Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Training: Keeping the outside reign.

Goal: keep firm contact in the outside reign.

Max was sleepy tonight...soft eyes, droopy lip and all. Poor guy didn't know he'd be getting quite a workout.

I feel like we hit our goal tonight and then some. He did try test me when I asked for more contact but when he realized I wasn't giving in he would roll his back up and get to work. We both ended up getting a great workout in the canter.

It was a big moment for me when suddenly all the weight lifted from his forehand and shifted to his hind. It almost felt like he was sitting down while we could start running upwards into the sky. It was only for a few strides, but it was enough for me to feel how light he could get.

All our hard work getting him to move off his forehand is starting to show results! His hind end is slowly gaining strength. Hopefully by next spring he'll be light and fluffy and ready for some shows!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Training: A wicked smart pony and his bag of tricks!

I always knew Max was smart, but how smart? Enough to fool me that's for sure!

He has had some head tossing issues for a while, and I've been wracking my brain to figure out why and how to fix it.

I purchased a new bridle for him that was comfier. I also put him magnesium for the winter, and bought a BoT saddle pad to help with soreness in his back.

Under saddle I'd give him a forward aid whenever he tossed and at some point he would get over it. The thing is, I couldn't pin point when and what I did exactly.

Heh can I fool my hooman today!

On Saturday I had a lesson with J and I told her how we had some trouble doing a canter depart to the right on Tuesday night. She had me start on counting canter strides from 10 to 5 - transitioning to trot in between. Cue head tosses.

"Aha!" She said. "Your outside reign is giving". Whenever he tossed his head I wouldn't pull back on the reigns, BUT I was actually giving him a looser reign! In turn he learned that he could trick me into giving up on contact.

It is a lot harder for him to accept the outside reign because then he actually has to work. So she had me hold on to it firmly and ride him through it. Of course, he tossed his head up and acted like it was the most terrible thing to ever happen to him! But guess what? When he realized I wouldn't mommy him over it, he stopped!

We worked on more canter and trot and all the head tossing went away!!

Good boy deserved extra time on grass!

Today was play day so I set up a small jump course for him. It was a very blustery day and the outdoor arena was pretty intimidating with the forest trees roaring around it. There were leaves everywhere, and every gust of wind blew them up into the air and across the arena.

To be honest I wasn't sure he was going to behave on such a fritzy day, but to my biggest surprise he was really quiet at the cross-ties, and he was calm while mounting. To top it off, he truly was 100% with me the whole entire ride. Not once did he flinch at the leaves swirling around, or glance at the busy forest. Amazing!

That lesson yesterday must have made quite an imprint on him... Because like icing on the cake - not ONE head toss. Not even an indication of it!!! Hooray!!!

Teeny baby jumps for the big chicken on top of the horse.

We had a blast running around and jumping the course. He didn't seem to want to stop so we kept looping and changing the patterns as we went along. What a fantastic ending for a fantastic weekend!!!

Friday, October 24, 2014

October's 10 questions.

Thank you to Viva Carlos for posting October's 10 questions. It's fun reading everyone's different stories, and I thought it would be neat to participate. My answers won't be as impressive as a lot of the others I've read, but I hope they are interesting to read nonetheless!

1. How many pairs of breeches do you own?
I own three. A thin one for summer, a medium one for all weather, and a thick one for winter. Although I'm thinking of adding a second winter one..brrr!

2. How many horses have you ridden?
Seven altogether - but a couple of them were friends horses that I took on the occasional trail ride so it's not like I rode them a lot. My favorite though is this guy ^.^


3. How many trainers have you had?
Two very wonderful trainers. My first trainer was a really nice lady who helped me gain confidence on a horse. My second and current trainer is not only an amazing rider, but a wonderful teacher and is helping me learn to be a rider and horse-partner.

4. How many barns have you ridden at?
Two - started at a hunter/jumper. I'm now at a barn that focuses mainly on dressage, but they have the occasional jumping and trail ride lesson.

5. What is the name of the horse you consider yourself to have the greatest bond with?
Right now I would have to say Max, for obvious reasons, but also because we connected from the first time I hopped on. I had this same feeling with my friend's lovely Arabian named Suki, who I absolutely adore. It was in remembering that feeling I had with Suki that helped finalize my decision to purchase Max.

Pretty Suki

6. What is your favorite show name that you've encountered?
Double Dare Heir of course!

7. What do you consider your greatest weakness or flaw in riding?
My jelly muscles and their inability to maintain a good position. Darn those weak core muscles!  *mental note* must do crunches every day till rock hard abs are achieved!

8. What do you consider to be your greatest strength?
It would have to be doing my homework. If my trainer gives us something to work on, she will usually see an improvement in that area the next time we meet. Now if I could only put it all together nicely...

9. Have you ever leased a horse?
Yes. A lovely palomino QH named Cooper who I leased for a year. I love him very much, but sadly he has been retired. 

Like Max, Cooper loved to jump. Please ignore bad rider position!

Wearing a flower garland I made for a Halloween hunter pace.

10. What is the name of the first horse you rode?
I rode a lovely horse named Cajun for the first time almost five years ago. I want to thank him from the bottom of my heart for giving me the horse bug. I am now infected for life!

Thanks Cajun!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Training: Scary indoor riding.

Tonight was super windy so I thought it was the perfect time to get Max in the indoor to see if he could mentally handle all the noise and ruckus. It was our first time riding in there at night, and on a stormy night to boot.

The indoor is a coverall which is awesome for staying warm and keeping the wind out. On the other hand it is loud! The shutters were banging, the big metal door clanged and creaked, there was the occasional thump from debris being blown about, and the wind moaned and groaned all around us. It literally sounded like a zombie attack..which I guess is appropriate for Halloween.

Max was a real ghost buster tonight and I'm so very proud of him. He lost his mind just once while I was prepping him at the mounting block. His behind was facing the metal door and when it gave a big clatter he spun around, his eyes bulging! Poor fellow. He came to his senses in a couple of seconds though and I turned him around and hopped on.

Needless to say he was forward. He would move nicely off my leg and the canter departs hardly needed any aids. He'd just go. We did a lot of serpentines and circles, with lots of over flexing to keep his mind focused on work. There was one huge bang that startled him and I could literally feel him ready to take off, then almost like he checked himself, he went back to work. Seriously...such a good dude!

I felt like we could head out into the old west and ride across the plains on a stormy night on some urgent errand, protecting each other from danger. I am indeed so blessed to have found such a wonderful riding partner!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Lesson Day : Keeping the inside leg still

Lesson day today! Hooray! Had J check out my new bridle fit and she says it all looks good, except we may need a larger brow band.

Unlike the tranquil horse yesterday, Max was a nut ball during tack up this morning. I just don't get it...something must trigger it but I can't quite nail it down yet!

We had a great session with J, as usual! And like always she found lots of things for me to work on for homework. One of the major ones was getting him more put together at the canter. The major culprit? My swingy pendulum legs.

What a way to test the limits of my athleticism...if you can even call it that! Keeping my inside leg stable at the girth deemed a lot harder than it sounds. But what it did was give Max a clear message of what I wanted, and it allowed me to be able to turn my upper body while solidly planting myself around his barrel.

We also covered stuff like keeping my outside arm from creeping forward, and not using the inside reign so much as it should be inside leg to outside reign.

So looking forward to the rainy week ahead >.<

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Beautiful fall day and an easy-going pony.

The weather was perfect today! I decided to do a little trot pole work with Max which went pretty well. I may have spaced them out a bit too close together because he kept hopping over them! Oops!

He was a doll at the cross-ties..a little step here and there but calm for the most part. I managed to clean him up nice and shiny and tack him up with no drama. 

We did the usual exercises in the ring, with a few more added serpentines because he got a little envious when the other riders headed into the forest to cool off. So after our lovely session, I decided to spoil him a little and take a slow mosey walk through the woods. He loved looking at all the colors (well okay..I did..) and sniffing the freshly fallen leaves on the ground.

Looky here! Looky there! ohboy ohboy!

Let's another red..

After our ride I hung out by the arena to listen in on a lesson given by the BO, while Max happily munched on grass by me. She has such good subtle feedback and it is fascinating to see results from her instruction. The rider is a friend of mine and she was riding one of the BO's fine friesians.

Time to get tucked away in his new paddock..which I am much happier with because it is sandy and doesn't get muddy. He loved his flake of hay so much he didn't even want to come over for treats!! 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Training: Using seat bones.

Goal: To properly time and use my seat bones

Max is such a mellow fellow at the cross-ties at night in comparison to the hot, antsy guy in the mornings. It's almost like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde kinda deal..but maybe not so severe.

Mellow Max at night..

Tonight I focused on my seat bones and tried to use them as efficiently as possible. It is easy for me to forget them and rely on legs and reigns. I was inspired by this video posted by Simply Horse Crazy. You can really see the rider exaggerate her seat!

The other reason was that I bought Max a brand new Harwich bridle  and I wanted to break it in the less I mess with his head the better until he gets comfy with it (The leather is still a bit stiff). I love the fits him so much better than his old one , plus it's padded really nicely!

He was a little lazy tonight so I had to include some walk/trot/canter transitions in the warm-up to get him forward. He is starting to get a bit rushy in the canter departs now, so we need to work on that. Our last canter depart was nice though so I ended the canter work there.

By then he was softer and more forward. We did a bunch of serpentines and shallow serpentines where I'd put weight one seat bone, and upon switching directions, make sure I time it right and then switch over to the other. It was a bit of an eye-opener, not only in how I perceived my seat, but also on how sensitive he is to that pressure alone.

It really isn't just using the seat bone as it is timing it I noticed. Just like timing upward and downward transitions correctly. It's listening to your horse and his rhythm like no other, and I'm so excited to tap into that realm now that I can get him to move without me nagging all the time.

His stall was full of poop so I mucked it out and refilled his almost half-empty water bucket. Which I had to do again after I put him back in because he gulped down a bunch. That horse can drink!

Loving his new bridle!

Monday, October 13, 2014

A doodle portrait.

Of my favorite horse:

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A successful weekend.

The farrier came to re-shoe Max on Saturday.  It was a rainy, cold, freeze-your-fingers type of day. Max was cooped up in his stall and going absolutely bonkers. But I didn't dare let him out with an unshod foot.

So you can imagine he was very upset when cross-tied for the farrier. He even did a small rear :( This was very disturbing to see. I was nervous and the farrier knew it so he told me to leave the barn and come back when he was done because I was making Max anxious.

After the ordeal, he told me that Max absolutely could not lose another shoe. He just didn't have enough hoof for it. This meant lots of stall time, and very little turn-out during the wet season. However, his seedy toe is fixed and the front of his hoof has grown back so that's good news!!!!

Another big concern is how Max's behavior at the cross-ties is getting worse and worse. I'm not sure when it started, but  I can safely say it only happens on colder days. Perhaps he is herd-bound and is anxious because his buddies are outside...or maybe the cold is making him sore and fussy...or a combination of both!

My trainer told me I'm getting too worked up over it. No baby-ing, scolding, or fighting. Just put him at the cross ties..groom him like I usually do, tack him up and ride him. Stick to my usual routine,  correct him when needed, don't make it a big deal out of it.

So I did that today. At first he was terrible. No rearing, so I find that a plus. But a lot of stepping, looking behind him, calling. I tried not to let it get to me and went on with things, putting him back in place when he moved too far to the side. When we got to saddling and bridling he started to calm down, so this was a bit of a relief (to say the least...).

Surprisingly, we had a fabulous ride today. No limps or gimps, so hooray! Those new shoes are working great ^.^  After he warmed up he was willing and forward. We finished up what we started on Thursday night before he threw his shoe - a lovely relaxed canter. At some point he was so steady I could start playing with my seat to move him faster, and my half halts to bring him in and collect better. He felt like a rubber band was great!! I noticed that the more forward and steady he is, the easier my position gets. I can now lengthen my legs down and keep them solid around his barrel...I have enough brain space to tell my heels to stay down, my toes turned in, my hands steady. Funny how it is all related...

So despite our shortcomings and drama this weekend, what counts is we have a plan of recovery for his feet, a plan to keep him behaving at the cross-ties, and that we are obviously moving towards better communication and suppleness under saddle.

It's very easy to let the negative stuff cloud over the good stuff, so I'm going to end this post by saying that it was quite the successful weekend!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

It was going so well..

Max felt great tonight..until he threw his other shoe. Sigh.

I thought that shoe looked suspect when I cleaned it out before our ride. His hoof was starting to look too big for it...probably growth from his hoof supps. Not really knowing if it were a big deal or not I decided to hop on anyway and focus on some light work.

Our walk isn't as solid as I'd like it to be. A lot of times Max gets really slow and hokey in the walk, and when I ask for something peppier he'd start trotting. I focused on getting him moving off my leg with half halts to keep him from taking it into a trot. He's been so forward lately it doesn't take much.

After fifteen minutes of circles, leg yields and serpentines we moved on to some trot and a fun easy-going canter. About the second time around a circle was when his shoe came clean off, taking a chunk of hoof with it!


The rest of the time was spent wrapping his foot with the life-saving diaper, vet wrap and duct tape combo. Oh and cuddles..lots and lots of cuddles!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Smelling the roses, ignoring the thorns.

Tonight I was griping to my husband about my current situation with horse-ownership. The long drive to the barn in rush hour traffic. Not being able to see and pet Max everyday, much less ride him. The crazy amount of money I've spent, and will continue to be spending (bye bye retirement money). The fact that I drive all the way there after a tedious day at work, ride for barely half an hour, achieving my goals less often than I hope. Then the long drive back home on the crazy, unlit two lane highway littered with road construction.

Sometimes these issues creep into my mind and affect my riding. Suddenly I'm rushing, or I feel like I need to really push myself and Max to hit a goal. Just to make it all worth it.

Luckily I married my voice of reason and he reminded me that despite it all, I'm always excited to go again and again. That while I'm there I should forget about the things that bring me down and focus on what brings me up. Because in the end what really matters is that we take the time to enjoy the good stuff. And when we do, everything else becomes irrelevant. The thorns get cut away so all that's left is the sweet simple joy of the bouquet.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Training: Cross-tie drama and impromptu lesson

Today was one of the very few days Max really got on my nerves. He was soooo antsy at the cross-ties and refused to keep still. He acted like there were spiders crawling on the ground and climbing all over him. Seriously! Chill out horse!!

I was about to give up and take him outside to tie him to a post instead when my trainer walked in and said "No, he needs to learn to stand quietly at the cross-tie, even if it's a nice day and all his friends are outside". 

So that's what we did. I put a lead rope on him and every time he started to jig around I'd put him back in the middle. 

I even started to braid his mane. Boy did he hate that. He tried all kinds of tricks to get out of it, including more jigging, head-tossing, stretching his nose forward like the silly goose he is. What a naughty boy!!

At that point I was losing patience but I stuck to it. His mane was getting braided and that was that. He's had 22 hours of playing around in his paddock doing whatever he wants. He can give me half an hour at the cross-ties.

Anyway..he calmed down slightly by the end..but he sure wasn't the same quiet horse he is in the evenings. I'll have to come up with a training plan to get him to be obedient at the cross ties - All. The. Time. 

I was concerned he would take this bad attitude to the ring, but as soon as I tacked him up and got him out he was as mild as a lamb. My trainer was supposed to ride Max today..but I was having so much fun in warm-up she offered to give a lesson instead. I was torn, but I couldn't pass up riding him in a lesson!!

We worked on giving aids and then keeping quiet when he gave me what I wanted. This went well and soon he was forward thinking. Then we moved on to learning when he was on the bit and when he 'faked' it. She asked me to give pressure in the outside reign by squeezing my ring finger, and supplementing it with inside leg. If he tosses his head, or if I feel looseness in the outside reign then he is faking it. If he curls forward, with pressure in the bit then he is accepting the bit. This was good to know and apparently he fakes it more going left than going right. Aha! Busted!

We ended the lesson with a superb canter to the right. He lowered his head and I could actually feel his back lifting me up. It was just awesome!! He got LOTS of praise from both myself and my trainer.

The day just kept getting better. The BO mentioned she has a stall open so Max is welcome to it if we wanted. I happily accepted and Max is now tucked away nice and warm in a stall as we speak! He gets turn-out during the day, but it's nice to know he has a dry stall to dry his feet out at night. Plus it will be so much easier for me in my evening rides. No more trekking past the forest to his paddock in the dark. That walk is super creepy by myself at night!!

On another note, I want to give a shout-out to Viva Carlos for her Thousandth post anniversary!!
She's a super cool horse-loving blogger, and also one of the first folks to visit and comment on my blog. That's just so super nice of her!!

Saxophone-playing pony says "Congratulations!"

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Biting my nails...

I was quite nervous driving to the barn tonight. Max had three days off because he was a little sensitive due to walking around barefoot for a day and a half after throwing his shoe out on the trails.

There were basically two outcomes I pictured: Worse and Worst! I tend to get a leeeettttlleee over-dramatic about things when it's just my brain talking to me!

I'm a bad hoof and I'm going to kill your horse

So you can imagine how ELATED I was that he seemed perfectly fine - both on the lunge-line AND under saddle. In fact, he was soft and forward and seemed to be very happy to be put to work! He must have been bored out of his mind these past few days ..poor fella!'s..go...

Looking forward to a fun weekend ahead. Saturday will be a short day, maybe some tarp work? Really looking forward to Sunday though, when my trainer hops on. I haven't had much of a chance to watch her ride him so it's going to be a treat! are more pics of Max in his new bonnet. Sorry for the blurry pics...I'd get a newer better camera but I'm too busy paying for my horse >.<

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

DIY: Crochet fly bonnet

This is a crochet bonnet I've been working on for Max in his official color - turquoise! :)

I chose a lovely yarn with sparkles woven in it, and some matching beads to weave into the finished bonnet. The pattern I used had to be modified a couple of times because Max has a smaller sized head (more cob than horse), but his ears are a regular horse ear length! It took a few fittings but it's finally done and it fits great!!

Early stage without the decorative front

The front is done, ears still wip

At this point I had crocheted and re-crocheted those darn ears so many times I wanted to pull my hair out! So I gave up and bought some turquoise linen. It was a good decision - easier, faster and it looks better!

Tah dah! All done!

And on the model himself....what does he think?