Friday, January 31, 2014

New Questions… Answered!

I jumped a corner!

Jumping - leave the ground and make it to the other side!
 My first corner ever.  Fancy Pony’s first corner ever.  It really was a brand new sort of question for both of us.
Coach has been great about preparing us for this question!  We confirmed straightness (well, most of the time…).  We confirmed jumping an angled fence.  And staying straight afterward!  We addressed skinny jumps (relatively skinny, anyway).
So, there I was, warming up over a small vertical and cross-rail (ducking my shoulders like mad, and everything), when she says, “Go jump that little box!”
I had already started the line, so I tried to plan my turn after the cross-rail that would line me up with the little box.  The box is something like 18” high and perhaps 3’ across.  Truly skinny!
My first request to turn was met with little response from the Fancy Pony, so I asked again a bit more emphatically.  She then complied a bit too well, and we had overcompensated.  I asked her to straighten, then she realized we were looking at the skinny little box…  And she was certain it was merely an obstacle to go around…  There was some wiggling, but I managed to get her over it!
So what does Coach do?  She builds the corner!  It’s adorable! It’s so tiny…
And the pony runs through my leg and out the skinny side.  Twice.  Undeterred, I approach again, resolute that she will not run out to the right again…  So, she ran out to the left – the wide side!
I understand that this is not an easy question, even with such small proportions.  Coach put a pole up on the skinny end to make the right answer a little more apparent.  Fancy Pony got it!  It was a little awkward, but she went over it where I pointed her!  I circled her, brought her to a halt, and told her what a clever pony she is!
You see, it is very important to tell the ponies that they have been particularly clever!  They know this already, but they really prefer that you acknowledge to them that they have been clever so that they know that you now know exactly how remarkably clever they really are. (Did I just channel Douglas Adams, there?)
We rode the corner out of a line, we rode the corner into a line, and we rode the corner between other sorts of lines.  I finally got it together and halted her when my half-halts quit going through.  Coach also gave me advice on how to ride what I interpreted as a bending line…  It was 2 straight lines with a precision turn.  It rode way easier once I did that!
By the end, the Fancy Pony wasn’t questioning the corner, even when the guide pole was left on the ground (half on each side of the jump) and a cone placed on top (to direct her closer to the narrow side).
I really love tacking these questions.  And I love tackling them at these ridiculously small heights.  There is a huge amount of room for rider error as I learn how to answer these questions.  I was able to focus on the precision of my chosen line while also concentrating on collecting my approach canter while maintaining enough impulsion to ask my pony to explode over the corner (still on my precision line!) once we arrived at the obstacle.  How much will carry over when they get bigger?  How will the Fancy Pony feel about it when  it's 2'6" instead of 18"?  I don't know, but now I understand what it should feel like on approach, over, and after.  So, when that does happen and the question gets bigger, I can be more effective than "just a passenger"!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dress Rehearsals Are Important

Dress rehearsals are important.
I started with my western show bridle – adjusted to the smallest holes…
It *looked* like it fit fine…

I am adorable.

I lunged the pony to see how she was moving…  I’m paranoid about sudden, unexplainable ‘offness’ appearing since the driving disaster, so I’ll probably lunge every single ride for a while.  It went something like this:
Fancy Pony:  I want to canter!!
Me:  I asked you to trot.
FP:  I want to canter!!
Me:  No.  Trot.
FP:  But, I told you, I want to canter!
Me:  WHOA.
FP:  Lalalala…
Me:  *shank*
FP:  (full halt)  What was that for?  I just wanted to canter… *pout*
Look how cute I am!  How can you resist me?
Try it again…
Me:  Trot.
Me:  Trot.
FP:  Ok.  Trot.
Me:  You are the most perfect pony on the planet!
FP:  **beams**

Me:  (a little while later)  Canter.
FP:  Oh, canter is my favorite gait!!

Under saddle warm-up went swimmingly, and when we settled into actual work, I found her responsive to my body and half-halting off of my thighs!  It was glorious!!
I also introduced barrels for going around (as opposed to barrels for jumping).  I only set up 2 of them, and I walked up to the first one then halted before circling it a couple times and halting again.  Then, I walked to the next one.  Halt.  Circle. Halt.  Do that a few times.
Back to the rail work.  Variability in the trot and canter was nice!  The walk-canter transitions are a little sticky through the thick western fenders, but they will come…
Some more barrel work.  Trot to the barrel.  Halt.  Circle at a walk.  Halt.  Trot to the next barrel.  Repeat.
She’s quick!  She prepared to halt before I was giving the cue.  Then, once she got the cue, she was all about the stop.  Eventually we’ll work up to doing this in a nice canter, but trot will do for now.
More rail work!  Cantering along, she leaned in a little with her shoulder, so I lifted it back up with my inside thigh and asked her to tip her nose back toward the inside and round in the direction of the turn.  Suddenly, she turned her head sideways!  The rest of her kept cantering for a stride or so then figured out that it wasn’t possible with a sideways head and finally stopped.  At that point, her head went back to normal…
Me:  OMG!  Are you OK?  Is your hip muscle hurting?
FP:  Really, I’m fine.  What were we doing?
Me:  How about long-trotting to stretch muscles?
FP:  Sure.  That sounds fine.  Look!  I can reach for the bit and swing my back!  Do you like it?
Me:  You are the most perfect pony on the planet!

Oh, yeah!  I know I did it right!

After another walk break and more trotting, we tried even more canter!  Calm – forward – straight – balanced – cadenced….  Lap after lap we go, then as she fell on the forehand and I asked her to rebalance, it happened again!  Her head went sideways!
Me:  Seriously, what is happening here?  Are you hurt?  Does something feel bad?  Talk to me!!
FP:  I feel great!  Look at those horses in the pasture.  Doesn’t that look like fun?
Me:  Why are you turning your head sideways??
FP:  *blink, blink, blink*
Me:  Is something bothering you?

FP:  I don’t understand the question…
On the lungeline we go.  She seems to be moving just fine behind…  she isn’t favoring anything….  She gets heavy in front, so I pick her up a little with the line…  And, SHE TURNS HER HEAD SIDEWAYS!!
You know what the problem is?  She has a dinky sized head and this buckle is tickling her ear every time I pick her up with the right rein!!
THIS is the offending buckle! Probably because it pushed the one-ear up, too.

But this one probably isn't that much better...
As always, I apologize for the green tint on the indoor pictures.  My phone just isn't that awesome!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Driving Miss Disaster

When talking to the generous gentleman up north about what I’d done with the Fancy Pony to prepare her for driving, he determined, “If she’ll pull a tire, she’ll be fine.  You should be able to just hook her up.”
So, I took a conservative approach.  I drove the tire around some more…
And we pulled it over the grass…  and up and down the gravel driveway…

Having established that she was fine with this, we hooked up to the horse cart in the indoor arena…
While leading her around, the shaft poked her in the neck when she turned.  We made noises of disappointment and unhitched from the cart.
Trade for the pony cart!
It sits a little high, so the cart is tilted up a little.  We got her all hitched up, and she stands perfectly still for the hitching process!  With some prodding, she finally moved her butt over so we could drop the shafts down on either side of her body.  Once hooked, we led her around the arena!

Then, I sat in the cart while my friend led her around the arena…
She slowly let out more line and stepped back, further out of the fancy Pony’s sight (because she can see so much in blinders, right?).
We practiced walking short distances and stopping.
She seemed to be taking it like a pro…

We took a break to think about things before returning to take a single lap around the arena.  We practiced some starts and stops again.  We continued to walk our single lap….

We made our turn around the far end…
Then, she humped her butt…  I tried to bring her to a halt, but that wasn’t in the cards and she tossed her but up a little.  That definitely isn’t OK, so I tried harder to get a halt, but she decided trotting was more her style…  At that point, she kicked with the left hind.  I have no idea what she kicked at or what she didn’t like.  Then she cantered and continued to kick each stride with that left hind.  Since the brakes weren’t effective, I tried turning (better than careening in a straight line, right?)…
First, she just turned her head and bolted on forward.  Then, she decided to go ahead and turn…  Sharply…  Still kicking…
I was ejected from the cart, it was flipped, and away they went as I watched helplessly and prayed that something broke so she could be parted from the cart.
My prayer was quickly answered as the harness broke.  The cart was left upside down, and the Fancy Pony practiced for the Kentucky Derby as she continued her laps, trailing bits of harness and my cotton driving lines…
Really impressive was when she got the lines tangled about her back legs, she didn’t push all the way out to her full stride length.  She pushed until she met the resistance of the lines, and then handily picked her legs up to begin the next one!
Finally she heard my voice, came back into herself, and stopped to look at me.  With help, I removed all the excess bits and pieces.  I tied the pony, and recovered the cart, which seemed to have survived OK.  I went back to work a little more with the pony.  The last thing I wanted her to learn was, “Oh, if I cause a wreck, I don’t have to do anymore!"
Onto the circle we went, driving to the right (no cart).  No problems!  Reverse through a serpentine, and we drive along to the left.  After a couple of laps, it reappeared: the hump, the bump, and then the kick!  She continued on a few strides until she nearly fell on her face.  Then, we drove some more.
I’m not sure what was bothering her, but it seems to be related to the crupper.  You know, the same one she has been wearing since we began this enterprise!
Later, after cleaning up and putting everything away, the resident western trainer (who I hold in high regard and have a great deal of respect for) commented to me, “I think you were just pushing her too fast.  That’s just my opinion.”
Talk about adding insult to injury.  Nothing was hurt except some harness and my pride, but my pride and my confidence has been badly damaged.  I’m left questioning my competency...  Probably because it comes from someone I respect.  Otherwise, I would probably just shrug it off and get on with it!  On the other hand, I don't want people feeling like they shouldn't speak their minds around me, because I truly do want to know what others think!  They might have some seriously valuable insight!

I'm not giving up on the driving.  My parents want to fix the harness quickly so we can get back to practicing and training.
I know it can't all be success and rainboes and unicorns...

Friday, January 24, 2014

You Design It!

I'm feeling rather experimental in this cold dead of winter...

One of these days, I will have a specially coordinated cross-country get-up!  What would you design for us?
Here are your parameters (there aren't many):
Colors - my favorite is purple! - also considering burgundy, hunter green, or navy
Seriously, I'm reviewing your considerations for everything from shirts/breeches/vest to pads/boots/bridles accents/bling.  I know you all have fun and creative ways to dress it up or personalize your look, and there are really no rules when it comes to XC!

Perhaps you see a better color combination for us?  Feel free to leave your dream XC attire for us in the comments, or you can e-mail your detailed description with pictures or drawings or sketches or whatever your creative mind desires to:
equinesnob at gmail dot com
OK! Go!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Riding on the beach...

I was just reading My Mojito and she said, " lets dream about riding on the beach."

I was already there!!
I just hung the picture of me riding Eddie the Comfy Couch in the ocean on Amelia Island at Kelly Seahorse Ranch.

I added "the comfy couch" part of his name...
I've spent the entire week dreaming of the beach...  Riding on the beach... Swimming at the beach...
Watching "River Monsters" on Netflix doesn't help, either.

I had injections on both sides of my L5-S1 disk to reduce the pain and muscle spasms I've been having.  I've also started on gabapentin.  I can almost sit through the entire day, now!
Yesterday was bad, though. Spasms kept me from even driving to the barn.  And "the crud" seems to be making its way through my house.  So, I laid in bed all night and watched more River Monsters!

And dreamed of the beach.

Is it the weekend, yet?  It's time for me to get that pony hooked to a cart!! know...
...when it warms up again...

Friday, January 17, 2014

Jumping Video!!

I know how you all are dying to see more footage of the Fancy Pony in action!

A year ago, she was just starting under saddle work.  Words cannot express how proud I am of her progress!  I love this mare!

...I can ride this, but I can't sit in a chair...
...should have more information on THAT front on Monday...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Head

Naked head pictures!
sleepy pony
The only naked head shots I have...
What's that?
Taken the same day.
back to sleepy pony
And some bridles she has worn...
flat bridle for english pleasure

ear-slot western bridle (love the dishy face!)

modeling a new hunt bridle

straight on shot with the western bridle

pony in the sun

sport horse in hand

Shaggy pony last year
I can't wait to hear what she has to recommend!
What sort of bridles would you put on this mare?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Just when things were going so well...

The sun was shining (although the mud was ridiculously deep due to melting snow), and everyone seemed to be in good spirits.  I rode inside, and focused on things like “side pass over a pole” and “back through the L”.  These are things she had never been asked to do before, but she managed to figure it out.  We did a few shallow canter loops on the long side and played with elasticity in that gait.
Cooling down, I didn’t want to forget my vest, so I rode over and picked it up from the t-post.  Fancy Pony didn’t care.  It was a little dusty, so I shook it out.  Fancy Pony didn’t care!  Then, things just got silly…
Thank you, honey, for taking a picture of the picture on my cell phone...

I slid my vest over her neck and ears.  I swung it next to her face on both sides.  I swung it around her haunches.  I hung my vest over her face and asked her to walk.  And she did!  She *did* stick her nose out, I’m sure to peek under the hem.
After running out of ways to torture my Fancy Pony, I decided to call it quits.  I had been a little stiff all weekend, but hadn’t thought much of it.  I was feeling much looser after riding.  I was driving home and feeling pretty darn good!
Then, the muscle spasms started.  I managed to make it home, crawled out of the car, and waddled into the house.  Hubby was generous enough to take my boots off, as I couldn’t even get them unzipped.  Welcome back to the land of “I can’t put my own socks and shoes on!”

Friday, January 10, 2014

Bragging Rights!

Last night, we jumped a “diamond exercise” in preparation for corners.  This exercise was recently featured on Eventing Nation, but I can’t seem to find it now to share it…
Picture a diamond shape made by 4 ground poles and a jump that runs from one corner to the other.  You enter perpendicular to a set of ground poles and cross the jump at approximately 45-degrees.  Our focus was to remain straight on our chosen line.  I will apologize in advance for a huge chunk of wordiness and no significant visual imagery to entertain you…
I'm a firm believer that my horse should jump at the point and angle that I put them - Opie was always happy to oblige!

Considering how we started this exercise, I wasn’t sure if the Fancy Pony was going to get it together.  When all the poles were on the ground, she was tripping over them, tripping over her own feet…  At one point, she just straight up jumped them all as if it was a double bounce…
The poles in the middle became a cross-rail…  Things quieted some, but she didn’t quite understand the question the first time through.  We entered straight (according to the exercise, of course, not the jump), jumped the cross-rail on the same line we entered, but landed and exited the exercise on a line perpendicular to the jump (in spite of my right leg insisting that we stay on the original line).  I understood her confusion, but we tried again to clarify the question.  This time, I felt the turn in the air (and that she was completely disregarding my right leg again), so I pulled her back onto the line with my left hand and rein.  I really felt bad about having to resort to such crude aids.  Coach cheered my efforts to make the expectations obvious.  We tried it one more time, and she got it!!
After a few more runs to get her comfortable with the whole idea, the cross-rail became a vertical.  You see, I have this mental thing…  Throw me into ANYTHING with cross-rails, and I just sit back and ride it.  Make it a vertical, or just make it bigger than it has been, and I start riding differently.  Coach told us to take the vertical at the trot or canter, our choice.  The conservative ‘don’t-overface-the-pony’ part of my mind wanted to trot it.  So, I cantered it and made myself ride it the same.  How did I ride it the same?  I rode to the jump.  I rode after the jump.  I didn’t exactly look at the jump…  I mean, I *saw* the jump, but somehow I continued to see the cross-rail in my mind’s eye.  I focused on connecting my pony through my outside aids.  I concentrated on maintaining my line.  I put my body in the middle of my horse and “disconnected” my arms to follow my horse’s head.  If she fell on her forehand and got strung out around the short side of the arena, I sent her into the bridle.  If she tried to rush, I sat up and set her on her hocks.  If she tried to break (her first response when I set her on her hocks), I closed my leg and sent her to the bridle. I focused on making the ride “not about the jump.”
I added the challenge of walk-canter transitions before approaching the exercise.  Typically, I get a different canter from trot-canter transitions than I do from walk-canter transitions.  The walk-canter result is usually a little faster, less balanced, and somewhat rushed.  She was now being required to step right into her jumping canter, and she rose to my expectations!
Unexpected Bonuses:
1)  My pony (who was consistently bracing against and ignoring my right leg) softened and responded to the guidance from my legs.
2)  My pony became more elastic in the canter!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

FYI - on the driving front

She dragged a tire.  She dragged it all over the arena and through the snow drifts, and across the bare sand...

The traces hung between her hocks and her fetlocks, and when she turned enough that they hit her legs, she just ignored them while she pulled onward.

A few times, the traces popped off of my rigged singletree...  Because I wanted a quick-release option in case things didn't go well...

And she didn't pay that any mind, either!!

I apologize for the lack of photographic evidence.  I do realize that if there aren't photos then it didn't really happen...  But, I insist!  It happened!  I love this mare!!

She was way more interested in getting to look at her neighbors (whom she hadn't been able to see in 2 days!) than anything which may or may not have been going on behind her.  We're ready to hook to the cart!

...You know... soon as the snow melts...

Monday, January 6, 2014


Seriously.  I can't really work around this...

can it get any more dismal?
Sometimes, my husband is pretty brilliant.
You see, he wants to take me skiing...  That means being in the cold...  Me, cold, Raynaud's...  Hmmmmm...

He says, "You need some ski pants!"
For one ski trip?
"You need some you can wear to the barn."
"I think part of the reason your feet are getting so cold is because you are losing heat through your riding pants.  You need another layer one your legs."

I've seen such a beast...  Ski pants with full seats...  I show him pictures...
"Yes, you need something like that.  I think it would make a big difference for you at the barn in the cold."
He just might be on to something!  It's not like I'll be moving South anytime soon.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Still so hard...

Last night, I shared the news again.

My first forever horse died in March.
2002 - Hunter Hack
I do OK when talking about it with people who already know.  I still share so many of the good memories, and he touched SO many lives!

But, whenever I tell someone who hadn't heard, I cry all over again.
2012 - Eventing - Beginner Novice
I've been getting better about NOT comapring the pretty pink Fancy Pony to the good ol' reliable Old Man.  He left at the young age of 22 (seriously, Arabians usually live for-ev-ver).  None of us were ready.  He was still eventing!

HL Open Throttle
 I still miss you, Oh Pie...


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...