Thursday, May 31, 2012

A "Simple" Line

Wednesday morning I popped out to the barn for a quick lesson with S, since she hadn't overseen a ride in about a week.

Once again she demanded that I drop my stirrups (damn you!) and work on staying tall and keeping my leg under me (why my inside leg wants to go halfway to Prairie's flank, I don't know).  P2 was not thrilled with me wobbling about on her back, and in fact I think my terrible equitation inspired a bit of a spook, though I'm happy to say that it was well managed and I told myself she was just reacting to the stirrups crossed over my saddle and not to my wobbly body.

I don't think it was an example of our finest work, but Prairie stayed light and mostly soft and I didn't fall off.

(close enough to a win for me.)

After I was given my stirrups back S set a "simple" line of canter poles (read: two poles) down the long side on the quarter line.  We've been working P2 off the rail to help with straightness and making me manage her body without relying on the arena fence.  I think it's a good thing.

The poles were set 7 strides apart, which made me think that this was going to be an easy, simple exercise for the mare.

Not so.

Not even remotely so.

We started on the left lead, at the scary end of the arena where Prairie was mostly focusing on me (and not on jump standards cougars in the corner).  Because I'm a chicken and rarely canter my horse all the way down the longside in the big outdoor, I asked politely if we could start by cantering the first pole on a circle.  This sounded even easier than cantering down the line, but still - not so.

Prairie was good, but as soon as she saw the pole everything went to crap.  Head popped up, shoulders fell out, she pulled down onto her forehand, etc.


Once we cleared the pole I'd sit up (I think) half halt, and the mare would balance nicely...

Little, lovely canter... little lovely canter... little lovely canter... POLE!!!!!

So, we spent 10 minutes getting me straight and sitting on my outside seatbone, balancing the mare, and trying to pretend like there wasn't a pole on the ground (there is no spoon?). Once we mastered the (one) pole on the (nice) circle, we went for the "simple line."

Little, lovely canter... little lovely canter... little lovely canter...pole? got it.. no big deal. Little, lovely canter... little lovely canter...OMG ARE WE GOING STRAIGHT!!?!?

daaaaaammmmmnnnn  (For the record the mare did the line in 4 strides, after 1.5 normal strides if that gives you an idea of how nicely she can "extend.")

So we repeated the cycle,  I tried really hard to sit UP and not get pulled out of the tack, and we aimed to get 5 nice strides in the line. Eventually we got it and Prairie was so balanced and light about it that I could have done it on the buckle.

But then we changed directions and the jump standards cougars in the corner looked even more terrifying and hungry when we were going to the right.

Back to the trot... which, since the arena was freshly dragged showed our supper awesome 4 loop serpentine as we wiggled our way down the line closer to the jump standards cougars in the corner... At this point I had been on for about 40 minutes and between Prairie getting a bit tired (lots of cantering) and also losing focus, she was getting really heavy and really dull to my legs.  I was totally feeding into it and even though S was reminding me to "release my half halts" I'm pretty sure I was trying to muscle the mare around with nothing but my ring fingers and biceps (ouch).

Because of the jump standards cougars in the corner, we ended up schooling the "simple" line at the trot for another 10ish minutes before I felt like I had anything resembling a focused horse and a shot in hell of making it through at a canter without bolting off into the woods. 

But we did it.  The first few times through were... sad.  But slowly P2 got more relaxed, slower and stayed a bit balanced.  I won't fail to mention that this transformation seemed to coincide with me stepping into my outside stirrup, staying tall, oh and reeeeleeeaasssssing my half halts.

I am proud to say that while my outside rein really did almost rip my fingers off a few times, I did a spectacular job of not cheating and grabbing at my inside rein.  Even when we were galloping off slightly uncontrolled.

So, to sum up:

I need to sit up.  I need to stay to the outside.  "Lengthening" our stride in the canter for First level shouldn't be an issue (but returning to a working canter might be..) and nobody got eaten or even attacked by the jump standards cougars in the corner.

Good Mare.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Regarding P2's Feet

So, I had my favorite vet out yesterday to just check in on P2 as well as to give the little bulldog her routine acupuncture and laser treatment (she looks like a total Frankenstein-frankfurter mid session..).  She also was coming to take a look at one of S's clients to see what was up with his general anxiety/aggression.  An OTTB who has had a rough life punctuated by several owners in a row who either didn't understand him, were terrified of him, or both.  He's a super sweet boy when he wants to be, but holy crap - when he flips that switch he is totally tuned out and sorta scary.

He's so reactive that it makes me think he's got a story to tell, But S is thinking that a fair amount of pain might be pushing him over that edge.  Adorable boy though.

Anyway.  P2:

The vet was thrilled to see that P2's walk already seems to be "coming together."  Which she sort of described as the difference between a slinky/accordion/bendy-bus and a cohesive connected animal.  We settled on that slinky dog thing from Toy Story? I think that's a good description of where P2 was.
slinky... horse?
Happy to say that she's officially no longer a slinky dog and as she develops her muscle she's holding herself together and staying a bit... well, like a less slinky dog.... more like a normal dog.(maybe still a wiener dog, but a normal wiener dog).

So that was good news.  Also, she was impressed to see how well P2 is muscling up in general (but especially along her spine) and P2 got full marks for suppleness and an A+ for her carrot stretches.  It's not much, but I *will* take credit for that!

Then we got to P2's feet.  Monday was the first time I saw Prairie after her trim and also the first time she's ever seemed a bit "ouchy" on the gravel.  Given how much hoof came off over the weekend for her trim, I'm not surprised.  Her feet look.... teeny.  They look nice and tidy, but they look like teeny paws compared to her clunky, clonkers that she had before.

My vet was slightly put off, but not horrified.  We looked at each foot individually and she explained what looked great and what she would change.  The summary is that she felt a bit too much heel was left on all four feet, which was robbing Prairie of about 1" of weight bearing surface as well as tipping her on her toes and potentially starting a bad cycle.

We grabbed her rasp and she showed me how she was taking down heel (hardly touching the already short toe) and evaluating her bars. (we ended up taking them down a bit in her hinds, but she wasn't that concerned about them).

It was a really good learning session for me.  I feel like my eye knows when something "isn't right" but never really knows what exactly my brain is objecting to (I have the same issue with saddle fit).  So it's really nice to have someone talk me through it and explain what their evaluation is and why they are making adjustments.  I find feet so interesting.

What's cool is my vet absolutely loves the farrier who does our barn.  Even though she adjusted his trim a bit, she thinks that he is one of the most open, interested, dynamic hoofcare guys in our area who actually enjoys working with a vet or hearing about other perspectives.  I guess that isn't always the receptions she gets...

Also, I am thinking that if Prairie's feet stay as easy and balanced as they are right now I might try to learn how to maintain her myself.  Don't quote me on that because it sort of terrifies the ever living shit out of me, but I really like the theory of being able to keep her toes done myself and I got all excited about learning more about feet and working with Cowboy Man out at the farm while he's trimming the herd.

So, long story short: body = great!  Feet = good but a little chopped off.  Since she went 7 weeks last time between trims, I'm hoping maybe I try to get my vet out for the next trim in 5-6 weeks and ideally have both her and my farrier around at the same time.  But since I know that both vets and farriers operate in a totally different space-time continuum, I might just settle for getting my vet back first, hearing what she has to say then trying to coach the farrier when he comes to trim.

And now I swear I'll actually get some pictures up so that there's a record of her post-trim.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Time Away & Back Again

I hadn't mentioned it on here yet, mostly because I've been waiting to scan in a fantastic picture that I know is somewhere in the family archives, but I lost my grandmother two weeks ago and it's had a larger impact on my family than deaths usually do.(that sounds weird, but it's true)

I don't really need to delve into it here, but my grandmother was the matriarch of our family and probably responsible for any of my relatives accomplishing much of anything.  She was a take charge sort of gal who didn't relish in anyone putting any constraints or leashes on her.  She blazed her own trail and while I could fill a volume with her contributions to Seattle, among her bad-ass accomplishments that I feel capture her spirit were enrolling at the UW at the age of 16, moving to NYC on her own in order to work for the Red Cross and live in a boarding house where she managed to befriend the entire art scene (notably Peggy Guggenheim), she survived polio (with 3 kids under 5 chasing her wheelchair..), returned for a masters degree in her 40's and started the Seattle PBS station, built numerous charitable organizations in our community, and (of course) was always the consummate horse woman, having been raised at the local hunt club.

I'll give her a better post when I get that damn photo that I have stuck in my mind.

Anyone's passing should be accompanied by the appropriate level of grief, consideration, thought and growth, but losing my Dad's mom leaves a larger hole in my heart and weight on my mind.  Since my family doesn't have much of a church, we decided to escape to our home in Idaho to stare at the river, look at the pretty mountains and just spend some time with each other over games of cards and good bottles of wine.

I gotta say, it wasn't the most relaxing trip (family getaways rarely are), but it was really nice to log some together time and allow our hearts and head to think about our loss, and also how we move forward.

However, the time away meant no ponies for me - which has the unintended consequence of removing my best "de-stressor" as well as the closest thing to a church that I've got.  It's difficult for me to decompress and digest my daily world (friends, relationships, family, work) without my time in the saddle (or the cross ties)...

Regardless, I appreciated the time with the fam, but had worse barn-withdrawals than I'm used to.  Maybe it was the extra emotional load..

We got back late Sunday, so I scampered out to the barn first thing Monday and wrapped my arms around the mare.  I gotta say, she looks AMAZING.  Her toes are freshly trimmed (and I think look great), her coat is nicely shed out and shiny, and I swear that her topline filled in juuuuuust a little more in my absence.  I totally failed to take pictures of her feet or her neck, but I'll get some updated shots this week.

Prairie was a good girl in the crossties (in her rope halter) and didn't even seem to mind that I pulled her out of her sunny paddock when no one else was making their horse work (I still don't really understand how a barn of 40 horses is so empty so much of the time..).

I hadn't ridden outside in a while so we headed for the big ring and Prairie bravely marched around it (scary jump corner and all).  S managed to ride the mare nearly every day in my absence, and man - could I tell.

Prairie was balancing herself a bit more and her transitions (oh, her transitions!) were right there.  I was so excited that I just kept doing them and reveling in how light she was in the bridle and how soft she was (especially downward...).  The magic all died when another rider finally showed up (holiday weekend anyone!?) and politely asked if she could set some jumps.  I saw no problem with it, but apparently Prairie was feeling less accommodating as she "offered" a lovely canter half pass when the standards started moving around the arena.  The bright red wings were particularly offensive and resulted in total-loss-of-brainpower for about 30 seconds every time the girl or her cute dad relocated one. 

I was sad that we lost focus, but it ended up being a good opportunity.  Prairie had to stick her big nose on every offending object and we proceeded to spend the rest of the ride weaving in and out of the jumps, trotting past flower boxes, over ground poles and way-way-waaaay too close to that awful red wing oxer.

In good news, she was "offering Passage."

In bad news we ended the ride with the mare really heavy in my hand and me totally not following through with any of my "ah-ha's" from last week. 

Today I head out for some bodywork.  The little dog gets her treatment and so does Prairie.  Tomorrow I'll pack in a ride, then Thursday I get to GO SEE PIA!!!!!  I haven't seen the lady since our field trip to Eugene, so I'm anxious to plant kisses all over her nose.

Also, we're having a strategy session with Cowboy Man, vet and myself to come up with a realistic plan for Pia and decide when exactly I'll bring her home.  Since... I really want to bring her home.

Whew.  I think that's most of what's happened.  Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hitching & Waltzing...

I figured it out.  I finally got some decent damn imagery that keeps my spine tall (chest out!) and my elbows in (well, more in than usual) and my hands out in front of me.

1) Hitch Hikers Thumb - turns out that while I'm am oddly aware of my body, I also have WILDLY distorted notions of what is neutral and good.  If I think that I have my thumbs pointed out sideways like a hitchhiker, odds are they are approaching vertical with a nice straight wrist (not turned down and curling in like a kitty's paws when they nap).

2) Waltzing - One of the unintended consequences of growing up with my grandmother is that she was adamant that no granddaughter of hers would grow up without the appropriate (read: waay too much) education on the world of etiquette (can you identify the difference between a cucumber and a tomato serving piece?), classical dance and general social graces.   Long story short I can Viennese Waltz my tooshie off (given a strong partner) and look decent doing it.  Why am I rambling about this? Well the exaggerated, laid out position of a lady during this dance seems to be what I need to picture in order to unfurl my spine into something tall and (almost) straight when I'm up on m horse.

Once again, if I *think* I'm doing this:
Then there's a possibility that I am in fact upright (not tipped forward), with my hips under me and open so that my legs actually work.

Anyway, brilliant imagery right? It's a wonder I haven't become the next Sally Swift...

So, there I was, thumbs "out," back tall and arched back like I'm at some officer's ball, and by golly I was actually supporting my horse a bit.

Prairie was much more accepting of the bit this ride, and had even less head tossing/flipping than on Sunday, which seems to show me that this whole "Inside Rein Free Zone" thing is really helping her want to stay in the contact.

Of course our momentarily brilliance made it that much harder for me to stay true to the plan when she did pop off the contact and tune me out a bit.  It's SO PRETTY when it's good, that it's hard for me to stay balanced and correct when I know that snagging that inside rein just-the-teensiest-bit would keep her together and steady.

I know that (someday soon) I'll be able to use my inside rein for support like that again, but for now I need to totally erase it from my mind and let Prairie trust that I won't catch her in the mouth with it as a defensive move on my part.

If this week is any indication I'm pretty sure that we are headed in a good direction.

I'm so thankful that she's slow and patient enough to let me fumble through this stuff without holding it against me.  I'm definitely remembering how to be a better rider and actually enjoying the process.
Sweet mare...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sunday Hack (and more halter woes)

After our instruction packed start to the weekend, I was eager to get on the mare and see what the heck we could accomplish on our own.  The return of the drizzle sent me indoors where S was finishing up a leadline lesson.  I'm not 100%, but I'm pretty sure that the indoor is in fact smaller than a 20x40 meter ring, which makes for a bit of a cramped ride with Prairie and her "long lines" if someone else (namely a beginner on a line) is also riding. 

But, being relegated to a 20(ish) meter circle gave us a good opportunity to work on our zero-inside-rein-tolerance policy. 
(I might order this sign for the barn.  I need it, and I bet it would have a bigger impact than the "drug free" version does around high schools...)
So we started at the walk.  I was entirely focused on keeping my back straight (and tall! and even!) and my hands loose and following Prairie wherever Prairie wanted to go.  As she accepted my outside rein I focused on pushing her into it (Back tall! butt even! hands soft!) and asking for her to focus more and more on me, and less and less on the Donkey in the courtyard.  I noticed that in the game of push-push-pushing her into my outside rein, the size of our walk grows and pretty soon we're speed walking around our circle.  So I then tried to be mindful of our tempo and stride length without pushing the "back tall!" "hands soft!" out of my brain.

When S's lesson finished, we moved up into our trot work and moved out a bit more than we did during out lesson on Saturday (and much more than the micro-jog we worked on during Friday's lesson).  P2 was good.  I tried not to get annoyed when she tossed her head and stayed as true as possible to my "no inside rein" mantra.

We warmed up well and I threw in some serpentines to test our transfer of the outside rein (yay!), transitions to test my amount of leg (yay!) and then spiraled in and out of our circles to really lock P2 into my outside aids.

We felt great.

The mirrors in our indoor look more like a fun house than anything else, but even a distorted reflection (maybe it's not distorted... maybe I am really THAT wobbly looking) was enough of a reminder to get my butt under me, my chest out and a strong stabilizing post going.

Feeling ballsy I started to throw a few leg-yields in and holy crap they were rad.  I guess lateral work is easier when your horse is on the outside aids  who knew... (lol).

Anyway.  We worked a few canter transitions (no inside rein, no inside rein!!!) which felt strung out to me, but I didn't cheat! I stopped our canter work before I wanted because young kid came into the ring for a lesson, but  I finished P2 with some long and low work just looping around the arena.  I let Prairie go as low as she wanted, which resulted in her nose getting dirty and her butt a little strung out, but I was so happy she could stay on her feet that I let her be.

6 weeks ago this horse would have fallen on her face if I asked her to tip that far forward... So that was neat.  Also, she was so tuned in that our changes in direction were super fluid and balanced - even on the buckle.

Good mare.  I almost forgot how mad I was at her about the halter snapping... until I tied the rope halter back on her big head.

Speaking of halters.  GRRRRR.  I also got in a fight with the company that makes her big (pretty) halter.  They flat out refuse to sell a replacement crown piece.  I know I can order one from Smartpak, or Stateline, or wherever, but I HATE when things don't match (who knew).  I figured if I called the company up all sweet and "ooooooh I just LLOOOOOOVE my stuff from you" that they'd be so thrilled to have me as a customer they would sell me a replacement, even though none of their distributors seem to stock replacement parts.  But no, they declined to sell me just a crown piece.

Not even a pleasant English accent masked their latent disinterest in my plea.  Rude.

So fine.  Screw that.  I will take my tack whoring elsewhere (namely eBay) and I will give my dollars to someone else.  So I did.  I found this guy for not that much money:
(not my horse)
 But Prairie doesn't get to wear it yet.  Not until she stands like a lady in her rope halter for a while.  I do not relish this game that she has learned, and if I have to stand behind her with a broom and swat her butt every time she steps back, I will.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Field Trip #2 - Old Stomping Grounds

In a fit of "I think I'm making this horse worse not better" I reached out to my old BO and asked if she had time for us to haul in for a lesson.  She said she could fit us in on Saturday, so with a good productive Friday lesson under our belt we packed up on Sat for another hopefully enlightening workout.

That is until Prairie threw a fit and didn't have anything to wear (on her face).

Because she snapped her halter (again). While I was wrapping her.

Yes.  again.  She snapped it once Friday evening, but there was one hole left, so I buckled the torn end up (not classy, but functional). I had her standing in the cross ties while I wrapped her hind legs for the trip, when she got annoyed, stepped back, and ssssssssssnnnnnnnnnnnnap.  Bye.  Halter done-zo.

Fortunately I keep spare halters (for just this situation) in my trailer, but sadly, they are all normal horse size, not Prairie-the-boat-face size.  Closing in on our "ideal departure time,"  I started ransacking the barn.  Grabbing spare halters from known friends who I was pretty sure wouldn't mind.  But, Goldilocks the giant-faced-horse couldn't fit her snout in any of them.
 Anyway, I finally found an old leather halter in S's office that worked, so off we went.
looking embarrassed in her travel hat and makeshift halter...
P2 hauled well and came off the trailer exactly like she did when took our trip a few weeks ago to the park.  Ears up and a bit looky for a minute... but dozing in the sunshine after we walked about for 2 minutes...

Given all the halter-snapping and the fact that I apparently had zero functional spares, I politely asked The Boy to hold the mare while we tacked up, which went great, until she stomped on his foot.  (uggghhh).  Of course, add to this my mild anxiety about wanting approval and accolades for my fun new horse and I was a little edgy before I even got in the saddle.

Finally I got on, and it was more of the same from the Friday lesson.  Though the old BO is a bit more demanding than S and less appreciative of my bad habits.  She immediately forbid me from touching my inside rein which meant that Prairie thought she had full permission to look around and waggle her llama neck all over the place.

No matter.

I was to ignore it.  Boots on, and just the SLIGHTEST contact on the outside rein.  So much for us looking like rock stars.... the video confirms that we basically looked like drunk toddlers totally captivated by any passing bird/shadow/dog/cloud...

But I was determined to work through it, and eventually we did.  We repeated my Twister game from Friday... shoulders back, boobs out, butt under, hands up and together... WAH.  Who would have dreamed my bad habits would have reared their ugly heads so horribly in only 6 weeks!?

But we made progress.  After 20 minutes we even earned the right to trot! Just as ugly and disconnected as the walk, but eventually we got somewhere.  I know I can't "rely" on my inside rein, but I became painfully aware of how often I use it to reinforce the bend, keep Prairie's head down/in/focused and how much that in turn has been allowing my legs to go on vacation.  Old BO (old because she's not the current BO, not old as in... old) did make me feel less tragic in that she thought my "grabbiness" on the inside rein is probably a defensive maneuver left over from trying not to get tossed off Pia..  Makes sense to me, and I'd rather be acting of of fear and not laziness, so I took it...  Eventually I got more and more comfortable with letting Prairie do what she wanted with her head/neck and really (really REALLY) trying to just push her together with my legs.

Extremely frustrating.  I hate reprogramming my brain and body, even if it's necessary...

I did remember how flipping dreamy the BO's arena is.  Man that footing is perfect.  nicely damp, nice depth, super secure, no slipping and no uneven spots... That arena is certainly drool worthy.  I miss it.

It was also really good to see the BO.  She seems good, and her new horse is adorable and coming along really nicely.  It was hard not to feel a little harped on (not about my position, I deserved that) but in general.  Why don't I ride in spurs, why don't I have a flash on, why is this horse barefoot... and although she seemed to like P2, it was a qualified approval.  Not "she's nice, I'm glad you found a horse you enjoy" but "looks like she'll be a good project."  Maybe I'm just being sensitive, but it feels like the sort of back handed compliment you get from mean-girls in a high school locker room.

Long story short, I am very glad we went.  I got some criticism and pointers that I needed and it reinforced what S was talking to us about from a different perspective.  So that's helpful.  Also, for a second ride in a new environment, Prairie did great.  She's now 2 for 2 acting like a big girl in new places with me.

My hope is to squeeze in one more lesson before our schooling show.  I am gone this weekend, but that leaves June 2nd/3rd as an option to haul out once before we ride our tests. 

I am toying with the idea of dropping my First Level test.  But I keep going back and forth.  On one hand, it feels like we are so far from having lovely well balanced lengthenings ad 10m half circles to show for ourselves, but on the other hand... it's Dressage.

The worst thing that can happen is that we get a semi-tragic score.  It's not like I'm leveling up at an event before we are ready and I'll scare/hurt my horse by over facing it.  I suppose I can always just not lengthen our canter if it feels like Prairie will come unglued..

So, in that sense I sort of feel like why the hell not just leave us entered in Training 3 and First 1.  Ahhhh decisions decisions....I can feel my brain flip-flopping even as I type this.

Without further ado, here's a short clip from our lesson (before The Boy went to go take a nap).  You can see that I have a better contact with Prairie in my outside rein and that she's right between my legs.  But you can also see that she has learned I am not using my inside rein and that she can flip her head around however she wants... this behavior diminished during the ride, but didn't go away entirely.

Also, for those curious, there's a nice shot at the very end of her trotting away from the camera and you can see that she moves straight even with the uneven wear on her hinds...makes me think her feet are (mostly) fine and she's wearing them as she needs to.

Oh yeah - and when we got home, while I was taking off Prairie's wraps she sat back and snapped S's halter too.  MARE! That's three halter snappings in less than 24 hours.  Unacceptable.  And also embarrassing...

here's the video:

Monday, May 21, 2012

Thanks & Friday Lesson

Thanks to everyone for their comments.  I feel like everyone keys into something different with feet and even with crap photos I appreciate hearing your opinions :)  Hopefully our farrier is at the barn today (I hope) and I left him a little note with some specific instructions for Prairie's trim.

We do have one barefoot trimmer who is pretty well known in the area, but I have a bad taste in my mouth left over from Pia's feet going to absolute crap when they were bare and being trimmed by her.  I don't think it was her fault, but you know how that works... there's some lingering PTSD.

Anyway,  I'll take pics of the after, and be sure to get them up for followup...

In the meantime, we had a series of really productive rides this weekend which included two lessons from two different people and a hack on my own on Sunday.


The weather was unexpectedly nice, so when a lunchtime meeting stretched a bit long I figured it was well within my rights to just head straight to the barn, rather than return to the office for a few extra hours of mediocre productivity...

The inconsistent rides had me craving some feedback from the ground, so S agreed to a last minute lesson.  We started off with her asking me to "drop my stirrups."  Just about the time I reached for the buckle to lengthen them she clarified, "no, no.  DROP your stirrups."

oh noThis lesson was going to be painful.  

I have completely and totally neglected my sans-stirrup riding with P2 because my sadly out of shape body can barely post to her movement let alone accomplish any decent sitting work, or god forbid stirrup-less work.

Also, the random, but present, scoot/spooks have left me not that excited about giving up my stirrups deliberately for any length of time.

But, I am getting stronger in the tack and the scoot/spook situations are getting smaller and less frequent, so I suppose at some point I need to drop the damn stirrups and ride.  Knowing I would never volunteer for this activity, S gets a certain amount of credit for calling me out on it.

Stirrups dropped - we worked on me wrapping my legs (specifically my ankles) around the mare and getting some control of her shoulder.  What I'm learning is that when I think my outside leg is on, it isn't.  And when I think I'm not using my inside rein, I am.

Bad combo.

We spiraled our circle in and out at the walk, focusing on pushing her with my outside aids and ignoring my inside rein as much as possible.  Mare was good, and I got a really nice feel of that outside rein (yessss!).

Then we moved into the trot.  Or maybe I should call it a micro-jog.  It wasn't a trot that I've ever experienced on P2, but then again it also didn't launch me out of the tack, so I wasn't complaining.

S made me get my outside leg back on, and then (oh the pain) required 1/2 a circle posting, 1/2 a circle sitting.  (If I didn't on some sick level appreciate the work and pain, I'd be calling her lots of mean nasty names right now).

After several adjustments of my body during the micro-jog, S had me tucking my seat under me and lifting my shoulders.  Both remarkably helpful to actually riding my horse.  Also, we discussed my tendency to collapse at the waist, especially on the right side, during transitions.  Darn it.

So, in 15 minutes, just a few things to remember.  Tuck butt, lift shoulders, arms soft, outside leg on, inside rein off, waist tall, sink into outside seat bone, eyes up, chin in, and relax.

Spectacular.  That's either the worst game of twister I've ever played, or an average lesson.  Sigh....
Outside Rein.... BLUE!
After a quick break to replenish the blood flow in my legs we went back to the spiraling circles at the trot.  Prairie was great, and when I actually did all the things I was supposed to (Tuck butt, lift shoulders, arms soft, outside leg on, inside rein off, waist tall, sink into outside seat bone, eyes up, chin in, and relax) I had a marvelous feel of her shoulder, nice contact in the outside rein, and a rather balanced horse.  (yippee!)

S graciously returned my stirrups before our canter work, which is probably why this story has a happy ending :)

We focused on transitions and increasing the precision of my canter departs both from the trot and the walk.  When I remembered to do everything I was supposed to (Tuck butt, lift shoulders, arms soft, outside leg on, inside rein off, waist tall, sink into outside seat bone, eyes up, chin in, and relax) our transitions were pretty decent.  Some head tossing here and there, but better balance and almost no scooting about.

We finished the day with spiraling circles at the canter, which, sans-inside-rein were a very big challenge for me.  Cognitively I know that I need to push her in, not pull her... but in practice I didn't realize how much I was still using that inside rein as a crutch.  Not that I was pulling on it, but just nagging the mare, and using it where nice outside rein half halts should be.  darn it.

Prairie was patient, and gave me some really nice moments.  We finished on the left lead (our less balanced side) with a nice "spiraling out" where I felt locked and loaded in my outside aids and like I had total control of her shoulder.

Good mare.

Then she went and did this:
demon horse!
Yup.  That's her pretty new halter.  She sat back in the cross ties (note: she did not spook, she sat) and pulled through the crown piece.  BAH. bad mare.  At least she left one hole to buckle into for our field trip Saturday for our second lesson...

Friday, May 18, 2012

Feets! (comments requested)

Ok, so I finally took some (crappy) pictures of Prairie's feet.  I wanted to get shots of her before she gets trimmed again so I can see her maximum wear patterns when she's left to her own devices..

Some of the pictures were too bad to even post (they looked equally similar to a hoof as they did to a blurry photo of Bigfoot..), but this is a start and I'd love to hear thoughts/feedback.

Bear in mind that these were taken 6 weeks out from her last trim, so much of the small flares and uneven edges have just started showing up in the last week.  I'm most concerned about her right hind, which has the least even wear (she's losing her outside edge much faster).  For the most part her angles look decent, and her heels/frogs are big and seem to be doing their job.

I believe I mentioned before that our farrier (**Not a barefoot specialist, but a pretty savvy guy**) wanted to throw hind shoes on her to keep her balanced.   Since she had only had a week at our new barn ( in the new footing) I was reluctant to turn to shoes so quickly, but if I have to in order to keep her comfy, I will.

Anyway, The Feet:

she's standing base narrow here, but there are front feet.  The inside flares on both hooves just showed up this week..

Hinds (I may or may not have been under my horse)

Hinds - from the right side

Hinds- you can see that dropped edge on the right hind..
All four feet are nicely cool (not icy, not hot) to the touch and her pasterns/fetlocks never have fill or are warm..

Now for individual feet (sorry for not a matched set of pics.. but the Bigfoot-blurry-ones didn't seem that helpful to me :)

Left Front
Right Front
Right front
Her right front is "cuppier" than her left, but overall I like her left front a little more.  I didn't brush out her right front all the way (for shame, why do I even bother with pictures!?) so that's the weird mass on the right side of her frog, not some mutation. :)

Left hind pics are extra blurry, but oops.  Again, sorry for not brushing the sand out.. not sure what I was thinking...
I've never thought her left hind looked weird - until this picture.  The sand is throwing it off a bit, but... man, this just looks out of balance to me

Left hind.  Mostly even wear..
Right hind
Right hind...
So those are her hooves.  Her gaits haven't changed at all in the last month, so there's nothing hugely alarming that suggests pain or discomfort to me.  But she also isn't as... sensitive as Pia, so I worry that something would have to get bad before Prairie made a fuss..

Right now she is stalled at night, out on hard grass/gravel during the day and being ridden on a sand/rubber ring with a reputation for being difficult on barefoot horses.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Five Minute Breaks

I wasn't able to ride the mare yesterday after my (very well) planned out day took a hard right turn on me.  But, it's usually not the end of the world for Prairie, so I made a point of waking up a few minutes early and squeezing in a ride before work today.

I decided to tack up with S's saddle and ride through some of the First Level movements to see if I felt a huge difference in how she was going.  Since I was there nice and early I was counting on a "calm" ride since nine times out of ten I get the most consistent, steady work when I ride (10 hours) before dinner.

Today was the first "cool" morning we've had in a while, which combined with a day off and made the mare... distracted.
She's developed a habit of flipping her head occasionally.  Not constantly, but she gets herself in such a tizzy from it that it generally only goes away with me completely dropping the reins and everything grinding to a complete stop.  I don't think it's a super productive way to deal work out of it, but she gets so bound up that my brain immediately jumps to "oh-crap-oh-crap-she-wants-to-go-up."  which leads me to doing just about anything to prevent her front hooves from leaving the ground.

In point of fact, I am nearly certain that Prairie is nowhere near wanting to go up, but that's what it feels like and it triggers a panic button for me.  Since she hasn't ever actually gone up, my (more rational) concern is that I'm inadvertently training her into a really obnoxious evasion.  Not exactly a noble accomplishment...

So, she did her obnoxious head flip twice (once in each direction) and then when not flipping her head stayed super inconsistent in the bridle.  Our tempo was uneven, I couldn't keep her in my outside rein and the general package just felt more like stop-and-go traffic than fluid and forward...

I tried everything to get her attention, lateral work (which was SUPER responsive, but tense), transitions, serpentines, mini circles.. you name it.  But I was met with a fussy mare who was not interested in what I was trying to accomplish.

About the time I was about to scream my head off, S pulled into the barn and suggested a 5 minute walk break in order to mitigate my frustration and try to bring Prairie back down to earth.

The break didn't do much for Prairie (she was busy watching everyone get turned out and gallop about), but it did let me release some frustration and remind myself that I'm riding a horse.  Not a bicycle.  She's not a robot.... (although  robot would have been preferable ).

When I picked her back up I did a ga-zillion trot-walk-trot transitions working hard to keep my ass out of the saddle and encourage the mare to stay nice and round and soft instead of hollowing out.  It appeared to help her focus again, so after we were consistently balanced and responsive I threw a few trot-canter-trot transitions in with the same goals and when I got 2 good ones in a row each direction I called it a day and slid off.

Sometimes I forget to quit while I'm ahead.  It's so easy for me to fight and fight and fight, then when I get a good response I want to school and school and school... Instead of rewarding the good choice and letting the horse be done when they make that good decision.

I remember one of my trainers once told me that there are days where her rides are 5 minutes.  Good canter? Done.  Move on to something else.  First leg yield was perfect? done. First halt was square and soft? DONE.  

She said if something was mediocre, school it until its what you want, but if you get a good, perfect, soft try on the first ask? Let the horse be done.. reward them for offering great work initially instead of teasing it out of them.

So, in that spirit I decided that as rocky as we started out, seven minutes of good, responsive, soft work was worth rewarding.  It was hard to stop the ride when I felt like we were just starting to accomplish something, but she started so scattered, and I want her to know that dialing in is the correct thing and doesn't result in a harder ride.

(that and I was already late to work...)

But not too late to snap a pic of the mare and her freshly growing neck!  I think she's putting on muscle, but maybe I'm just imagining it..
(she thinks she looks fat in this saddle)

Also.  I'm less in love with the hunt tack again.  Her body just looks so gigantic with a compact little saddle.  Things were so unsteady that I didn't even bother trying to string enough movements together to ride a fake "test", but I did like how she was using herself in our final transitions... There's a decent chance that we might be in the CWD for our schooling show in a few weeks :)

Also, I snapped a few (bad) pictures of Prairie's feet so I can share what they look like when they are due for a trim.  I'm curious to get your opinions on them...

Monday, May 14, 2012

Secret Summer

Without fail Seattle gets 5-10 days of spectacular weather in mid-May that emblazons the spirits of everyone just enough to keep us going through what is (also without fail) a soggy, sad, June.

We're in the middle of that now, which means 75 degrees, mild breezes and perfect, snow-capped mountains in the distance.  Trying to take advantage of each ray of sunshine has kept me away from bloggy-land, but never fear, it hasn't kept me from the barn.

Knowing that just a quick groom and pat on the nose goes miles for keeping me sane, I've been trying to get to the barn every day I can even if I don't have time to ride.

This morning for example, I had back to back meetings from starting at 10am until 8pm - and after I hit snooze one too many times I lost the chance to ride early before work (whoopsies).  But, I did manage to make my coffee and get dressed with enough time to pop out for a pat and a quick free lunge session.
(For which my Monday morning brain is grateful.)

There just isn't a better way to start you week than to see this big beast and her big ears happily snuggling into you (even if she's just hunting for treats)...
Great Start to a Monday
This weekend I didn't get as much mare time as I wanted.  Saturday, The Boy went to the barn with me (after an admittedly difficult morning) and it was just what I needed.  We grazed Prairie, he hosed her down and we had a nice time letting her dry in the sun while she munched on some grass.  Sunday I got a decent ride in, the only major drawback being that the nice weather drew everyone and their mother/sister/friend/niece out for a ride, so I opted for an empty indoor rather than playing in traffic in the outdoor..

Prairie was a pretty good girl, we ran through our Training Level test which felt a little disjointed, but we were practicing it in a small arena which makes the loops and transitions all pretty much on top of each other.  All in all, it wasn't bad, but there was more tension than I would like so I think I need to focus on upping the tempo of our movements (or at least how often I'm asking for something new).  Other than that, good mare.

Also, Prairie switched stalls.  The mare on her left has now twice (twice!) kicked down the wall between them sometime during the night, which isn't exactly ideal, and a little freaky to discover in the morning.
I think that Poppy is horrifically offended when Prairie reaches her giraffe nose up over the top of the wall, but I don't really know why she's destroying the wall as a result... I'm pretty sure Prairie isn't leaping into her stall and stealing her snacks... but maybe she is.  Who knows.

So that's about it.  Lazy mare, happy mornings, mediocre practice tests... All in all not too bad and definitely what the doctor ordered.  I'm hoping to get some "work" done in the next few rides as I feel like we're on the edge of some breakthroughs with our canter transitions, but only time will tell.  Somehow we ended up in a place where our walk-canters are golden, engaged, and soft, but our trot-canters are less consistent.. weird.

Since we haven't had a video recently, here's a not very interesting one of P2 scampering about this morning.  All in all nothing spectacular, but she is starting to carry herself more.  Less Llama necking at the canter, and more using her body..  not a lot more.  but a little more.  and I'll take it!

Also, I really need to take pics of the mare's feet.  She's still bare all the way around and I'd like to keep her that way, but she's not wearing her hinds perfectly... curious what people's opinions are.

Ok, that's it.  Back to meeting land. Happy Monday!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

NHP: a short video

Today I am winging my way down to LA for a quick meeting, drinks, and dinner with a friend before winging my way home in less than 24 hours.

The only downside of this schedule is that it will actually be warmer in Seattle (boo hiss) and that I'm pretty sure this will result in absolutely zero sleep for me.  Because this means I won't have any new mare stories to share, I thought I'd throw out this final (I shouldn't say things I don't mean) wedding post with the "highlight" video our videographer put together.

I know, I know.  Wedding videos are painful.  BUT this one isn't (and I swear I'm not just being biased).  This guy is a wizard and how he packed all the charm, gorgeousness and emotion into 6 minutes, I'll never know, but you've probably spent at least that much time watching sub-par youtube videos of european prospects that you'll never own, so this probably isn't any more of a waste of time than reading this blog usually is :)

Enjoy.  (for the record, the long version is just as magical and it makes The Boy cry, which I not so secretly enjoy)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Confession (and redemption)

Oh my, where to start.

First of all, the intense riding rage has thankfully passed and both the Mare and I seem to be significantly more pleasant creatures.

Secondly, after the very-terrible-horrid-no-good-ride I texted S and all but demanded that we have a lesson Tuesday so that someone could call me on my crap.  I felt like this was a mature, responsible decision (as opposed to kicking my pony with both legs and pouting).

When I pulled into the barn S was on a really nice hunter just swirling around the big outdoor.  Big sweeping turns with a nice, relaxed, low frame... looking like a quiet calm hunter should.  I was thinking that I should go get the big mare so she could watch when I realized that it was the big mare doing her best hunter impression.  (sneaky)
Not the longest-lowest moment, but she's so cute!
I was flabbergasted at how balanced she was and how even her tempo was staying even without a firm contact.... and.... brown hunt tack? She.... looks cute! It was confusing for a second because she was in a tiny raised bridle, and a tiny close contact saddle, but... she looked cute!

So I settled in and watch S continue the ride for a few minutes and realized that it's time for another blog confession:

Not only do I like the mare in the refined, fancy stitched hunt tack, but I also like the mare in a long and low hunter frame.  


Even more surprising, unlike two months ago when more than four strides of long-and-low caused the mare to lose her balance and get freaked out... the mare seemed to really enjoy the ride.
New getup.
I'm certain that saddle fit has something to do with it, S's CWD fits much better than the Prestige does with it's extra Sealy Posturepedic padding, buuuut I'm also pretty sure that's not the only component.  S also tried the mare in a D ring with a (really) slow twist and Prairie seemed to reach more into it than the Mullen Mouth, but was less "hangy" than she was in the ($$$$) KK D ring...

Admittedly, her head set was not... perfectly consistent, but I did like that Prairie was actively balancing herself more and relying on her rider less.  That seems like a good thing regardless of what tack we're wearing.

Then it was time for me to get on.  Having never sat in a jump saddle on P2, my balance felt all strange and wonky.  Almost like she was a totally new horse.  But we settled in and despite my ridiculously-stiff-dress-boots, I sorta got my heel down and leg wrapped around the mare.

I liked how she went in the bit.  A lot.  I couldn't tell much on the saddle front because I felt so different that everything was strange, but I think I liked it (I'm just not sure).  It was certainly nice to get up off her back at the canter a bit, that was just fun.

To finish up the ride, S placed three poles on the curve of a circle and asked us to maintain bend/tempo/balance over them.  This was not so easy, but Prairie figured it out the second time through and started adjusting herself on the approach.  Then we moved into the canter and this was more difficult.  The mare gave some valiant efforts but as she got tired it got really hard to find our spot and I didn't have enough horse left to adjust her well going in.

Prairie seemed to enjoy the pole work quite a bit, and at least at the beginning of the canter set, she was balancing well, focusing well and really eager.  I was balancing well and focusing, but totally failing to use my outside leg which made the whole "maintain bend" thing a bit harder than necessary.  I really need to figure out why I keep abandoning my outside leg.  Or maybe I don't need to figure out why, I just need to stop doing it.  That would be an ok thing too.

All in all it was total redemption from our craptastic outing on Monday.  It also has me considering some more cross training for the beast.  I can't imagine a giant, long-lined, black warmblood winning any hunter hack classes, but it could be fun to hit some schooling shows and just see what happens.  Also, I think there's a distinct possibility that the mare might enjoy some small jumps.  She definitely perks up and becomes easier to balance and set back when she's doing pole work... who knows.

I am still confused by the fact that I liked Prairie in a more refined bridle... I've recently been tack-whoring for a new one and obsessed with finding a big thick noseband with some gold accents to match our new saddle...
with a 1.5" nose and the Dorado gold.... let me know
 but maybe we could get away with something more refined??  Ah... the endless options...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

(irrational) Angry Face!

Before you think that I've gone totally off the deep end, in an uncharacteristically mature moment of "pause-think" I have identified that I am in full blown PMS mode as well as dealing with some outside (non-horsey, non Boy) influences that have me primed for irritation...

 Prairie was a disaster yesterday.  Now, I understand that I have become wildly spoiled with my perfectly calm, talented, eager young mare without very many "challenges" or "setbacks" that aren't resolved by me not riding like a toddler strapped in a car seat.  I also recognize that on a scale from 1-10, overall this horse is like a 22.5.
That being said I really, really wanted to punch her on her cute little nose last night during our ride.  This was exceptionally disappointing as it was 72 degrees out, the sun was shining and I was the only person at the barn so mentally I was set up for a music-video-worthy moment of magical oneness-with-my-horse.

Perhaps setting the bar up at that standard was my first issue, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't my only one. Yes, when I got to the barn hay was just being tossed for dinner, and yes, we've determined that riding P2 after work, by herself, while everyone else is inside eating dinner results in her acting dumb and spooky and distracting herself with just about anything she can.  But, we've been so darn goooood since the Mountain Trail trip, part of me was hoping that issue would be diminished.  Or barring that magical change that maybe working in full sun for the first time would maybe have her sleepy and obedient.

Not so.

We. fought. the. whole. time.  She crossed her jaw, she flipped her head, she spooked at nothing, she spooked at nothing some more, she refused to stand still, she refused to bend to the left.  she basically had her thumb in her mouth and was shouting "neener neener neener" at me the whole time.

I. wanted. to. explode.

But I didn't,  I hammered out 30 minutes of CRAPPY work then called it a day.  Also, I videoed it, but I'll be damned if I upload that and make myself relieve that gem of a ride more than once.

In hindsight I asked the mare to work in a circumstance that I know is difficult for her. And I asked me to be calm and patient during a time when I am no where near calm or patient... bad combo.

The only success is that I didn't go ballistic and kick/pull/scream unfairly.  Kudos me.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Terrible Horse Mom #2

For all the crap that "men" get for forgetting important dates.. I am really giving them a run for the money...

I finally sat down today and filled out all of Prairie's Change of Ownership stuff.  I know it sounds like one of those simple little tasks that only takes a few minutes, but it was surprisingly difficult since it required transferring her USDF, USEF and AHA registrations to me, which incidentally also required me finding my USDF and USEF numbers which have been long gone for a while now.

You'd think I could just get a new number, but no.  Phone calls were required to get numbers, and that (as it turns out) was the big procrastination factor....  I feel like a dork making those calls at work (I'll blog at work, but I won't actually talk about horsey stuff out loud), and the few times I would remember about making the USDF/USEF calls when I was home, it was always way past closing time for those East Coast offices...

Anyway, just one of those things that I kept pushing from one to-do list to another...

But today was the day.  I wrote my checks, I stamped my big envelopes and I made copies of all the original certificates... which caused me to notice that the mare had a birthday (whoops) in April.. on the 14th.

Sigh.  I probably should have made her cookies, and given her an extra special birthday hug.  But I didn't.  Instead I probably made her work hard and for not nearly enough carrots... bad horse mom.

So, the BBM is now officially 7, (seven!) and having forgotten both P's anniversary in March and now Prairie Birthday in April, I am twice the bad horse mom I once was...  OOPS.

Happy (belated) birthday pretty Prairie girl!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mare Love

Thanks for all your lovely comments on our field trip.. I have to say I was pretty impressed too..

I spent most of today driving all over the mountains for work, so I had lots of time to sit and think about the mare and how the first month home has been and our progress.

I have to say that even I'm impressed at how much better we are going now than we were 4 weeks ago.  And honestly, the 10 days since our Mountain Trail adventure have been our best yet.
Before MT, it was a struggle to get the mare comfortable in the far end of the outdoor... she was still spooking at birds in the rafters in the indoor... and doing a really good job of leading me to/from her stall/paddock/arena.  Even without any deliberate follow up on our groundwork or obstacle work - since we've come home the mare has been quieter, braver, and more respectful of me on the ground.

I hadn't really put two and two together until today, but that long weekend of thinking outside the box seems to have given Prairie a lot more confidence in dealing with the drama of everyday rides (and life).  Yesterday's trip was the icing on the cake.  I definitely jinxed myself by mentioning we "hadn't had a spook/scoot in a while..." right before Prairie dog decided to spook/scoot away from the grandstand.... but she came back easily and immediately walked right back up to the grandstand area and sniffed the railing with her big elephant nose.

In point of fact, I'm pretty sure that was her first spook/scoot since the MT trip, because I can't think of one that's happened even inside, or down by all the scary jumps in the outdoor.. even at the canter..

So that's pretty cool.  That's really cool actually.  I can't remember if I've ever had a horse that was as calm and forward about new things as Prairie is (right now).  I guess my first pony was pretty spectacular.  But she was a nervous wreck for dressage (even at home) and really only calmed down at shows once you galloped out of the start box for cross country... so I wouldn't accuse her of being level headed, but I guess it wasn't really spooky...

All the other beasts I've had were head cases away from home.  puddles were scary, trailers were scary, new people??? also scary....

As a result, I'm going to make one of my tippy-top-top priorities to keep this mare's brain intact.  I want to be sure that I give her enough fun new stuff to think about that she doesn't have to get all demonstrative, spooky, or strung out just to express herself.

Anyone out there have fun puzzle/challenges that you've enjoyed with your horses? I can only ask Prairie to walk over the flower boxes and into ditches so much. :)  I think I'm going to be sure to keep free-jumping a part of our routine (she seemed to enjoy it) as well as maybe practice some targeting and get her a ball to chase around the arena... P1 seems to really enjoy that game...

What are some other fun, easy ways to keep her brain engaged and thinking?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Field Trip!!!!

Ok, in theory after ditching work all morning to go play with the ponies, I should... um, work? when I return to the office and not blog about the time I already spent away from the office...  BUT, much like sticking to a budget, I find it desperately difficult not to throw up a little post when the Big Black Mare is such a lovely, lovely girl.

Last night The Boy and I had to leave work a bit early to get to dinner and a National Geographic lecture series that we absolutely adore (cool people, fabulous photos... great date night).  Having forgotten most of my High School American History (sorry Mrs Allenduff!) I was moderately confused as to why there were protesters swarming about downtown and causing a ruckus.  After a refresher on Labor rights, unions and the significance of May Day from my brother - I was up to speed, but not that interested.  Its not that I don't think the country is going to shit, but since the biggest inconvenience seemed to be that there was a protest march between me and my oysters/martini/lecture, I figured I'd just keep my mouth shut and skitter inside to Happy Hour.

I'll skip my discourse on "the 1%" now as I find myself on several different sides of that particular discussion.  Also, anarchists really don't want to talk to you about "finding a decent boarding facility" for your two mares. They just don't, it's not a good conversation starter...

Wow. Tangent.  anyway, leaving work early meant that we couldn't maneuver the trailer out of it's parking spot (too many cars) so we waited until after our evening out to come back, hitch up and head home.  Having the trailer already attached to the truck meant I pulled out of the driveway bright and early, putting me at the barn by 7:20 to meet S and get the ponies ready.

Our Field Trip buddy had a last minute substitution (due to a pulled shoe) so Prairie ended up having her neighbor Boulder join us on our adventure.  Boulder is an adorable OTTB who is super athletic and very fun, but moderately unpredictable (especially on the ground) and kind of an ass to deal with.  We don't give him too much flack though, because he's had a rough life up to this point and over the past year has morphed into a much happier, much healthier horse.

Anyway, everyone loaded up and we rolled down to the big park.

The park was EMPTY.  Not a soul was there which was great, but also too bad since I was hoping for some "atmosphere" to test the mare with.  After hand walking around the grounds (and three arenas) we headed back to the trailer to tack up.  P2 was alert, but forward and put her nose on everything that spooked her (good mare).  Boulder was.. feisty.  He has this neat trick where whenever he gets annoyed at something he spins, pulls away to the end of his lead then cow kicks at your head.  It's a crappy trick, but he knows how to do it really, really well..  He doesn't try to run away per se, but he makes hanging on to him a bit of an unwanted task.  Oh, he also doesn't trailer tie, so poor S was holding him, digging through the tack room and dodging kicks all at the same time (she's a multitasker).

This was the point where S realized that she had forgotten a girth - and my spare Dressage version was of no use.  She then calmly declared "No problem, I'll just ride him bareback"

uhhhhh.  ride what bareback.  It looks more like you're flying a kite than holding a horse.  You're going to slide off...(is what I was thinking)

But what I said was "wow! ok, that's cool"

P2 was a good girl while I tacked her up (thankfully I remembered my girth) and she was pleasantly not alarmed by Boulder's antics.  She walked nicely back to the ring and even stood calmly at the mounting block/picnic table for me to get on.  
such a good mare...
As promised, S hopped on bareback and low-and-behold, Boulder was instantly calmed.  Apparently he's one of those horses who is much calmer and much more confident under saddle (errr... butt?) than in hand... Weird.

As soon as I took up my reins I realized I had forgotten gloves (waaaah) and complained as such to S, who was less than sympathetic given her no-girth situation (much like the anarchists apathy toward any "horse problems"), so I shut up, stopped whining and got to work.

The footing was mostly pea soup, but not too slick, so we got to work.  We started in a smaller warm-up area and worked through some of our normal stuff.  Serpentines, leg yields, transitions, a few lengthenings.. etc.  Boulder joined us in some gait work and S gets FULL points for riding a bronco. Bareback. Away from home...
sticky buns.
P2 was amazing.  She was a bit looky for sure, but she stayed within my aids and managed to stay soft and supple as well.  I was thrilled that the most attention she gave to anything aside from me was a strained look as she passed by but didn't upset her frame or balance..

After a few minutes we moved into the bigger ring which has that endless there-are-no-boundaries-to-stop-any-bad-behavior feeling.  Prairie stayed with me and stayed tuned in.  She gave a big snort at the grandstand and a bit of a tensed step (not a spook) at tree stump that had been carved into a horse head.  But she didn't try anything that a strong half-halt didn't immediately correct her out of.

After a few laps of trot I let her walk with Boulder on a long rein and just march around the ring.  She was calm, relaxed and swinging.  No sweating, no chomping, no jigging, no spooking.

Finally I gathered her back up and having reviewed all the First Level tests we ran through everything (albeit in a random order).  10 meter circles, zig zag leg yields, lengthened trot, lengthened canter, canter loops, halts, you name it.  We worked it and worked it well.  I finished with a series of square(ish) trot-halts and called it a day.
We also had an opportunity to practice our patience as Boulder not-so-politely refused to load back up into the trailer.  Prairie was quiet when someone stayed at her head, but turned into a snorting, stomping whale when left alone.  So as irritating as 60 minutes spent coaxing an OTTB into a box that looks like a starting gate was... I didn't really mind.  Training opportunities are training opportunities, right??

Back at home, Boulder walked off agitated and sweaty but P2 was calmly munching her hay.

Gem. Mare.

Even without all the flower boxes and the hustle/bustle of the show, I'm pretty sure that we can skip the Intro Level tests next month.. Something tells me we'll be ok to warm up at Training Level and dip our toes into First at our grand debut. So here it is:

Official GOAL:
Show First Level in June 2012.  Mark your calendars June 10th is our magic day.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Needy Mare & Making Plans..

Well, I finally got it.  That call from your vet (that you can't take because you're visiting your grandmother and she thinks cell phones are the downfall of American Society) so you wait for the voicemail to come through.

(for the record, I'm sure this happens with human children too, but that brief moment of waiting for the voicemail to start actually playing is pure friggin dread).

Pia was apparently sensing that Prairie has been getting attention (and peppermints and saddles) and decided that she needed a bit more of the spotlight on her.  So, she thought the best way to make sure I remembered her (and opened my checkbook) was to ram a stick (or something) up her leg and get an infected puncture wound.

Apparently the mare was "off" on Friday, but convinced she was dying on Saturday, refusing to even put her foot down or be coaxed to take a step.  Quite the actress this one is... because clearly all of her antics convinced my vet that there must be something horribly-terribly-wrong and further diagnostics (ca-ching, ca-ching, ca-ching $$$$$) would be necessary.

As it turns out, it really just is a puncture wound, and after getting cleaned out, cold hosed, smeared with goo and started on antibiotics, she's back to 95%.

Pia says- "Get with it. I'm still here you know"
 I politely asked my vet to explain to Pia that the new saddle is adjustable and is "for her too."  so she shouldn't complain.  Something tells me Pia won't care.  She's never really been all that good at sharing...

On the P2 front, I've been staring at my calendar and deciding we need to plan some things.  So, tomorrow I'm packing up P2 and one of S's beasts and we're going to Bridle Trails State Park for a little hack.  For those of you not in the area, BT is a 400(ish) acre Equestrian Park that has a few big arenas and lots 'o trails.  It hosts loads and loads of schooling shows (and a few recognized) during the Spring and Summer and it's only about 20 minutes away from the barn so it's a totally quick and easy haul for a hack away from home.

While on the BT website I decided that I really should enter some of their schooling shows.  The dressage ones happen monthly, are cheap and would be a good way to get us out riding some tests and seeing where we are at...

So, the show dates are firmly in my calendar.... I just can't decide what tests to sign up for.  We're easily schooling through all the First Level movements at home (although I haven't really been stringing all the movements that together, but we're close).  It sounds chicken, but I think for the June 10 show I'm considering an Intro Level test (just to get in the ring, and not bounce out of it..) then maybe a Trailing Level test or two? Maybe First 1.... That's still a month away which gives us lots of time to sharpen up, but maybe we just do Intro/Training for the first show and save our First Level "debut" for July?

Also, I think I'm going to haul out for a lesson at our old BO's barn sometime next week too.  I need a dressage tuneup and I'm not quite feeling a long haul down to Prairie's old place...

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