. I am happy to say that Izzy was much better, as long as I handled her from her left side. When I tried working from the right, she got very angry. We'll keep trying.

On to the more interesting part of the blog!

There is a lady at the barn who I have only met once or twice. She is older, not very fit, and a nervous rider who only aspires to do trail riding. So far, so good.

She also had a totally unsuitable horse, which bucked her off and hurt her sometime this summer. Fortunately, she finally recognized the horse was unsuitable and decided to sell him, then look for another one. The horse she had was 8 years old, semi-trained, and not the type you could just let sit and then go on a quiet trail ride with once a month or so, which is what she does.

Upon selling the unsuitable horse, she promptly bought a new horse. It is an 8 year old gaited horse that I think she liked because it was buckskin. Nevertheless, she assured us all that she bought it because it was bombproof and exactly what she wanted. Cool.

Today, she had the vet out, since it's super important to vet your horse after you buy him. Yes, after. ;-) Due to the large amount of melting snow, they were doing the exam in the aisle by the indoor. Also due to the snow, anyone else who wanted to do anything with their horses were also in the indoor. There were three of us. At this point, though, I am the only one in the arena. I am doing ground work (walk/trot/halt) with Izzy. Izzy is being quiet good, mostly. She had a couple little leaps above the ground, but they were on the far end of the arena.

The lady comes over to the fence and asks me if I could please not do that because, and I quote, "It's making my horse nervous."

Yes folks, the "bombproof" horse is too nervous to have another horse trot by the rail in the arena. Does anyone else think this is a clue? I decided to let Izzy be done (though I was fuming about not being able to work my horse in the arena I'm paying for) out of respect for the poor vet who not only had to deal with the very upset horse, but also the very upset owner.

Sigh. I understand a young horse being nervous in a new place or having issues with other horses going by, but for this lady? Really? If your horse can't deal with new places, how in the world is he going to make a trail horse? If he can't have other horses go by on the other side of the fence at a quiet trot, what do you think is going to happen on the trail?

After the vet finished, the lady triumphantly announced to us that her horse passed. He may be totally unsuitable, but he sure can pass a post-purchase vet check.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Winter Riding...

Izzy and I continue playing western pony. Due to a combination of life and weather conditions, she's not getting out nearly as much as she would like to. (Seriously. She had 3 days off last week.)

Thus, when I got her out yesterday, she was "fizzy", as Jimmy Wofford would say. I tried my best. I let her run and buck in the indoor for a bit, then put her in a snowy turnout for about half an hour to let her wander and graze. Still, she was fidgety tacking up, and even spooked once while crosstied, which never happens.


I was not in the mood to ride the wired pony. Fortunately, I am a resourceful person who has a lunge line and a pony in need of a ground work tuneup. First, we worked on just standing and relaxing in one corner of the indoor that Izzy has decided is scary. Then, we did some basic lunging, walk/trot/canter both ways to get her settled.

The issue I wanted to address was this: Izzy has become very lax in her responses to me. I -had- to carry a lunge whip to lunge her, because she totally ignored me without it. I -had- to carry a dressage whip to ride her, because she wouldn't go forward without it. At all. So, instead of allowing her to further deaden to my aids, I decided that we would work on getting more with less. When she didn't respond to my verbal command (which she does understand), I would jump at her or throw the lunge line. I didn't particularly care if she cantered--I wanted her to actually REACT when I told her to do something. As soon as she responded, I backed off and told her she was a good girl, which she likes. We do need some help with whoa. It's the last frontier we're struggling with (ideas?).

Next, we did a bit of leading/responding work. I want her to move away from me without me having to physically push her. She thinks it's easier if I just lean into her and force her over. Lesson learned: the end of a split reins make a fabulous popper. She learned to pivot in a couple minutes. I wasn't worried about her form; again, I just wanted a reaction. I wanted to walk toward her shoulder and have her yield. At first, she got a little panicky/over reactive and tried to run backwards, but I would keep pushing until she gave her shoulder, then immediately reward her.

Our problems originate with me letting this stuff slide--I would ask for canter on the lunge, but not correct her when she made an unasked transition to trot.

Finally, we did the hardest part. Backing. She didn't think she needed to, and especially not if I wasn't physically touching her. We had several discussions about that in which she backed the while length of the arena. As soon as she dropped her head and focused on backing instead of resisting, I stopped and rewarded her. By the end of the session, she was backing several steps nicely and calmly without me having to get after her.

I finished up by hopping on for about 3 minutes and doing a few walk/jog serpentines to end the session on a positive note. I also have some super cute pictures of Izzy all tacked up, but I forgot to get them off my camera. Tomorrow, I guess.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


It looks like I'm stuck ponyless for another day. We still have about 6" of snow everywhere, plus freezing rain and heavy cloud cover. Nothing is melting and I don't think my little car will quite make it to the barn.


I guess this means I will just have to go ahead and buy the western show headstall and bit I've been eyeballing, right? Izzy needs some fancy silver stuff.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Snow Day

I still have absolutely no idea how the blogger picture uploader thing is supposed to work since they changed it. I can't rearrange these in an order that makes sense, so you get them in the magical order the blogger has chosen. Tada!

These are Izzy's black flats, as I call them. They're the resin wraps that are allowing the natural expansion/contraction of her feet while serving to lower her right heel enough to gain contact with the ground. This should help it grow up like her other heels.

Plus, it is pretty cute.

Here's Izzy in the crossties, looking adorable. She does seem to have them figured out after a couple months of using them.

Yesterday was ridiculously cold. It was 25ish outside with strong gusting winds and a dark, cloudy sky. I turned Izzy out for about half and hour while I mixed supplements and talked to another boarder, but the wind was at an angle that changed the indoor into a glorified wind tunnel.


I decided it was not a good riding day, so I put Izzy up and went home to get warm.

Here is the happy pony in the snow. I guess it's like eating grass popsicles!!

Some of the other horses acted cold and didn't want to move, but she was THRILLED to get out and happily munched away. I was worried that she wouldn't adjust well since she's always been blanketed before, but she's totally fine.

Doesn't she look like a tough cowgirl horse?

Except, I guess I'm not a tough cowgirl since I chickened out on riding yesterday. Oh well.

So that was yesterday. Today, I woke up to about 6" of snow (totally unheard of here, especially since the snow from last week isn't gone yet). That was at 6am. It's now almost 11 ans still snowing lots of big, wet, heavy flakes. I have shoveled a ridiculous amount and I'm not really catching up.

Here's the view from my house this morning:

Chaucer, my beloved Beagle, enjoying being warm and inside. He is really not in to this whole "cold weather" thing. Unless, of course, there is a squirrel to chase. Then he's unstoppable for about 5 minutes, which is when he realizes he's cold.

And Lewis, the ever-faithful corgi. He lives being outside. He tends to lay on stuff that he wants to do. If we're getting ready to leave, he lays on our luggage so we can't go without him.

As you see here, he's laying on "outside" clothes.

Silly bugger.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dressage Lesson

Ok, I'll admit: after spending several days working on -not- carrying any contact with Izzy, I was pretty nervous about how she would accept the contact for our lesson. After all, acceptance of contact in the first place was a huge struggle for us.

I shouldn't have worried. Izzy remains a rock star. She does loff her little jog, however.

I could not believe how good she was for our lesson! She's really developing some self carriage and improving her balance, so she was an absolute joy to ride. We managed to skip most of her walk/trot transition head tossing because she was better balanced. She was lovely and light on the contact, and bent quite easily either way.

What a girl. I could go on and on about how fabulous she is and how I love her, but I guess I'll spare you guys. I really need to take some more pictures of how cute she is. This afternoon, maybe.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Still Cold

It got above freezing here for the first time in about a week yesterday. It was also the first day I've been able to get to the barn since Wednesday. Thankfully, when I showed up, I was the only person there. I grabbed Izzy and we headed to the indoor for some much-needed play time.

She galloped around and bucked and leaped and had a grand time. I went back and mucked out her stall before deliberating about what to do. Part of me didn't even want to ride because the wind was so strong that I almost blew over walking to the arena. The other part of me dragged out the western saddle. Izzy actually seemed pretty happy to go for a ride. I think she missed me. :-)

It was really fun; it was only our 4th time to ever use a western saddle, but I can feel Izzy improving each time we do it. Last time, we focused a lot on trying to develop a jog without her either throwing her head up and running or diving onto the bit and dragging. This time was much better--she would collect herself (as long as I kept her soft), and move quietly forward into a nice, smooth jog. Then she would drop out of it. Oh well. It's progress. We worked a lot on bending in and out to keep her soft and focused. I'm also trying to teach her to neck rein a little bit, but I'm not really sure how that's going.

We also started to work on changing her canter over to a bit of a lope. I didn't push it much because that's a lot of work and I didn't want her to work up too much of a sweat. It was way too cold for that.

All in all, I'm really pleased. This is another way for us to pinpoint issues in training and communication and work on them. I'm supposed to have a dressage lesson this afternoon. All I have to say about that is it better warm up. It's currently 6f outside.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Weather Outside is Frightful

Izzy and I continued the great western experiment yesterday afternoon. She is not so sure about this whole deal. (As you can see, we've also borrowed a headstall and reins.) Unfortunately, we're also in the middle of some super nasty weather for us, so it never got about like 23 degrees f yesterday and it's supposed to be a high of 17 today. I realize that for some of you, that's nothing, but here it's pretty big.

Anyways. I'm mostly just complaining because of Izzy's new footwear, which apparently is somewhat like having shoes, and therefore is bad on ice... yes, the road we cross to go to the arenas is a sheet of ice. Yikes. We tip toed across it yesterday, but I'm not sure I want to tempt fate and do it again today. Maybe I'll wait til Sunday...

In honor of the fact that we are pretending to be western and the fact that I'm down to one pair of jeans that fit and that I sort of like, I went to one of our numerous western tack stores yesterday and actually made out with two pairs of jeans that I love and a pair of boots. The boots are WAAAAY nicer than my paddock boots which were sorely in need of replacement and they actually keep my feet warm. Plus, I can wear them on my husband's family's ranch and to work in.

I am also probably going to buy Izzy a saddle pad--what we've cobbled together for now isn't really ideal and there are some interesting low-cost options that I think would work nicely. I'm thinking that I'll exchange ride time today to go look for a saddle pad, then bring it out to the barn to mix her grain for the weekend and try it on. (And probably ride, too, since I already have her tacked up.)

After yesterday's ride, I am more optimistic about the whole thing. We were trying to do the whole 'jog' thing instead of trotting and it in general did not go well. Why? Well, because of all the same reasons that we've struggled with our trot work. First, she wanted to throw her head up and LEAP into trot/jog. When I wouldn't allow that, she'd then throw her head down and dive onto her forehand while running in the trot. We had probably 3 separate moments of 6 or 7 strides of a nice jog.

What I'm seeing is that this is an excellent way to help her develop some self carriage and take more responsibility for how she carries herself instead of me just carrying her all the time. Win! Trying to ride on a loose rein is just like riding bareback, except it's isolating my hands instead of my seat--we have a lot of work to do.

And really, is there a more fun and cute way to do it?

I still want a fancy headstall, but there's no way that's happening now. ;-) Someday...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lesson and Thoughts

The theme of our dressage lesson yesterday was 'expect more'. Izzy knows a lot more than I give her credit for, so I tend to let things slide that I shouldn't. She's still in her 'throwing head in w/t transitions phase'. Cathy had us address that by me holding my outside rein low and steady (think almost side rein) while taking bend with my inside rein. I then focused on riding her hind end, and she did quite nicely after a couple attempts.

We had more rhythm, a slightly higher tempo, more acceptance of the bit, and were overall more connected than we've been in a while. Izzy really is pretty fabulous when I get her working.

I feel like we have plenty to work on until our next lesson. I have some leftover credit from when I was working for Cathy, so I get like 4 lessons free. Hurray!

Also, we have officially borrowed the western saddle and a headstall with reins to play at doing western with. I've been talking to a friend of mine who used to show, so if I can get in enough lessons with Terry this winter, maybe we will go play western pony at a show sometime. My friend has offered to loan me stuff and take pictures. Cross your fingers--it sounds like fun.

As for 'crossing over to the dark side'... I hear you. I've always been the dressage/jumping purist, as evidenced by the fact that I'm still not entirely sure how to put the western saddle on by myself and I think it's way too bloody heavy. However, I'm reconciling myself to the fact that I simply do not and will not have the funds to get the kind of training I want to go the distance I think we can if we stick to eventing only. This is a way for us to have fun together without worrying too much. We're certainly not giving up eventing and I'm super excited for hopefully getting to do some real XC next spring/summer.

Besides, I totally want this. Despite my friend's assurances that it is not in style for showing right now, it's just so totally opposite of anything I would ever normally buy that I'm fascinated by it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A New Adventure!

One of the ladies at the new barn used to be a western trainer, specializing in pleasure and reining. I've been teasing about Izzy under western tack, and she took me up on it. So adorable!

We started out with another bareback/bitless ride in the indoor, in which we primarily worked on mounting. Izzy does NOT like that part, I think because it's so different from what she's used to. She was getting a little better (and I was getting better at not surprising her), so we rode around the indoor.

That's when Terry came in and I mentioned how adorable Izzy looked with her western sidepull on. She said she had a saddle that would probably fit her, and off we tramped to the other barn to find it. It fit quite well, I think. I don't know a lot about fitting western saddles, but Terry said it looked good and Izzy did not object. We are going to try a different pad next time, though.

Izzy celebrates the lack of a 'real' bridle.

I just rode around the round pen both directions and did w/t/c. Haha, maybe I mean walk/jog/lope. ;-) I laughed pretty much the entire time because it all felt so weird and Izzy knew I didn't have much control so she pretty much just went where she wanted to.

I have not even sat in a western saddle since I was about 8 years old, so the whole thing felt really weird. I spend most of my time lately either bareback or in a treeless dressage saddle, both of which allow a really good 'feel' of Izzy's back. The western saddle puts me up off her a bit and the stirrup leather (fender?) even keeps my leg from laying on her side. It's very different.

Here's Izzy when we first put it on her. I was letting her wander the round pen with it on and she just looked goofy.

We should have more western adventures coming up--the footing in the indoor is not conducive to serious dressage work and I want to keep Izzy moving. Plus, Terry offered to give us lessons. How fun would that be!!

I've always been a teensy bit embarrassed that I live in Idaho (you know, serious cow country) and I don't even know how to put a western saddle on. I guess that's another thing Terry needs to teach me. ;-) I now how this silly urge to go check out western tack and other exciting goodies online, though Terry assures me she has all I've ever need (and her tackroom definitely backs up that statement).

Still, I am in dire need of new paddock boots. Perhaps I'll get a western version this time around. Next thing you know, we'll be doing... um... something western.

Actually, I have a dressage lesson this afternoon.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dave Round 2

Izzy gets her toes done by our wonderful farrier Dave and sometimes his excellent partner, Melissa the barefoot trimmer. Last time they were scheduled to come out, I made it to the barn 20 minutes before they did. I got Izzy out and hand grazed her, thinking that would help her relax and stand still for them.

Not so. Instead, she spent the ENTIRE time trying to stretch, fussing, walking around, even trying to lay on top of Dave periodically. It was rather embarrassing how bad she was, especially because it took 2 hours to trim all around and put front shoes on her. Grrr.

I tried a new method this time. I scheduled Dave and Melissa for late morning, then arrived a couple hours early. I did a hard dressage school on Izzy, then turned her out until they showed up about 45 minutes later.

Much improved!! Izzy stood quite nicely and no one was (nearly) injured.

Also, she got her super special resin-wraps on today. They are supposed to help her right heel grow, which she sorely needs. I would have taken pictures, but it was 35 and breezy and I was COLD. I'll try to get some on Monday...

Thursday, November 18, 2010


After two horrid and barn-less days, I skipped out of work this morning because I HAD to ride. (Ugh. Life sucks a lot sometimes.) Anyways. Izzy was a superstar. As always.

I lunged her first to see what she would be like. As usual, she wasn't super forward and didn't think she needed to respond to my voice commands for upward transitions. Grr. I told her to trot, and when she didn't, I jumped at her and yelled. She took off bucking, but also got the message. Much better pony after that.

I was actually nervous about getting on, partly because I haven't ridden for (gasp!) 2 days and partly because of other sucky stuff (that I will talk about in a future post when it is figured out) that is going on in my life. Fortunately, Izzy is now a pro and totally took care of me. She was quiet, relatively attentive, and so, I don't know, comfortable.

I could really feel a difference in my riding even with just two days of walking bareback. My thighs were loose and relaxed instead of clamped down. My aids were more clear and soft and I actually felt quiet secure. I was acle to distribute my weight through my body instead of just bracing against my irons.

We didn't do anything hard. We just w/t/c both ways and did some figure eights and then reinforced the halt/back without any hand that we'd worked on bareback. The most exciting part for me was that because I was actually able to relax my body, I had a great time and wasn't totally out of breath at the end like I've been lately. YAY!!

I needed that ride.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bareback Round 2

Izzy and I went for another bareback ride yesterday. We used our spiffy new sidepull with cool white roping reins. Funny thing: I don't think they planned for a 16.0 HH warmblood when making the reins. They are just barely long enough for her. It's probably a good thing.

Honestly, I don't think she's wild about this whole experiment. She's been ok, but she just seems to prefer the solidity of a bit and saddle. She likes structure, what can I say?

Her objections have been somewhat minor so far (some head tossing and anxious moving around) and I think she's adjusting. Next time I ride, which won't be until tomorrow or Thursday unfortunately, we'll use the bridle and dressage saddle so we can do some actual work. I admit, I'm too chicken to trot bareback yet.

I felt a lot better riding yesterday. I was much more stable and able to stay balanced. I'm still working on really relaxing through my whole body and actually trusting Izzy more. It's a work in progress. I've noticed that when I apply my outside turning aids, I tend to also clamp down with my inside leg, so instead of saying "please step sideways", my aids are saying "BHWAAAAA!!! DO SOMETHING NOWW!!!"

No wonder she was having trouble with me.

So. I'm trying to simplify my aids, relax, and clarify what I mean. To do this, we worked on figure eights with intermittent halts. I tried to keep my body (especially hips and legs) loose and relaxed. I did my best to apply my leg without tension--which is hard to explain. I tried to be conscious of what my whole body was doing so that when I did something, it actually meant something.

Overall, I'm quite happy with our progress and I look forward to continuing it throughout the winter.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bareback Round 1

I got up Sunday morning and went out to the barn thinking, "It's 40f and raining. There will be no one else around and we can just ride in the indoor."

Surprise!! There was another boarder out there. This was a nice lady I'd never even seen before. Why do people start riding once the weather turns nasty? No clue. Anyways. Izzy and I hung out in the indoor and got used to the sound of rain on the roof while the lady finished riding. When she came out, I took Izzy in with her halter and chain on. We walked around and look at any potentially scary stuff. She was super good.

Next, I put the bridle on. It's a mechanical hackmore, so I lead her around in it for a while to make sure she was used to the leverage action. I decided to use it because we're both very comfortable with a bit and I tend to grab it instead of really use my body to ride. Izzy isn't wild about the leverage function and I'm not wild about losing the ability to turn her in a circle if things got crazy, but it was the best option I had. I also put a leather neckstrap on her to grab when I got insecure, which was most of the time.

I rode for about half an hour, and we never left the walk. I didn't realize just how much I was doing wrong. I tend to slide off one side or another. With my saddle, I can just brace against the irons to compensate, but bareback is a whole new world. I spent most of my time just trying to stay centered and balanced and moving with the motion. Yikes. I feel like an awful rider.

Last night, I ran down to the store and got myself a sidepull with roping reins to use for our continued bareback experiments. That will removing the leverage that Izzy dislikes and give me the lateral steering (hopefully) that I like to have for those tense moments. I'll take a picture of her today. I'm sure it will look adorable.

ETA: Lunge lessons would be fabulous. Unfortunately, they're out of range for now. Hopefully, if I do this for a while, I can afford to take some later on.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Where I Wish I Could Ride

I've realized that a big part of my problem riding Izzy is that I seem to have lost the ability to really follow her motion and find myself constantly fighting against it. This is wrong on a lot of levels, not the least of which is that it makes me feel insecure and therefore lose confidence.

There. I identified a problem.

I decided that to fix the problem, I need to do something that allows her motion but limits my control. Thus, I decided to ride Izzy bareback in our hackmore in the round pen. She's fine bareback and the round pen will limit her enough that I won't freak out about being run off with. I figured I could just hop on, hang on, and ride till I seemed to get it, then lather and repeat until it works.

So far, so good.

Of course, I couldn't make it out to the barn until almost four this afternoon. Izzy had a glorious galloping bucking time out in turnout and for the first time since I've been at this barn, there was 5 (count 'em) other boarders out there. Also, one horse was loose in the round pen. I turned Izzy out in the small outdoor arena and she ran like a crazy thing. By the time the round pen was available, it was so dark and cold that I decided our new plan could wait until tomorrow.

Besides, then there will be less people around to watch me screw up. ;-)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Where I Actually Ride

When I showed up at the barn yesterday, late afternoon, Izzy was already turned out and had been for a while. Nonetheless, when a tumbleweed blew down the road, she took off bucking and galloping and playing. She's really not scared or tense or anything--she's just so freaking happy it's ridiculous. You'd have to see her face. The weather is just cool enough that her fuzzy coat feels good and she LOVES her turnout time (good, since that's why I pay $$ to be here).

It's fun to watch, but my, um, injury was hurting more yesterday and all I could think was, "Shoot. I'm going to get on and she's going to freak and buck and bolt and dump me and I'll hurt myself worse."

Not the best way to start a training session.

I pulled her out of the turnout and she leaped around on the lead line. I could tell she was just playing since again she didn't hit the end of the lead rope or anything and there's just this look in her eye that says, "how fun is this!" Still, I don't want her thinking that behavior is ok when I hanging on to her, so I backed her up and made her stand. She was quite good after that. I had her all tacked up except her bridle when the BO started feeding in our barn. Izzy was ok with that, not so ok with all her buddies charging around going, "Wheee! Feeding time and we feel gooooood!"

She tried to leap forward in the cross ties, so I unclipped one of them and then held the lead rope while the BO quickly fed everyone to settle them down. Then I just lead Izzy over to the indoor and put her bridle on in there. She had a totally relaxed look in her eye, despite all the antics. I did try lunging her, but as usual, could hardly get her to go. She knows when she needs it and when she doesn't. I climbed on, still wary of falling off in some horrible accident.

She was looky in one end of the arena and it was getting dark and cold quickly, so I only rode walk and trot for about 10 minutes, then jumped off. When I turned her loose to roll, she meandered down to the "scary" end of the arena, and leaned over the fence to see if she could reach the haystack. When she realized she could, she just laid down and rolled.

That mare. I was so worried she'd do something, and she just wanted food. Story of our lives, I guess. ;-)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Day Off

I had to work pretty much all day yesterday, so I sprinted out to the barn between that and my evening commitments. Miss Izzy was very happy to see me--she whinnied at me! Aww. I took her out to one of the turnouts. Before I could even close the gate behind us, she half-reared and ran backwards. She stopped before she hit the end of the rope, though. Silly girl was just letting me know she could hardly contain herself.

As soon as I had the gate firmly closed and her halter off, she took off bucking and galloping up and down the length of the turnout. When she finally settled in, she dove onto the ground to roll, then did her usual frantic grazing before even getting up. Quite funny.

I didn't even groom her. I let her be out for about an hour, and before I could do anything else, I got a call I was waiting for and had to go. She didn't mind; her dinner was waiting in her stall. I AM riding today. Sometime. It's a long day, just with hardly any daylight.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Reflections on Injuries

At our last jumping lesson, 8 days ago, I fell off Izzy. I wasn't really hurt. I got back on and everything was fine. My hip was sore the following couple of days, which made sense, since I landed on it. Still, a day off, followed by easing myself back into some low, slow runs and my hip now feels great.

The only problem is that now my tailbone (I think) hurts. I don't notice it walking, running, or sitting, but any time I bend over, I have to move really slow to avoid pain. Lifting stuff is also difficult. According to my cursory internet search (which is just like going to a doctor, I'm sure), there is really nothing a doctor can do for tailbone injuries other than dispense pain meds.

So... I'm thinking I'll just continue to kind of take it easy and hope things improve. Any second opinions out there? ;-)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Spending Habits

I had a good, solid dressage ride yesterday, then Izzy and I walked down the road by ourselves. She didn't even flinch when big trucks went by pretty fast. Love her!

I thought I would focus on the ongoing dilemma that almost all of us have to worry about (unless you're that fabulous lady who sponsors Steffan Peters. She probably doesn't run up against this too often.)


Unfortunately, I am not independently wealthy, so I have to make some decisions. Here are my set horsie expenses:

Board: $280/month
Senior feed: $15ish/month
Ulcer meds and supps: $30ish/month

We'll pretend that gas is free and time isn't important. That leaves my constant monthly total at $325/month and I haven't accounted for other essentials like farrier care, dental, chiro, shots, and any injuries that crop up.

It is currently November. I have already spent my set $325 and I have a little money left over to spend (sort of). Here are my exciting options:

Two jumping lessons at $35/each: $70

Two dressage lessons at $35/each: $70

Schooling jumper show (3 classes): $45

Tack of the day dressage boots (mine need upgrade): ~$50 including shipping

Winter jacket that actually zips: $? (got my last one at the Youth Ranch for $4)

All are good options, and I could certainly do some combination thereof, HOWEVER, Izzy's left front heel is low, so my farrier recommended (and we are doing) resins on her front feet this month. Cost: $90. Also, I've been noticing that her hind feet seem to be wearing down more. Cross your fingers that we don't have to do back shoes, too.

So expensive. (And I know, to those of you with real jobs or in expensive areas, these figures are ridiculously low. Just remember, I'm poor and in Idaho.) ;-)

Periodically, my husband talks about getting rid of his rabbits because it costs almost $40/month to feed them. I wish I was into rabbits. (I mean, I have two fuzzy ones that I love, but they're not my big thing.)
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