Saturday, December 31, 2011

Riding with Tracey

One of the other boarders and I both rode today. She was trying out an English saddle she'd just gotten (she's ridden Western for years) and I was just toodling around with Kieran. :)

I think my position has improved light years from what it used to be.

I didn't expect him to actually jump this but I think I managed to get properly out of his way.

Good pony!

Yes, we briefly switched horses :)

Canter departure

Hopping over the crossrail. Ignore us dorking out about it afterward, LOL.

Longer video, just riding around. There's a nice canter departure at about 2:33

Sunday, December 18, 2011

It's like he's a different horse!

It's just the past couple of lessons....Kieran's been really forward and happy about working. He's always been fairly agreeable, but sometimes it could be grudging. He'd trudge around and I'd coax a nice trot or canter out of him but lately it's just been... I mount up and we walk off from the mounting block with a nice forward walk and even later in the lesson when we have walk breaks he doesn't drop back into the trudge mode. I ask for trots and canters and he gives me nice transitions and moves out and I don't have to spend the whole time pushing forward. Sometimes I even have to ask him to come back a little. It's exciting! :)

Anyway, that's been the big goal we've been working on. Give Kieran A Work Ethic. And now he's actually interested in what we're doing and ready to really learn so we can start doing fun stuff.

Not only that, but I feel like I'm more "with" him than I ever used to be. Like we're on the same wavelength now more times than not, instead of slightly out of sync. And I actually feel like that whole "independent seat" thing is developing and like I can really follow with my body and not feel like I have to hold on for dear life with my hands because my body can't do it.

I'm just really excited about where we're going and I'm glad I found Jessica to help us get there. :)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Foward, Straight, don't stop!

So today we pretty much worked on keeping Kieran moving forward and in a straight line, without letting him get bored. Once he decides something is boring, he stops paying attention and we get him just stumbling over trot poles or tripping over himself or drifting around the ring. Mostly that means I have to not zone out because when I do, he does.

Anyway, we started the lesson and Kieran was ready to go. I asked him to trot, he wanted to canter, when I finally let him canter, he gave a happy "whee!" kick. I guess it was the drop in the temperature but it was like riding a different horse! LOL.

That said, even when he was frisky, I felt like I was right there with him the whole time, instead of slightly out of sync like I used to feel sometimes.

Today, Jessica had set up a set of four trot poles at E and two crossrails (one over by B, one at X). One of the crossrails was really open and inviting, the other was set up on two barrels laying on the ground so it was a bit more "solid" looking. We started with the open crossrail and she just wanted us to get a forward trot going and for me to point Kieran at the fence and allow him to go forward. She was like, "I don't care what your position over this looks like, you can follow him well enough over a fence this small that you can just grab mane and go, what we want is for him to just come straight at the fence with a steady, forward rhythm, and not to stop after the fence." So we just worked on that and then about the third or fourth time instead of just trotting over, he kind of hopped over and cantered away nicely. He got lots of praise and pats and a long walk break for that.

Then we went and did the more "solid-looking" crossrail. And after the long walk break, she had us start by cantering around the ring to get him forward again, then when we came around the turn to the fence, to come back to a trot with the idea that he'd stay forward.

Well...he didn't, really. I think that confused him, "slow down, wait, keep moving out? Why'd I slow down, then?" So we went back to just trotting and pushing him forward and that one we got him to hop over it and canter out a stride so that was really good too.

A lot of my lessons lately have been about working on me, this lesson was pretty much all about teaching Kieran something. :)

Saturday, December 3, 2011


New saddle is definitely too wide. Like, when I sat in it it plopped right down onto his withers with no clearance too wide.

That said, it felt really nice when I sat in it and a bit like keeping my leg under me would be effortless. It just fell into the right spot. So I need this saddle but narrower!

Saddle on left is the one I'm trying out, saddle on right is my current saddle.

Look at that leg!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Riding today

Just riding around with some cavaletti and poles. :)

No, not with the new saddle, it hasn't gotten here yet.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

New Saddle

That is on its way to me. :)

(Duett Presto)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pictures from Friday!

Jessica's mom was there and took a few of our lesson. :) Click on them to make 'em bigger.

Friday, November 11, 2011

He's so amazing

Got in a lesson with Jessica this morning. Had plenty of time to warm up before she got there. Started by putting him on the longe line for a quick trot around each direction to see what sort of mood he was in. Despite the fact that the other horses were getting breakfast, he actually was listening very well so I went ahead and got on and we started walking around.

Just did a lot of changes of of direction and a bit of trotting, threw in some cantering each way and thinking about not using rein but trying to use more seat and leg and to keep my shoulders back and my calf on and not pinch with my knee. Did a bit of dropping the reins and letting him walk around while I closed my eyes, too.

So anyway, by the time Jessica got there, we jumped right into the lesson and started with just trotting around with the idea that I should take up the reins and work on pushing him into the bridle and see if he'd do that instead of raising his head and trying to evade.

See, this was our first lesson back off the longe line in the past couple weeks with the idea being that the longe helped me "reset" myself and rely less on the reins and to "reset" him so he'd learn that he could trust the bit. Anyway, she ended up making me drop my stirrups and sit the trot and when I did that, once I relaxed into it (she had to keep telling me, "you did this on the longe line! This is just a bigger circle!!) and sat deep with my seat, he relaxed into it too and put his head down.

So we did that for a bit, working on getting a nice forward trot (a "woodchuck" trot) with me posting and then she'd tell me to sit and drop my stirrups and go with him. I won't say it was perfect, because it wasn't, and it definitely took several repetitions until something clicked in me and went, "oh yeah, you have done this and you can do it. So just do it."

After that, she had us do some cantering wherein we'd really push forward (hand gallop, pretty much) on the long sides and then ask for him to come back down on the short sides. My task was to use my seat and legs to ask for most of this and not to use the reins (or my "exhale heavy" trick he's learned when I want him to stop). Anyway, we started out going to the left and it was pretty darn good. He did break to a trot a couple times when I just wanted him to give me a slower canter but he went right back in the canter when I asked (I didn't have to beat him to get him to go forward, hah) and I never felt like I needed to grab hold of anything to stay with him.

Before we switched directions, Jessica let us take a walk break (that was hard work!) and we talked about half-halting. Now, Kieran and I both have some idea of what a half halt is but for cantering, I'd never heard it explained this way so I'm recording it for posterity. Of course, she talked about how with a full halt, it's like you're holding your body against the motion to get the horse to halt but with a half halt, you're doing it for a moment, then pushing the horse forward so he doesn't actually stop. In the canter, she said, the halt part of the half halt that you do with your body you should do as the horse comes up and its feet are in the air and then as you come back down again is when you push him forward. Because, of course, the transition down has to start in the back end too so if you're asking 'halt' when the horse is in the air, he gets that "okay, we're going to halt" but then you come down and you ask "forward" and you get the half halt whereas I guess if you asked halt when coming down, you'd be more likely to get a real stop or at least a down transition. I don't think I'm explaining it as well as she did, but that's the general idea.

So with that in mind, we went and started cantering to the right and ohmylord. The first one was so lovely, he really opened up on the long side and it was beautiful but then I asked him down the short side to come back to me and collect up a bit and he was right there and then we'd hit the long side and I'd squeeze my legs and push with my seat and we'd push forward again and just. Gah. I love my pony.

Oh yeah, and his downward transitions from the canter were pretty lovely too. Usually he kind of pile-drives through them but this time he really settled into them nicely.

After that, we didn't do any more canter work because that was so freaking beautiful but instead Jessica set up some trot poles at X for us to go over and get Kieran's mind working since so far in this lesson and for the past couple we'd been focusing more on me than him.

First she set the poles (four of them) up for really short trot strides but she had us come in at a working trot and told me not to do anything but follow what he did and keep him straight. The idea being that he'd have to figure out on his own how to adjust.

The first time through he hit and or stepped on every single pole. *facepalm* So we did it again a couple times until he was going through nicely. Then she changed it so the poles were about twice as wide apart as they had been (long trot strides) and we had to go through again. The first time he was like, "wait...weren't these closer together? WTF?" but then he figured it out. :)

So to make it more interesting she put them in an M shape, zig-zagging one right next to the other. The end result was that if we went down the center, he really didn't have to change his stride at all.

So we did that twice and he did it perfectly each time. So then she asked us to go through it but for me to ask him to stay a step or so over to the right side of the poles so he had a short trot stride a looong trot stride, and then a short again.

Another "wtf??" from Kieran the first time through. The second time he shifted just a bit over so he didn't have to go over them at all, and Jessica was like, "hah, he's trying to do the smart thing and avoid the weirdness, but he needs to learn if you're asking him to go straight at a certain point...that's what he does."

So we went back around and did it again a time or two and by the time we finished he was doing the striding just right on the front end but he hadn't quite figured out how to get the back feet to follow along so he knocked a couple of poles. We ended there, though, because he was getting tired and also...getting the point of the exercise, probably when we go do it next time he won't have a problem at all.

Anyway, all in all it was a really good, really productive lesson. He stayed focused and with me the whole time and just generally in "happy pony" mode with only maybe once trying to stick his nose to the outside and evade but I just shortened the inside rein a bit, opened the outside rein and kept my inside leg on and we pushed through it.

Jessica said she could see that the longe lessons had definitely helped as I wasn't falling forward on his neck in downward transitions (except I've got a terrible habit of after a really hard workout when we come down to the walk of letting myself go forward and rest my hands on his neck but that's different since I'm consciously meaning to do it and I need to break the habit) and I was keeping my back straight and my shoulders back where they need to be. My leg she still had to remind me to not pinch with my knee and keep my calf on but I think it was way better than it was previously.

So...happy me and happy pony and next week Jessica said we'd probably (along with some of the other transitions-within-gait thing) add in some low jumps to send him over. See, there's a farm over in Aiken that's doing a schooling show in a few weeks. We decided we probably wouldn't enter in the show because I'm not sure he's ready (it's a combined test with jumping and dressage) but it's possible we can just pay a fee to bring him out there and let him school without being judged so he can go to a new environment and we can see how he reacts there. Plus they have "puddle jumper" sized jumps on their cross country course so the idea would be to take him out there and see how he does with that because, even though he's done some of the show things before, we've never done anything quite like that. I'm excited. :)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Just discovered this...

...and I'm having too much fun making gifs out of Kieran:


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Still lunging

Gratuitous picture of Kieran out in the field after he rolled after I turned him out again. Doesn't he look good? (and fuzzy!)

Got to keep my stirrups but still had no reins and we did a lot of trotting where I had to keep my eyes closed. Discovered it was a bit easier to do that posting than trying to sit (even though I got to hold on to the pommel of the saddle if I sat).

We talked a lot about how my "default" position is slightly hunched forward so I can use my hands to catch myself on his neck (which since I tend to keep the reins in one spot is also a part of that) so now that I don't have reins I have to re-learn how to use my core to actually hold myself up and sit back.

Anyway, here's video of our last canter of the day. Note I don't touch him with my hands. :)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

No reins. No stirrups. No eyes.

So today my lesson was done entirely on the lunge line. No reins at all though I was allowed to grab mane if I felt the need. We alternated between stirrups and no stirrups though Jessica said the difference in my position between when I took up my stirrups and when I dropped them was pretty drastic. (better without) We did that walking and trotting. Then she had me close my eyes (here's where hanging on to something came in handy because if I didn't, I felt a bit of vertigo like I was about to fall off without anything to look at. Jessica says I'm relying too much on what my eyes tell me instead of what my body's telling me).

Then she let me take my stirrups back and open my eyes and we did some cantering. Then she let me still hold mane with one hand but with the other I had to raise it straight up above my head which had the effect of making me sit up straight instead of hunching forward like I want to. Apparently also my heels come down and once again, my position improves dramatically. Apparently it was so good Jessica was like, "WHY DIDN'T YOU BRING YOUR CAMERA TODAY?" Alas, I'd forgotten it at home.

Anyway, then she had me doing all that, and then I had to drop my stirrups while cantering. It was terrifying. Something in my brain said, "you're going to fall off if you do that" but of course, I didn't.

So we talked a lot about the need for me to develop a seat independent of my hands and for me to build up the muscle memory of what to do without having to "see" it and then take action. My homework for the week is to spend time riding without reins (and stirrups, if I can stand it) and do the raise an arm above my head thing.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Fairy Pony!

Our barn had a fun show today...somehow we came in as grand champion. :D

There was also a costume contest...I have been DYING to do one of these for like...ever. So here we are!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Clips from Saturday

We started the lesson by trotting figure eights around two barrels (you can't see the other one, alas) to get Kieran's brains focused. When you hear Jessica near the end be like "there we go!" or whatever, he's really started relaxing into it and paying attention.

Then we moved on to trotting single turns over poles. This was to get me to really use my seat and leg to get him to turn, not so much with the reins. Plus I had to really think about creating a "wall" with the outside rein and leg to keep him from bulging out of the turn and instead keep it kind of crisp.

And then she added in some more poles so we had to make two turns in different directions (so like and S shape), building off the previous exercise except now I had to think ahead even more about what I was doing and not wait till the last minute to start asking for a turn.

Alas, this was the main stuff the video got before it shut itself off so you don't get to see the circle of ground poles we did or the simple changes around the barrels we did at the end of the lesson.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Things we discussed in the lesson:

1. I am, apparently, crooked. I find it easier to use my right leg and seatbone than my left leg and seatbone. I also sit skewed (I've noticed, now that I've been thinking about it, that I do it when sitting in chairs too). This likely helps explain some of the issues I've had with Kieran. Like cantering to the right is easier because I can use my right leg to keep him from drifting inward but going the other way is more trouble. Or how when we attempt sidepassing or turns on the forehand, it's easier when I ask him to go left because I'm using my right leg to do it, and vice versa.

2. We can actually trot (and canter!) around on a loooooose rein and not have him drift all the way inward. It just takes a lot of leg and me opening the outside rein (maybe a lot, now but still) instead of pulling back on it. And, for now, maybe tapping his inside shoulder (seriously, I was just tapping lightly, not smacking) with the whip to back up my leg. When I pull back with the rein (which is what I want to do because it's become habit even though I know it's wrong), he just sticks his nose to the outside, bulges his shoulder in, and keeps going wherever he wants. You know this, I know this. I've talked about it dozens of times, it seems. But tonight we were actually able to consistently go around at all gaits more or less straight and without too much cutting into the center (was it perfect? Nah, but it was a far sight better than before).

3. Really, basically everything we're doing is about getting me to better control my body and, in extension, better control Kieran's body so I'm not just trying to haul him around with the reins. If Jessica had her way, by the end of this, we won't need reins at all. ;) That'd be pretty cool. pictures from tonight, but here's a couple from our previous lesson on Saturday (was a makeup) that I didn't write about but should have while it was still fresh in my mind:

Look how he's crossing over on that turn!

We started out the lesson trotting figure eights around two barrels to get his brain on working since it'd been over a week since he'd last worked. We ended the lesson cantering in up the rail coming around between the barrels, going down to a trot, starting to turn around the other barrel (half a figure eight?) and cantering off on the other lead. :)

There was also a nice bit of trail riding that happened this weekend. Got to expose Kieran to all sorts of things: small children running up to pet the pretty ponies (*sigh*), small children on bicycles, a wildly barking herd of seven dogs (behind a fence), surveyor's tape blowin' in the wind, large (unmoving, turned off) construction equipment...all sorts of stuff. We even discovered a trail that has a bit of a slope and that we can probably use even during hunting season so we can get some work on not-flat-ground in. :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


So I set up my camera tonight to capture some of my lesson. Obviously you only see us when we passed in front of the camera but hey...a lot of the work happened in the middle of the ring. :)

Lots of circles still and work on turning well and getting Kieran to move more off my leg and me to rely less on the reins.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Longing over Crossrails

Started out the day with a quick warmup on the longe, then asked Kieran to trot over a cross rail. He trotted right up to it, hopped over, cantered out. I was so pleased! So we went a few times to the left, then a few more times to the right (had to go a couple extra times because he went around the crossrail instead of over). All in all he did a good job. He mostly set himself up nicely and hopped over and didn't just barrel through.

And when he cantered around on the longe, he gave me a pretty nice, rhythmic canter clocking around whereas when I've asked him to just canter on the longe in the past, he tends to want to pull away and go reeeeeeaaaally wiiiiide. But not so much tonight! I think he liked that I was asking him to do something different.

Then I hopped on bareback and we did some walking around while he cooled out and did some more turns and circles.

So, what you're really interested in are the pictures, right?

First time to the crossrail:

Annnnd cantering out

After cantering in the second time around

Going the other way making like I can mount him bareback from the ground (hah!). And yes, I photoshopped my rear to save your eyeballs.

Better bonus...the videos of him going over the crossrail:

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pictures from tonight

A friend of mine came out to watch us ride and kindly manned my camera, so here's a few pictures. :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Just let go

Tonight was fabulous.

Jessica was running late so we spent a while warming up walking. Just doing lots of turns and walk-halt-walk transitions. When she got there, we were going to do trot poles but then Kieran, as we were moving off, put his head down. And not in the "I want grass!" sort of way, but in the "hmm, I might stretch my neck out and reach for the bit" kind of way. And Jessica was like OMG HE'S DOING IT.

Thus went a several-minute segue into why that was amazing and there needs to be more of it and somehow that got us onto sidepassing (so we used the poles instead as markers for me to sidepass from the middle of one to the middle of the other, looked like this:



That was a slightly frustrating exercise so we broke it down to doing a turn on the forehand a step at a time so I could feel him move his hindquarters (since we're focusing on my leaving the front end alone and pushing his butt around where it needs to be). Still was a bit difficult and after a bunch of repetitions, we could tell Kieran was getting bored and no longer really even trying to pay attention so we moved on to other things.

Thus we went back to last week's exercise of trotting around the triangle, but this time Jessica wanted me to put my reins pretty much on the buckle and use mostly my leg and seat for the turns (I could lift the inside rein to encourage him to turn, but I was supposed to more or less stay off his face).

Something magic happened and Kieran's movement became freer, his head went down, and he really relaxed. Whereas, when I'd take up contact, he'd tense a bit, his movement wasn't as nice, and his nose would poke up and out a bit. Looks like I've got some work to do on how to hold rein contact, eh? Of course first I have to get it back, I suppose, since Jessica wants me to ride most of the time now with as little contact as I can get away with.

For instance, he was fine just sort of trotting around (relaxed, nice rhythm) on a loose rein, but when we started the "extend, shorten" exercise we did last wee, I had to take up more rein because pushing him to extend without it just leads to a very wiggly horse going all over the place and not sure what to do. He actually did better with the shortening bit with me using more seat than hand (probably because he knows "stop" so well and so asking him to shorten is an excuse in his mind to stop).

After we got some decent within-gait transitions going either direction (plus he was doing very well trotting around the turns, yay), Jessica had us canter. Again, more on the rail (but not completely) and same idea, canter around, and at a certain point, push him forward (which mean push with seat, push with legs, and even lower my hands and push them forward a bit), then ask him to come back and around the next turn, easy easy easy\ to get a smaller canter.

We decided he likes doing the bigger cantering, LOL. He was totally down with that. And of course, after he was all, "yay!" we went back to more trotting. Same exercise as before and this time it was much better because he was so perky all of a sudden. And then we asked for that one final "shorten trot, plz" and he gave me (and I totally get what people mean by when they say their horse gives them something because he really did tonight) this lovely little jog that was still forward and just...perfect. On a loose rein, relaxed. There was half a moment where he thought about stopping and I just pushed a little and instead of how he usually jolts forward then, he just kept the same little jog gait. :) Such a nice note to end the lesson on!

Actually, I didn't push him forward so much as do something magical with my body that I can't even verbalize or figure out yet that told him to stay right there. I wish I could because it totally worked and was amazing!

So takeaways:

Just let go of the reins. We really do have to spend a lot of time just going around letting him put his head down to his knees if he wants. Not only is it helping him relax, it should help him build his topline more too.

We'll probably start doing warmups where we do a bit of walking and circles, a couple of trot circles, then do the cantering/handgallpy bit to get him keyed up, then go into the work. Since that's something he finds fun, we'll give him a bit of fun at the beginning of the lesson so he's not having to slog through all the stuff he finds boring to get to the good stuff. Especially since he tends to go so much better after. Jessica also said in general we looked better. Not just him, but me too, and how we were communicating with each other.

I can't explain how it works that way, but it does. I guess we just both relax a bit more after having a fun canter around the ring. :)

So yeah. I'm supposed to work on turns on the forehand, that trotting exercise, and cantering/handgalloping him. Woo. And keeping my reins as loose as I can let them go.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Had my lesson tonight, we were already warmed up by the time she got there so Jessica had us start with showing her some walking circles since I said I'd worked on them since last lesson. They still weren't pretty (and one day I will get someone to video!), but they did at least feel better than last week. Mostly because Kieran just felt a bit more forward so it wasn't like he was just dragging himself around. Jessica said it looked like he was using his back end properly one stride in three ( for improvement, hah)

Once we'd done a bunch of circles in both directions, she had us do the same thing but at a trot (remembering to keep a steady rhythm). The rhythm part was actually much easier this week. Kieran was definitely "with it".

Then we added a new element. We had three barrels set up in a big triangle. So Jessica had us start trotting around them (so, not on the rail, but not inside the "barrel territory") and when we rounded a particular barrel (still remembering the circles! even though this was technically just part of a circle) I was to start pushing him forward with my seat and legs on every down beat of my post...not to get him to go faster, but to get him to move into a more extended trot. Took a couple of repetitions and then she was like, "YES THAT!" and I was like, "what? He didn't move any faster?" but it was bigger which was the point and when we did it again, I felt that.

So, by that point, he was starting to think about anticipating the barrel we'd ask for him to extend at so she has us go around again, but this time she said when I went around that barrel, to think about half halting with my outside seatbone and outside rein and think "easy easy easy, wait wait wait" and then on that side of the triangle, ask for a smaller trot, almost a jog.

The first time, he thought "eeeasy" meant "brakes!". The thing he's good at is stopping...and he's actually pretty good about doing it from his hind end instead of falling all over his front end when he stops. But I managed to push him forward before the brakes fully went on so suddenly he was pushing off from his hind end and we got a really nice little trot out of him. :)

Then we had to do it all going the other direction. (and remember those circles when you go around turns!)

We rounded out the lesson with a bit of cantering and here Jessica said if we needed, I could go more on the rail instead of just staying around the barrels). But the idea was the same...get a nice forward trot going, then sit and ask for the canter. The first time, we just cantered once around both directions (and no snarky kicking out this time when I asked for a left lead canter!).

Then we went back to the right lead canter and Jessica said, "now when you come around the turn heading toward the gate, I want you to sit back a bit more and push with your seat and legs and get him to really move out". We found another gear! Pretty exhilarating, actually.

Back to the left lead and going that way, I asked him for the extra gear going away from the gate, but still got it! He was fairly tired by that point (so was I!) even with several walk breaks but he still was willing to give it to me.

I did have some issues with my feet sliding through the stirrups while cantering (they'd end up shoved "home" instead of on the balls of my feet) but Jessica said I was keeping my hands where they were supposed to be and my butt was where it was supposed to be and my legs weren't flailing around so she didn't stop me. I just...I guess I tense up or something, but I have a really hard time with my leg sort of drawing upward when we canter and then the stirrup goes wherever the heck it wants.

We also talked about me having to remember keeping my calf on and weight in my heels (in general, not just at the canter) which is something I know, but it's good to be reminded of. I like that she reminds me of the things I need to fix with me, but we're focusing a lot on getting Kieran to use himself better and be fitter. And he definitely seemed more interested this week than last week (whether that's the improved weather or he likes that we're doing something instead of random moseying, I'm not sure, but I'll take it!).

So, good lesson! Kieran got peppermints afterward. :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

When did Fall happen?

So today it was unseasonably cool. If this is a preview of what Fall will be like, all I can say is, "moar plzkthx". I half-expected Kieran to be full of beans today and snorty but actually he was really mellow and willing to listen. I put him on the lunge line first, just to gauge how responsive he'd be and he was really good so I hopped on and we worked more on the homework from our last lesson.

We were supposed to have a lesson tonight, actually, but Jessica got held up and wasn't able to make it so we've rescheduled for Thursday evening. Too bad, because it probably would have been amazing but oh well, we got a good ride in. Lots and lots of circles (both on the rail and off, big and small) and working on that rhythm at the trot and getting him to pay attention to how I change my posting rhythm.

We do need to have some remedial "stand at the mounting block" class though as he likes to stand stock still until I start to get on the block, then swing his butt away or take a few steps. Today instead of just sighing, getting down, and repositioning the block, I growled at him and gave him a smack. Only took two repetitions before he stood for mounting.

Of course, I got off to open the arena gate and went to get back on so we could do our cool down walking around the farm and he got shitty about standing again so we repeated and when he stood, I just stood on the block for a minute and patted him and told him good boy, that's what I want. We'll see if it sticks. I anticipate a few rides where what we do mostly is me getting on, riding around, getting off, getting on, riding around, getting off, getting on...


But other than that, nice ride. He seemed more engaged today so that was nice, too. Maybe it was just the cool weather. I know I feel more interested in work outside when the weather's nice than when it's all hot and icky.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

First Lesson in GA!

Had my first lesson in Georgia tonight. Gosh, it's been since, like...the end of May/very beginning of June since I had a lesson. I totally needed it. As I told Jessica (new instructor), at the end of the lesson: we've been riding, but...I do just sort of get on and ride around for a while and then we're done. It's nice to have someone there with a plan in mind of what she wants to see (and explain how to do it) and to tell me, "no, you can push him to do more than that!" :)

Anyway, today's lesson was a sort of "getting to know you" deal and ran a bit long (expected to). First, she had us start off simply by walking and warming up, then she asked me to do a couple of circles, any size I wanted, and watched what we did and asked me to explain what I was doing to ask for the circle and why. Basically, I was wiggling my inside rein (don't really have to pull, wiggling my ring finger usually works) and nudging with my inside leg. Apparently it wasn't that pretty, LOL.

So she talked about how circles are actually really difficult to do well and you really have to ride them actively and also once you've got a horse that really understands leg and seat aids, the reins can be pretty superfluous. She talked about how I needed to be a more active rider in general but that a good circle you really have to ride actively (not like...moving a lot just... being engaged? Directing the horse? Uh, I'll keep explaining what she said, I wish I had recorded it!). Like, inside shoulder back, inside leg and inside seatbone really on and pushing to encourage that inside hind leg to cross over and that I should use my outside leg back a little to control speed and shape of the circle. Still figuring that one out but I sort of get it. Hands, she said, just really control where the shoulders go but legs control everything behind the girth and everything starts back there with the horse pushing from behind and that's what we need to work on, more leg, less hand.

After that, she had us start trotting and she said she wanted me to sing aloud, "how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood" in the same rhythm that I was posting. The idea being that my posting should dictate Kieran's trot rhythm and not the other way around and the "wood chuck" thing helps keep me focused on the rhythm I want. It was a bit rough at first, because he did want to sort of go slooooow, speed up!, go sloooww....and not really keep a consistent rhythm but we did get some nice trotting done in there. And once we got something consistent, then she had me ask for a turn, remembering the stuff we'd talked about with the circles at the walk and still, you know, keeping rhythm. And there it all fell apart. Hah. So we did it again a couple times until we got it and then started over the other direction.

Oh yeah, she also said for now when trotting, not to really worry what he was doing with his head or directing him too much with the reins, just to focus on getting the rhythm I want with my posting and getting it to be consistent.

We also talked about figuring out what gets him interested because right now she says he looks like he's just kind of going along and not really paying a lot of attention to me or caring about what we're doing. Not sour, just not interested. Also that his issues with picking up his feet properly may stem more from that boredom than anything else, since when we get him engaged and active....a lot of that magically disappears.

Then she had us get back into a nice working trot and told me to pick a spot to ask for the canter. First time was going to the right and he gave me a really great transition and a lovely, uphill sort of canter. It actually felt slow but Jessica said he's got a big stride and was really eating up the ground (didn't feel that way though! Maybe I'm just used to a more rushy canter). Anyway, I was all, "wow! That was great!" and we talked about the difference between that and when he canters more on the forehand and kind of dragging himself along. The difference this time, she said, was that I did have him in a nice forward trot and really pushing with his hind end and ready to go so that when I asked for the canter, she could see him really using his back end and pushing off into a nice canter.

So then she asked if I wanted to end on that note or try cantering the other way. I wanted to go the other way too. Hah.

The left has always been a little more difficult to get a good canter out of him. So this time the first one wasn't that great and I don't remember much about it because I remember the second try more. That one, he kicked out right after the transition (rather like the video down below somewhere) and Jessica growled at him for me, I just pushed him to keep cantering. She said for a minute she wasn't sure I actually felt it since I stayed right in the saddle, hah but that I should have really got after him so he knew it wasn't acceptable, instead of just sitting up there and being like, "it's okay, just keep going".

Anyway, we did it one final time and then we got a decent transition (it was late and I did have to get after him there to Just Canter, dammit! with a smack with the crop) but then a good canter most of the way around the ring and when he started faltering, I was able to just push with my seat and squeeze with my legs and he kept moving till I asked him to stop. He wasn't tired (he wasn't even breathing hard, there were a lot of walk breaks in between stuff since we spent time talking about what we were doing and why and what we'd done before), just lazy, I think.

So, all in all, it was a good, productive lesson. I'm happy with it and we've got some homework: active circles and rhythm (oh yeah, she sang "row row row your boat" for the canter). Next week, Jessica says she'll set up patterns with the ground poles for us (and we'll see if that gets Kieran more interested in what's happening, hah).

Couple more things that were mentioned in the lesson:

Jessica says cantering's easy, once you get a really good walk and trot.

I talked about him really trotting out on the trail on Sunday and how he felt like he was ready to canter if I just asked and she said that's what a really good working trot ought to feel like, with them moving out and ready to do whatever you ask. That's not a feeling I've gotten out of him often. ;) His "working trot" has typically been rather more sedate.

Talked about turning my leg out a bit more so I'm not holding my knees so close to the saddle. (Maybe not really "turning out" since it was more about opening at my hip and getting my calf on but my toes weren't really turned out or anything. Ugh. I think that will require video so I can see what I'm doing.)

Here's hoping I can work in some real riding time between now and next week. I pretty much have either Wednesday or Thursday and that's it. And one of those days I have to clean house since I have a friend flying in late Thursday night and staying until Tuesday afternoon. Doubt she'll want to go out to the farm with me every day and sit around in the sun and watch me ride, LOL.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

No lethal butterflies today

But he did decide the stirrups were going to eat him again. So far he's done this twice, both times in the arena when I'm about to take him over to the mounting block to get on. I suspect it's more of a "get out of working in the arena" thing because he didn't flick an ear when I did the stirrups yesterday by the hitching post and he doesn't care when I run them back up.

That said, he didn't seem otherwise wiggy so we went back out to the woods. He was a bit wired again and when we were trotting I could feel him going, "you want to canter? I could totally canter. Can't we canter?" but I convinced him he should just trot. I do notice that his issue with striking his front feet with his hind feet seems to disappear entirely when he's actually moving out instead of just sort of dragging himself along.

Annnnnd....that's really it.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Butterflies are TERRIFYING


Decided to take Kieran out to the woods today for a short jaunt on the trails (got going late so didn't have a whole lot of light left). Just did some nice walking and trotting about. Kieran was a bit wired to be out alone so he was marching more than moseying but big deal.

And then he spooked at a butterfly.

Yes, a butterfly.

Fluttered right out of a bush and in front of his face. He did the spook in place "freeze till it goes away" thing. I laughed at him and told him to keep moving. Hah. :) Silly pony.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Kieran has a ball [AND we're finally starting lessons up again soon!]

I've been suspecting lately that Kieran's been getting bored in the arena so I've tried to change things up a bit. One of the things that was fun in the past was to chase a horse soccer ball around. The one we used to use stayed back at Gentle Giants but I found one for a reasonable price on Valley Vet the other day and it arrived in the mail this afternoon!

It was great right up until he trampled it and the little plastic plug that holds the air in popped out. Still haven't found it...hope I can before they mow the arena! :lol:

Anyway, we had a good ride. Much better than our ride the other day (where I got off and lunged him in the middle because he just felt weird and antsy and I was actually kind of scared on him...which...I'm never scared on him, so it was weird. Looking at the video, he looks fine so I don't know what I was feeling, but nobody was around and I didn't want to push things just in case something wacky happened. Anyway, got off and lunged him a bit, made sure he'd started listening and burned off some of that energy, then got back on and rode for a few more minutes, just w/t.

So today...lunged him for a few minutes before I got on, just to see how he was feeling, and he settled in pretty quickly so I hopped on and he was very good.

ALSO, have finally hooked up with an instructor who'll come out and lesson us at the farm. First lesson is on this Tuesday night! I can't wait, I've been feeling kind of in a rut and actually not overly motivated, I think I need a second pair of eyes! :)

And now, finally, the screencaps and video. (as usual, just set the video on a post and let it run, so we move in and out of frame. The most interesting bit is the part at the beginning with the ball.)

Yes, I can definitely tell I'm in dire need of instruction.

Getting on and going

My elbows, MY ELBOWS


Go, Kieran, go!

Cute horse

I actually don't think I look terrible here

Or here

Next three pics are me asking for a canter and getting a fast trot but I'm obviously not helping matters myself. These pictures make me cringe. I'm only including them because his tail is pretty.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Eye update

The BO texted me this morning and said Kieran's eye looks fine. So that's good, at least. :)

It never ends, does it?

So, I went to see Kieran today and when I took off his flymask, this face greeted me:

Here's a closeup:

So I'm like, "OMG WHAT DID HE DO TO HIS EYEBALL?" Remember, he had a flymask on, so it makes it unlikely he got something in there. BO suspects it's allergies, actually, since he's so itchy already too so he's going to be put on antihist. In the meantime, we also put some eye goop in his eye in case it is a scratch to stave off infection. She said if it didn't look substantially better in the morning, she'd call the vet.

I will say, I think he was more squinting not because it hurt but because whatever it is made him light sensitive. As the sun went down, he opened his eye more.

Anyway, needless to say, we didn't ride. So I just played dressup with him instead (I was waiting for the BO to get there with the eye goop as she volunteered to stop by TSC for it on the way home from work which was faster than me leaving the farm and driving up to TSC and back to get it).

Yes, those are blue hair extension thingies. There may be more on the way. Ebay is an amazing thing.

And that's the State of the Kieran.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Had two good rides on Kieran this weekend. Yesterday was about a half an hour of walking and trotting around the ring, doing lots of up and down transitions and trotting over poles. I switched back to his old full cheek bit and he seemed to be more responsive to it so we may stick with that for a while. It could all be in my head, LOL.

I'm noticing a lot more too (and I think I've mentioned it before) that a lot of times, if I stop trying to micromanage where he's going, he tends to go straighter than if I'm trying to make him go straight, so I've been trying to just "think" straight but kind of leave him alone.

Also, yesterday, after the ride we did some various ground exercises. Carrot stretches, that sort of thing, but also work on understanding the cue for moving laterally since I've had so much trouble getting him to understand it from the saddle. (he goes backward, he kind of shuffles over, he tries going forward...he doesn't get "sideways") So I hooked the lead rope to his halter on the side away from me and ran it over his neck so I could use it like I would one of the reins and then poked him in the side at the same time as I applied pressure on the halter. When he moved over (crossing his legs over), I'd stop and give him a bit of carrot. Rinse, repeat on the other side.

So I noticed tonight when riding that if he started drifting, it didn't take quite so much effort to nudge him with my inside leg and keep him on the rail.

And then...well, our ride was mostly over, and it was getting dark, and I figured we could just kind of ride around outside of the ring to cool out. But I didn't want to get off and unchain the gate, I wanted to unchain it from his back. He knows about walking right up to the gate, but actually maneuvering him so I could get him properly alongside it has always been kind of dodgy. Not tonight! We walked up to it, I asked him to move so he was parallel to the gate, and he stepped right over. No fuss, no muss.

Now, getting him to stand still long enough for me to undo the chain was a different story, but each time I could get him right back where I wanted him (and finally I figured out how to use combination of reins, just two hands, crop [I see why foxhunters use a stick!], and chain to get the darn thing undone). I was so happy!

That and we cantered for the first time since the kicking out incident a couple weeks ago. Got a pretty decent canter both ways, all the way around the ring. No kicking out, no grumping just..."canter? Okay!".

My pony is so awesome. (and yes, I know I say that like every other post but it's TRUE)