Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Pony Trend

Many ‘Adult Amateurs’ are discovering the joys of ponies. The United States Dressage Federation has taken note. There was an article published in USDF Connection (Pony Power) regarding this development!

A junior rider came to meet the Fancy Pony. She was immediately smitten and made remarks like, “She is the perfect size for me!”

She cantered the Fancy Pony around the arena and said, “She’s going really fast!”

Except she wasn’t so much going fast as she was taking long, slow canter strides…

She would not be the first (or last) rider to comment about how big the Fancy Pony moves. So why has it taken so long for Sport Ponies to catch on?

Big movement (but easier to sit than the huge warmbloods), clos(er) to the ground, hardy and sound, and known for longevity… What’s not to love?

How I came to ride a pony:

A friend heard I was looking for a horse to start training up for the inevitable day that I would have to retire the Old Man from eventing. Nevermind that the original plan had me eventing him at least another 2 years, giving me time to train said ‘new ride’ to the same level! She asked me, “What are you looking for in your ideal eventing horse?” I listed off all sorts of things: bravery, confidence, soundness, jumping ability… She came back with, “You didn’t say anything about size or breed… I have this Arabian mare that needs a job…”

I wasn’t looking for a horse that would immediately go Advanced. I was looking for something that might confidently go Novice, maybe work up to Training. Teddy O’Connor was 14.3hh and went all the way to the top! That doesn’t mean I expect every small horse to be that athletic and talented, but I didn’t consider size to be a limiting factor for what **I** wanted to do.

My dressage potential is unlimited. Size is not a factor. My jumping height might be limited, sure. My pony probably will not go Grand Prix Jumpers. But we can still learn our sport over smaller fences. You don’t need to be jumping 5’ (or even 3’) to learn straight lines, bending lines, adjustability between jumps, galloping cross-country, correct and confident combinations…

I don’t need my Advanced level eventing horse today. I’ll take my solid BN/Novice horse and keep learning the ropes. We might even get to try Training one day! We can still practice the big concepts (like skinnies and corners) over smaller obstacles. The way you ride it doesn’t change just because the fence is bigger! When I’m ready to go advanced, THEN I can look for my Advanced horse!

Or Pony! I’m not ruling out the pony!

Monday, November 25, 2013

It's a gift exchange! Wanna play?

Fly On Over is hosting a  Blogger Gift Exchange, and I decided I wanted to join in!
embrace the madness!

Head on over to see how to get in on the action.  It seems like a great follow up after hosting my first contest!

Random, but exciting news:
We're on page 8 of the latest issue of Arabian Sport Horse Magazine!

You know I have to brag on this mare that I am so proud of...

Sunday, November 24, 2013

We Have A Winner!

My darling husband pulled a name, and the winner is...
Hillary at Equestrian at Hart!
Congratulations!  You will get to spend $75 at Equi-Spa!

Please e-mail me at equinesnob@gmail.com to claim your prize.

Hillary said:
I'm really interested in the balm. Sounds pretty cool. The cool muscle wash also is intriguing. I will make a post and share when I'm home from the show!

Hillary, I look forward to hearing how you spend your gift certificate and what you think about the products. Assuming you choose to share, of course. 

A want to send a HUGE Thank-You to Equi-Spa for sponsoring my first-ever contest!
And thank you to ALL of you for making it a success! 

Friday, November 22, 2013

DERP! -or- That 'live in your tent' disposition...

My pony was cuddling up to anyone who would stay near her as I was picking up the "stuff" from our jumping lesson.

So, as I was at the far end of the indoor arena, she decided to follow someone else...
Coach said, "Your pony love me more than she loves you!"

I didn't even bother to look.  I just hollered back, "That's because you are likely going back to the barn!"
Shortly thereafter, I heard the door close, followed by a solid couple of THUNKS that sounded like something fell off of the wall.  That's when I looked...

Understand the layout of our arena:
do you see the corner full of chairs?

That corner is full of plastic chairs.  That door to the outside, the human-sized one, is way wider than that gap to the corner.  **I** have to turn sideways to shoot that gap...

And my pony is looking back forlornly, as the door has been shut in her face.  She is standing amongst the chairs.  Like a bull in a china shop.

And I am here:

do you see how far away I am?
 Now, feeling rejected, the Fancy Pony attempts to turn around... and entangles herself in more chairs...

As if that weren't enough, she then caught a rein on a t-post that holds the panels up that define the viewing area...  Yes, yes, I know exactly how ugly this can get...

As I start to walk that way - oh, so far away! - I say quietly, "whoa, pony."
And she did.  She never got "up" or excited.  She felt the pull from the rein, and you could see her brain start working.  She stood like a statue until I arrived to save her.

Why she though she could (or better yet, should) shoot that tiny gap, we will never know.  The only reasonable exit was through the door she so depserately wanted to leave by in the first place!  She quietly followed me through the human door and up to the barn, where she got millions of cookies for keeping a cool head when it really matters.

Those freaking **CRAZY** Arabians!!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Seriously. What is this?

The Fancy Pony isn't the only horse I get to play with, but she is the only one I get to ride like she's mine...

There is another horse that flirts with me from time to time.  He's a big chestnut Arabian gelding that I've known since he was a baby.  I have watched him grow and mature, but he just isn't taking to Western Pleasure as readily as some people had hoped...

I rode him last week, and we worked through some very obnoxious fascinating discombobulation in the trot.

My answer to everything these days seems to be "send them forward!"  But, hey, when I sent him forward, his hind end synced back up with the front end, he would soften into the bridle, and O-M-G what a lovely trot!

The last time I rode him, he was just a bully who didn't want to go forward and wanted to hang on the reins.  He's winning my heart!  I have high hopes that he can keep learning this stuff and eventually pull himself together to become that nice Western Pleasure horse...

I think if anything is going to hold him back, it will be something else entirely...  You see, he dribbles...

OK.  He pees every 5 minutes or more!  He's been checked out by multuple vets.  He has been declared "fine".  But, he dribbles the entire time he stands to be groomed and tacked up - resulting in this:
Do you see him dribbling?

How can you show your face at a show when you won't even make it through the class without dribbling all over your legs?

He even does it when he's walking!

Have you guys ever encountered anything like this?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Just for fun - because we like to jump

Fancy Pony never feels unsteady to the jump anymore.  She confidently canters rhythmically all the way to the fence.
captured from the video

I didn't realize that we were approaching on the wrong lead.  That was probably due to the practice of some counter-canter earlier in the evening.  I can't wait to take this mare back out on the cross-country course!  We're planning to compete Beginner Novice and school Novice in 2014.

Enjoy the 6 seconds of video!

PS - don't forget to enter the contest: Win a gift certificate to Equi-Spa!

Monday, November 18, 2013

When we stop seeing the breed...

When I started riding Whisper, everyone saw the cute roan Arabian. Emphasis on the ARABIAN.

When we started getting beyond the 'wild Arabian' stage, people would tell me things like:
"I'm not typically a fan of Arabians, but I really like yours!"
"She has become so calm and relaxed! She doesn't even act like an Arabian anymore!"

But what does that mean, to "act like an Arabian"?
Shouldn't all horses be expected to act like model citizens? Why should one animals less-than-acceptable behavior be given a pass because 'he is just young' or 'she is a (plug your favorite breed here)'?

One day, my pony ceased to be the 'cute roan Arabian' and just became the 'cute jumper pony' or the 'cute dressage pony' (depending on who you talk to). She had learned her solid basics and how to relax and follow my lead. She is now a model citizen, and we no longer see her breed. Isn't that what we all strive for?

Friday, November 15, 2013

It's a contest!!

Enter to win a $75 gift certificate to Equi-Spa Horse Care Products!

Rules to enter:

1) Visit Equi-Spa’s website and peruse the products – and why not like the Facebook page while you’re at it?

2) Leave a comment on this post telling me which Equi-Spa product you are most interested in trying (I know, it’s tough to decide, isn’t it?) for an entry into the drawing for the gift certificate.

3) Refer your readers to this blog contest in your own blog for an additional entry (don’t forget to tell me you did this!).  Heck, share a link to your Facebook post sharing this contest, and I'll count that, too!

You may comment and/or share to enter from today (November 15, 2013) through midnight on November 22, 2013.

On November 24, 2013, the winner will be drawn from the pool of entries and notified by a post to this blog!

I discovered Equi-Spa early this year. I currently stock the Cool Muscle Wash and the Grapefruit Coat Refresh in my grooming tote and use them almost every day. Fancy Pony melts into her post work-out massage after a few spritzes of the Cool Muscle Wash, and the Grapefruit Coat Refresh allows me to brush off the stubborn dust from lengthening winter hair. These products smell good enough to eat!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Ups and the Downs -OR- It’s Only Normal

To begin with, I received a lovely gift and card from L. Williams over the weekend.

Viva Carlos - 2-point-ober Results

I squeezed into the upper ranks of the 2-point challenge (barely) with my last ditch effort of ten and a half minutes of 2-point. My coach was giving another lesson at the time, and the young girls were in awe of my feat. Coach would periodically glance at me and say, “You’re still at it?” and left me with a final “Your position looks nice and solid!”
The card was lovely! I displayed my prize and card on the kitchen island all weekend! I made my husband read the card. It made my weekend! Thank you so much!!

This would be the most recent of my “ups” (of which there can never be to many). I advise you: Put yourself out there! You will be surprised at how much fortune comes your way!

I’ll let you guys in on a little secret… I didn’t get a chance to take a final time at the very end of the month… I could have gone a little bit longer by then… The stakes have definitely been raised for next year!

Those of you who have been following along may have noticed the constant rise and fall in my rate of progress with the Psycho Mare Fancy Pony.
you want me to do what?

It began with the installation of a work ethic… She didn’t have one. Then she started to develop one!

I think she started to become the Psycho Mare to me when the steering would randomly fail. Not an uncommon thing in the young/green horse. However, it did mean that I had to warn everyone I was riding with… New gait = steering loss. *shrug*

When I introduced her to jumps, she proved herself to be very brave and willing! Once she discovered that jumps come in sets of “more than one”, she really started getting into it!

That was when we hit our first major plateau that would last for months. My enthusiasm tempered as the canter failed to improve. Some days it felt like we were going backwards. I rode with anyone who was available to share their knowledge with me. I tried adjusting my saddle fit. I tried a bunch of different exercises. I tried making her tired first.

Finally, I tried a massage, which proved to be a first step in a better direction!




But this is not intended to be a “year in review” post. What I’m really trying to explore is the emotional roller coaster that goes along with these inevitable challenges. I’ve flipped so many times, it makes my own head spin:

This pony is so fancy! She will be amazing!

This pony is such a challenge! She is ridiculously sensitive.

This pony is so brave! She is made for eventing!

This pony is so athletic! She is made for jumping!

Why can’t this pony balance in the canter? What is wrong with my riding?

This pony is so frustrated. Why can’t we communicate more clearly?

This pony is so relaxed! She is going to be amazing!

This pony is so easy! We are on the right track!

This pony is getting stronger, but we’re not improving. What is wrong with my riding?

This pony will pack kids! She’s so perfect!

This pony will pack me! She is so amazing!
exploring western, too - fuzzy horse show, here we come!

You get the idea. The downs are purely based on perspective and expectations. Expectations are important. I don’t expect the entire learning process to be all rainbows and unicorns! And when I look at it all in retrospect, she has been amazing all along!
I'll take unicorns when I have them, though!

Every little set back, the decreasing daylight hours, the lack of major milestone accomplishments… These things can make us feel like we are not performing, or even like we are failing! The fact is, we are still riding. We are still training. We are still questioning, and we are not settling. That, in itself, is its own kind of progress. The ups and the downs are normal, but with a slight shift in perspective, we can see that there aren’t nearly as many ‘downs’ as we thought.

Yeah.  We did this!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Perhaps I was ambitious... And Fancy Pony is a packer!!

On a side note, I *LOVE* sheepskin!

OMG, it's soooo soft!

So, dropping my stirrups in my jumping saddle really hurts my pony's way of going.  Alas, I must not drop my stirrups if I want to keep improving my pony at this point.

Highlights of my lesson:
 - my leg is nicely solid, I just need to think "heels forward" in the bounces (this is likely due to my current saddle pushing ly leg back because I have a ridiculously long thigh)
 - to fix my arms, I must think about touching my elbows together under my boobs (you might be amazed how well this technique works!)

I ride with another girl.  She's young.  Pre-teen or tween.  She felt like she wasn't performing well enough.  Coach was telling her, "You must remember, they (refering to me and Fancy Pony) have been doing this a lot longer, and Whisper has more jumping experience than your horse.  She is also more straight-forward to ride."  I was inspired.  I asked if she wanted to take Whisper through the line a few times.  After some pondering, she decided to try it!

Have I ever mentioned how much I love playing Musical Ponies?

She takes the Fancy Pony around the arena for a couple laps of trot to get in sync with her.  Then, they head for the grid.

ASIDE:  I love grids.  I can't get enough of grids.  Grids give me the change to build the muscle memory I need over fences.  I love getting an immediate chance to fix whatever I messed up!  And I love the way my pony just goes 'boing-boing-boing-boing' underneath me as we ride through them!!

So, Fancy Pony approaches the grid with a kid.  Her ears perk up, she zeroes in on the line, and maintains a nice, relaxed, forward trot...  She enters the grid and picks up her perfect canter, packing the kid through the line!  She cantered out the other side looking so proud of herself (Whisper, not the kid).  We cheer and say, "Do it again!"

And they did!  And another young girl falls madly in love with the Fancy Pony!  And Fancy Pony shows us that she is going to be a packer for the kids!  She is so damn honest when it comes to the jumping!

I am doubly amazed with this mare because she is still not quite a year under saddle.  She's still green, but she is maturing so much!

I'll stop gushing now.  I'm sure it's getting over the top...

Thursday, November 7, 2013

No Stirrups No-HUH?

Yes, I want to participate.
No, I'm not sure I'm that masochistic...

But part of me was masochistic enough to 2-point until muscle failure...

No Stirrups in my dressage saddle?  No problem!  The Fancy Pony is coming together quite nicely, and I feel like we are better balanced with each other than we have ever been.  But, what about jumping?

I've seen several rule sets for No Stirrup November (and nome very distinct LACK of rule sets), so this is my personal goal:
1) No Stirrups in the Dressage saddle.  Period.
2) Dropped stirrups in the Jumping saddle for flat work and lessons warm-up.
3) Stirrups currently allowed for jumping, but may be dropped for grids in lessons according to coach directions.

Cheating, or setting myself up for success?
...you decide...

Monday, November 4, 2013

Serious Potential

A friend came to ride the Fancy Pony this weekend.  She wants to ride with more confidence and she wants to show next year.  She is 12 yearls old!  She met Whisper for the first time, and this is what we have to show for it...

Fancy Pony for the junior rider:
relaxed canter - we can learn about contact later!
They cantered around the arena for lap after lap like this, and her smile was so huge!

Then she asked me, "Can I take her over the poles?"
This is where we ended up:

Happy to take her over fences
nevermind that the Fancy Pony couldn't bring herself to actually jump it...

This was all before I even got on and rode!  Fancy Pony was a perfect princess pony!
I couldn't wait for my turn to ride her, but I would never seperate these two until they were quite finished.  So, after the Fancy Pony must have been getting tired, I got my own turn to ride her.  And we finished with a bigger jump (I never measured it, so I don't actually know how big.  I'm guessing 2'3".  Not huge, but bigger than we've been doing in out grids.)
This felt so effortless for her!  We quit on this note before making her any more tired!
Are these great knees, or what?!
Does anyone else see a potentially fancy hunter pony, here?

Friday, November 1, 2013

Save Us !!


It is a well-accepted truth that the reliable eventing horse must be able to get himself out of a tight spot or a sticky situation. But, how do you know if the horse you are riding has this skill? I mean, if you purposefully put your horse in a bad spot, don’t you think he will start to resent it?

Fancy Pony and I were jumping little grids, and we worked her up to her first bounce! She was getting it! She was quietly cantering in with impulsion and balance. She was lifting her shoulders and rounding over the jumps. She was hitting her striding nicely and the grid was teaching her not to rush on the landing side. She was never tempted to take the long spot (because why would you try in a grid??).

Then, she brought herself into the line in a less-than-ideal place and pace. I think she was getting a little too comfortable with the exercise! She nearly fumbled her jump into the bounce. There was nothing I could do to help her. Rather than ‘do nothing’ and wait for inevitable failure, though, I sat up, gave her some rein, closed my leg, and said to her “Get us out of it!”

It wasn’t pretty…
NOT pretty...
Nevertheless, she saved us! I can’t tell you what she did, because I don’t know. She pulled herself together, cleared the jump out of the bounce, and finished the grid (still relaxed! WTH??) – all I did was stay out of her way and tried to stay in balance!

I also got kudos on my walk-canter transitions. My pony is just that damn cool!

she's awesome!


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