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 hey...no 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)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Vet came out

And said, basically...it was likely he pulled something a bit and was sore but he looks fine now and walking and trotting ought to be okay and work back up to cantering and see how he responds.