Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pony Rides!

A friend of mine flew in from Texas yesterday and I ended up dragging her to the barn with me for my lesson. Poor thing isn't used to the cold, but she thinks Kieran is pretty.

Yesterday's lesson was a lot more about working on Kieran than working on me. Lots of circles, weaving through cones, and trotting over poles. And then, with just a few minutes to go, Christina says, "are your legs tired yet?" and I say, "almost" and she says, "well if they're not tired yet, I want you to drop your stirrups."

Apparently, the look on my face was priceless.

But I dropped my stirrups and did my damnedest to post without them around the ring and over the poles.

And then we were done and I asked my friend, "you want a pony ride?" So we got her (in a helmet!) and mounted up on Kieran and cooled him out (not that he even broke a sweat) walking her around the ring.

Apparently it was her first time on a horse since she was a kid and first time ever in an English saddle. And Kieran just plodded around the ring with me. (he always looks confused when I get off him and someone else gets on, LOL). :)

Monday, December 14, 2009

General Stuff

Got up to see the pony on Saturday. Was worried he might be a bit sore since the ground finally froze (of course it's since rained so I imagine it's muddy again...until it freezes again). Spent a lot of time just grooming him and getting him looking almost actually clean, even his fetlocks! Then we went into the ring and I hopped on bareback and Mr.Sometimes-I-forget-how-to-stand-for-mounting stood like a statue. It was, actually, the easiest mount bareback I think I've ever done, even the ones when I was a kid and mounting a much smaller horse. Maybe all the balance work I've been doing with Christina is paying off. ;)

Anyway, we mostly walked around with a bit of trotting and lots of breaks just to stand around and look pretty. (The best part about sitting on a horse bareback in winter is how WARM they are!) Then we went for a quick trot up the driveway and walk back down and we were done!

I sent off a quick email to Christine today to see if maybe she'd show me how to ground drive him. I think it'd be good experience for him (and I've never done it) and it certainly can't hurt to teach him and might be a good option for something to do on days when riding just isn't going to work for whatever reason. I'd love to eventually be able to hitch him up to a cart and take him for a sping around the neighborhood, I bet he'd look pretty flashy. ;)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

And the pain continues!

Tonight Christina got out the lunge line and I rode for most of the lesson with no reins. We did some work on asking Kieran to stop/slow when I took a deep breath and tightened my abdominal muscles and sat deep in the seat. For that we needed a bit of rein at the beginning but then he got the idea.

We also did posting trot with my hands out to my sides, half seat, and sitting trot. Look ma, no hands! We did several other balance exercises but the one that I thought was the most interesting (as well as the one that made me say to Kieran, "I'm glad you're such a good pony!") was right at the beginning and near the end of the lesson Christina had me pull my feet up so my knees were basically pointing to the ground and my feet were up closer to the top of his back. This really made me use myself for balancing on him and made me really sit in the center of my seat instead of tilting forward or back. I felt like it was stretching me out too (despite having my legs bent). And yes, Kieran was very good for me doing this. We only did it at the walk. I'm not sure I could sit his trot like that. ;)

Christina also had me drop my stirrups and go without for a while. Managed to half-seat all the way around the ring with no stirrups. Not sure how I did it but yay! :)

I also had to remind myself at one point that I was paying for the privilege of being tortured like this. ;) I imagine I'll have to do the same next week.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Gratuitous Picture Post

Kieran's new Pink Equine bridle. He doesn't look impressed.

Core exercises

No cantering tonight. Probably a good thing. I told Christina after that I was glad we didn't, and I'd been thinking of asking if we could back off that for a while until I work on my own core strength and give him some more miles. I don't want to get him in the habit of running into a canter or thinking he can just trot faster instead of moving up to the next gear and I figure we'll both be better for more work at the other gaits first.

In the meantime, I can still work him with lunging and get him used to listening to a command for canter and then when we try it under saddle again, I can use that command along with the proper cue. I think that will help.

Instead we did lots of trotting and mostly worked on me. What did that entail? First, she had me stand straight up in the stirrups, then move down into two point (without sitting again), then keep my calf on and use my core to lower my chest as close to his neck as I can without falling in on myself. Then move back up to two point, then back to standing the stirrups. Ad nauseum.


And then right at the end she had me half-seat without stirrups for one lap around the ring.


But a good kind of ow. :)

Oh, and the exercise we did that was more for him than me was trotting over poles laid out in an "M" shape. The idea was he couldn't just go straight over the poles (like he would with ones laid parallel to one another) but had to pay attention to where his feet were going and adjust his stride accordingly.

The first couple times over were pretty hilarious, but it only too two or three times and he had it figured out. :)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Trail rides and farm rides

So Saturday, I ended up just riding Kieran all over the farm. We went up the driveway to the house (trotting uphill every time we came to it, to work on building up muscle), up around behind the garage toward one end of the trail in the woods, back down the driveway out toward the neighborhood (with a pause by the mailbox to see what he thought. No problem.) Back down toward the barn, along behind it to the hay barn. Back up to the front of the barn, around the big get the idea. We went everywhere except in the woods (we were riding alone, I figured I'd better not push it :) ).

Kieran was a gem. Didn't care when we were riding alongside his pasture and his buddies were looking at him like "wtf are you doing there?". Didn't care (much) when we were riding along the big field and a couple of horses went running in the other direction (wanted to trot, but didn't push it when I said no).

Really, he did good and one of my big criteria in a horse was one I felt safe riding on alone and...I do.

Sunday, a big group of us went to Patuxent State Park, right up the road, for a trail ride while the weather's still nice. Kieran actually ended up leading the way (with Christine right behind me telling me which way to go since I don't know the trails ;) ). Christine commented he makes a good lead horse for a trail, he doesn't go too fast and he doesn't go too slow (and he's careful and pays attention, but he's not overly reactive or anything). We had someone with us trying out some horses he's thinking to adopt, and the ride went well so hopefully he will ('cause the rescue is overfull at the moment).

So that was my weekend, how was yours?

Oh, and here's a pic of Kieran all tacked up on Saturday wondering when we're actually going to get moving. ;)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Poor, tired, pony

So I had a lesson to make up from the other week and I knew I wouldn't be able to make to my regular lesson tonight so I figured when I did my make up last night,we'd just do an hour private instead of a half-hour private and handle both lessons at once.

I started the ride with the crop in my hand and I think it helped because he didn't seem to start out the lesson going, "oh hey she has a crop that means go fasterrrrrr!".

Kieran was also very good last night about standing for mounting (after getting a couple remedial classes on it ;) ) and waiting until I was ready to go before walking off from the mounting block (when I asked him to). Even so, we still did some work walking and halting and asking him to back up and even asked for a halt from the trot and then back into the trot a couple times.

Still didn't get the wonderful canter we got last Wednesday but did manage to canter a couple strides in both directions. A lot of it is me, every time I ask for the canter, I seem to collapse in on myself and pull my legs up out of the stirrups and hold too tight on the reins and obviously there's no way I'm helping Kieran do his thing. I told Christina it was frustrating because I remember I used to be, you know, good at this. But that was on well trained school horses who already knew what I was asking for and I think Kieran's done the turbo-take-off thing just enough that I'm getting defensive (but not in a way that would actually keep me in the darn saddle). Just need to remember to breathe and push my heels down into the stirrups and sit up straight. Anyway, after we managed a decent canter departure in each direction Christina had us go back to trotting. Trotting weaving patterns around cones. Trotting over poles. Sitting trot. Trotting in two-point (argh). By the end of it, it was obvious Kieran was getting tired and it was all I could do to keep my leg on him to keep him moving.

He's also furry enough that he was sweaty all over so we spent a while walking together after.

But all in all, it was still an improvement over Friday's lesson. Kieran was obviously in a more cooperative frame of mind and Christina said I looked about a hundred times better and more relaxed last night than before. So I'll still call it a win. :)

Unfortunately, I've got a lot of work to get done over the next few days so I'm pretty sure I won't be getting out to see him again till Saturday. Bleh.

Monday, November 16, 2009

He Keeps me Guessing

So after the wonderful lesson we ended up having last Wednesday, Friday wasn't nearly as good. Neither of us could really get it together. We had the beginning of the lesson start the same as it had on Wednesday and then...I was tense (and I have no idea why) and couldn't get my knees to relax and I'm sure none of that helped him out. And just wasn't pretty. So we ended up doing a lot of exercises to work on me instead of on him. Christina also thinks I should probly remove the knee blocks on my saddle since they just add too much bulk there. I think she's got a point because right near the end we took them off (and he didn't even flinch at the sound of velcro ripping, good boy!) and I did some more trotting and it did feel easier to keep my calf on properly and my knee from pinching. So there was that at least.

Got back up to the barn on Sunday and spent some time cleaning up my mudball of a pony. He'd gone in Christa's lesson earlier that morning, but they didn't have time to really groom him (just got the important, saddle-area bits) so I worked on the rest. That afternoon, we went on a short trail ride (and note: he stood at the mounting block) and then I spent some more time really getting in there and currying the dried mud off his legs.

So what does he do right after I put him back in his field?

Walk around (like a dog) until he gets the muddiest spot he can find and rolls. Even rolls all the way over to make sure he gets full coverage. ;) I expected it, but still. *sigh*

I did get to watch him playing halter tag with Rocky, though, and that was cute. Christine had told me they played but I so far haven't been up there (or outside, I guess) at the right time to see it. I'm glad he's got himself a buddy in the herd since he's the one who tends to get picked on (the pony HATES him.).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cantering breakthrough

So tonight was lesson night for me and Kieran. It was also my first ride in my new jointed stirrups from horseloverz that I got for like $16.90 during their dollar days a little while ago. They're heavier than my other stirrup irons but I think I like them. They also seemed to help my leg. Christina mentioned it seemed to move a lot less tonight than I've had a tendency to do before and asked if I'd been riding more since the last lesson but really? I haven't ridden all that much recently (argh). So I'm attributing it to the stirrups (and leathers that are even).

Anyway, when the lesson started, Kieran's brains had flown off somewhere. Didn't want to stand quietly for mounting. Didn't want to stand once I was on so I could get myself together and get both feet in the stirrups. Just plain wasn't as cooperative as he normally is. Which...Christina pointed out something I tend to forget because he usually is so good: he's still a young(ish) horse. He's still pretty green. He's going to have these moments.

So we spent the first several minutes of the lesson walking then halting. Walk, halt. Walk, halt, back up, halt. Walk, halt. Walk halt, back up, halt, walk. You get the idea. Once he was listening again and his brains were back in his head, we started the lesson proper.

Trotting was mostly in big figure eights through the ring and trotting over poles set in the center. Nothing terribly exciting that needs writing about or terribly different from things we've done before. He did fine.

Then Christina hands me a crop. And tells me we're going to try cantering. Remember how excited I was just to get a few strides out of him in there? Yeah. So anyway, I've only carried a crop when asking him to canter so right away he knew something was up and his energy level went up (I think, for a while at least, I'm going to start carrying a crop all the time so he doesn't anticipate "oh, she's going to tell me to go faster! I'll go faster!"). He also knows which corner he's typically been asked to canter in so even just on our first trot around, he tried to go turbo trot there and then had to bring him back down, etc.

Anyway, our first several tries weren't pretty. I probably got in his way a bit and we're starting to think that going to the left is his weaker side. Got a few canter strides out of him but then coming into the next turn he'd drop back down into a trot (Christina says he kept stopping because instead of looking up through the turn my gaze was getting drawn downward for God-only-knows-why). So then we tried going right, which....we hadn't actually done before. Still took a couple of attempts but then he got it and we managed to continue the canter for one and a half times around the ring. I'm pretty sure he would have kept going, really, but I figured by that point he had it and asked him to trot. Good lord, he's so amazing. I really love his canter and once we got it that last time it felt really good (previously the turns were a little scary). Of course it probably helped I had it together too, sitting up straight, leg on, looking up, and so on. :)

Anyway, Christina says he has no excuse to not canter in there now. ;)

After that we did a couple more of the trot-over-the-poles thing just so he doesn't get the idea that once he's cantered it's the end of the lesson. Or that once we start cantering we're going to keep asking for it.

Then Christina went to help the next student get ready and I spent a while walking him around cooling off (he was steaming in the night air, kinda cool looking). I may have sung to him while we walked (the acoustics in there are pretty good!).

He also got plenty of treats for being such a good boy.

I think I'm going to go treat myself now (fudge!).

Night, all!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Riding tonight. All bareback, all the time.

Did manage to ride tonight (I was at the barn last night and brought Kieran in and groomed him and all but didn't end up riding.). Didn't feel overly enthused about fully tacking up so I rode bareback (as did Hanna on Rocky). Mounting was a teensy bit interesting. Christina had mentioned they'd been having a bit of trouble with him standing at the mounting block recently on Sundays and indeed he did the same thing to me tonight.

Remember, I'm trying to hop onto his back on my stomach from the mounting blck and then swing my leg over and sit up properly. Twice he stepped forward a few steps while I was still laying on my stomach. A couple times he started moving before I even got that far.

I just got down and backed his ass right back to where he started. After a couple repetitions he figured it out and stood quietly and I finally managed to get on and go. Yay. Not sure what they're doing with him/about it on Sundays. May have to sit in and watch.

It wasn't a terribly exciting ride. We did a lot of walking, a couple of pivots on the forehand, and some trotting. Tonight we just tried to keep trotting at a steady pace all the way around the ring. He likes to speed up as he goes (especially if there's another horse in there for him to "catch up" to). Once we got pretty much all the way around the ring, I called it quits for the evening. Probably we rode for about a half hour.

Lessoning should happen tomorrow and, it being a holiday, I'm planning on spending pretty much the whole day in the barn. Assuming it doesn't rain TOO much, maybe I can get some pictures while I'm there.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pony visits

Went up to the barn last night but didn't ride. I guess I could have, but nobody would've been down in the barn (just up in the house) while I did and with there having been a riding accident this past weekend there, I'm feeling a little leery of riding alone right now, despite that I have yet to find anything to make Kieran really spook. So I just took some stuff up with me and paid for board and lessons for the month.

Kieran now has a shiny new halter, and a himalayan salt like we'll see if he likes (I've been feeling like maybe some of his urge to taste everything might be related to a mineral deficiency or something and figure the salt lick can't hurt, plus might keep him occupied in his stall instead of spending time spreading his poop around), and the barn has shiny new leadropes. I also got some new hinged stirrups (that are HEAVY) so we'll have to see how they go.

Anyway, after I put his stuff away and chatted with the folks up there (and tidied up his messy stall), I went out to the pasture to visit my pony (ginger snaps in hand). I just know he was wondering why I came out to give him cookies but didn't bring him in to do anything. I figure it can't hurt to go out sometimes and not make him come in to work. I really don't want him to associate me with only that. *shrug* I do feel like I should have ridden, though, because I'm not going to be able to get up there again before Monday. Bleh.

Still, it was nice to walk out in the moonlight and visit my sleepy pony and pet his quickly-growing-thicker coat. :)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Gettysburg Trail Ride!

So it was a sort of last minute decision made Saturday night that we'd (some of us from Gentle Giants) would go trail ride up in Gettysburg on Sunday for a bit of a change of pace. The original plan was that we'd leave by 11am. We joked that meant we'd get out of there by noon. Due to a loading snafu and subsequent last minute change-of-equine, we left the rather later than that and ended up getting to the park, getting the horses groomed and tacked up, and got out on the trail at about 3PM. Theoretically this was plenty of time still for the approximately 2 hour trail ride loop we thought we'd be making before it got dark and we were supposed to leave.

The start of the trail was really nice. Lots of nice open paths and pretty scenery. Of course, there were also SEGWAYS [not that Kieran cared] and COWS [not that Kieran cared]. But then we got into the woods heading toward Little Round Top and suddenly there were many patches of deep mud (horses were sinking up to their knees and hocks). Now, Christine had called ahead of time to the park to ask about trail conditions and she'd been assured that despite recent rain, the trails were good. Obviously, somebody didn't think about this section of it.

Eventually we made it out and kept on trucking and really, despite that, it was a nice ride. There were even plenty of nice open spots for some trotting. If you're in the area/within driving distance, I'd totally recommend heading out there to ride the trails. Just make sure you get there earlier than we did! ;)

But as the ride went on, the sun got lower and lower and lower, the moon higher and higher, and everything around us darker and darker. And here we were, riding on an historic battlefield that in many ways is essentially a mass grave on the day after Halloween on the night of a full moon. We were so hardcore. No ghosts were seen, though Laura claims her cameraphone wouldn't take any pictures (my camera worked just fine right up until I filled up the memory card and it was getting too dark for pics anyway).

There was a point where we were riding along with a corn field on the right and woods to the left and Rocky spooks about something in the wood to the left. Kieran gets looky (though I think only because Rocky spooked) and later Kelly (guy riding the big dapple grey mare in the pics) said something about how in that section he thought he saw something off to the left but then when we looked a second time there was nothing there. So there's your possible ghost-sighting.

Then as we got near to the place were we'd parked, we had to pass once more by the cows and Rocky (who was leading) steadfastly refused to go first. Beacuse OMG cows-in-the-dark were going to eat him dontchaknow? So Kieran got to lead for a bit and you know he was just like, "dude, what's your PROBLEM?"

My pony had a lot of firsts today, really, first time seeing Segways, first time seeing cows, first time crossing a wooden bridge, first time riding through deep mud, first time riding on a haunted battlefield, first time riding at night....and hey, he passed with flying colors.

Really, except for the mud and the cold as the sun went down, it was quite the enjoyable ride. I only wish I'd brought a heavier jacket and I woulda been just dandy.

And there are, of course, pictures.

Plenty more may be seen here.

And video! Go here.

I'll probably just embed the vid when I get home but that'll have to do for now.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Too much anticipation!

I recently sent an email to Kieran's former owner asking if she might have any baby pictures of him. They got him when he was 3 months old. She says she'll get some together for me and send them.

I can't wait to see them!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cantering in the indoor (and the rest of the lesson was good too)

So last night we had an hour-long semi-private lesson (another horse and rider in the ring with us). I kind of like switching it up so sometimes he has to ride with other horses (which also means we have to work on rating gaits because when there's another horse, he tends to trot faster and then I have to work at slowing him down so we don't constantly pass/run up their rear end) and then sometimes he has to ride alone, both of which are good experiences for him. Also, with the semi-privates, sometimes he has to stand in the middle of the ring and wait while the other horse and rider do something and sometimes he has to go on the rail and ignore the horse waiting in the middle.

Anyway. Christina had me start out the lesson with no stirrups and do some posting at the trot which...I wasn't terribly successful at. Or at least I don't feel like I was. I couldn't really get the rhythm down. Eventually, she let me pick my stirrups up again. I'm kind of convinced they're simply too long (I have 'em on the shortest holes) as when I post or do two point, I'm not really clearing the saddle (and I know you're not supposed to be way out of it, but I feel like to even get out at all, my leg is going kinda straight). I'd just make more holes but the stitching is coming loose anyway so I just should get a new pair. Anybody have some dark leathers (havana or black. Preferably black) that are 54" or so?

Apparently when I start out a lesson (it seems to get better as we go along and I think a lot of it has to do with me not riding as often as I should lately so I haven't built up the proper muscles) my leg moves A LOT. Especially when posting. So Christina kept having to remind me to keep my calf on. I kept feeling like to do this, I needed to bring my heel up and do something funky with my feet. Whatever it was, it wasn't correct. So then I had to stop and do it correctly before I could feel like what it should be feeling like. And then whenever I go up to post I have to remember to keep my calf on because apparently my leg goes "out" instead and Christina says she saw a few inches of daylight between my calf and my horse. By the end of the lesson, I think I'd worked it out and gotten it down, but I know I'll have to do it all over again next week, ugh.

We also had to go around the ring once in two point which....well, my heel dropped a lot more for it but it was just hellacious to stay up. I couldn't find the right spot which is another reason I think my stirrups are too long as I know in the past (in other saddles, on other horses) if I brought up my stirrups a hole or two it got easier to balance. Though in my case it also got easier to balance when Christina told me to bring my hands forward. I think I had them still about the spot on his neck where you hold them normally (maybe a little forward of that) and when I brought them up more, it did get easier.

We also did a little bit more of trotting a weaving pattern through cones, and trotting cloverleaf-esque shapes in the indoor (trot down centerline, turn left at C, left again at E, cross X, turn left at B, go back down the centerline, then turn...basically, whatever direction Christina called out :) And don't forget to change diagonals!) with trot poles down the centerline.

And before I got too tired from that, Christina asked if I wanted to try cantering Kieran. See, he can canter under saddle. I've done it out on the trail, and did it a tiny (crappy) bit at Saddleview. But I hadn't been able to get him to do it in the indoor (except on the ground, on the lunge line). It's kind of a small ring and it's pretty difficult for a lot of the horses there to pick a canter in there under saddle so we rarely do it. I'd tried it with him a few times but it just wasn't seeming to work. We'd come out of a corner, I'd sit and bring my outside leg back, he'd speed up, but he wouldn't canter.

Christina figured it was at least partly because I take my reins up shorter when I prepare to canter and because he can't really lift himself into it yet (still needs to pull himself into it, we think), he'd go to stretch down and hit the end of the reins and...basically I was keep him from going up into the next gear. So I gave him a looser rein, held a crop (didn't even have to wave it at him) and again, nice working trot around the ring, come out of the corner on a long side, sit and bring back outside leg. Hard. (He still doesn't know "outside leg means canter" so have to do it more exaggeratedly than "normal"). He managed to get it a few times, just a few strides down the long side, but he did it! He has such a nice canter. Now we just have to work on steering. ;)

Of course, most of what we do will still revolve around walking and trotting, but it's nice to know I can get him to canter in there if I want to.

Discussed with Christina that maybe it would be good for us both to do a few private lessons on the lunge line. He lunges pretty well and then I can more ensure I'm focusing on giving good cues with my leg and seat and not having to rely on the reins as much.

Also, after the lesson, Christina hopped on Kieran, just to see how he goes (she hadn't ridden him yet.) and she really liked him. Said he felt really comfortable. :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Just some pictures:

Kieran's stuff is taking over my house. :)

Also: Doesn't he look handsome in his new cooler that came too late for me to use it for the show at Saddleview? ;)


I haven't been up to see Kieran since last Wednesday. I could've gone on Friday but I had stuff I really needed to take care of at home. It's highly unlikely I'll get up there tonight. Maybe I'll be able to squeeze in time tomorrow between work and my class in the evening but I'm not holding my breath.

Which means I likely won't get up there again until Wednesday. Bah. I said I wasn't going to be one of those horse owners who only comes to see their horse once a week. I've just got way too much stuff going on right now, it seems like.

Of course, the renaissance festival will be over this weekend and after that I can get up there on weekends again, which will help. And I should be done with class in December so once all that is past, I'll have my weeknights free again.

Just. Bah.

It probably doesn't help that it's getting dark so early (and it's only going to continue doing so) and it just went from "oh maybe this is autumn" to "oh HAI THAR WINTER, IT BE COLD NOW". I've been sucking down the hot chocolate and soup and put the warming mattress pad thingy on my bed last night and at least when I do go up to the barn I'll have a new (to me) pair of winter Mountain Horse paddock boots to keep my toesies warm.

Anyway, I guess I need to figure out better time management methods for the, uh, time being.

It would probably be easier if he was boarded closer to me (my drive is nearly an hour, round trip) but what with takings lessons on him for the time being there and the barn having an indoor (hence why I wanted to board him there through the winter) and me liking the folks he's with...I don't plan on moving him before spring. Of course, the fact I like the folks he's with is a big part of my time suck when I go to the barn. We always end up talking. Or I'll be like, "hmm, stalls need doing, let me do that..." and suddenly my plan to drive up, bring the boy in, groom and ride and toss him back out turns into a much longer to-do than I'd planned on. Oops.

I should put up the nice pics I got of him in his new Rambo Newmarket cooler. He looks so handsome in it! (I may be biased).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Trotting Cones and other adventures

Figure I should get right with posting about tonight's lesson or I won't remember what all we did and why it was cool later. (For the record, last week's lesson was bareback and I was not as sore as I expected I would be the next day. Woo.)

Anyway: Tonight! We threw a lot of new stuff at Kieran, partly to make sure all this riding he's doing in the indoor stays interesting (he has a long winter of indoor riding ahead of him, and I don't want him to get sour to it) and partly a lot of the exercises we had him doing were with the aim of encouraging him to start using his hind end more and not travel as much on the forehand.

He took all of it without batting an ear. Just "...uh, this is what you want me to do? Okay! Here goes!". He's so awesome that way. :)

Things we did:

Trot poles: something he's done before, but I need to work on squeezing as we go over them so he doesn't slow down and looking forward instead of down at the poles.

Very very very low pole on a jump standard. Can't even call it a jump. Did it with crossrails and a tiny vertical. Mostly with the idea toward getting him used to going between the standards and giving him something a little higher to trot over to encourage him to pick up his feet. I did better at looking ahead with this (don't ask me why the poles on the ground are so much more interesting, LOL).

Weaving through orange traffic cones: Something he's never done before. We did it at the walk and the trot and he got the hang of it pretty quickly. I was actually surprised at how easy it was for him. Of course, in the future I'll have to remember to change my posting diagonal with each change of direction but Christina didn't get after me for that tonight. :)

A few turns on the forehand: I'd done a bit of this with him before so he got it pretty quickly. We did a couple along the wall and then tried one away from the wall which wasn't quite as pretty, but it just means it's something we should work on more.

"Rollbacks" at the trot. Basically heading down at just about the quarterline and then turning toward the rail in a tight turn and heading back the way we came. Also done first at the walk and then at the trot. Something else I was surprised at how little trouble he had (he used to stop/slow in the middle of 20 meter circles) but he didn't stop at all tonight. An exercise that was definitely intended to encourage him to really use his hind end for pushing.

Oh, and Christina had me drop my stirrups while warming up at the walk and "post" without stirrups. Then do two point without them along the long side of the arena. That's so my legs become less dependent on the stirrups as I have a tendancy to brace. But I have to say I feel so dumb doing this exercise because I don't feel like I'm actually getting out of the saddle (because I'm not, and you really can't, especially at the walk) and I figure I have to look dumb doing it. But hey, if it helps, I'll do it. :)

All in all, I was amazed at how much we managed to cram into the lesson tonight.

(I also have to say I'm kinda glad I switched to Christina even if my original reasoning was just for scheduling purposes, I feel like I'm actually getting somewhere now instead of just getting on and trotting around for a half hour. Of course, it probably helps that I'm riding Kieran with her and so a lot of it is focused toward his milestones so when we do something new with him, it feels new to me.)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Ribbons for Kieran!

We went to a local schooling show at Saddleview Ranch in Urbana, MD yesterday and rode in three w/t flat classes and three w/t/c flat classes. Kieran was a champ, and even placed in a couple (which I, honestly, was totally not expecting unless there were less people in the class than there were ribbons. =P ). His best ribbon of the day was a second in the green horse w/t/c class and the one my first thought was when they called us, "wait....was that a mistake?".

The cantering was just a ... 'well, let's see how he does' thing. We haven't done a lot of it and I can say for certain our transitions weren't pretty (he doesn't know "outside leg behind the girth" yet so to get him to go involves a lot more kicking than it should) but once he got into the canter, it was nice, so long as I could keep him going. Of course, now he has to learn leads (and so do I).

I wouldn't have signed up for the english equitation (also w/t/c) class if I'd realized they'd have everyone line up on the rail and canter one at a time down the centerline. Except it wasn't "just" canter, it was "canter left lead, then a simple change, canter right lead, stop, back up five steps, then get back in line". Needless to say....we didn't do that. I'm not sure if that's typical for a class like that or they did it because there were so many people in it and they didn't want everyone cantering all at once.

Anyway, there are a bunch of pics I can post, but here's one I like of us about to turn a circle.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hee :D

My instructor said last night that Kieran was "unusually well-balanced" for a horse of his size and training.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Great lesson tonight!

Kieran was about a hundred times better tonight than last week. Even without another horse in the ring it was much easier to keep him moving and I didn't have so much trouble keeping him to the rail (as I did when Rocky was in there). We walked, we trotted, we did big circles and figure eights and cutting across the ring (so we weren't just going around and around and around) and he did really well, especially on the circles. Which was actually something I remember really having to work at with Rurik, keeping him going for those. Kieran was a bit of work too but it felt more like he was just getting tired by that point and he's not really fit yet and it was more work to trot through them than to slow down and walk so I can't completely blame him. ;)

Either way, it really felt like we got some good work in tonight and Christina said not only did he look better but I looked better too, so yay! :)

Of course, maybe a different saddle helped, as well. I rode her in her Duett because we wanted to see how it fit him since that's ultimately the sort of saddle I want to get (she has the companiona trail, I want the companion foxhunter, ideally). So it really seemed to fit him well (better than the first saddle I tried on him and nearly bought so...I guess I'm glad that didn't work out?) and I felt really good in it too. So yay there as well!

Hope everybody else had a good horsey day. :D

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

<3 my Pony

Lunged Kieran again tonight I also got to ride him a bit while Hanna rode Rocky. Amazing how having a second horse in the ring suddenly means I don't have to work very hard to keep him moving but instead of to work to keep him from poking his shoulder out and trying to cut across the ring to get to the other horse.

He's a good boy, though, and when the shoulder thing didn't get him anywhere, he eventually settled down and worked pretty well. He even stood fairly patiently in the middle of the ring while Rocky cantered around the sides.

I took a little video with my cell phone of him lunging but I'm having a heck of a time convincing my computer to let me upload it.

EDIT: Oh yeah, and Christine had mentioned maybe wanting to take up lessons on Wednesday nights so I told her I'd be fine if she wanted to do a shared lesson with me (means cheaper for both of us) so Kieran has to work with another horse in the ring. I kind of miss doing group lessons.

And I think I got the video's pretty terrible quality but it gives some idea of his movement.


I didn't get to ride Kieran yesterday, since nobody else was around the barn, so I just brought him in and groomed him up (yay, he wasn't a dirt/mudball this time!). I still haven't found any "itchy" spots for him though sometimes I think I've almost got one when I scritch behind his ears or rub with the rubber curry on his belly and his hip.

Anyway, after that, we went into the arena and, since there was already stuff set up (jump standards as "poles" to weave through, two barrels sitting near each other for some reason, ground poles to trot over, etc) first I just walked with him around, through, and over everything in hand just for the hell of it. Then, I dragged everything out of the middle of the ring and put him on the lunge line.

He lunges pretty well, but I think he probably just did a lot of work at the trot as that's what he's really good at but asking him to go from a trot to a walk usually gets him to go from trot to halt instead, though that could also be an artifact of his training with Carey since she spent a lot of time putting brakes on him and did a lot of trot->halt with him. Even when I'm riding him in the ring, I really have to work to get him to transition into a walk instead of stopping. So we did some of that and I also asked him to canter and it became obvious that was one thing he really hadn't done on the lunge line. I only had him go around at the canter once each way, mostly to see if he'd do it but I didn't want to overdo it since he isn't used to it.

After that, I had him stand ground-tied while I picked out the arena and then it was more scritchy time before I let him back out to his field. He's a good boy. :)

Assuming everything works out today, I plan on going back up to see him this afternoon. Whether I ride him or not still depends on whether anybody's in the barn (that's up in the air) but I'll at least work with him some more on the ground because I figure it's still working with him to reinforce that he has to do what I tell him.

It's actually funny to me that it seemed like he'd trot forever without a lot of encouragement on the lunge line but it's much more work to get him to do it under saddle. Of course, on the lungeline he only has to carry himself around. ;)

Anyway, even if I don't ride him today, I'll be riding him in my lesson tomorrow and Christina asked me if I minded if she used him for someone's lessons on Sunday which...I don't, really. I know the rider and I know she's not going to screw him up (nor would Christina put someone on him that would) and I can't be up there on the weekends right now anyway and I figure it'll be good for him.

So that's where we are now.

Maybe if we just do lunging today, I'll try and take video at the same time. :)

And, I don't have any pictures from last night but here's one of Christine the day she lunged him not long after I got him:

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Lessoning on Kieran

So now we figure we're going to have to work on getting Kieran's brain back a bit. Mostly because, while the big trail ride last weekend was really good exposure for him, he didn't really have to listen to me. We were going with the group and I wanted to go with the group and he wanted to go with the group so I didn't have to do a lot of active riding and he didn't have to do a lot of active listening. So we come to last night's lesson. Still working on getting him to trot all the way around the ring without trying to stop. And he definitely made me work for it and for now we're working him without a crop.

There was a lot of squeeze, "Trot." .......squeeze harder "Trot!".............kick! "Trot!!". And he still sometimes kinda lurches forward if I goose him on that third try so I spent a lot of time with my hands in his mane to keep from accidentally catching him in the mouth.

And of course, once we start trotting, he wanted to go say...five strides and then stop. So then squeezesqueezesqueezekick! until finally we got him to make it all the way around the ring without breaking gait once. At that point he got to walk and rest and then we spent a little time working on bending: asking him with one rein, seat, and leg to bend inward off the rail, then switch and go outward back toward the rail. He did okay going left but to the right it was about impossible so I think we need to work on that. It was interesting to see him go from being testing-obstinate-teenager mode with the trotting (he knows how to trot on the rail, after all) to "I'm not really sure what you want me to do but I'm trying to figure it out!" mode with the bending. It was neat to see him try even if he didn't quite get what I wanted him to do yet.

After that, we had a few minutes left to walk around and Christina had me drop my stirrups and work on posting without them at the walk. Which, yes, you don't have to get all the way out of the saddle the way you do with stirrups but geesh, it still hurt! Ow.

All in all, though, Kieran was pretty good for a greenie. :) I'm planning on swinging up there this evening after work and before class to ride him a few minutes as I don't want a week to go by without him being ridden again and otherwise the soonest I could probably get up there is Monday. Though I guess I could technically do weekend nights after faire or something, if somebody could be in the barn then.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Eastern Shore Trail Ride: or how I learned to love my pony and fell into the Chesapeake

So okay, the title is misleading. I already really <3 Kieran but this past weekend? Pretty much clinched it for me. This past weekend, I went with some of the folks from Gentle Giants to the Eastern Shore Trail Ride down near Machipongo, VA.

Weekend recap, going to be long:

So Friday, some of our group left at like, 9am for the four hour drive down there to stake our claim on a spot (we were given to understand it was mostly a field so there were spaces for lots of temporary corrals but our horses high line and we needed good trees to put them on and...we had nine horses, mostly drafts, to do it with) and set up the high lines and stuff. The rest of us couldn't leave till later because Christine was working the night before (she's a paramedic in her "day job") and wouldn't be home till nearly 8am anyway and because the kid going along with us had to go to part of a day of school first. ;) The original plan was to leave at about 11am but uh....I can't think of one time we've EVER gone on a camping trip and left as early as we said we would. After packing up everything took longer than expected and we had a last minute change of plans with how we were hauling the horses and one of the horses had a bit of meltdown getting on the trailer and picking up said kid from school....we left around 2:30 in the afternoon. We then proceeded to hit gobs of Bay Bridge traffic. Long story, but the short of it is a trip that took the other group exactly 4 hours took us nearly 6 and we didn't get there till after dark. Luckily, like I said, high lines were already ready and we had a nice spot to camp and get the two big trailers into so no big deal, get the horses off, set up our tents in the dark, and so on.

We were told for Saturday morning originally, we had to be out on the trail by 8:30 if we wanted to get to the beach before the tide was too high (I think that's the way it worked) then someone came around and told us 9:30 would be okay. We told them we were still going to pretend we had to be out by 8:30 so we'd actually get out on time. =P We probably would've been out that early but one of the other folks with us got a call that morning from her farmsitter that one of her horses' legs was all swollen up and stuff and I guess she was afraid he'd fractured something. So then she had to decide if she was going to stay and ride (and have the farmsitter deal with the vet and wait to see what the vet said before deciding whether to make the long drive back, just in case it was something actually much more superficial than a fracture) or pack up her stuff right then and head back to MD. Well, she ended up deciding to drive back home, just in case, because she knew she wouldn't actually be able to relax and enjoy the ride if she was worried about the horse back home. Which, we told her we could pack up most of her stuff so she just took what she needed, loaded her horse up, and got on the road. Apparently that drive actually took longer than she expected because got a flat on her trailer. There is a story in there about how she got to the Wal-Mart tire and lube place and they said something about how they could sell her a tire for the trailer (or something) but they couldn't put it on for her. So she unloaded Chessie (big Belgian mare, used to do weight pulling contests. I'll never forget hearing someone at the York County fair last year say "that's one big bitch" when she walked by) and said, "fine, here hold my horse while I do it." They put the tire on for her.

So by the time all that happened, we didn't get out of camp till like 9:15. I have to say at this point I was concerned as Kieran was not the same horse I rode earlier in the week out in the trails by the farm. Of course, he was in a new place and with a new group of horses and everybody was excited so it made sense that he would be too but still! Not that he did anything bad, he was just a lot more "up" than I was expecting and of course if he was behind another horse, he had to be right on their ass and trying to go fasterfaster. So then I stick him in the front and OMG I can't go fasterfaster anymore because I have to look at everything. *facedesk* Still, he stayed in front pretty well until one point where another group of horses passed us (and once they got past, they went cantering/gaiting off into the distance). He did not like that and I ended up having to stick him behind another one of the horses for a while.

Then there came a point where we had to cross a road and ride alongside a soybean field for a while. Three of us crossed the road, the other five got stopped when a car that was passing by turned out to have someone in it who knew Christine (had actually adopted a horse from her a while back) and they got to chatting. Unfortunately, the two of us in front had two now-impatient horses who wanted to walk on down (after another group we could see in front of us) and the person behind us had a horse who wasn't a fan of being stuck in the middle. And the two of us in front were all annoyed that the jackass in the car was holding things up (we didn't realize at the time he was somebody they knew, just that he'd stopped and was talking to everybody back there) but even then....seriously? Uh, anyway, we got moving again finally. And I have to say, this was about the only thing that really disappointed me with this trail ride: the pictures on the site only show the beach part, really, so you think most of it is beach, but you actually have to ride seven miles before you get to the beach which...if you're just walking, which we were, that's like at least 2 hours before you get there.

By the time we got to the beach, Kieran had ended up back in front again, and it was interesting to see him when the footing suddenly changed to sand and then to actually get him down to where the water was. I know he was thinking, "wtf is this?" But he did it! And then we all went wading a bit in the water and trotting along the beach (there are pictures at the end!) and had a pretty good time. Unfortunately, because it took us so long to get there, the tide was fairly high which meant that though most people who got there earlier were able to wade out to some sandbars and stuff like that, there wasn't much of that for us to do, but it was still neat!

Then it was an hour or so to the lunch site where we got to get off and stretch our legs and give the horses a break. I was really glad of this because my stirrups were all discombobulated (I was riding in a borrowed treeless saddle with my own stirrups so I hadn't adjusted them before I got on and got moving and didn't realize until we'd tried trotting on the beach just how discombobulated my stirrups were because the stirrup bars on treeless were lower than "normal" and somehow they were uneven and anyway, my right one was much longer than the left and my left leg had been aching the whole time). So I got a chance to fix them better and that helped.

On the way back, we came to a really nice flat, open spot (bordered on two sides by tomato fields) where we actually let the horses open up a bit and tried a canter. It didn't last long but it was a hell of a lot of fun. I remember thinking, "okay, the trainer told me he has a nice canter, but I've never cantered him before. OMG. What if he does a happy 'weeee!' buck when we go? OMG, sit back sit back sit back!!!". He was fine and he does have a nice canter. I was ridiculously pleased. The rest of the way was a pretty nice leisurely walk back and I rode a lot of it with my feet out of the stirrups on a long rein. A nice change from the morning!

I was also really happy to see that Kieran didn't seem overly winded by all the riding nor did he get sore . He was tired enough, even, that night to lay down (I know because of the manure stains that were on his butt in the morning) while on the picket line which led me to state he had become a real high lining trail horse now. :)

The next day we planned on leaving earlier didn't happen. We still left about 9:15, hah! But we found a better order for the horses to go in, it seems (one of the horses had been jigging in the back most of the way on Saturday but stick him in the front and suddenly we had a nice pace that everyone kept with instead of bunching and spreading out and stopping and starting to wait on folks and stuff). Kieran stayed near the front of the line most of the way (I did stick him all the way in the back for the last leg of the trip home on Sunday, just to see what he'd do. He was fine). Anyway, this meant it definitely seemed like we got to the beach faster (which, with less stopping and starting and all, we likely did). This time, we spent more time out on the water and actually went cantering along in the waves and waded out to a couple of sandbars and trotted was really a lot of fun. And then the group split in half, some went back to the beach, and a few of us stayed out on a sandbar, intending to canter along it and then join up with the rest of the group. Well, we did start cantering but the horses veered shoreward (to get back to the rest of the group of course *facedesk*) a little too much and ended up plunging into deeper water (not deep water, I could stand up in it without it coming much over my stomach, as I, uh, found out). Which led to some interesting acrobatics that had me come off into the water (best. fall. ever.) as well as one of the other riders (who unfortunately lost her glasses). Horses were okay, riders were okay. And we waded back to the shore, got our wits back together, got back on, and all rode back home. No lunch break after the beach this time but we just moseyed on back. I actually once again rode Kieran without my feet in the stirrups and on a really loose rein.

Once back and after lunch there and taking care of horses, a couple of us packed up and went ahead and came on home (the others were staying till today just so they could take their time but kid that was with us needed to be in school today and I wanted to get in to work for at least part of the day so I didn't use up all my leave).

And that's the story, in a nutshell, though I'm sure I left stuff out (like one of the horses slipping off the high line twice to go grazing elsewhere, or everyone's agreement that Caladhin's canter is horrendous, or how we kept trying to figure out what the two Swedish girls were saying when they weren't talking in English...). So anyway, Kieran was amazing and took to the whole thing like he'd been born to it. :) It got brought up several times over the weekend, "aren't you glad you bought him? Do you think his former owner would be kicking herself is she saw this?"

But here, have pics! You deserve it, making it this far.

These were taken by the professional photographer they had there at the beach on Saturday. So yeah, they're watermarked. Some of the others also took pictures but I don't have them yet (as they haven't even gotten home yet by this time. :) ) so those'll have to come later.

Christine said I was humiliating Kieran by putting that fly bonnet on him. :) (there were, actually, far less bugs than we were expecting there to be)

Anyway, I was kinda disappointed professional guy didn't get any good ones of me and Kieran but oh well, some of the other folks' look to have turned out pretty well.

These are ones I took at lunch on Saturday.

Yes, I put the bit keepers on, then realized I had them up too high, then didn't have an easy way to get the screws off the bridle to fix them so I just slipped them off the bit for now. This will be fixed.

So there you go, should be more pics later, but hopefully this will suffice for now. :)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

First Trail Ride on the new Pony!

So, Kieran's been off at the trainer and doing incredibly well. As I mentioned in my last post. She rode him all over her property (both alone and with other horses) and he did fine. She got him going w/t/c and stopping from the trot. I went out to ride him there for the first time last Friday. Just did a little walking and trotting, but he felt really good and I was pretty stoked.

Didn't get to ride at all this past weekend, had plans for yesterday but it was raining and she only has an outdoor area to ride.

So today, she carts him up to Gentle Giants for me and I had it in my mind we were going to ride in the indoor. But no, she says, "lets go out on the trail on the property!" and I say, ".....okay!".

So we went out on the trail, and to get there we had to pass scary black tarp on the ground (he didn't care), horses in the field very interested in him (okay, so he cared, but he still listened when I said we had to pass them by), lots of various large parked machinery things (nothing he was worried about) and then we were into the woods. We saw some deer not a minute into the trees and he barely flicked an ear at them. :) We stepped over trees and went through a dry creek bed, he both led and followed, and even went alone away from his trail buddy for a bit and he was just fine and dandy. He tries things, like, "hmmm, this is the way back to the barn, will you let me go that way? No? Uh, okay, we'll go the way you want...."

Anyway, he was really good and I'm really pleased.

I'll be riding him in a lesson tomorrow and I'm pretty excited about it. And then this weekend is the big Eastern Short Trail Ride camping trip!!!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Trainer wants to steal my horse!

And I feel all validated as a horse buyer/owner.

So you saw my post yesterday about Kieran. Here's more about the call I got yesterday evening:

So I was on the phone last night with Christine and she asked me, "did [trainer] call you yet?" and I'm all, " OMG WHAT HAPPENED?" and I'm envisioning like she's going to be all, "take this horse out of my sight, he's dead to me, I can't believe you bought him," and that he threw her or something.

No, says, Christine, she had received a text from the trainer saying something to the effect of, "I want to steal [my] horse." So now I'm laughing know, that's obviously a good thing, so to speak. But she doesn't have any more details yet. So after we get off the phone she calls the trainer to find out the scoop (with the promise that she'll tell the trainer to call me right after). Well, unfortunately trainer is having a lot of phone problems lately (seriously) so they didn't get very far into the conversation but the basic gist is that he ground-tied yesterday for tacking and went w/t/c (they've only trotted up till then) without fuss and had no trouble turning or stopping (the thing she'd told me last time I talked to her was that he needed work on his brakes) and that she (trainer) thinks I made out like a bandit with him.

Unfortunately, I have work and class today so I likely won't be able to go see this for myself so soon. I shall have to see about tomorrow though!


Monday, August 31, 2009

My New Baby

So, I finally have a horse of my own. His name is Kieran (though the name he came with was "Kyron's Keepsake"). He is, I admit, not really what I was looking for.

What I was looking for: around 10, solid with some chrome, draft cross, solid with a lot of miles

What he is: 5, mostly white paint/percheron thing, and very, very green. Apparently, he and his brother were purchased/rescued (PMUs, I think) several years ago by the lady I bought him from. Both were to be training projects for she and her husband. Kieran here was hubby's project and...I guess the project never really happened. So within the last year or so, they decided they would just sell him but before they did, they wanted to get some training on him to help ensure he'd get a good home (good for them!). So they had a trainer put some time on him and he was ridden at least a couple of times but I really don't know the extent of that. And that was also like eight months ago.

He has had a lot of ground work. He's very good for leading, he lunges well, he does all that round pen natural horsemanship stuff that I really don't know the details of, to be honest. He gives to rein pressure, etc.

He's also a mite bit spoiled. As in: he didn't want to hold his feet up for me to pick them out. So he jerked the foot out of my hand. I picked it up again. He took it away again. I smacked his shoulder. He stomped around and threw a tantrum. As near as we can figure, he must've never really been reprimanded before.

Uh anyway, I've been looking for a horse for a bit now (as mentioned in my previous post. Update on Bridget: she bucked when I asked her to canter, I came off and sprained my ankle pretty impressively and decided she wasn't the horse for me.) and the lady who previously owned Kieran called Christine at Gentle Giants up and wanted her help in finding a home for him as she had never sold a horse before and was afraid of him ending up in a bad place, etc.

Christine says, more or less, "actually, I know someone looking for a good horse, we'll come out and see him!" So we do. And, as I said, he wasn't really what I was looking for. But he has a kind eye and he's put together well and he seems sensible and trainable and Christine and I both like him a lot (and I really trust her judgement in good horses). So the next day I brought him home (well to Gentle Giants). Of course, he only stayed there about a week before he went off to the trainer's which is where he is now.

Trainer says he's coming along well, they've walked and trotted and were supposed to hit the trails this weekend. More updates when I get 'em. :)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Let the time get away from me

And I've got no excuse for it! I'm not going to recap the last few months, but I'll talk about what's going on currently in my horsey life.

So one of the horses I've been riding a lot in my lessons lately is Rurik. He's about 7, a handsome-looking Percheron, and up until just I guess a year or two ago, he still had all his man parts and was living in a pasture with his mom (never "weaned", LOL!) and some other horses. He ended up at Gentle Giants and they started trying to train him.

Emphasis on trying, as he really hadn't been touched before then. He might have been an adult in body, but he wasn't in mind. Right after I first started volunteering there, I watched them spend a training session just trying to get him to stand still and accept a saddle pad. I heard about some of the explosions that occurred when the actually managed to get a saddle on him. He ended up getting sent out for several months of professional training. That was last summer. This year? You wouldn't know it was the same horse. Last August I never would have dreamed of riding him, but this year, he's become the horse I ride most often.

So anyway, he's technically been adopted but he's being boarded at the farm until a couple of other things are worked on (trailer loading, for one) and in the mean time, his owner allows him to be used for lessons. Last month, a few of us went up to a schooling show near Frederick and I showed him in a bunch of equitation classes. We came out of there with a fifth, a fourth (my first two classes, back to back, when I was all nerves), and three seconds (my later classes after I'd relaxed :) What a world of difference the afternoon was from the morning!). I was very proud of him as not only did he more or less listen (he kept wanting to speed up at one end of the ring and I had a hell of a time convincing him to keep a nice trot through there), he handled the moment when someone on a horse that was WAY too much for him practically ran up his rear-end. So yay!

And I guess, since I talked about Molly in the previous post I should mention that she did end up getting adopted by the lady I mentioned and that lady loves her a lot. She came on a trail ride with us and Molly was all fat and sassy and looks GREAT so while I'm sad she's not mine, I'm happy she's in an awesome home.

And on the subject of making horses mine:

There's a neat spotted draft at Gentle Giants I had thought might be the horse for me. He's good looking and intelligent but came in completely untrained. As he's been going through training it's becoming more and more obvious to me that as much as I think he's kinda cool, he is not the horse for me. He's pretty reactive and while I'm sure there are people who'd like that...I'm not one of them.

There's also Blue who...well, I took her on the trail camping trip we went on this past weekend and she's probably a lot of the sort of horse I should be getting. Calm and level-headed, generally friendly, and fairly attractive. But I don't feel that spark, you know? I could certainly like her but she's not my first choice there.

My first choice, lately, has been Monty. I tell people if Monty where proportioned exactly the way he is but only about 16 hands high instead of 18+, he'd be perfect. He's friendly and gorgeous without being flashy (bay with a star) and he's good on trails and generally willing to do what you ask, if not highly trained. Except that he's got some sort of foot issue that makes him ouchy on hard ground without shoes. Not completely a dealbreaker but shoeing a horse that big is pretty expensive when I could likely find a horse who can do what I want without that problem.

I'd been hoping to adopt from Gentle Giants but...well, despite there being a glut of horses there at the moment, many of them still need training or I'm just....not interested in. You get the idea.

I did tell Christine this weekend that one of GG's lesson horses (Tabitha) is actually exactly what I need, I think. She's been there, done that, doesn't spook at anything, does as you ask, is amazing on trails, is a little flashy, is kind and interested in people, et cetera. Except she's over twenty and Christine would never adopt her out anyway. But you know, if she were available, I'd likely have been all over her way before now.

So that brings us to Bridget. Bridget is a 15 year old TB/Percheron mare I found on one of the horse advertising sites. She appears to be everything I'm looking for. Quiet, sensible, mid-teens (neither too old or young), presumably sound, not too big, well-conformed, uncomplicated, and capable of doing the sort of riding I want to do (trails, general hacking about, small schooling shows at w/t/c, some low lever dressage. Lots of flat stuff as I'm not into jumping.). Oh, and the price is within my "okay, I could pay that," range. Of course, she's been on the site for at least a month now and since she does appear to be really nice and for a good price, I have to wonder why she isn't sold yet.

Well, anyway, I'm going to see her on Friday, so maybe I'll find out.

Maybe the only reason she hasn't been sold is she's waiting for me. We'll see.

And I'm sure there will be pictures when I get back. ;)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Private lessons & horses we love hopelessly

My first private lesson ride saw me riding Humphrey again. Not a bad ride, lots of serpentines and Laura yelling at me to keep my toes forward and not drop my inside shoulder. Also Humphrey was getting kinda...something. Very head-tossey, though Laura said if he wasn't doing anything else to just push him through it and ignore him so that's basically what I did. Otherwise, it wasn't too exciting.

My second lesson was done mostly without stirrups on Jezzie. Jezz is a Morgan cross with a very smooth trot and canter. It weirds me out because I'm used to bigger gaits on bigger horses. They don't feel like real gaits to me.

Anyway, because she's so smooth, Laura had me working on her posting down the long sides and sitting on the short ones. But I still had to keep my calf on her to keep her moving. Can I say ow? I was definitely saying it then. Ow. I need to work on strengthening my legs, I think.

The third lesson was last Saturday and I was on Caladhin. 18.1 hands, approaching 2000 poounds, lazy, gorgeous Percheron horse. Plus, the far end of the arena is scary to him so he really likes to cut corners there. Soooo...lots of leg to keep him moving and on the rail. Got to keep my stirrups this time (thank God) but it was still a lot of work. By the end, though, got a few nice circles on him trotting where it felt like I wasn't having to fight him to make things work.

There've been a few other riding experiences in there.

Saturday, I also rode Molly out in one of the fields. She's pretty lazy in the ring and I wanted to see if that carried over outside. Luckily, it doesn't, so we spent a lot of time walking and trotting around. The field is a bit hilly and I wanted to work on getting her more fit that way.

Of course, the first time I asked her to trot up the hill she surprised me by breaking into a canter. I didn't know she had it in her! :) We came back down after a few strides and that was that. I don't really want to actually canter her until she gains some more weight/muscle. (she came to GG with probable EPSM and then she had a colic episode for nearly a week and dropped weight from that).

Also rode my first spook on her. She spooks sideways. Nothing too hard to handle but I hope she doesn't make a habit of it because I'm not sure if the lady who is supposed to be adopting her can sit it. I have a sneaking suspicion lady in question liked her better when she'd hardly trot at all.

But now she's recovering and feeling better so I think she'll be perking up even more as time goes on. I have a terrible kind of hope that lady decides she doesn't want her after all because I really, really want to make her mine.

Oh! We also took Molly on her first big trail ride yesterday in a group of seven or so horses. Just walking (but she wanted to trot for the first half. By the end she was pretty pooped even though it wasn't an overly long ride) but still fun and nice scenery. No spooks (save for a little jolt when another horse tried to make a break for home near the end). And then at the end we sat out with the horses and hand-grazed them. Very peaceful.

On a not-riding subject, the Belgian foal at GG jammed my ring finger on my right hand somehow while I was leading her yesterday. Didn't want to go through a door way and she pulled back. Not sure how she got my finger but it's swollen and bruised and hurts if pressure is put on it. Not broken, thank goodness, but it makes typing interesting. Or much of anything, because I'm right-handed. Never realised how much I use my ring finger for stuff. Ow.

That happened before the trail ride. Had to ride Molly with the reins between my middle and ring finger instead of ring finger and pinky. Probably would have been easier if she (and I) neck-reined, lol.

GG went up to New Holland today. I want to go peek up there this evening and see if they brought back anything new.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

So that fall finally happened...

I've been telling people recently that since it's been about a year since I started re-riding, I felt like I was coming up due on an actual fall. I'd really only come off once since I'd started riding again and it totally didn't count because I landed on my feet.

Until last night.

I went up to Gentle Giants to ride with a few other people but I wasn't sure who I wanted to ride. Christina suggested Humphrey, a horse I hadn't ridden before, actually one of the Thoroughbreds that are there (he's both getting re-worked by Christina and being used as a lesson horse). Before she'd started riding him a couple months ago, he'd been basically out to pasture for about two and a half years. I've seen him ridden a few times and I'd thought about doing so myself in the past so I figured....why not?

The first half of my riding I did in a saddle and we were just fine. He's a little looky and a little nervous but it wasn't a big deal. Once we did walk/trot/canter (actually managed to get him to go both ways cantering, but he was obviously more reluctant to go to the right cantering and it took a few tries. Remember: he hasn't been worked a lot up till recently so they're still trying to get him fit) a bit and by that point they needed the saddle I was riding in for someone who was going to take an actual lesson. So I hopped off, took off his saddle, and got back on bareback. I probably wouldn't have done this except his trot had been relatively smooth when we'd been going earlier so I figured we'd be okay. I wasn't planning on cantering him again, after all!

For the next few minutes, trotting with him was pretty iffy. He had cantered and now he was like, "but why can't we go fast again?" and it took some work to bring him back down (I mentioned Thoroughbred, right?). Still, not too bad, and finally we were just walking around. I was thinking of getting off him pretty soon, actually...

When my foot knocked against the arena wall as we went by and it scared him. He spooked, stone dust hit the metal wall too, he spooked further and I, previously very relaxed and loose sitting on his bare (slick!) back slid right off. He went one way, I went the other and landed on my back. Ow.

Then he stood there staring at me from a few feet away like, "OMYGODWHYAREYOUONTHEGROUND?"

Luckily, I didn't injure anything, though I'm sore but I don't think I'll be riding him without a saddle any time soon. I actually think if I'd still been in the saddle, I probably could've saved myself from falling (all the way) off. Though it's possible me hanging on him would've spooked him more so maybe it's a good thing I wasn't.

Either way, I had my fall, now I shouldn't be due for another one for a while.

In other news, next weekend I'm starting private lessons at a new barn. I'd already been planning to ask to work more on no-stirrups and last night is really just more incentive to do so (yeah, I know I'm crazy).

So the next few weeks should have me making updates like, "OWWWWW my legs are sooooore *whine*". Can't wait!

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Once again, all sorts of stuff to talk about, it's been a while. I'll just focus on the last couple of weeks thought.

Monday before last, I rode at Columbia on Handsome. Let's just say it wasn't my best lesson ever though Kristy told me a lot of it looked to be me being too tense and getting frustrated with myself because things weren't going perfectly and really, I looked fine if I'd just relax. Near the end, I started to get to that point, but still, I felt like I could have done better.

This past Monday, I rode him again and our ride was about a million times better. One of Handsome's little things he does to entertain himself in lessons is to vary the speed he's moving at. Not change gaits, just...slow trot faster trot slow trot faster trot, and so on. That didn't happen so much, or maybe I was just more aware of it and able to keep him at a steadier pace. We also did a little jumping and that was also much easier, though I still only got him to canter out once. I still haven't really gotten "keeping leg on" while being up in two-point. Too much to think about all at once!

The lesson ended on a notsogreat note, though, when one of the other riders fell going over the jump. She probably would have been fine if she'd hit dirt but she hit the standard instead and it knocked the wind out of her and, I think, she sprained her ankle. Will probably find out what all exactly happened tomorrow when I go in for the Monday lesson.

Also, Tuesday before last I went up to Gentle Giants and rode Treadway who I believe I've blogged about before. Also not one of my better rides on him. I was riding in the dressage saddle they have (in anticipation of a dressage lesson I took today) but the stirrups were too long (on the shortest hole and wrapped twice and still just a bit too long so I kept pushing my feet forward in them) and the way the saddle is, it encourages one to sit up more on their crotch. Which, I guess, is better for dressage, but on Treadway?

See, he used to be a fairly highish level eventer and his owner taught him to go faster or slower based off of her seat. So if you sit back on your seatbones, he'll go at a reasonable pace. But if you tilt your pelvis forward? He starts speeding up. You don't even have to have leg on him. So basically, Christine said it looked like he was running away with me (at the trot), though he did break into a canter once (the first time ever with me). It ended up being a fairly frustrating experience.

This past Wednesday night, I went back up to GG to ride but took Big Red out for a spin instead. It was kind of nice to ride a horse you have to use leg on to get to move. :)

Thursday (New Year's Day), was a big New Year's auction up in Thurmont that Christine wanted to go to in hopes of finding a draft or two who needed saving. It turned out there were no drafts at the auction (out of ~100 horses), but there were a few draft crosses (or, as near as we could tell, they looked it). There were three horses we ended up figuring we'd try and bid on. 1) The most adorable drafty large pony (small horse, actually) thing I've ever seen. 2) Something that looked liked a cross between a Clydesdale and a Standardbred. 3) A possible Fjord cross.

We ended up with the first guy and the person we were bidding against is a known horse dealer who likely would've been hauling the poor pony up to New Holland on Monday. Anyway, he's fat and fuzzy and possibly blind in one eye and probably about twenty but he's the most willing little guy ever and has a funny gray patch over the top of his neck.

Christine ended up not going for the Clyde cross because, if I recall right, she was worried it wasn't actually sound. The Fjord ended up getting bidded to out of our price range and went to what looked like a good home, so that's good. :) One of the last horses of the night, however, was this poor Thoroughbred mare that nobody seemed interested in and Christine took pity on her. The mare's only 12 and her racing name was Our Sister Gina (OSG). She goes w/t/c, auto changes, and jumps! Somebody put the training into her so it's kind of amazing she ended up where she did.

The same goes for the Big Grey Pony (BGP). He goes w/t/c, is completely unflappable (so far), and if you point him over a jump, he'll do his darndest for you. It wouldn't suprise me if he was somebody's hunter pony or something once upon a time. Another one we can't figure out how he ended up at auction because he's just that awesome.

So anyway, both new horses got ridden yesterday. Laura the instructor rode OSG and was very impressed with her. Nick the farrier already is in love with her and it's likely that they'll be adopting her.

I got to ride the BGP and I am in love with him! If you'd asked me what kind of horse I wanted even a week ago I never would have described this one (save that he's grey) but he's just so cool.

And then today. Today was the dressage lesson. I'd won it back early in December at a silent auction GG held during their wine tasting fundraiser. The lesson was donated by Hilary Moore. And she was gracious enough to come out to GG to give it instead of making us haul Treadway out to where she is. I think that's kind of awesome, personally. :)

Anyway, I've talked before about how riding Treadway is complicated, even though he's a great guy. So we explained about his history to Hilary and I explained what I was looking to get out of the lesson (that I've been riding a while but at a place that does a lot of hunter/jumper stuff so dressage isn't really emphasized but it's something I've been interested in and want to learn more about). She started me out with Treadway just getting him to walk relaxed (because generally, once he gets going, he wants to get moving and then I have to hold him in with my hands....or so I thought) and then to walk->halt transitions and back up to a walk again. She had me do this by just keeping a light contact with the rein and instead squeezing with my seat and upper thigh (but keeping my calf off!) and eventually? He stopped! Once he held still, I let him walk again and we repeated till he would stop reliably. He learned that I had learned his language, more or less.

Then we did it in the other direction. Once that was going well, she had me move him up to the trot and then we worked on trot to walk transitions. Then, once he was reliably listening to me, she had me rate my posting so if I sped up posting, he'd speed up trotting, if I slowed my posting, he'd slow his trot. It was the first time I ever felt a horse do that (it may have happened in the past, but I wasn't looking for it so I can't point to it as an experience). Finally, after we both seemed relaxed and in control, she had me take him up to a canter and then do canter->trot transitions. This was more difficult but not as bad as I'll admit I anticipated. Once we'd done all of this both directions, she went out of the middle of the ring and hand me go from walk to trot to canter in both directions on my own initiative. That is, she wasn't telling me when to do it, I had to decide to do it myself. The idea being how you know you can go to a lesson and you think you get it (this goes for just about anything) but then you get home or try it later and it doesn't work how you remember? This was was my chance to try it "on my own" and then ask questions about what worked or didn't.

It wasn't as successful as it was when she was in the middle of the ring, but we weren't terrible either. It's just a lot of work to have to do all the remembering of what you're supposed to do at any given time! :) Plus, we were both getting tired by that point so that made it more difficult too to get things done properly. One thing I noticed is it became harder to use my leg and I started relying more on my hands which didn't help things. Still and all, we ended up on a pretty "up" note and I'm pleased.

Oh, most of the time she also had us going in a large circle around her instead of up and down the long straight sides of the arena. This partly helped rate his speed and also required me to work at getting him to bed, so I also had to remember to use my inside leg to push him "out" while using my inside rein to bring his head in just a bit. Also probably the first time I've really used my leg to try to move him somewhere side ways (so to speak) and it didn't cause him to speed up.

Anyway, it was a really good lesson and I'm glad I took it. Though it does look like someone is thinking about adopting Treadway in the relatively near future so I don't know how often I'll be riding him, it's all stuff I can use with other horses, I think. I mean, my big reason for wanting to learn more about dressage is to learn to ride more quietly and I definitely manage to accomplish that with Treadway today. :)

Lastly, I ended up at the end of the day getting the BGP out of the field and bringing him in to get groomed. He can't get really clean until it's warm enough to bathe (and I'm disgusted somebody ran him through the auction ring without cleaning him up first) but I was able to get some dirt off him and clean out his feet and make his tail not-tangly. I really adore this guy and am thinking I might want him for myself.

Though Christina the instructor also mentioned that they (or she at least?) was hoping one of her students (a little girl who's been taking lessons on the lesson pony there) would want to adopt her (or rather, her parents). I can't get in the way of a little girl and her first pony but I can keep my fingers crossed that they can't end up getting him, right? :)

And after all of that? Have a picture of the BGP's adorable face!