Friday, December 21, 2012

Star Light, Star Bright..

One thing I love about the holidays are all the little packages and parcels that land on your doorstep from distant family and friends.  There's something so much more exciting about a hand packaged parcel than the commercial cardboard from major retailers.

So I was thrilled when I found a little box on my doorstep from Star's erstwhile caretaker.  I was expecting a little bag of cookies or some other holiday treat, but was amazed and teary to find this:

A pretty little star shaped ornament (not Star shaped.. she was rounder and less pointy) with a lock of her tail and some pretty blue and white beads (our old xc colors) inside. 

There was also a bit more of her tail tucked in the box which has been added to the small braid I snipped off her tail a couple years ago.  I'm sure I'll think of something clever to do with that, but this shining little ornament with a twist of her tail is a gorgeous little memento. 

It will be a wonderful memory to pull out every year when we trim our tree.

**Getting misty eyed again, so I'm gonna call this a post :) ***

ps- Mares were medium good yesterday.  P1 was being fussy about outside leg and P2 thought that jumping 3 cavaletti on a circle was torturous.  Thankfully, both worked through their concerns...

I hope everyone has a fabulous Holiday Weekend with their loved ones (both furry and not).

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Perfect 2.0 (& a little snow)

Last night brought the first nice little dusting of snow in the foothills and with the snow came two very adorable, very well behaved mares. 
Their synchronized ears crack me up
When I got to the barn there was just enough snow to make the pastures and trees look pretty, but not enough to screw with the roads or freeze the footing.  Of course this also meant that the primordial ooze that is the muck at the girls' pasture gate also wasn't frozen. 

Trying to maintain footing on the (vanishing) firmer mud while wrestling with the gate and wrestling one mare out while keeping one mare in is getting harder and harder as the muck deepens.. but I suppose horses are supposed to be a challenge and if the challenge has to come somewhere I'd rather it be in the muddy paddock gate than under saddle. :)

I pulled Prairie in first and tacked up for our lesson.  A couple weeks ago S set up a cavaletti at X so we could figure eight over it, or just incorporate it into our circle.  Prairie had an absolute conniption fit about cantering over it and we had to all but abandon anything resembling the exercise before we found Prairie's comfort zone (trotting a plain pole on the rail).

S had apparently had Prairie cantering figure eights over the cavaletti with clean changes last week.  Eager to see what would happen if I attempted such a feat we warmed up and got to business. 

In summary - Prairie was a stud.  When I focused on "squaring" our corners as we turned toward the cavaletti and keeping her straight for a stride before and after.  This is easier said than done, but it helps keep me riding the mare from back to front - and anything that does that is good in my book. 

After cantering on circles over the cavaletti (something that fried Prairie's Brain 3 weeks ago..) we started with the figure eights and whenever I had her packaged, straight and balanced, she nailed her changes.  If we got strung out, inverted or came in with too much bend, we were moderately screwed. 

I really couldn't believe how well she was doing though.  She only missed the clean change once with her hind legs, and there was no trace of the lead-change-induced-anxiety that I've witnessed before.

We upped the ante a bit and moved the cavaletti to the diagonal approaching H so I would canter the diagonal, and then hopefully use the cavaletti to assist with the change as we rejoined the rail. 

This was too much time to think about the lead change for Prairie and she ended up trying to swap and getting all fussy as she crossed the center line when she was still a good 4 strides out from the cavaletti and change in bend. 

We worked through it, and I realized that I needed to maintain our old bend on the diagonal so that Prairie didn't over think the change too soon.  If I held her too straight, the diagonal was just too much time to stare at the cavaletti and get concerned about what to do with her legs. 

We got a few good changes from the left to the right, worked a few from the right to the left and then called it quits before the gerbils exploded.  I was really pleased with the mare.  I felt like she gave me really good, honest tries and stuck with me longer than she ever has with hard questions like this. 

Pia was next.  She was a little squirrely when I first brought her in (mostly over concern to where Prairie disappeared to I think), but she calmed down in the cross ties and was a super quiet, patient girl while I hosed off her muddy legs and tacked her up.  I've been riding her in my old Klimke dressage saddle with a sheepskin half pad under it.  Nothing else.  But she seems really happy in that combo.  We've also started working with her in her bit (!!!) so I tacked up with her old KK double jointed loose ring (without a noseband) and got on. 

The first 30 seconds gave me slight PTSD because P felt firey.  But, a quick nudge forward and some big circles calmed her down in 2 minutes flat.  S left the cavaletti out at X and we basically repeated Prairie's lesson but without any steady rein contact (or rhythm for that matter).  But P was great! we walked small figure eights.  Trotted small figure eights, trotted over the cavaletti on a circle, cantered over it on a circle and then played with figure eights. 

I did throw an old stirrup leather around Pia's neck as an "oh shit strap" which I really liked.  I hooked my outside hand into it and let that be my safety blanket.  I could lean/haul/pull on that thing as much as I wanted without disrupting Pia or shutting her down with too much rein contact. 

The mare actually seemed pretty tuned in to her neck rein and between that and my seat I was able to leave a biiiiiig loop in our reins the whole time.  The only time I really needed to fuss with my hands was to give her an opening rein over the cavaletti for rein changes.

Afterward we went for a big property walk and she was calm, forward and super relaxed. 

WHAT A GOOD PIA.  Full marks.  Brav. 

Look at that happy mare face! (ignore the slipping pad) 
 Things I'm learning about Me and P(1):
  • I am still totally reluctant to put my leg on her.  I'm expecting her to be naughty, but she isn't reacting that way.  I need to ride the mare I have, not the mare she was in 2010/2011.  
  • She feels like a pony! I've taking Prarie's size for granted and gotten sloppy with my upper body balance.  I need to stay back on Pia and not tip forward.
  • She's trustworthy.  (with some things).  Horses, backfiring, 4x4's, nothing seems to spook her when she's working.  I need to trust her more on that.
  • She's totally ok without rein contact so I need to be ok with that for a little while too - until I earn her trust and can ask for a bit more confinement. 
  • P is really enjoying her work.  This might be my favorite thing right now.  I want to make sure I don't do anything to jeopardize that relaxation.
So it was a great mare day.  They earned a perfect 2.0 GPA and I can't ask for more than that. They must be giving me my Christmas gifts early... 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Toe Trimming Trip

Thursday's Field Trip to Summer Camp was a uneventful (in the good sense) success.  I feel like when horses are involved, uneventful is usually a good thing.  And when trailering horses is involved, uneventful is always a good thing.

Since everyone else seemed to be working on a Thursday, I couldn't con anyone into making the trip with me, but I did manage to get my dad excited about helping me load the mares up.  Mind you, he hasn't loaded a horse of any sort into a trailer since the 90's so he was eager to help, but a bit... rusty on how to apply helpful pressure from behind.

Luckily the most protest that Prairie lodges is a 60 second "right to sniff" before she walks herself on the trailer.  Pia was the wild card.  She's been fabulous in Cowboy Man's stock trailer, but has only loaded in a straight load once, and it can look a little more claustrophobic especially with a big giant mare already in one stall.

Shouldn't have worried though.  Pia caught sight of the hay bag and damn near trotted up the ramp.  Good little Squirrel.

Then we were off. Me in my gorgeous new truck and the girls in their adorable matching plaid coolers.  (I think we can safely say that if I ever end up with twins, or multiple children of any sort really.. that they will be dressed in coordinated if not matching outfits regularly).

I managed to miss most of the rush hour traffic and made the trip in an easy three hours.  Both girls walked off the trailer politely, stood nicely in the barn while we unwrapped then let them go get their wiggles out in the arena before the toe trimming commenced. 

We started with Pia, and talked about how he's been shoeing her.  The answer is that she is in regular Eventer shoes, set just slightly wider than her own hoof wall (but with a ground down bevel to keep her from pulling them off).  The Natural Balance shoes are just a tad too square for her these days and a tad too short in the length. 
Prairie waiting (mostly) patiently for her turn
CM has been really focuses on getting P as much heel support as possible and keeping her trim cycle short enough that he catches her heels before they start to curl in or collapse.  So far it's working.  It might mean that I have to haul her to Camp for trims every 5 weeks for a while, but I think that's doable.

Both P's just stood and snacked while we worked on their toes.  Pia's feet look awesome.  Her angles are good, her heels are finally starting to widen and all in all they getting a bit cuppier and starting to round out rather than looking like long drawn out ovals.
Prairie started to lose interest and began playing with her tongue..

After P1, we took a break for lunch and put the girls out in pasture to fart around and sniff at the herd over the fence.  Both of the mares were super social, super playful and super relaxed.  P showed no stress at returning to her old stomping grounds and immediately sniffed at all of her old friends.  Especially her boyfriends.

Prairie took the back seat and stayed behind Pia when dealing with the herd which is the only time I've ever seen her defer to P1.  Then they both (obviously) found a muddy hole to go squirm around in like hippos before coming back to the barn for Prairie's feet.

All in all I was relieved to get a big thumb's up from CM on how Prairie's feet are doing.  I wasn't concerned about anything but I have not-so-secret fears that I'm going to screw something up drastically and end up snapping my mare's tendons with a bad trim.  Not likely I know, but some humility and terror seems prudent.

What I wanted help on was assessing Prairie's bars and how much to trim them.  I haven't been worried about them because they aren't particularly large and have never protruded or folded over on me.  CM did point out that on her hinds they are big enough to make contact with the ground and could be producing pressure points.  So we scooped those out, talked a bit about her heels and then we were done. 

Easy Peasy.

Since I had a little time before I needed to be back on the road, we took the mares down to the arena for some ground work.   Over lunch we had been discussing the challenges and successes with both mares on the ground and CM brought up the notion of working them together.

(two mares!? at once!? god help me).

He set the ring up for our classic leading exercise which entails having snack buckets placed along the rail all around the ring.  Then we walk asking the mare to heel nicely at our shoulder and when we want to stop we exhale deeply and raise our arms as a physical signal.  Both P1 and P2 are very good at this game, but the refresher was more to remind them that it was listening time and not smell-everything-and-obsess-about-the-herd-time. 

Then CM grabbed both leads and proceeded to take both mares around the ring, stopping and starting, getting nice mouthfuls of snack when they were good girls. 
starting out... They were lagging a bit but tightened up
Halting and having to soften toward CM before a reward.
Annnnd then heads down into their snack bowls.
Pia was a stud.  But she has way more experience in being worked alongside another horse than Prairie does.  Prairie doesn't like traffic of any sort or to be too pressed up against fences or walls or anything.  Also, her response to being too closed in (physically or by a crowd) is to just bust forward into a roomier space. 

She tried this a few times when she didn't want to stand nicely between Pia and the rail, but CM just directed his body language at Pia to stay put and added pressure to Prairie until she put herself back in the correct position. 

He explained that what he didn't want to do is take Pia out of her correct position in order to get Prairie back where she needed to be.  By doing that he let Prairie be someone what charge of what was happening instead of him behaving more or less like a lead mare.  It was pretty cool to watch. 

For anyone who has seen the liberty acts from someone like Sylvia Zerbini, my mind is pretty much consistently blown at how one is able to direct different horses different things at the same time. 

The closest I get is being able to shoo one mare away from the gate while I coax the other out the smallest possible opening when I need to bring them  in from pasture....

Anyway.  It wasn't a difficult exercise and by the end CM was easily walking, trotting and halting with both mares at his shoulder.  Prairie had a hard time with tight turns when she was on the inside and needed to really slow down but it was pretty cool to see each of them rate their speed so that they maintained their correct shoulder positioning..  

That was the end of the day, and the haul home was equally easy. 

two matching P''s in a pod!

Friday, December 14, 2012

When the Gerbils Come to Play

ger·bil [jur-buh l] noun

any of the numerous small burrowing rodents of the genus Gerbillus that infest the brains of Equines and cause irrational, erratic, often obnoxious behavior while under saddle. 

Gerbils.  I often picture them running around like stink in Prairie's brain - smashing into walls, each other, and whatever else is in her head.  When they are sleeping and quiet, all is well.  But when they wake up and start bouncing off each other like ping pong balls, no good can come of it.

Supermom found this video and we're both certain that it looks something like this:

I mean. It has to.  That has to be what's happening when her eye rolls back and she runs away from... nothing.

Damn Gerbils.

In other news our field trip back to Summer Camp was fabulous.  More on that later.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

10 Luxe Gifties

Full disclosure that this is a totally biased list, based entirely on things I think are pretty but haven't actually given into buying for myself (rare, I know).  Even I draw the line sometimes.  As wonderful as the girls would look in/on/with these items, I haven't justified it yet (emphasis on the yet). 

In no particular order...

1) The Dubai Bridle

First up, a bridle I've been drooling over for a while.  I'm a sucker for pretty much anything Otto Schumacher (you'll see more than one item on this list by them) but this bridle continues to taunt me from afar.  

I've become a huge fan of the muted sparkles that adorn the noseband and browband.  Don't get me wrong, I love me some glitter (on me or the mares) but there's something about this bridle in "Dorado" that's flashy without being ostentatious.  Prairie would look killer in this.  Pia not so much. but that's ok.

At $699.99 I won't be ringing it up anytime soon, but it would be a dynamite show bridle.

2) Gorgeous Stall Plates:

There are a million varieties out there worth posting.  Butt he simple fact remains that substantial, well crafted stall plates are a great detail in any barn aisle 

I stumbled onto Nelson Manufacturing's site a while back and really liked the variety of their products. 
I find this one particularly classy:

3)  Rambo Grand Prix Helix Sheet

Confession.  I own this.  But I love this. and secretly I was at least one more for Prairie and one for Pia to match (obvi).  They look adorable in their matching plaid fleece coolers, but they'd look smashing in these bad boys.  The fabric wicks, so it functions like a nice cooler and I really like it to haul in.  The drape is magnificent, the fabric stays decently clean and the trim dresses it up a bit.  Prairie always looks fancier than she is when she steps off the trailer in this sheet.

At $105 it's more than I'd usually spend on a stable sheet, but way less than a custom wool dress sheet and frankly, I think this looks sharper than many of the dress sheets out there.  I'm biased though. 

4) Otto Schumacher Custom Halter

Drool.  I want them all.  The leather is stunning and there are so many options I don't even know what I would order if I did feel like blowing the cash on one.
I don't have a horse that would model this option perfectly (though I could find one I'm sure). but I think it's drop dead.  sigh.

5) Gersemi.  All of it.

It's spendy and it's prettier than things that I should wear within 50' of the Muddy Mares, but lord I like it.  I begrudge the women at shows trotting around in their gorgeously styled (but moderately functional) Gersemi, but secretly I just want it.  I want it all.

This jacket is my fav in their current line up:
6) Monogrammed Stable/Polo Wraps

It is the birth right of every equestrian to monogram as many things as possible.  Show shirts, saddle pads, blankets.. You name it and you can put your name on it.  As a kid I never monogrammed a thing.  In fact I found it sort of confusing and avoided it all together.  These days though I love it.  For one, it keeps your stuff from wandering off elsewhere in the barn and for another, when you stick to the same font and style across all your items it's sharp.  (For the recod I stick to Dover's "K" option on monograms.  Love it).

I have yet to cross the boundary of throwing my initials on leg wraps, but when it's done well, I really like the look.  Especially for shipping.  But for myself, I just can't justify $10 of monogram on $10 wraps.  The cost doesn't quite balance out.  $10 monogram on a $50 pad? sure.  But that's what makes monogrammed wraps a good gift.  Something we don't buy ourselves.  It does mean that the pony clubber has to come out and get OCD enough to get your wraps all perfectly lined up so that your pretty monogram stays centered. 

7) Handcrafted Bit Box

For the Tack Ho' with everything.. I bet she doesn't have this. 

A well crafted, totally gorgeous bit box.  Keep all your bits in a tidy little row and at your fingertips without them clanging around, sinking to the bottom of a box or sitting on a bridle hook encrusted with dried hay/grain/slobber.

At $295, it's in the splurge section of tack organizers, but what a gorgeous show piece for the well manicured tack room or tack locker.  Rhar. 

8) Brush Box

While we're on that classy site... I love their dovetailed brush box as well.  I like that it has the traditional look of a wooden brush box.  It's refined enough to be carried to any back gate, but it's distinctive enough that you won't forget which one is yours.  
Also, at $79 it's remarkably affordable for a custom wood piece.

9) Cheval Show Shirts

They fit.  They don't come untucked.  They have extra long arms for the right amount of "cuff."  They look cute when your coat's off.  And they are machine washable.  No ironing. 


You can definitely find cheaper "wrap collar" shirts out there. but these are so damn cute and the fabric is worth paying for.  They last and they launder well.  That is all.

I was going to finish the list with a world class equine like Sa Coeur or someone equally drool worthy. but since I don't think anyone is dropping multiple 7 figure checks on a horse anytime soon, we might as well stay within the stratosphere a little bit. 

10) Samshield Custom Helmet

At 995 Euros it better not only protect your noggin, but increase your IQ by a substantial percentage.  But price not withstanding, Samshield has come out with very attractive, subtly distinctive helmets.  I'm a fan of their "off the rack" options, but the pallets for their custom helmets are brilliantly done.  I recognize that both the hunter and dressage rings leave no room for such fabulous headgear, but It almost justifies a foray into the jumper ring where the audience would be both suitable and appreciative.   I played around on their website and came up with this fun thing:
And in case you can't see.  Yes, those are 255 tiny little rhinestones sparkling nicely around the perimeter of the brown lizard top piece.  Over the top? Sure.  But why not.  I wear a helmet every time I ride and it seems only fair that there's a possibility for it to be something fun and fabulous.

So many pretty things.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sometimes You Just Have to GET ON

I think I mentioned it, but I've been in a weird mode of loving my barn time but being totally unmotivated to ride.


It happens every few months, where the notion of tacking up and rolling the dice on what the P's will give me just sounds... arduous.

This morning I was scheduled for a 10:30 lesson with Prairie.  A muddy, wet, soggy Prairie who hasn't been ridden since Friday (and not by me in a week).  Add to that a slight cold that's trying to blossom into full blown snotty-sore-throatness.  And I was 99% committed to asking S to take the ride while I watched.

I did manage to squeeze myself into breeches and tall boots (to look like I intended to ride if nothing else..) before leaving the house in case S couldn't, or my fistful of cough drops magically recalled my drive to ride.

Maybe it actually was the cough drops, or maybe it was just going through the motions, but once the mare was groomed (ish, there's only so much mud one can get out without a steam cleaner) and tacked I was feeling pretty good about legging up.
giant beak.
I did opt for a quick lunge first.  The indoor was filled with gross farrier-hoof-burning smoke and the pounding rain was causing people to dart in and out of doorways in a very Prairie-concerning fashion.

Now, lunging Prairie is a crap shoot.  She's good on the lunge, and doesn't pull, or buck or fart around.  But the scurrying around in a circle can either get some of the frisky out, or totally escalate the gerbils to full panic.  Especially in the canter, she can let herself get a wee bit off balance and then it's just a hop, skip and a scoot to total meltdown.

Ergo, 10 minutes of lunging can actually do more harm than good in terms of quieting her brontosaurus brain.

Lucky for me there was no scooting so the 10 minutes of trot work and a wee bit of cantering seemed to take the edge off.

Also, the pelham that I've been schooling in a couple times a week has been requisitioned by it's actual owner which meant that I had the plain KK snaffle back on the bridle.  Not the twist.  Not the elevator bit.  The plain, chunky happy snaffle.  (hmm).

Turns out, the mare was pretty good!  If anything she was a bit dull - both to my legs and my hands.  I kept getting suckered into holding up her front end but S had me halt, and do our slow rein back to unlock and re-soften which helped quite a bit.

Then we did a really fun trot pole exercise which looked like this:
We started by coming up the center line, over the first pole, then collecting and turn back (either left or right) over one of the side poles.  Focusing on turning from the hind end and not falling on the inside shoulder.  For Prairie, (and me) this is hard.

The idea is to figure eight back and forth, going both directions with lots of opportunity to sit back and lift through the turns.  Good exercise for both of us since I can't possibly get away with relying on my inside rein, and Prairie didn't have time to get strung out or disengaged..  Brilliant really.

After about 10 minutes of trotting the figure eights, S asked us to add a canter transition after the angled pole, then return to the trot before turning back up the center line.  This made me really half halt over the poles and emphasized the need from Prair to be in my outside rein as we turned back to the rail.  Otherwise there was no shot of getting a halfway decent step into the canter, or having the balance to come back down 3 strides later.

The mare was... fabulous.

Then, about 50% of the time we would keep our canter and do a full 20m circle over both the angled poles, then return to the trot, back up the center line, change directions and canter the poles on the other lead.  Prairie put in a good show on this.  She didn't have any rage blackouts regarding the canter poles and even managed to add strides which prevented a strung out bounding stride.  Magical.

Again.  All still a bit dead to my leg and hand, but a hell of a lot better than her being overly sensitive, or loopy or scooty.

Finished up with some stirrup-less torture for me and called it a day.

Can you believe it? 3 days off, no martingale, a super soft bit and a happy, reasonable mare? I am shocked.  shocked I say.

As is usually the case, I'm so glad I made myself ride.  It was productive, energizing and totally rewarding.  I don't know what causes the no-ride-funks, but every time as soon as I swing back up in the irons I'm pleased as punch to be there and not quite sure what I was avoiding.

Mares.  They never give you what you're expecting...

As for Pia, she's with S today hopefully repeating their cavaletti work. So it's looking like a good day for our GPA! we might even achieve that elusive 2.0!

Tomorrow I'm stuck in meetings all day, but Thursday I get to hitch up the new truck (!!) and take both mares back to Summer Camp for a day of toe trimming.  P1 is due and my regular farrier (who I don't really use since I do P2's feet myself..)  looked at Pia's cute short, round feet with Natural Balance shoes on front and thought I was intentionally crippling her.

Since her heels are just starting to really widen and we finally have her back in a size 2 shoe I really don't want to impede her progress with a bad trim or different strategy.  Instead, we're off to see Cowboy Man so he can reset her fronts and give me some feedback on Prairie's feet as well.

When he saw Prairie a month ago, he was really pleased with her feet and only commented that perhaps I could work on her bars a bit.  I totally confess that I am terrified to take a knife to the bottom of a foot so I'd like that first session to be supervised.  Seems more than prudent.

Fun field trip coming up!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Just Shove It Down the Chimney...

Pardon me for a moment while I regale the spoiled-rottenness that I have become (as have my mares).  Apparently my increasing horse-trailering-events have been stressing out the Husband.  Mostly because if I want to haul the trailer I need to haul with his truck.  Not an issue except that his truck is a company truck and something that he actually needs to execute his job on a daily basis.  Additionally, he's sometimes outon a job site on a Saturday (or Sunday) which means I can't necessarily assume that weekend trips are fair game. 

So far our solution to this little conflict of interest has been that I ask politely and try to limit the times I steal the truck during the week and he tries his best not to panic about having to go out and do an emergency job while I'm tootling around with the horses on a Wednesday.

Ultimately this was not ideal for him (though I didn't have too many complaints) and his (obvious) solution was to just shove an F-350 down the chimney for Christmas.


I fully admit that this is an extravagant, lovely, fairy tale solution.  But I'm not going to complain.  Not while I'm rolling down the road in this beautiful thing, enjoying my seat heaters and blasting bad pop music out of the speakers. 
It's so sexy. 

Anyway, I'm beyond thrilled.  I can't actually really put into words how much fun it is. 

Is it absurd that we are a two diesel truck family? Yes.  Totally absurd.  But we also own a Smartcar so the gas mileage gods aren't too angry with us...  In point of fact, when I'm not hauling the trailer, this thing is averaging 18.5mpg.  My volvo only squeaks out 19mpg which means I don't have to feel too guilty taking the truck instead.  And this weekend with one horse in the back of the trailer we got about 15.5mpg... better than I was expecting.

So.  in conclusion.  I'm totally spoiled.  I'm also totally obsessed with the new truck and really (really really) thrilled with how well it tows.

In other news.  The girls have been devising new methods to further cover themselves in mud.  Somehow Prairie even got mud inside her shoulder guard and Pia got mud UNDER her forelock.   They seem to have a shared talent in that very specific regard. 

Other than that there's not much to report.  The holidays are quickly eating up my normal barn time.  Between year end stuff for the business, holiday parties and the inevitable errands associated with gift shopping and hosting friends, the girls are getting lots of pats and cookies, but significantly fewer schooling sessions... I'd give them an official few weeks off if we weren't planning on a little dressage clinic this weekend with an instructor who's visiting the farm.  I suppose it's worth some preparation for that... Argh.

I'm too busy trying to figure out what all the buttons in the truck do. :)

Also, I love how it looks with our trailer.  I'll never keep the black clean, but with the dark wheels I think it looks pretty sharp with the gray/black of the trailer.  

Does anyone need a ride anywhere?  Cause I'll totally pick you up...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Prairie was lucky enough to have our friends (the incomparable Joe + Jill) come out to the barn and take a few pictures.  Joe and Jill are fabulous people, fabulous friends and fan-ta-bu-lous photographers.  They did our wedding (and made the whole thing look even more magical) but have never shot horses before.  A few months ago they asked if I would be willing (willing!) to let them come snap some pics of Prairie and stretch their skills and portfolio a little outside their norm. 

Obviously I jumped at the chance to be guinea pigs.  Prairie was a snorting monster, Joe and Jill's two (adorable) kids had a blast scampering around the property and all in all we had a good time.  They wanted to play with their light a lot so we stuck to portraits which were easier to accomplish while trying to keep the big soft lights from tipping over in the mud.  Not exactly their normal studio shoot... :)

Prairie was great about the flashes and looming lights and only tried to eat a camera lens a couple of times (whoops).  Here's a few of my favorites (one already being the new banner).  I love how goofy Prairie looks in some of them.  Though we look down right classy in a couple shots if I do say so myself. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Raising Your GPA (Good P Average)

This weekend I discovered a new measurement tool for how my day at the barn goes - my GPA. 

Now unlike High School and College where my GPA floated somewhere north of 3.7 without much effort, the new GPA (Good P Average) falls somewhat lower, even when considering a perfect score is a 2.0 (two P's... so two possible points).

If a mare is great and happy and a pleasure to work with, she gets her full point.  A good ride but tough? .75.  Kind of a twit? somewhere between .25 and .50.  And of course totally god awful would earn a mare a big fat 0.0 on the day (and possibly a for sale sign). 

Now I get that I'm adding their scores (not really averaging), but I never said it was a perfect system. 

Saturday Prairie was a good girl, but a tough ride.  We tried to do some figure eights over a cavaletti in the indoor, but Prairie was all tweedley and got so damn freaked out by the 8" pole that we had to make it a bit more remedial before we found success.  But she finished on a good note and earned a solid .60 for the day.  When she wasn't anxious though, Prairie was very balanced and engaged in her canter.  Considering that we were back in a snaffle I appreciated that effort and focus.

Pia was a star for S, but got a little exuberant and wanted to crow hop around a bit so she finished with a .75. 

Grand total for the day?  1.35. 

Sunday however I came home with a rather dismal 1.0 GPA.  The morning started out gorgeous and we had every intention of taking the girls for a trail ride.  But by the time I got to the barn the clouds blew in and it was pouring buckets.  Since lessons were filling up the indoor we still rode outside but the slop encouraged us to stay at home instead of risking worse weather on the trail and the inevitable mud. 

I put Prairie back in the pelham and planned to do a quick 20 minute school, almost like a show warmup.  Hop on, walk a bit, pop some transitions.  Shoulder in each way.  Short canter tour and done.  No need to work too hard when the rain is coming down sideways. 

Prairie however had other plans.  She was nervous, fidgety and explosive.  I think she was just distracted and excited at the cold air/rain and looking for excuses but it was not enjoyable.  I tried diffusing with some of our magical halt/slow rein back stuff but every halt rendering her snorty and pawing.  And our rein back was rushed and anxious, or totally ignored and replaced with small bunny hops/threats to rear.

Not. Okay.

Meanwhile Pia was the cutest little squirrel imaginable.  She was soft, but attentive.  Both her ears and lower lip were floppy the whole time and she was perfectly happy to walk and trot around in the rain splashing through all the puddles. (she's still being ridden in a rope halter with two reins to the nose)

I finally got so fed up/freaked out with Prairie that S and I swapped beasties.  She tried to walk Prairie calmly (emphasis on tried) while I finished on a happy note with Miss Pia. 

Prairie really cemented her 0.0 score when walking her out to pasture was more of a kite flying exercise than anything else.  Pia on the other hand was super soft and very obedient with her leading exercises even with her anticipation of rejoining Prairie out in pasture.  So Pia carried the team with a 1.0.

The Good (albeit soggy) Sister (at least on Sunday)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Field Trip Recap

Wednesday had some low-lows (letting Star go), but it also had some high-highs in the form of perhaps my best ride to date on Miss Prairie.  Maybe such a fabulous ride was Star's parting gift (if mare's can communicate that way... pretty sure they can), or maybe Prairie just knew that I could use a pick me up.

Either way, it was a very productive ride, and for the first time in a while Prairie seemed very relaxed and happy in her work.

This is her third time working with this trainer (the first lesson I rode, last week S took P2 and then yesterday makes three...) which I think contributed to her increased relaxation, But I also think that hauling down with a gelding helped out too.

While S was tacking up and getting ready for her ride, I noticed that instead of screaming and looking for her trailer buddy, Prairie just munched on some hay, drank lots of water and snoozed in her borrowed stall.  While I think she is more at ease at this barn now, I don't think that explains it all.  S and I got to talking and nearly every time I've hauled Prairie it's been with a mare who she becomes fiercely attached to even in a 20 minute trip.  But the last two trips have been with a sweet gelding and the last two trips have seen less bellowing, searching and desperation to be reunited with her friend.

Maybe it's the hormone-less gelding? who knows... but it's an argument for a mare-ish supplement or perhaps even experimenting with Regumate again...

Regardless, I was grateful for the calm demeanor and excited to ride.  We started out just walking long and low around the ring before we picked up our trot and again worked on slowing the tempo while keeping the hind legs quick and underneath her.

Nancy then had me halt.  Get Prairie low and deep (and soft) in the bridle, and slooooowwwwlllyyyy  (key word there) back her up encouraging her spine to roll up and rise under my seat.

which it totally did.

Then, trying to keep the lifted back and low/deep/soft neck, we moved into a walk, and eventually back up to a trot.  Whenever Prairie started to brace (or I did), we returned to the halt and repeated the process.

It seemed to work wonders, and after a few short repetitions Prairie was soft, blowing and floppy eared.

One of the hard parts is keeping the rein-back slow.  Prairie wants to invert and shoot backwards like she's avoiding a punishment.  You can see the anxiety in her eyeball and she's a little wary.  So coaxing a slower, controlled rein-back is a little tricky, but it results in a nice stretch over her back and once she figured that out, the mare seemed to readily oblige.

Then we moved into some nice haunches in/shoulder in work that felt looser and nicer than our recent lateral attempts.  I was reminded constantly to keep Prairie as soft in the bridle as she is during that slow rein back.  If I can't get it with some easy suppling, then it's back to the halt/rein-back to dislodge the tension.

It certainly helps Prairie but I found it a really effective tool for me as well to ensure that I don't get rigid in my shoulder/elbow.  I really liked it.

Finally we moved into our canter work was was mind-blowingly-amazing.  You may recall our early canter work as resembling a runaway freight train plummeting down a hill.  So finding a nicely balanced, cadenced, contained canter is always exciting.

I worked on nice half halts during our suspension and also asking Prairie to contain her frame even during releases of contact and pets on the neck.  We kept the halt/rein-back move in between each canter depart and it was fairly magical.

Compare this screen shot from yesterday:
blurry but you can see the general shape.. kinda
 to this shot from our first show back in June:
I recognize the first shot is slightly earlier in the stride, but not by much.  Even with all the blur you can tell how much farther underneath her body Prairie's hind legs are and that her weight is farther back.  Also, I'm not dragging against her face with all my might like I was back in June.

Aside from keeping my arms loose and soft, I also lightened my seat a lot more than I'm used to.  My tendency is to always SIT down and really ride with me seat, which I don't think is helpful for Prairie's hammock of a back.  But it's a position I feel safe in, and like I can defend myself against scoots/inversions/etc.  However, unlike on P1 or other horses I've ridden, I think with Prairie I tend to drive her a bit hollow.  Even though my intention is the opposite.

Bah.  So I ended up thinking about putting 50% more weight in my stirrups and quieting my hips.  I doubt I shifted more then 10lbs into my stirrups and I still sit pretty deep but I think it changes my mentality.  Whatever it was, it was working yesterday so I'm looking forward to playing with it some more.

Here's a quick video of the same canter about halfway through our lesson.  I dare say we got even a bit lighter and more collected in our later work, but that video is like 5 minutes and I don't feel like sifting through it all :)

It was a great lesson.  Prairie felt so relaxed, happy and content.  She worked happily and her trot and canter were beyond words.  She was 100% between my aids and focused on me.

Here's hoping we can replicate some of the magic back at home... 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Goodbye.

The Matriarch.

Goodbyes. They're inevitable. 

With love, comes the possibility of loss and with our animals(/teachers/supporters/friends/confidants), it's almost a certainty.

I've been extraordinarily lucky with all of my animals.  I've only ever lost one dog (he was ancient and perfect and ready to go) and a few cats (some to age, one to cancer and a couple presumably to coyotes).  

I've never lost a horse. 

I've sold horses, and I've lost track of horses who I spent years with.  I suppose some of them have probably long since gone onto greener pastures, but not knowing is different than knowing, and yesterday I had the new experience of knowing that my dear, sweet (sorta mean), wise old pony was indeed ready to go. 

In her grand old age of forty-something, her body finally betrayed her age and after suffering from a few seizures, yesterday she had a bad choke.

Nothing was able to clear it, leaving surgery as the only option. 
A surgery that she probably wouldn't survive, and even if she did - what for?

So, one of my oldest and best-friends made the call.  She let me know what was going on, and since I was still hauling Prairie back up from our lesson, there was no feasible way for me to get to the pony without delaying her relief - something I couldn't even begin to ask of her.

Star hasn't been part of my daily riding life since I was 14.  But she's always been a part of who I am as a Rider, an Owner and a Person.  Some of my best moments and biggest achievements were on that pony.  She was the first horse I stayed up with all night during a colic.  The first horse I ever gave a bath to or braided for a schooling show.  She was the first horse I fell off and the first horse I qualified for nationals on.  She taught me pretty much everything I know about not getting bit, or kicked, or scraped off on a tree on the trail.

She professionally refused to acknowledge any previous training and taught me to teach her.  I'll never forget the first Prelim cross country fence I took (or rather, she took me over) and I'll certainly never forget my first Musical Freestyle.  More importantly, she was that perfect friend and supporter through adolescence and gave me the unconditional affection that every 12 year old girl needs from somewhere.

One of my favorite memories was one night after a fight with my parents (presumably about making my bed or math or something equally epic) and I decided that I was running away. I thoughtfully packed a backpack of snacks and books (I was really going to be prepared), but then after slipping out my window and making my way to the barn I realized books weren't as important as grain for my pony, so I dumped out my backpack, filled it with Star's grain and then legged up and trotted away bareback. 

I'm pretty sure I was only gone for a few hours, but for those few hours I had my pony, some granola bars and enough grain to keep Star motivated for a couple of days.  It was all a 13 year old really needs. 

So I'll miss her.  Even though I wasn't the one making her mashes every morning or bringing her in from her pasture every night, I'll miss knowing that my old, cranky pony was tootling around enjoying her retirement.  And I'll miss the occasional text with a picture of her doing something absurd. 

But I'm glad that the last time I saw her she was trotting around a giant field and scratching her rump on a pile of lumber. 

And I take (almost) total comfort in the fact that she was a strong, healthy, happy pony for the last 20 years of her life that I had the pleasure of knowing her. 

So Star - I thank you for all of it (even the hard parts) and I'll never forget you.

One of my first rides on the lady.
and one of my last visits to see her.
A few more details on the pony are here and here

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

We're back, we're back....

Whoops another week went by... Sneaky how that happens!

The mares are good.  If you had asked on Sunday, I would have told you that both of them were for sale - but today they are both back in good graces and I'm sure that none of it had to do with holiday exhaustion or PMS.
(not actually for sale anymore,)

But onward. 

I've been at a bit of a loss as to what to do with Miss P.  She's clearly ready to work, and even I'm bored walking around the property - but our basics are not there.  She's re-learned how to run away from people (everyone).  She's darted off while being led with me, S, and even the guys who work at the barn.

Naughty girl.

That sort of crap makes me think we have a lot of groundwork to solidify, but Vet Lady said to get her moving and back to work, so we're doing that.  Sunday I started by working on some liberty/join up stuff that resulted in nothing productive.  Whenever I moved P off or away from me she turned, shot her feet at my head and snarled.

I tried to stand my ground and stay "alpha" but there's no denying that I got defensive and protective and she had the upper hand in maneuvering.  Very frustrating.

Finally, totally against Cowboy Man's philosophy I gave up, used a halter and started running her through a jumping chute.  I know I should have worked free until she joined up.. but like I said, I was PMSing, the mare was bitchy, and I got bored of failed attempts. 

Frankly Pia seemed as relived for a change of exercise as I did.  P also looked pretty darn cute.  The line was simple, a small X bounce to a bigger X, one stride to a vertical.  We bumped them up once but didn't take anything over 3'.  After 10 repetitions one way, we swapped the direction and repeated.  Pia seemed interested, engaged and comfortable going through the whole thing.

She's definitely much better at sitting back and using her body than she was in Spring of 2011, which is helpful.  It's nice to know that the $$$ spent on bodywork got us somewhere....

After playing in the line, I decided it was time to tack up the mare and go for a walk.  I was nervous from the aggressive groundwork though so I politely requested that S take the first few laps, which she graciously did before I legged up myself.
Tacked up with her cute new pink/purple rope halter...
P seemed totally content under saddle.  No nervous head twitches, no chest biting, no anxiety.  I walked the mare around for a good 10-15 minutes.and she was alert, but loose, head swinging and calm.  I tested my brakes (reins attached to halter) and my steering with no bad results.  But since she had worked well over the jumps I kept everything at a walk and called it a day.

Always nice to end with some success.

its a happy P!
After I put Pia away I grabbed Prairie who was about as cooperative as Pia had been on the ground (that is to say, not at all).

We also worked through a small grid, but the big mare was Loony Tunes and after a series of increasingly tense/rushed passes through, she scooted off like a rocket and began bucking around like a moron.  Not like she was trying to get me off per se, but like a predator was attempting to gnaw on her hind leg or perhaps pulling on her tail.

I hopped off and found absolutely no explanation so I got back on and we proceeded to finish on a slightly improved note.

Not a good day at the barn.  Totally frustrating and discouraging and obnoxious.

Fortunately, my morning out there today was better.

Pia lunged politely in the outdoor and rocked her leading exercises and Prairie decided that maybe (JUST MAYBE) she could actually jump a small grid without loosing herself in a rage blackout. 

Tomorrow S has Pia and I take Prairie back down south for another lesson with Nancy Free.

Field Trips help all things :)

all better :)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Radio Silence

Sorry for the off-air interruption.  I've been swarmed with our annual exec retreat, out of state depositions and.. oh yeah, an extra horse at home :)  I guess that explains my lack of online mutterings.

But never fear, the girls are well.  Both of them have been enjoying their new routine (I think) and P1 is settling in fabulously.

Here's a succinct synopsis of what we've been doing.

P1 is proudly and confidently enjoying her walks around the property.  She's officially calm enough to eat grass while exploring.

P2 got to go for a ride in a Happy Mouth mullen pelham.  She seemed to enjoy it.  (2 reins, not a joiner)

In the pelham - P2 had two days in a row with 2 perfect flying changes per lead.  in a row.  No mess ups.

P1 got to do some liberty work in the indoor.

I got to try P2 in the pelham and loved her canter work, but feel like the leverage might back her off too much.  I tried loosening my curb rein a ton but she was still a bit explosive. 

P1 got to eat snacks in the wash rack and work on her ground tying.

Both P's got a tail wash and plenty of apples courtesy of Supermom.

Oh yeah.  and S dug through the depths/archives of her parents' tack room and pulled out this gem:

I think P has her Halloween costume picked out for next year....

BAHAHAHAHA.  Poor Mare.  I think she misses Summer Camp

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

P2 Grids It

S spent a day jumping everyone through a small grid last week - which means that P2 and I got to take advantage of it for our lesson (grin).

It was low, but it was all bounces. Which in retrospect is something I'm not sure Prairie has ever done one of, let along the four in a row that we worked up to....

Mostly the goal was to work on my setting Prairie up more actively (in front of my leg, balanced on her butt... not strung out..).  Which is hard for me.  My current "strategy" over fences is to just slow her down to a crawl and let her push herself over.  So far it's worked pretty well for us, but it's not what I would call a fabulous foundation....

We also thought some bounces would help Prairie manage her own body a bit more and also help her sit back when she lands instead of letting herself get stretched out and flat.

We were mostly right.

The only sketchy trip through was when S added an extra fence and Prairie backed off at the beginning and it felt like she couldn't quite "see" her route through the grid.  But she lumbered over them all. I just slipped my reins, slouched in the back seat and tried not to get in her way. 

Mostly though it was super fun and super cute and Prairie did it without much support from me...

The impressive part is that the grid was set for normal horse strides.  Which is something we could not have shoved our big long selves into a few months ago.  So yay for that!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Back to Beginnings

I had a great evening out at the barn last night.  Mondays tend to be pretty quiet anyway, but there seems to still be a bit of a hangover from Daylight Savings and not everyone has returned to ride in the dark and cold. 

My girls were waiting patiently by the gate when I arrived and I realized that there were a lot of things about "two horses" that I haven't really considered - Who do I work with first? does the other one stay out in the pasture? come in? if they come in, who do I take in first? does it matter? probably not... but still...

Since their third pasture mate was already in for the night I didn't want to leave a lone P out to run amok.  I briefly contemplated the thought of leading them both at the same time, but figured I might want to save that maneuver for when they've known each other a little longer and Pia feels a bit more at home..

Since P2 is used to the place I grabbed P1 first and ambled slowly back to the barn with lots of halts and backing on the way.  She was good.

P2 was moderately patient about being left behind.  She has a really cute head waggle that she does when she's impatient.  It's not the worst bad habit I've seen but I also try to not to encourage it... regardless any time your horse looks like they are waving to you and nickering for you to hurry up and come get them I think it's moderately adorable. 

But on our walk back, P2 was pushier than P1, so we had a few "opportunities" for some leading exercises as well as we made our way to the barn (and all of her friends).

If there was any doubt as to whether the mares would become horrifically attached to each other - it's been answered (repeatedly.  and loudly).  Pia was anxiously nickering and shoving her head out of her stall trying to find Prairie when we walked into the barn aisle.  Prairie answered her, but went in her stall and shut up like a good kid.  I'm hoping Pia figures that move out soon.

My goal with Pia for the night was to start putting in place the consistency and relaxation that P1 had at Summer Camp.  So I made up a hot mash and placed it in our wash rack, looking to replicate Cowboy Man's initial "standing" exercise that he often works for new horses at the farm.  P's anxiety about the wash rack from Sunday was totally gone and the arrival of a familiar snack seemed to trigger her memory of the standing game. 

I didn't think to snap on my lunge line so I could really stand at a distance, but I think I'll try to remember that in the future. 

P was good, and didn't think to start pushing out on my space until after she had finished her snack (typical).  I got a few good moments of calm standing without any attempts to push her boundaries and then we went for a property walk. 
Snack (and standing) Time
Our farm is laid out nicely with good "alleys" between all the paddocks making for lots of routes to explore and paths to zig zag around.  It was dusk when we headed out and a neat/creepy fog was settling in over all the grass which sorta put me on edge but Pia stayed pretty relaxed. 

The only indication of tension was that when we did halt, she immediately stopped paying attention to me and started staring intently at everything.  Her current interruption to regain focus is to hold your fist back under their chin (like you have a treat) and ask her to "soften".  CM teaches all the horses that they only get treats when they flex and soften up, but eventually he stops treating them and just uses it as an interruption to get their attention.  P wasn't so interested in the "softening" (even for a real treat), but she was still very responsive to "head down" which is also a good attention release and results in eating grass. 

So I used that as my relaxation method and we worked our way around the farm.  P puffed up and snorted loudly at an ugly stump, but after a few requests to "touch,"  She marched right up to the thing stuck her nose all over it and instantly deescalated. 

That was it for Miss P.  I worked on grooming her a bit in her stall while she ate and tried to be big and dominating if she pinned her ears or wanted to get possessive.  She was pretty good, but still a bit of a snake.  I think that will be an ongoing issue for us, especially as she spends more and more time in a stall again.

P2 meanwhile had been munching her dinner and displayed equal joy (and volume) upon P1's return to the barn.  But when I swapped my attentions and pulled P2 out for a ride, P2 got quiet and calm and P1 resumed the concern for being abandoned.  At least (right now) they both seem to focus well as long as they are the one doing the leaving.  I'll be curious to see how this little friendship develops. 

I put P2 in her jump tack even though I only intended to ride on the flat because I've been feeling like my leg is more effective and secure in my shorter stirrups again (somehow that statement flip flops between my dressage length and jump length like twice a year.. I've never entirely understood why).  She was feeling a bit strong in terms of momentum, not contact - so I worked hard on trying to rate her down to where we were in our lesson with Nancy a couple weeks ago.  Working in the indoor arena is very, very good for keeping us honest with our rhythm and our balance since Prairie eats up the long side pretty damn fast with her big stride...

All in all it was a great day.  Two horses is going to be a very different routine, but at least last night I really enjoyed making myself switch gears and focus on different goals with each of the girls.  

loving it.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The P's

She's back!  The girls are together (for more than a weekend) and so far everything seems to be settling in well. 

Pia came off the trailer super relaxed and calm.  Interested in the world around her, but chill enough to keep her neck at a nice relaxed angle.  No snorting, or llama neck, or need for a chain (!!).  Cool Mare. 

She got thrown out into a nice paddock to unwind from the haul with her buddy from Summer Camp, Aspen. 
Cute P and Aspen
 That was about when the human people opted to grab an early dinner and warm up with a few margaritas before tucking the ponies in for the night. 

P was either upset that she didn't get a margarita, or was thoroughly not impressed with Aspen's company, because upon returning to the barn she was glistening in a nice coating of icicles (looked like glitter), from frozen sweat on her big fluffy coat. 

Super sad.

But we got her warm, and dry and tucked into a stall without too much effort.  She spun up again when we loaded Aspen back in his trailer to go home, so I opted for a small dose of ace to help quiet her and take the edge off.  (I figure if I get a cocktail, or two - she should get a little something also).

I was a touch concerned, so The Boy and checked back in around 11pm and all seemed to be right with the world.

By morning the P was totally chill, happily munching her hay, saying hi to passersby and generally alert but calm.  P got turned out with P2 and P2's pasture buddy, Sadie all without too much fuss.  Sadie was none too interested in sharing Prairie with a newcomer, but the drama was limited to some pinned ears, nasty mare looks and a few threats of a kick.  That was about as crazy as it got though.

So I spent the day making grain baggies, unpacking P's stuff into her locker and trimming her ridiculous yak fur.  Mostly I just chopped her mane, took 8" off her tail (it was dragging) and gave her a thorough currying.  I don't really want to trim or clip much of anything else until we're back to work - which I think is a couple weeks off.  Cowboy Man suggested a few weeks of just good solid groundwork and letting P feel totally comfortable in her new home before introducing some rides.   She's been just awesome in all of her under saddle work, but when she's stressed she still reverts to old habits and anxiety. 

Since we don't have an agenda, I figure there's no reason to push it.  Plus it's really nice just to actively reconnect and spend time working around her again. Also, I want to pack some lbs back on her ribs which should be a bit easier with a stall and some blankets :)

She's so cute, I'm insanely excited to have her home again.  I will say that I'm shocked at how small she feels after getting so used to P2.  It feels like I have a pony again!  Which is awesome in it's own right.

There's lots of other fun stuff to report like the fact that her feet look over the top fantastic, but all in due time.
P1 looking moderately noble while P2 looks.... like a llama
sniff sniff
For now I'll just walk around like a grinning idiot and try to figure out how I can spend more time at the barn...

Friday, November 9, 2012

Blanket Bought

It's amazing to me how much time/energy I spend on horsey purchases only to casually pull the trigger on purchases in any other aspect of my life...

Regardless, I finally purchased P2's Heavy blanket for the winter (it's cold here too sometimes, I swear).  Maybe not arctic, but cold enough.  :) 

I ended up going with the SmartPak High Neck Turnout.  The reviews seemed good, the price was great and when we took our field trip last week for our lesson there was a horse in the barn wearing one.  So after a mildly creepy "um, do you mind if I look at that horse's blanket...?" request I was able to go in and poke at it, look at the seams and buckles, etc. 

I must say the fit looks claaaaassy (at least on the horse I saw) so I'm hoping it contours well to P2 also.  Because she's a classy gal and likes to wear well tailored clothing.

Fingers crossed.

If nothing else I'm sorta excited to explore a new brand.  If it's a failed experiment then it's back to Horseware, Weatherbeeta and Pessoa for m...

ps - Pia comes tomorrowwwww!!! But today I'm going to the barn today to trick out her tack locker with my helpful Dad.   Organizing and ponies, what's better!?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Outside the Sandbox

As much as I love trails rides and tout the "outside the arena" work as Pia's primary salvation... I still hadn't taken Prairie on a proper trail ride (until today).

We've done lots of property walks (which are exciting enough, thanks).  And she worked the perimeter of the property out at Summer Camp back in September, but I haven't headed out on an honest to goodness nose-to-tail ride with her yet. 

Perhaps it's because I'm not 100% confident in our brakes, or because more often than not when we leave the property there's a not so small part of the mare's brain that is totally cool with running away with me.

Maybe that's why.. ..

But the fact of the matter is that our current barn is blessed to be backed up next to a few decent "mountains" with tons of trails.  One of those mountains is actually a horsey-house-development and it has awesome trails (some wide, some narrow) twisting all the way up and around the hills.  Basically it's extremely horse friendly and all the dogs/chickens/teenagers that lurk in the shadows are used to horses passing by and tend not to behave like idiots. 

So when the weather was crisp but clear when I arrived for my lesson this am, S suggested we bag the transition drills and go do some hill work on the trail. 


I opted to put Prairie in jump tack (with martingale and extra brakes in the mouth) just in case she was a little... distracted.  S had ventured up one of the hills with her on Sunday with no drama so my anxious mind was at east, but this time we wouldn't have a stalwart trail veteran with us.  Just Prairie and another trail-green-bean to freak each other out and no one to take the lead.

Turns out it wasn't an issue.  Prairie was perfectly willing to blaze the trail (literally, since said trail was hidden under a colorful layer of fall leaves...) and aside from snorting and blowing like a dragon for the first 20 minutes she totally held it together.
Prairie was just as confused as I was as to where the trail actually went...
 We had a few moments where she had to stop and snort at an offensive stump or fencepost.  But she eventually went past everything without much drama. 

The really cool part is that this trail system is all hills all the time and at first I nearly thought the mare was lame, but then S helpfully pointed out that she wasn't lame, she was just lifting her back and really pushing from behind.

ohhhhhh.  So that's what that feels like.... neat.

We turned around after about 30 minutes and although I was nervous about descending the crazy hills that we had already clambered up, Prairie was oddly mindful about sitting back and carefully picking her way down the muddy slopes.  I was shocked that I could basically give Prairie her head and let her pick her own way down.  If I were a betting woman I would have put good money down guessing that the mare would be a loon and skid/scramble/run down without much head for footing or her limbs...

So I was quite pleased when our entire ride back home was just as careful (if a touch faster) as our ride out. 

It also didn't hurt that the weather was gorgeous, the forest was beautiful and a total break from our normal routine.

When we got back to the farm I popped into the arena for a few transitions to test her focus.  She went right to work and I called it a day after only a few minutes of serpentines. 

So fun.  Maybe she'll be able to keep up with Pia on the trail after all....
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