Sunday, September 28, 2014

Trail Ride day..and..another first!

You know how after a really really good day you feel like something unfortunate is just waiting on the sidelines to spring up on you and spoil your fun?

The day actually started out great. We loaded our horses up, got there and had a lovely stroll through the different loops of the forest.

What a beautiful day!

Max and Layla were so relaxed. We had some fun trots and canters along the paths with good footing. The forest was singing and full of life on this warm indian summer day.

When we got to the clearing we decided to give our horses a chance to run around. Max loved it! We started with some relaxed canters and when he asked for a gallop, I let him go! Weee!! Layla and Max played race horse up a hill and we all had a great time!

Anyway, on to the drama. Max has a shorter stride than Layla so we are constantly about this distance away:

Wait for meeee!

When we were exiting the field Max was still hot and raring to go. He didn't want to be left behind. To help ease his mind I would go from walk to trot to catch up to Layla. Unfortunately we trotted on a rocky area that was hidden by fallen leaves and his shoe came off! :( :( 

I felt so bad!!! Luckily I had packed a diaper, vet wrap and duct tape in his cantel bag. I wrapped his foot up nice and snug to prevent bruising, tried to look for his shoe but gave up after a few minutes. With all the fallen leaves lying around it was like looking for a needle in a haystack!

My poor Max now needs the farrier to come out and put a new shoe on. Maybe it's for the best as his feet looked like they need some work done anyway. (even though his shoeing was only about three weeks ago)

Our first thrown shoe!! was at the end of the ride and he is not limping. A little tender but hopefully no damage done *fingers crossed*  I left him in his paddock happily munching on hay. 

The things I put my poor horse through! 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Training: Lesson day with poles in a circle

*bounce bouncy bounce* Today marks our BEST ride yet! I know I have a post somewhere that says that, but today's ride tops it!!!

*happy dance*

We started out today with very minimal warm-up because of a mis-timing on my part. J was coming by for our lesson in about 10 minutes and that pretty much cut our usual warm up time in half.
Quickly modifying it I kept a free walk for a couple of rounds in both directions then went straight to walk/trot, trot/canter transitions every few strides to get Max thinking forward.

When J came by she set up some poles on the ground in a circle and had us trot over them while making sure he stretched down and kept a good bend. She pointed out I use too much inside reign and should really keep the aids a clear inside leg to outside reign.

After we trotted over the poles she had me give him a big forward aid till I could feel weight in the bit. This helped him move into the bit more instead of shrinking his head towards his chest.

I also really made sure I had my heels down, toes pointed in, and that my lower leg was wrapped around his belly. This helped my knees and hips stay open and my back stay straight.

What a difference! We practically floated!

And...when we moved  on to canter departs it felt like we could grow wings and just take off into the sky!

He was soft,  forward and just a BLAST to ride!

Yeah! I'm feelin' good today!

I was like a kid in a candy store..I couldn't stop grinning and laughing and just having a darn good time! So much so I didn't steer very well and he ended up having to jump over the three poles!! Whoops!

On top of that one of the boarders mentioned he did cross country at a nearby farm and was thinking of bringing his horse over sometime for a lesson, and asked if I'd like to tag along! Um..YEAH! He didn't have to ask me twice!

On top of THAT, Max and Layla have a trail ride date tomorrow. We are trailering out with Layla's mom to a nearby park with gorgeous forest trails and a big field to run and play in.

And on top of THAT....when the hubs gets home we are totally heading over to our favorite sushi buffet to pig out!

Today - ftw!

Friday, September 26, 2014

September's 10 questions by Viva Carlos

Viva Carlos posted these ten questions on her blog and I thought it would be fun to answer them. So here they are!

  • Is there something you don't like about your riding?  My position and how I sometimes get muddled with my aids, which would in turn confuse and befuddle poor Max!
  • Does your horse buck?   I have seen him get a few bucks out in lunging yes he certainly does! So far not with me on his back though!
  • Is your horse head shy?   He isn't head shy but he doesn't really like his face touched, except when he wants itches or cuddles.
  • Favorite barn chore to do?   I actually kind of enjoy sweeping the aisles. There's something very satisfying about clean floors.
  • How many times do you ride a week?   Four, twice after work during the week and twice on the weekends.
  • Who is your favorite pro rider?   Edward Gal
  • If one pro rider could train you for one day who would it be?   Randi Thompson
  • Favorite Facial Marking?   White blaze of course ^.^
  • Leg Markings or No Leg Markings?   Definitely white socks ^.^
  • Ever broken anything falling off?   No - and I hope to keep it that way!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Training: Keeping weight in my stirrups

I was watching some Randi Thompson training videos and she brought up a problem that I knew I had, but never really focused on in a solo training ride : That I should have weight in my stirrups so I am riding from my lower leg and not my upper body.

I know I have the tendency to wave my upper body around like a worm - my legs start crawling upwards and my toes start pointing's just a mess! Aaaaannnddd....

Gah! Chair seat!

Tonight I really tried to keep my legs steady but I know I did pump them a little bit too much and upper body got a little too involved..again! Ah! At least I know what I need to work on - and as always it's not ever compromising a good position.

On a good note we managed to get some good cross-over fronts and backs in the leg yield (TERRIBLE rider position though! yuck!)

Front cross

Back cross

And a canter lead change! Again compromised position prevented him from continuing his canter from this point. Grr!


We ended the ride on some bareback walk trot and canter ^.^ He's so warm and fuzzy!

Love this quote!

"Our horses are our friends, companions, partners, teammates and soul mates. They give us so much, so willingly—their strength, their stamina, agility and beauty—to give us the chance to vicariously experience the freedom and power that comes so naturally to them."

—Jessie Shiers

Monday, September 22, 2014

First nicker...

I approached the gate and said "Hi Max!"  He walked up and nickered "Hi hooman!"

Our very first's these small quiet moments that I treasure!

The hubs tagged along tonight so we took our time petting and talking to Max before bringing him in for his keratex treatment. Half an hour later he was all spiffed up, hoofs clean and shiny, fly-sprayed, stuffed with treats and ready to be tucked in.

We strolled back to his paddock  and then watched him romp around and kick his heels in the air with joy. He must be feeling really good tonight ^.^

It was heaven - breathing in the crisp fall air under a clear starry sky, watching Max do his happy dance before trotting over for his goodnight nuzzle.

Life is good!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Training: Indoor arena prepping

Since today was a bit of a crappy weather day I thought it would be a good idea to start getting Max used to the indoor arena.

The indoor at our barn is a coverall so you can't really look at what's going on outside save at the entryways. This kinda bothered Max. He got pretty tense and had a couple of skipping refusals when we approached the big doorway at the trot.

After a couple more tries with increased flexion and forward aids before the scary zone he snapped out of it. What a frisky fellow he's turning out to be!  <3

The sun started to shine so we took our training outdoors. One of the other trainers (V) had set up some cones in a circle so I took the opportunity to check in on our geometry at the canter. As I figured..we would spiral in oh so slightly. Good to know!

We ended on a good note with canters in both directions, with bend maintained in transitions up and down. We have been very slack on that so it's boot camp for the both of us!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Training: Keeping my horse focused

Someone told me once "Horses are like men, they can only do one thing at a time"

For Max this certainly holds true. He's not very good at doing two things at once.....well...maybe in some cases..

The only multi-tasking I do is eating and looking good.

Today Max was quite looky and spooky at the woods (again). He kept imagining all the monsters waiting to jump out and eat us. I had to work hard at keeping him focused on the task at hand.

That meant asking him for bend and flexion, transitions, leg yields, circles, serpentines, and never letting him stop and look. And as comical as it felt sometimes  - absolutely NO laughing on my end. (J's orders!)

After we worked things through and kept the focus going, he was wonderful! We ended the ride on a nice relaxing stroll through the scary forest and of course, he had no problems with it at that point. What a silly nilly!

His Keratex hoof hardener arrived today so I started application on his hoofs. I hope it works! *crosses fingers*

I also tried a new saddle pad by Back on Track on him. It's supposed to keep his back warmer and comfier. I'll write a detailed review on it later, but so far I Love it! It has great structure and my most favorite part is how it's curved up at the withers. Perfect fit for Max.

Here are some pics of Max and his 'test feather' in preparation for the halloween hunter pace in October.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Blog Hop: Why the heck did you start?

This blog hop was presented by Boots and Saddles. It was so much fun reading everyone's stories on how they started riding (and/or running) I thought I'd participate in the fun as well!

I started riding when I could afford to. Growing up I always knew I loved horses but for the largest part of my childhood I was told there just weren't any around. I found out about twenty years later that my grandpa used to own racehorses and there were horses in my home town (which is an island in the south-east tropics by the way..) forward to a time where I had a steady job, some savings, owned my own home and could finally allow myself to enjoy a small side-hobby. Well this 'small' 'side-hobby' turned out to be an obsession....and now I am back to being broke but with the one exception - I have my horse Max :) :)

I started riding as a fun thing to do on the weekends. It's grown into a life-long passion and way of life. Many of you riders out there will understand when I say there are no words to describe that amazing feeling you get when you and your horse make a it on the ground or under saddle. Or that exhilaration you feel when you run through an open field or leap over a jump...putting your trust fully into each others hands/hooves. Simply Heavenly.

As for running...the only kind of running I do is from my car to Max's paddock ^.^ That's when I started truly running.

Come here hooman and adore me

<3 <3 <3

Product Review: Heritage Pro-Comp Gloves

I've been wanting to talk about the Heritage Pro-Comp gloves for a while now. I picked these up at the Equine Affair last year to replace my old gross ones that weren't even riding gloves to begin with. They've been well-used and a must have on all my rides so I thought I'd write a post on them!

Fits like a glove...

I've been pretty much using them every ride for about a year now and they still hold up great. They are as soft and comfy as the day I got them and are so easy to clean - just toss em in the washing machine!
*Warning wash with like colors only!*

I never found them too hot in summer, and they kept  my fingers fairly warm in winter - although on the super cold days I had to revert to bulky winter gloves.

That's another thing..there is so little bulk on these gloves that it makes handling the reigns almost as intuitive as going bare-handed.


I googled these guys and found them all over the place. Some websites provide a sizing chart which is handy (pardon the pun!). My palm measures about 2.75 inches across and I wear a size 8. If you want a more accurate sizing chart you can go here.

So comfy!

The only drawback is that they do not wick moisture away very well, so after a while they tend to get a little smelly! However this is easily remedied with a quick wash in the washing machine ^.^

Hope this review helps someone in search of a great pair of gloves!

Training: Keeping soft hands

Goal: Keep soft hands without losing contact

Before I get started on the details, I want to say that Max was a ROCK STAR tonight!

Yups, Me's a good boy!

I laid out a plan which was pretty similar to what I mentioned in this post (minus the lunging). So I'll bypass listing it out again to avoid sounding redundant!

Instead I'll get to the juicy parts.

Amazing softness and forward tonight. I had to constantly remind myself to not over-use the reigns and I could tell he really appreciated that. I used a lot of seat and leg. Reigns-wise only slight squeezes where I needed them, if not I kept them as quiet as I could.

There were some adjustments of length here and there but for the most part he rode into the bit and was responsive to my seat and leg aids.

J texted me after riding him on Tuesday and reminded me to keep him forward by opening up my hips and not clamping down on him.

Tonight our canter started out sucked back and I KNEW I was doing something wrong. was the hips! I kept the outside reign/inside leg contact present to preserve bend, squeezed my fingers gently for flexion, opened my knees and hips, and voila! With just a touch he stepped into a canter.

It was fabulous!

I also focused on having him keep the bend in the transitions up, and keep forward in the transitions down.

We ended with a very beautiful transition from trot to canter and a nice canter bend to the left (our trouble spot last week).

Love this horse!!!

Almoooost done!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Training: The importance of having a plan - and lessons!

Goal: Longer warm up time and maintain bend throughout.

My trainer's last words to me yesterday were "Have a plan". That's very good advice. I try to have one each time I go but usually it's something general -  more like a goal than a plan.

Today, I had a plan. Here is the breakdown:

  • Lunge Max for 15 minutes - forward walk, trot and canter
  • Free walk for 10 minutes
  • Walk with bend for 10 minutes with ten meter circles and leg yields
  • Trot with bend for 10 minutes in a serpentine - throwing in some halts and 10 meter circles
  • Canter with bend.
  • Keep bend in transitions.
  • Cool down walk in forest.

Um....yeah mean business today...

I have to say the feedback from J, and this plan worked really well today! Max was responsive and with me the whole time. No spooking or evasions. He worked really hard for me and I love him all the more for it!

Ok ok..for you, anything!

It's also good to know how to transition Max from one climate to another. I've now learned he gets sensitive to the cold, so by keeping him cozy and allowing his back some time to warm up really helps. It's a good reminder that he is not a machine and that we need to keep an on-going conversation every time we ride. Every day is different.

Loving the sun on my neck!

I'm also glad that I'm keeping up with lessons because before yesterday's session with J, I was slowly slipping back into some careless riding. Good to have her check in and make sure we are growing together in the right direction!

 Max is looking better and better everyday. I'm so lucky to have such wonderful folks looking after him for me when I can't be there!!

Now that's a healthy looking horse!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Involuntary Dismount!

Today I fell off Max for the first time!

It really wasn't a big deal but since it's our very first I thought I'd celebrate a little. Is it a bit odd that I'm riding some sort of high over the fact that I fell off my pony? I must really have a few bolts loose.. are the details if you care to read..

The day started out a bit chilly. I had a lesson at 10:15 so I took Max out and lunged him in the round pen for ten minutes. He had one hot moment transitioning into canter but for the most part he was good.

We then saddled up and headed out to the big outdoor ring. He's spooked in this ring before - but a different kind where he'd scooch sideways across the arena like a giant hairy crab.

This time the 'spook' was in the corner and he did a violent spin to the right, unseating me. The BO was there giving a lesson and she said he tried to catch me before I fell to the ground by stepping into and under me, but to no avail. At least he tried...I hope he felt bad about that...though I highly doubt it!

Helloooo down there! Is you okay?

Luckily I slid down the side of his neck and only really fell about a couple of feet. I got up and my BO was calling to me if I was okay and what happened? She asked if I wanted a leg up but I politely declined and hopped right back on him from the ground and put him back in that corner, determined to work things out.

At that point my trainer arrived and we started working on getting him to bend. She suspects that it wasn't so much as a spook as it was an evasion. It made sense, seeing how he started this behavior a few sessions earlier by pushing his shoulder in as we go to the left. With some good focused work on bending we managed to help him get over whatever issue he had with that corner.

Another thing she pin-pointed was that I wasn't getting a correct bend out of him. My outside reign was too loose so his neck was curling inward, but he was not truly flexing nor was his rib cage pushing out therefore not achieving true bend. I'm glad she checked me on that because I have a feeling this is how I've been riding him the last few times - eeks!

Boy..when I started to try do this right he was NOT happy. A lot of head tossing and trying to go faster. So we would transition into a trot, but still keep bend. He'd want to go okay..transition into the canter but hey guess what? He still had to keep working! When he realized this he decided that going faster was not going to get him out of work and actually working earned him a break.

Wow..did I learn A LOT! I love these lessons...I just wish I could afford to do more!

On another note, since it was a chilly and rainy day, I got to try on his new rain sheet! It looks soooooo cute on him!! I also brought an unfinished fly hat I'm crocheting for him, and was happy to see that it fits! Can't wait to finish it and embellish it with beads for next summer!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Training: Collecting our canter to the left

Goal: Getting good bend and collection to the left

Tonight's weather turned out decent so we did a full training ride.

After a good warm up, we went right to work. Lots of circles, serpentines, transitions, leg yielding. He did very well with the leg yields! We were forward and I didn't need to apply too much leg this time. Yay!

My trainer mentioned that he may have been getting over soreness from our cross training on Sunday so I didn't want to push him too hard. Our canter to the left still had some resistance but with a little pushing he went into frame for a few strides so I ended there.

Also, I brought his bit and nose band down a notch and that seemed to help with 50% of the head tossing.

I tried to run through a dressage test with him but when we got to the halt at X he was all wiggly and jiggy! Definitely something we need to work on!

Fun weekend of lessons and trails ahead!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Training: Collecting the canter

Goals: Ride a few strides of collected canter

It must have been a blue moon today because there was absolutely NO creepy crawly traffic on two of the main freeways getting to the barn. I zipped over there after work and got there about twenty minutes earlier than usual - hooray! Every minute counts!

I'm going to get straight to our ride because there is much to talk about. We ran through our usual warm-up routine - this time focusing more on getting him to leg-yield while keeping  forward movement. Some sucking back but I think we are slowly getting the hang of it. I noticed that if I position my legs just right (outside leg slightly behind girth to push haunches away from fence - inside leg at girth for forward movement) and keep good contact in his mouth while staying relaxed and straight in my seat (WHEW) - it would work. We managed to get a few good steps in each direction at the walk so I was very happy with that!

Then we moved on to trot/walk transitions which we actually haven't worked on in a while. I threw in a few big/small/big trots, trying to keep up the rhythm and forward in the more collected trot. I tend to tense up and he will start curling his head in, or slowing down, so I tried to be conscious of keeping my hips and knees open so as not to block him.

In our canter/walk transitions we worked on getting him to move from his haunches. Then we moved on to big canters at a circle, spiraling in and getting more and more collected before transitioning down into a walk. He did fantastic going to the our last few steps of canter we were pretty much cantering on the spot! However we had a lot more trouble going to the left. For some reason he did NOT want to flex left…I'm not sure if it was because he was a bit stiff there, or if he felt uncomfortable somewhere on his body that he was reluctant to move as freely into the left.

He was also pretty distracted with whatever he thought he saw outside the arena so I tried to get his focus back to me by doing some 10m circles to the left and a couple of turn on the forehands. Unfortunately despite my efforts we couldn't get a collected canter in, even after some spiraling and pushing from my end. It could be he wasn't warmed up enough and was still stiff on that side, or my aids weren't clear enough. I'm not sure…

However he was very forward in both trot, canter, and walk as well (with a little more help from me there). We ended the ride on some stretchy trots and then a cool down walk where I'd maneuver him around the arena with just my seat. We managed to do some shallow figure eights with just seat and leg aids alone which was fantastic.

Our next ride I'm really going to focus on getting his left side reaaaalllly warmed up and soft. Seeing how he still does the occasional head toss when I ask for more contact,  I'm also going to work more on forward, leg yields, and straightness. I might check his bridle to see if some areas are a bit tight and causing discomfort.

Here's to more trouble-shooting!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Barn hop: Cross-training fun

A good friend of mine (A) and I would get together every now and then and do a barn hop. The last time she came to my barn first to meet Max, then I went over to her barn after to meet Oreo.

A riding Max and me riding Oreo

A and I work together and became friends via the mutual love for horses. We even bought our horses on the same weekend! We didn't plan it of course - it just kinda worked out that way. And they are both paints!

Her barn-owner is a super nice lady and she let me ride her Tennessee Walker! OMG! What an experience! He was sooooo comfy to butter! Definitely a contender for the hubby's future horse! ^.^

We had a bunch of fun riding around the arena and over poles and jumps A made on her own. They are amazing and look just like the kind you buy off a catalog. She's so talented!

Then we hopped in our cars and after a quick stop at Arby's *yum* we headed over to my barn to take a cross-training/jumping lesson.

Max loves to jump and he is good at it, but I am quite new to it and a bit of a chicken. I felt like I was holding him back quite a bit and he got a little frustrated (cue the head tosses). By the end though I loosened up and allowed him the energy he needed/wanted and we had a great jump. It felt amazing and it helped me feel like it's okay to have him power up, and to trust him to take good care of me.

Trust issues again...definitely have to work on that!

The name sign looks sooo cute and is working out great!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

DIY: Name sign and halter hook

We were shopping at Michael's the other day and I had an impromptu idea to put together a little name sign for Max. After some paint and varnish here are the results:

I thought it would be neat to hang this by his paddock gate and have his halter hang by the hook instead of over the post. Cannot wait to install it tomorrow!! I'll be sure to post some pics.

I also picked up a couple of skeins of yarn and some beads to make a new ear mask for him. The one he wears now was made for another horse with a bigger head. Hopefully I'll get this new one done by next summer!!

I need a new hat! And in turquoise please!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Short ride today...and other events

Today is the first day this week I've hopped on Max. My childhood friend is visiting so I've been showing her the sights and we finally made it up to the barn this morning for a ride. She took a lesson - her first time ever being on a horse! And I hopped on Maxy Max for a quick ride. I missed him terribly!

Munching on some grass after our quick ride around

Today is also the first time I've ever given an IM shot to him. The barn manager supervised me and it all went smoothly (Max didn't even flinch)...but boy was I shaky after....probably with relief! That is one big needle!

I also learned that the farrier has now put him on bar shoes because he has very little heel and is putting too much pressure on it. The front part of his hoof has also rotted out a bit so he had to shave it off. Poor baby. And my poor pocketbook. I'm hoping that Farrier's Formula and Vapco Bearcat will start showing results and that he'll start having healthier hooves soon. *Fingers crossed*

While my friend took her lesson, I hopped on and did some warm-up free walk and some trot and canter in a light seat. He was super sensitive and forward today and all I had to do was think "canter" and he was off!!! It was fabulous! We didn't have much time so I focused on walk/canter transitions and then let him get some gallops out. We ended our session with trots on a long reign. What a good boy he is!!

Handsome boy <3 

A quick cool-down bath, some grass and apples and he was tucked away happy and content. More adventures coming this Sunday!!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Equestrian At Hart Blog Hop: Keep It Clean

In Equestrian at Hart's blog hop she posted this query:
"In this weeks blog hop let's talk about what cleaning products you use on your tack and why?"

I am new to owning a horse, and fairly new to riding, so please forgive me if I list some products that you just never want to see again. If you do see a product here that you have had a negative experience with I'd love to hear about it so I can perhaps take precautions or avoid it in the future!

So far though they have all worked great and my leather products are still holding up pretty decently. I clean and oil my leather tack and boots about once every two weeks. Saddle pads I wash every two weeks as well, and I clean grime off his bit and bridle after every ride.
*note: all these photos were taken off the internet as all my stuff is at the barn, and probably too grimy to be photographed..*

Horseman's One Step Spray
This was the very first leather care product I bought. It was recommended to me by the lady at the store. She said she used it personally and it was a quick clean-up and conditioner. I used it on my boots about once a week for a year and it worked well for me. At the time I was using a saddle from the barn and they preferred to use their own products so I never tried it on anything else but my riding boots. 

Leather Therapy Wash
This leather wash spray was recommended to me by a horsey-friend who uses it on her gazillions of leather products. I tried it out on my boots, saddle and bridle and find it to be a decent leather wash. It does leave a bit of a sticky feel after so I always follow up with some leather oil. 

Neatsfoot Oil
I love this product. It soaks into the leather and makes it nice and soft and shiny! All my leather things are dark/black so I'm not sure how it would work on a lighter color leather. It might darken it - proceed with caution!

And the final thing I use is.....old socks as rags. The great thing about having a hubby who constantly has hole-y socks is I get a lot of rags! ^.^