Sunday, February 27, 2011

'Round the world we go!

Today was just a pretty basic lesson. Warmup was that while Kieran was walking on the rail and doing 10 meter circles in the corners, I had to sit three beats, go into half seat for three beats, sit 3, half seat 3, sit 3...

Then, Christina had set up the ring to look like so:

Two trot poles up by A, then a caveletti and a low crossrail (on blocks, very very tiny) catty corner to each other at X.

Basically, I could trot on the rail over the poles, then turn and go down the diagonal over the things in the middle as I changed direction, that sort of thing. Lots of doing it in two point. Then she had me go around posting with only one (the outside) stirrup in each direction. Which is totally harder than doing it with no stirrups. And then I had to go up into two point, then slowly lower my chest toward Kieran's neck (without collapsing in on myself or pinching with my knee or letting my leg swing!), then raise back up into regular two point, then lower, then raise...all while he's trotting along. I've done that exercise while halted before but today was the first time we did it at a trot.

Then (and here's where the post title comes in) she wanted me to try to do "around the world" while Kieran walked in a circle around her.

Talk about terrifying. I was sure I'd fall off.

I did manage to get my left leg over his neck so I was sitting with both legs on his right side but then I just couldn't get up the nerve to swing my right leg over his hindquarters (I was sure I'd fall off backward and land on my head or something). So I chickened out and slid off. Of course, Christina made me get back up and do a real around the world (at the halt!) which I did. Wasn't pretty, but I did it.

Then I did the thing where I swung both of my legs over to one side of Kieran, but one hand on his neck, the other on the cantle (so, if my legs are on his left side, my right hand would be on the cantle, and my left on his neck) so I could then twist myself around to, essentially, have my belly against the saddle. Then I have to get back up into the saddle properly.

I think if I were doing it properly properly, my weight when I twist around would always pretty much stay on my hands/arms, and I wouldn't have taken that moment to lean my body against the saddle. =P

Then, just for the fun of it because the next rider wasn't quite ready yet, we did some quick canters a few times around the ring (and a couple times starting from a walk/trot out of F, heading toward H, we'd start cantering after F across the diagonal and over the cavaletti. Kieran thought I was nuts. ;)

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Still waiting on the pics from yesterday.

In the meantime...had a good lesson today. Spent the first half on me (lots of trotting and cantering in two point. It was easier today than on Thursday, for which I'm grateful). Second half, we did "games". Christina had set up a few things for us to play with. One was just the tarp, laid on the ground between two poles and we walked and trotted over it (Kieran didn't even look at it twice, since he's already been introduced to it). Then she'd put a small bucket on top of one of the barrels and wrapped the handle with silk flowers and had me walk up to it and pick it up as we walked by, go around, then set it back down again. Easier said than done since I had to time shifting my reins to one hand until just a split second before I reached the bucket (since Kieran doesn't neck rein) and if he wasn't in just the right position and I didn't lean down the right amount...I wouldn't be able to scoop the darn thing up.

Once we were doing it reliably from either side, she had us do it at a trot.

She also had the pool noodles (I picked a bunch up from the dollar store last year so we could do goofy things with them with the horses) stuck in one of the other barrels and had me do the same thing. Walk by, pick one up, walk around with it (and this time, pass it over Kieran's neck and around my back), then stick it back in the barrel. Then we did it at a trot. Then she had me trot to it, pick it up, pick up a canter, and canter back to the barrel to put the noodle in. Finally, she held one of the noodles up a little higher so I could reach it more easily and had me canter to her, take it from her, canter back around, and give it back. ;)

Fun times and it made the lesson really interesting for both me and Kieran. I mean, I still had to work on using my legs and core to stay on the saddle, even when leaning over the side, plus Kieran had to listen more to legs and seat than reins about where to go.

All in all, a much improved lesson experience over the last one, LOL.

Going back to farm tomorrow (yay, holidays!). Unsure if I'll ride or do something else. May not decide until I get up there.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Some kinda wind!

Too bad today wasn't like yesterday.

I mean, yeah, it was sunny. And the ambient temperature wasn't so bad (if you were in the sun).

But the wind! Yeesh. That wasn't any fun at all.

That said, I did manage to take Kieran for a spin around the big field, though we didn't do any long trot sets (Lynn came out with us on Tyr and that was like...his second time out in the big field so we kept it simple). Did do a bit of trotting and cantering over the logs in the field (can't really call it jumping, hah) and Christine got some pretty ridiculous pictures of us that I'll have to post later when she uploads them.

Then I did take him inside and we did some riding around in the ring. Nothing too exciting, though I did do some "canter a few strides, come back a walk, walk a bit, canter a few strides..." sort of transitions because his downward transitions from a canter are pretty sloppy.

My ankle felt much better today, for the record and I cooled him out standing in two point most of the way.

Other than that, he got a massage a week ago Friday and I've been emailing back and forth with the massage lady about it. Mostly I just wanted her to check him out and see if he did have back pain that needed dealing with (before it becomes an issue). Here's what she told me about what she found:

Basically, Kieran had moderate tension in the bilateral lumbar region, right stifle and right hamstrings. I also found tension at the base of his neck on the left. These are actually pretty common areas of tension and don’t necessarily mean anything is wrong. I’m actually seeing a lot of horses that have a lot of tension in the hind end lately, and I think a lot of it has to do with the ice. The tension in the lumbars is a common finding – it could be from him jumping, as this is where the horse will flex to bring his hind end under himself, as well as the area that is stressed during jumping. Some muscle tension is normal and to be expected when a horse is learning to use himself differently.

So all in all, she didn't find anything of major concern or suggest that she'd need to come out again which is, I think, a good thing. ;)

Friday, February 18, 2011

I was totally off my game

Last night was a lesson night. Christina and I both decided no jumping, just flatwork. Oh, and since we've started doing shorter lessons (I'm doing a half hour twice a week instead of an hour once a week), she's turned up the intensity in how much effort she's asking out of us.

Which is okay, and something we need, but ugh, last night really sucked.

Before I got on, I hiked my stirrups up a hole to see if they'd help with my two point. Then we did a quick warmup of walking serpentines (in two point) and was easier to get up and find "my spot" where I need to be to stay up. Christina commented that my position was like...100x better.

That's the good news.

Then my right ankle started yelling at me (which is weird because it's the left I sprained).

I kept trying (she had me doing 20 meter circles in two point at the trot by this point) and I'd get three quarters of the way around the circle and just collapse because of the dang ankle.

So she had me drop my stirrups and do posting without stirrups part of the way around the ring, then sit, then "two point". That was hellacious too and not because of the ankle but because of my thighs (and that, at least, is simply a fitness issue).

So she wanted to do more two point stuff and we dropped my stirrups back to where they normally are. Except then I couldn't get my position to work and was wobbly and when I did it at the canter, my ankle felt like it was just about to give out (at least Kieran gave me some very nice trot to canter transitions!).

All in all, a very frustrating night but at least it brings home that I've got a couple things I really need to work on to improve my riding:

1. Figure out the ankle issue. Whether I just need to do strength/flexibility exercises for them or get better stirrups (though I'm already riding in jointed ones) or both. Or maybe try riding with some sort of brace on for a while, if I can, to provide support.

2. Work on stamina and general fitness. Even if I'm only doing half hour lessons, we should be doing longer rides when not lessoning. And I should make myself really work at it and push through.

Any other suggestions? I'm open to them!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Kieran Torture

Proof of what a terrible horse owner I am:

Yes, those are blue sparkly fairy wings (I love the dollar store!). Yes, Kieran is wondering why someone won't rescue him. ;)

In other news, I free jumped him a bit tonight. Set up the chute with first a low crossrail, the cavaletti, and then the jump at the same height we had on Sunday. Ran him through a few times and gosh, he was being lazy! So I changed the crossrail to a vertical and did it again and he did better. Then I added a single barrel to the middle of the last element, and changed it so the crossrail was the second element and just put a ground pole as the first element (since I was adding in the barrel, I wanted to make the other things simpler, and use the crossrail to kind of funnel him to the middle of the chute).

So he comes through and totally puts on the brakes at the barrel. Like, "wtf, mom, don't you remember that thing might eat me?" So he tries to go around, but there's a wall on one side and a rope on the other and me over there telling him to "go over, okay!" he did, from a standstill. Heck, I would have taken him just bulling through it like he's done other things. So then he figured out he was capable of jumping over the one barrel and we did it a couple more times, but I noticed he was trying to jump to the far left of the jump (next to the rope, where there was no barrel).

So I added a second barrel, and at that point the jump was set up the same way as it was on Sunday (except that Christina only had it as a single jump, and I still had my chute set up).

Hah, he ran right on through for me, but when he got to that last jump, he totally cleared it with a few extra feet than he needed to. So I sent him through a couple more times until he did it more reasonably and ended there with lots of praise and a cookie. Now, at least, he knows he can do it. I'll probably do it again with him at least once more before we try tackling it under saddle (and when we do again, I'll probably ask Christina if we can't set up a similar grid since I think it helps him find his spot).

Oh yeah, I also had finally remembered to bring a tarp up because I just wanted to get Kieran to walk over it at some point (one of the obstacles at a judged trail ride some of the barn folks went on had a tarp that the horses had to cross). Well, as soon as I shook the thing out and just laid it on the ground, Kieran came over to inspect it. One hoof on the edge and a snort. Then he looks at me. He paws at it. Snorts. Paws. Looks at me. And I coax him toward me from across the tarp (I had been planning on leading him but since he was so willing to come over on his own...) with a treat. He streeeeeeeeeetched his neck as far as it would go but didn't move his feet. So I just put a little pressure on his halter and he came right on over. Then I led him over again (no hesitation that time). Good pony!

I feel it was a pretty productive horsey day.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ouch, my pride

Jumping lesson today. Christina set it up so there was the caveletti on one side of the ring (at B) and then on the other wall (at E) was an actual jump (started with a crossrail, then made a vertical. Jump cups were set at 2'6") and in the middle on the F->H diagonal there was a "crossrail" with very ghetto plastic chair standards (the other set of proper standards is still frozen in a pool of ice. I threw some road salt around them today in hopes they'll unfreeze at some point this week. Problem is that they're sitting in a spot that stays shady most of the day).

Anyway, warmed up, then trotted over everything a few times from different directions. Then Christina asked if we wanted to canter and I was willing to give it a shot. (for this, we just stuck to the stuff on the rail and didn't cross the diagonal. He doesn't do flying lead changes yet and those would be some pretty sharp turns) I noticed it was easier to jump when Kieran was cantering, but looking at the few videos we got? I was still jumping ahead and coming back down too soon and just generally not looking good. Kieran was his normal saintly self.

Then Christina decides to add barrels in front of the jump with the comment that it wasn't actually any taller than what we were just jumping. Which, it wasn't.

So I steeled myself.

And we went.

And I stared at those barrels like they were going to eat me if I took my eyes off 'em!

And Kieran was, quite naturally, convinced they'd eat him too!

So he whipped out of the way at the last second and remember how I said I was jumping ahead? I was already halfway out of the tack when it happened and so... I came! And landed right in front of Kieran's path somehow (I had a fleeting vision of his huge hooves trampling my poor, mangled body). Saintly, again, he stopped as soon as I hit the ground and so...I did not get trampled.

Nothing hurt, in fact, but my pride. Dusted myself off, got back on, Christina removed the barrels, but left the jump up and we went and did it again. Got jumped out of the tack this time (he jumped higher than I was expecting. Those invisible barrels might eat him!) and the Christina turned it back into a crossrail and had us trot through/over a few times just to give Kieran something easy to end on that we know he does well. By that point, the lesson was over.

I told Christina I could make a jump out of the barrels to free jump him over to give him a chance to learn how to do it without me on his back messing him up and then we could give it another shot.

And here's one of the videos. Not of the fall (we didn't get it on camera, alas) but hey, there you go.

EDIT: Video didn't look like it was working, here is a link:

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Lazy day (for me! Not so much Kieran)

Today I wasn't feeling overly motivated to ride but I felt I should do something with Kieran, so we did free jumping again, this time going a different direction than usual. I also set up the chute so hopefully it'd work as a series of bounces (at about 9 feet between each). By the time I had help so I could video and not chase him so much myself (leave that to the kid), he was starting to get tired, so he's not really cantering through here. That said, I think he still makes it through pretty well.

Afterward, I hooked a long lead rope to his halter and hopped on bareback to walk him around and wait for him to cool out. He went pretty well in the halter, turning and stopping easily so now I'm considering trying him in a hackamore.

So I ended up riding today a bit after all. ;)

Lesson tomorrow!

Friday, February 11, 2011


Bunny, here, is an AQHA mare being used for lessons at GG. After someone else's lesson last night, they let me hop on. This is the first horse other than Kieran I've ridden in months and probably the first non-draft/draft cross that I've ridden in. Uh. Well over a year.

She felt so tiny! Like I could hook my feet together under her belly. And she moves so different from Kieran, I had a hard time going with her.

Obviously, I should go back to riding more than just my horse. ;)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

Thanks to Rebecca for this award! I've never received an award for blogging. :) Sorry it's taken so long, but here it is!

There are rules that go along with this award:
1.Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award
2. Share 7 things about yourself
3.Award 15 recently discovered great bloggers
4.Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award!

7 Things About Me:

1. I would totally wear my paddock boots to work if I weren't worried my coworkers would complain about the aroma wafting off of them. ;)

2. I much prefer riding outside than in the indoor ring (and I imagine Kieran does, too).

3. I really want some cow-print-patterned stuff to wear in a show some day. I mean, you've seen my horse, right? How awesome would we look if I wore a hat like this in a Western class at some local show?

4. I got my cat at a horse auction. Go figure.

5. I could pretty much live off cold cereal. Breakfast, lunch, dinner? Doesn't matter to me, bring it on!

6. I'm not a fan of cooking, but I do like to bake so the folks at the local renaissance festival call me "the girl with the cookies" because I bring them to share so often.

7. I like Maryland, but I really really really want to move. Some internal meter is saying, "hey! You've been here too long! Time to move!"

And for recently (and not-so-recently) discovered blogs...

o1. A Fat Girl & A Fat Horse - a blog by/about/for Plus-sized riders
o2. Saddle Fitting - The Inside Journey - Saddle Making Process by Nikki Newcombe of Black Country Saddles
o3. Honey Rock Dawn - not a horse blog, but an interesting one
o4. Damsel in this Dress - also not a horse blog, but one of my favorite ladies to buy garb from!
o5. Tacky Tack of the Day - Just what it sounds like. ;)
o6. The Daily Coyote - A new coyote picture every day of Charlie, the only housebroken coyote I know of ;)
o7. Mugwump Chronicles - one of my very favorite horse training related blogs
o8. Fugly Horse of the Day - love her or hate her, Fugs is still the one responsible for getting me into both horse blogging and discovering Gentle Giants. So, thanks Fugs!
o9. Riding Aside - reading this blog makes me want to learn to ride sidesaddle something fierce!
1o. The Waardenburg Rider - a new friend who I have great respect for.
11. Cake Wrecks - another non-horsey blog but responsible for a daily giggle. :)
12. The Jumping Percheron - if Kieran and I can be only half as amazing as this, we would have accomplished something great.
13. Ev 'n' Hosses - Ev writes lovely prose and I < 3 Solomon.
14. Jump on and Ride - She hasn't updated in a while, but I love hearing about the adventures of Fred, Mandy, and Bree.
15. Eventing-A-Gogo! - I've linked more than a few people to her comments on keeping an eventing horse barefoot.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Poles, poles, poles!

No jumping tonight, just lots of exercise with poles.

Not to scale, obviously, but the diagram gives the idea. The "o's" are barrels for us to weave through at the trot, set far enough away from the wall that we have a track to ride straight along it. The "/s" are ground poles set at a trotting distance and the one with "x's" on either side is a caveletti, set at half-height. The "____s" on the right side are poles spaced for cantering.

So basically, we warmed up walking over, around, and through everything (wove around the barrels, wove around the trot poles, etc) then moved to trotting, then did some cantering on the rail. Discovered that when going to the right, Kieran wanted to cut off that bottom barrel (it was a tight turn to go around the barrel properly, but not quite a tight as it looks in my diagram) and then go on the inside track and skip the canter poles. Going the other way was no problem for him. I did manage to get a couple of nice rides going right and called it quits on that particular exercise.

We also did a lot of transitions, walk to trot, walk to canter, trot to halt, canter to trot, canter to walk...

And the nice thing about the ring set up that way was that I had a lot of options for things to do and could keep Kieran guessing. ;)

He gets the day off tomorrow (four days in a row of doing stuff is a lot for him!) and then we're doing a lesson on Thursday.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Free-jumping, redux!

Okay, here we go again...


First, his new $10 horseloverz bridle with fancy schmancy Nunn-Finer reins that I couldn't resist. I actually felt bad putting such nice reins on such a cheap bridle.

Screencaps of one run, the one rail was already down before he came through but since it wasn't really in the way, I didn't stop him from going:

Better? I had the little "fence" set back at about 11 feet. (I wanted to use real jump standards, but the other set is outside, currently stuck in ice and wasn't budging)

Actual video of one of the jumps:

And here's one of his last runs through. I put down a ground pole, a very low "vertical", and then the jump. Each are still about 11 feet apart (I brought a tape measure!)

And before we did this, I spent some time just letting him stand next to the block, getting praised if he stood still. Then I'd step up to the middle step. Praise if he stood still. Then I'd go up to the top step and stand over him. Praise and treat if he stood still. If he didn't, I'd just get down, follow with the block, and wait until he stood still again. Didn't actually get on because I hadn't come prepared to ride and I figure it can't hurt for him to learn that sometimes, I just stand next to him and give him treats and sometimes...I get on and we ride, but he has to stand still either way.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Mounting and other tales

So I posted a while back that I was going to try sending Kieran off when he refused to stand for the mounting block and then let him stand beside it and relax while I got on.

Yeah, he's decided he's supposed to run off when I get up on the block (it also did not help that it seemed like every time I went to put my foot in the stirrup, a big sheet of ice would slide off the roof so he had extra incentive to be all, "running awwaaaay!"). I think he thinks it's some kind of game, now because after a few tries, he finally will stand stock still for me to get up, get situated, and go.

So anyway, I won't be using that technique anymore to make him stand. Even though he's very food motivated, I don't really want to do the treat technique because he'll come to expect them. And he knows when I've got 'em and when I don't.

Though I suppose I could combine that with the clicker I have somewhere and clicker train him. I bet he'd pick it up quick. :)

Anyway, lesson was no cantering (don't ride for two weeks and any riding stamina I have goes to crap) but did lots of trotting over ground poles, then cavaletti and a low vertical (not enough to get him to jump, really...I think he did once sorta) and lots of work for me on waiting to go up into two point until I feel him actually pick up his front feet to go over the rail.

Also lots of ice sliding off the roof giving Kieran an excuse to spook and Christina to yell at me, "don't let him stop! Send him forward!" since my reaction is to tighten up and hold on instead of...sending him forward.

Anyway, it turned out to be a fairly productive lesson. I told Christina I think I might switch to doing two half hour lessons a week instead of one full hour as I think those would be a better fit for us and enable me to do more consistent work with Kieran. Plus, if I go a bit early and have him warmed up ahead of time, we can jump right into working for the lesson and I think we'll get just as much bang for the buck, so to speak.

And I don't have any pictures of Kieran today, but here's one of Kate:

She's a very itchy mare and someone outside the frame is itching her belly. ;)

She's also available for adoption from Gentle Giants.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Free Jumping Kieran

Here's some screenshots I pulled from two of the vids:

Figured it might help Kieran to figure out what to do when presented with a fence if he did it some without having to worry about a rider, too. He seemed to enjoy the challenge!

So, what do you think?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Kieran is an LOLcat


(not taken by me, but by one of the other girls at the farm)

EDIT: Oh yeah, talked to BM today and she says Kieran doesn't look at all gimpy without his mom there to watch him. ;)