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.