Monday, 31 December 2012

New Year's Resolutions

After what I consider a successful year, my biggest New Year's Resolution with Walker will simply be to continue on this track of progression that we have been having.  2013 will be a big year for us both, mainly because I graduate from law school and so I will be moving us both to a new barn.  It will be very sad for me to leave the barn that has helped me get back into riding and the barn owner who helped me find Walker, but I'm excited about our new facility and having a change of pace.  So I've broken my goals up into a couple little lists:

Goals to finish off at the old barn (and to finish off Winter):
- take jump lessons with my current instructor (who has a history in jumping/dressage, as opposed to the trainer at the new barn who is mainly Western)
- really work on improving our speed control, riding into corners, lateral movements, etc.

Goals for the new barn:
- make everything work (potential lack of locker room, getting into a rythym, finding horse friends, etc.)
- conquer the outdoor arena with its lack of fencing (also read as: don't die when Walker figures out that he's not fenced in)
- conquer the indoor arena when I have to share it (I realize from reading other blogs that it seems to be common to have people in the arena while you're doing lessons, but that isn't allowed at my barn - my goal will be to really control Walker so that I don't get in the way of the lessons and so that we manage to play well with others!)

Goals for me:
- improve riding position
- look into taking lessons at a barn in the my new city run by an Olympic eventer (in other words, learn to jump on a horse that actually jumps and get some instruction without breaking the bank)
- ride other horses sometimes too - to give Walker a break and get more practice with different types of horses
- get over lesson/show/clinic anxiety
- remind self that I don't "need" everything immediately and I don't have to be perfect

The only man I'll be kissing this New Year's Eve
In other news, this is ironically my 100th post.  I started this blog 100 posts ago as an outlet for my time with Walker.  As supportive as my non-horsey friends and family try to be about my passion, it is difficult for them to get excited about the minutia that horse people go crazy over.  I also didn't want to bombard them with "Walker-this and Walker-that".  We horse people have a tendency to do that - to be entirely 100% about our horses.  I needed someone to tell, and so I originally started this blog with the intention that I would be telling no one because, of course, no one would read it.  Now people actually do, and I'm happy that there's a nice little horse community of bloggers out there who understand this insane passion of ours and are able to offer advice and support.  I have a few blogs I read religiously, and I feel just as attached to everyone's ups and downs as I do my own.  Frankly, it's nice to know that other people just "get it".

Happy New Year everyone!  I'll see you in 2013!

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Snow, snow and more snow

We're currently on the verge of our third snowstorm in two weeks. I don't even know how much we're getting - just that I can't see out the window or leave my house.


Shoveling a pathway from our garage

Yesterday my friend A and I took the jumps that we made to her barn, and I got to meet her horse Cash. Cash is a 14.2 hand quarter horse mare bred and trained to do barrel racing and cow penning. She's a pretty sweet girl and she's definitely got more speed than Walker. It was kind of fun to fly around on a horse like that. She's super responsive and it's obvious that she'd be good for cow penning. You so much as flick your reins to one direction or the other and she turns on a dime. Same thing with leg cues. You really don't need to kick or even squeeze. The only thing A has to do is find the happy medium between keeping her quick and responsive to the leg but actually being able to put her leg on her without her taking off. Pretty much any contact means speed up so it took some getting used to. We also set the jumps up for her and she's pretty willing to jump them. She seemed pretty excited to do it so A is going to start doing some pole work in the summer and get her in shape.

I also got to ride another horse at her barn bareback. I don't normally make a habit of jumping on random horses bare back but this girl was 30 years old so I felt fairly safe! She's an old dressage mare that her current owner then turned into a barrel racer, if you can imagine it. For an older horse, she definitely has a lot of get up and go. It was clear that she didn't want to just walk, and she had a lovely comfortable trot on her. She had some leg problems earlier in the year so the vet suggested that she needed a little light riding now and again to get the juices flowing or whatever the case may be. We just hacked around on her walk/trot for maybe 20 minutes but she definitely seemed like she would go forever. However she was horribly stiff on one side so hopefully her owner has the chance to work that out of her.

It was a pretty fun day and I'm glad that I finally got to meet A's horse. Unfortunately the lighting in her barn and arena wasn't great so I wasn't able to get any good pictures or video. Tomorrow I'm going back to my apartment for the rest of the holidays to get Walker ready for the clinic. With my luck, we'll get another crazy storm and the clinic will get cancelled. :s

I hope everyone has a great New Year's Eve!

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Merry Belated Christmas!

I've been a little MIA the last couple of days but Merry Christmas to everyone. I hope that you are all enjoying your holidays with your loved ones like I am!

For Christmas, Walker got himself a cute little quarter sheet and I got a nice pair of Winter breeches. I really like the breeches because they're not as bulky as I thought they would be so I might actually pick myself up another pair.

On Boxing Day I drove back to my apartment to see Walker. It was pretty busy at the barn. I was hoping that I'd get to ride in the afternoon and then go to my lesson that night. Unfortunately, we're getting 30 cm of snow (again!) and so I ended up driving home in the same evening so that I didn't get stuck down there. I originally planned to drive to my friends barn today from my barn to bring the jumps but the storm really threw a wrench in all my plans. :s At least I got a ride in though, even if I didn't get my lesson or I didn't get to meet her new horse yet.

When I got to the barn, I asked if the horses have been turned out and it turns out that they still haven't. I took a walk up to his paddock though and I'm not as mad as I originally was because the path is still super icy despite the storm we got last week. I have no idea what it is about that property or that hill but its pretty much solid ice. But I don't think my barn owner realizes how determined I am to get Walker turned out. I'm pretty much planning to buy half a dozen bags of salt and break up a path through the ice to the paddock if this storm doesn't do it! Luckily, M was lunging him for me over the past couple days, and one of the mothers turned Walker out in the indoor arena for me as well. I especially appreciated that because she knew I wasn't around, and she did it even though no horse is technically allowed to be turned out in there because they make a mess of the hay we store there. It's nice to know people are looking for him while I'm away!

Anyway I tacked up my baby and hopped on in the indoor with the three other girls. Needless to say he was wired. He was hopping around and chomping on the bit like a madman so after 10 minutes of him spooking at nothing and almost running into other horses - even though we were only walking! - I decided I better lunge him. I'm glad I did because he played the part of the wild mustang on the end of the line, bucking and flying four feet off the ground. It was kind of hilarious to watch him get the wiggles out and apparently he gave M quite the show the other day on the lunge line as well. After only about 10 minutes of that, I was able to hop on him and he was back to his sweet self. I didn't actually end up doing more than maybe 20 minutes of mindless riding because I got talking to one of the kids and then they started to feed. Oh well. After his performance on the lunge line, I have no doubt he got his exercise in!

I meant to take cute pictures of him in his quarter sheet but I'm easily distracted when the barn is busy. Oh! And I almost forgot. I also got a cute little video camera for Christmas so that I can actually videotape my rides! Now as long as my computer doesn't die and can actually handle me editing the videos, I should be able to put up videos! I hope that I can tape the clinic!

Monday, 24 December 2012

The Year in Review

2012 was a great year for me to say the least.  I got a horse! And I love him!  And in keeping with everyone else's posts, I decided to do my own little year in review.

I have always wanted a horse, and when I got back into riding again a year or two ago, I had a plan.  I was going to wait until I graduated from law school or maybe even done my articling year before I got a horse.  As time went on, I quickly moved that goal up and ended up with Walker in March, 2012.

My first picture of Walker
 My first impression of Walker was mixed.  When he arrived, he still hadn't been ridden yet by my trainer (of course - I showed up probably 10 minutes after the trailer) and so my barn owner wanted me to wait before I got on him, just in case he turned out to be a nutjob.  But I had brought him carrots and she encouraged me to groom him and get to know him.  As it turns out, Walker hates carrots and is afraid of the plastic bags that I brought them in.  When I whipped out the carrot and the bag crinkled, he leapt back in the stall and nearly hit me in the process.  G-r-e-a-t first impression of my horse.

In many ways, Walker turned out to be pretty difficult.  Within almost 10 minutes, we went from a snaffle double-jointed mouthpiece to a super harsh shank bit with high port.  He was trained Western and he respected big bits and big spurs.  When I hopped on with no spurs, he started his first bad behaviour: body-slamming me into walls.  For a time, I don't think anyone believed me until finally I got my trainer on him and he did it to her - even though she was wearing spurs.  Let's just say that after you've had your leg squeezed up against a wall by a thousand pound animal, you change your tune pretty fast on wearing spurs and being over-gentle.  It didn't take me too long to solve that problem!

He was also super hyper in those days.  My barn owner thinks that when the sale went through, the previous owners simply stopped riding him/exercising him, and unfortunately, because he arrived with another horse who had a mysterious runny nose, Walker ended up on quarantine and stuck in his stall for a week or so after arriving.  That means that he had been cooped up for quite some time, and he had A LOT of energy to burn.  For the first several months, I lunged him every time before I rode, and boy did he have energy.  My trainer had to do it too because she found that he behaved better afterwards.  There were times when she would lunge him for 30-40 minutes, ride him for an hour, I would come out later that day and lunge him for 30 - 40 minutes, and ride him for an hour - and he would still be crazy!

After about a month of this, I decided I didn't want to ride him in the crazy bit anymore.  I decided that I did not have quiet enough hands for that, and because of this, "bitting up" had an adverse effect on our relationship.  Even though my barn owner pretty much said that a lesser bit was me taking my own life in my hands, I slowly moved him down to a Kimberwick Uxeter (still a little leverage with a chain under the chin, but not nearly as harsh as the high port and 5"-6" shank they wanted me to ride him in).  I'm now proud to say that I'm almost ready to ride him in a D-ring snaffle (I tried it out a little prematurely in the fall but I think we're ready for that now).  I'm also proud that I've been able to move down to smaller English spurs and that he's way more responsive to the leg than he used to be.

He's also not nearly as crazy, hyper, or misbehaving as he used to be.  After my barn owner told me that he had too much attitude for me and I refused to sell him, I got my trainer to ride him fairly intensively for about a month.  By this point, I had already cured him of the body slamming my leg into the wall thing, and although it helped to have her ride him those days, most of our progression has been because of me working with him.  Even my trainer once said, and I agree with her, that just because she can get him to do something doesn't mean he'll automatically do it for me.  At the end of the day, I have to be able to ride him too.  So although he went through a phase where he bucked once a ride or refused to canter one particular corner of the arena (the dark days, as I think of them), we've now pretty much fixed all those problems with only a few residual issues (mainly, Walker turning into Bruce and bolting during lessons just to piss me off).

I will never stop loving how fun it is to dress
up in crazy Western Pleasure outfits.  Never.
I'm really proud of my progression with Walker.  I tell a lot of crazy stories about him misbehaving, but don't get me wrong.  He's a wildly talented horse, and he's also a smart horse.  He has no intention of doing extra work unless he has to, and I think about some of his disrespectful moments as him being young and cocky.  We just continue to muddle through and I continue to reaffirm to him that I am in fact the boss and yes he does have to listen to me.  And once you have him, you really have him - if you know what I mean.  We did two shows this summer, and although I was a wreck for both of him (and less than impressed with his performance in the second one), I got a lot of compliments about him.  He won Champion Halter Gelding, and the judge pretty much told me that she liked him when she saw him, but the minute I hand-trotted him past her, she didn't even bother looking at the other horses.  Nothing makes a rider beam quite like compliments like that.

"I think I want to learn to jump now."
Finally, towards the end of the year, we started to jump.  It was a slow job because although I know he has dabbled in jumps before and understands how his body is supposed to move, he's simply not built for that.  But the sweet guy has tried his little heart out for me.  I've gotten some great results in the outdoor arena because there's plenty of room to pick up some speed, but unfortunately, Winter came too quickly for me and we had to continue our jumping lessons inside. :S  I had just about given up hope on getting him to canter fast enough to actually propel his body over the jump when Friday on a whim I tried him once again and he did it for me!  I was very proud of him even if we still need serious work!

This year has been fantastic for me, if not what I had in mind.  I imagined buying a horse that would be, well, more complacent.  I expected that I would have progressed much farther than I admittedly have, but the progress I have made with Walker has been more worthwhile.  I took a horse that my barn owner and trainer both agreed was "too much attitude for me" and stuck with it until we were a mean lean kinda-jumping machine.  I'm a better rider, a more confident rider, and ready to take on 2013 with all the enthusiasm and perseverence that 2012 has taught me.

I love Walker and I wouldn't trade him for the world.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Jumps and Jumping


Yep.  I think the coast is clear
After our crazy snowstorm, I finally made it to the barn on Friday. Imagine my surprise to find that Walker still hasn't been turned out (we're going on 2 weeks now). I'm slightly bitter about it mainly because I was told that some snow to cover the ice was all we needed. Well, we got like 30 cm of it so put my horse out! Some of the other horses are out because of the location of their paddocks closer to the barn but of course Walker's paddock is way at the back of the property up a hill. I should've taken a walk up there to see if it was still really slippery under the snow but I hope this just isn't because my trainer isn't really going to put them out much this Winter. Even though I go to the barn quite regularly to exercise him, he LOVES his turnout. He's such a sociable horse and I know he relishes his time in the fields with the ladies.

Anyway, rant aside, I had another great ride. After four horrible days of no turnout OR exercise by me, I was expecting a fire breathing maniac but he was actually really well behaved (and even slightly sluggish). AND we cantered our first crossrail!!! I was ecstatic. Nothing better could have happened to end this year off right. Mind you, it wasn't pretty. In fact, I actually didn't think he would go through with it so I ended up getting left behind. Luckily, I know I didn't catch him in the mouth because I rode him into the jump with lots (read:way too much) rein. Oh well, we'll work on technique later! We cantered it a couple times, trotted it a couple times, and then I called it a day. And you can be sure that the lazy pony was sweating after that!

Our jumps!
I left for home shortly after that and will see him again on Boxing Day. In the meantime, my friend A and I built her horse some jumps yesterday and today! Just two sets with standards no higher than 4 feet - but her horse is 14.3 hands and is bred for cow penning and barrels. Needless to say, we'll be teaching her the ropes of jumping as well! Her barn is primarily Western so she didn't even have any poles so we made those too. My father got us the lumber and his friends trickled in and out of the garage throughout the day lending a hand. My fathers friends are great. One of them built the standards for us and also went into the woods and cut us down some trees to use for poles. We were going to leave them covered in bark, but one thing led to another and another one of his friends showed up with some special blade thing to strip the bark. An hour later, we had a planer (something to help smooth them) and then a handsander to finish the job! We painted the standards white to keep it classy and we had great intentions to paint our beautiful poles white and purple, but the men convinced us that the wood was simply too wet for that. Oh well, we're super proud of our jump sets and we even took pictures of us jumping a huge crossrail. Needless to say, after a few jumps over that I can start to relate to how Walker feels about jumping!

The difference in the poles from bark to stripped and sanded (probably the most work)

And of course I couldn't resist giving it a whirl!


Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Lesson Cancelled

We're in the middle of a snowstorm here so my lesson ended up getting cancelled tonight. We're getting 30-40 cm of snow (I think that is about a foot of snow?). Anyway, I feel bad for Walker because now he's going to get 4 days without turnout or exercise. I intended to go to the barn Monday but I went on Sunday so that I could finish studying for my last exam on Monday. I didn't think it would be a big deal because although I knew this storm was coming, I figured that I'd get out to the barn tonight either way. Unfortunately my barn owner tells me that the roads aren't great out there and she didn't think I should risk it. Since Walker wasn't able to be turned out on the crazy ice (for a week and a half!), he hasn't had exercise since Sunday. I can't go to the barn tomorrow either because I have an appointment and somewhere I have to be in the evening. :( so Friday will be my next ride and also my last one until I go home for the holidays. Luckily M has agreed to lunge him for me over Christmas, and I should get back to see him for the day at least on Boxing Day. I had such high hopes for a fun and productive holiday season at the barn but I guess that has all fallen apart. I haven't even had time to work on our jumping (such as it is). Hopefully in the new year, we'll start doing it in our group lessons.

I also noticed the last time I was at the barn that my stirrup leathers are super worn from rubbing up against my boots. I've only had them for a year (and have probably only used then for half that time). I know that they were cheap but now I feel like I should replace them. That and my computer which, according to the technical people in my life, "is in its final death throws." I would much rather put $1000 towards a new saddle so I think I'm going to give it a chance to actually die first. My computer has been flashing a warning message for a year and a half now that the hard drive is going to fail, which apparently doesn't happen - they normally just die, not warn you they're going to. My computer is now making creepy metal clicking sounds. It is a lot like the hero in the movie that just refuses to die. I have faith that it will persevere.

Since I have failed on the photo front (and the seeing my pony front), I leave you with my other guy, who has singlehanded destroyed my Christmas tree in true Christmas spirit.


Sunday, 16 December 2012

Almost the Holidays

Although I doubted that I'd have time, I made it out to the barn last night, but unfortunately I didn't bother taking any pictures. It was -11 degrees Celsius here (12 degrees Fahrenheit) and so I was more anxious to just get the ride over with. However once I got started, I quickly warmed up.

Yesterday Walker and I worked on only a couple things. He was feeling slightly defiant and so I was working on keeping him in a nice frame. For myself, I was working on keeping my shoulders back. No matter how straight I sit in the saddle, my blasted shoulders are never back! :s other than a couple leg yields and a few turns, that was pretty much it. Just a quick ride to get the blood flowing.

Although he wasn't sweating and our barn is heated, I threw his cooler on him while I puttered around anyway. Boy those things heat up! I stuck my hand under it after a few minutes, and it was like a furnace under there. I'm noticing that Walker hasn't really been sweating that much lately. I don't know if its because he hasn't been working hard enough or if he just doesn't sweat in the cold as much. In the summer, he was always dripping with sweat no matter what we did, but so far this winter, the only times he has been sweaty has been when he was feeling forward and we cantered cantered cantered around the ring like maniacs. And even then, he only sweat on his neck. It really doesn't worry me or anything. The only reason I bring it up is because I always feel better when he's sweating because I know he was working!

Other than that, I rebraided Walkers tail the other day. He has a tail bag to keep it clean for Winter and so I braid and rebraid it every week or so. Every month I take a comb and detangler to it to make sure it's still clean. And I have to say, my horse is gifted with some luscious locks. His tail is already so long that it drags behind him a couple inches, and it will soon need a trim. He also has a super thick mane. I wish I had hair like that! The nice thing about braiding his tail and using a tail bag is that I really give it a chance to grow because he can't step on it. He is very egotistical about his tail. He always tries to wrench it out of my hands and walk away from me if we're in his stall. I guess I'd do the same if I had hair like him!

Day off today to study (although I may change my mind) and out to the barn Monday. We may do some jumping, and I may incorporate a crop for the first time ever. I doubt he will like that much, and I also doubt that I am coordinated enough to successfully use one so we shall see how that goes!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Icy Days

Walker didn't get turned out again today but some of the horses did. It was fairly treacherous. I helped my trainer bring them in and all I could think was that either me or the horse was going to slip on the ice, and neither scenario boded well for me! As much as I want Walker turned out, I also don't want him to end up with cuts on his legs from going through ice or slipping and breaking a leg. He's not exactly the most graceful pony.

My ride today wasn't too bad. He was feeling a little lazy (as was I), and so I worked on some conditioning exercises (probably more for me than him, but they were equally beneficial for us both). After a quick warmup, I started trotting two circles, loping a circle, walking a circle, turn on the haunches to change directions and repeat. After awhile I had to start switching up the amount of circles (sometimes two circles at the lope or one circle of trot, sometimes no walk) because Walker is good at patterns and he started slamming on the brakes after his designated one circle of lope. What a lazy bugger! We did this for probably the equivalent of 20 or more circles at the lope, but it was good for me because I find I get so winded trying to keep him going for several circles in a row in my English spurs. So clearly we could both use the exercise.

Besides turns on the haunches, we also switched it up and did some turns on the forehand. Not surprisingly, Walker was much better in one direction than the other, and turning to the left on the haunches is a mess - something between a side pass and a turn on the forehand. Ugh. I like doing turning exercises in my English spurs because I find it easier to keep contact on and use both legs to facilitate the turns, but he moves so much better off the Western spurs. I know he's stiff so we'll just keep working on it. I know he can do them - he's a Western horse. He's all about those lovely spins.

Can't make it to the barn tomorrow. I still have one more exam on Tuesday, and I think I'm being too cocky to think that I can prepare all my notes AND go to the barn everyday. Maybe if I was more of a morning person, but gale force winds can't get me up in the morning. Tonight I'm off to see the Hobbit on opening night so its been a nice couple days of relaxation before the work begins again.

I've been debating about what to get Walker for Christmas, and I was wondering what you guys planned to get your horses. I don't really want to buy him a Likit or something like that because all I can think about is giving a child a big bag of candy and saying, "now you can treat yourself whenever you want." Not the best idea for Mr. Gorby Guts. My only other idea is to give him my unconditional love but he already gets that every day!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Skillz

I just wanted to write a quick post after my lesson tonight and also to show you my amazing skillz at taking videos of my rides.  This is a screen shot from the ride I taped on Monday, and as you can see from the picture, the whole video was super helpful.  *rolls eyes*  I guess I should try my other camera next time. :S

As you can see, the video isn't blurry at all :P
In Wednesday night lesson news, Walker was pretty good.  There was a brief appearance from Bruce at the beginning of the lesson who threw a mini temper tantrum, but then he got over himself and let Walker come back.  We worked a lot on bending to the inside and pushing Walker into corners, which I will admit, I tend to let go a lot when I'm riding alone.  This is especially true at the canter, and I really had to work at moving him into the corners instead of making the circle smaller and smaller like he wants to do.  It helped that I rode in my Western saddle and my Western spurs.  Other than that, my form wasn't as good as it has been lately. I was definitely leaning back in my saddle at the lope and also to the inside.  I don't know why but that seems to be my reaction these days when Walker decides to be more forward.  I also tend to fall apart more during lessons than when I ride myself.  I'm sure it comes from wanting to please my instructor and instead doing worse. :S  I can't say that I was upset with the night though because, as you may have figured out, Wednesday night lessons are normally a disaster for me.  I have faith that now that we're in the indoor arena for good, things may start to look up again.  One of the other horses, Ash, also had a mini meltdown but he was freaking out because the cars were crunching over the ice/snow outside of the door which resulted in a little bit of wild and frantic cantering near the door.  Other than that, I can't complain!

The only downside to the snowstorm we got on Monday is that it was followed by freezing rain.  This means that the snow has a level of ice over top of it, and everywhere is treacherous.  In fact, there are normally four people in our lesson, but for the past few months, there has only been three of us.  This is because the fourth person is an older man (not really old, but older than the rest of us), and he has back problems.  After several months off because of pain, he arrived at the barn tonight with the intention of riding, put his foot out of the car door, slipped on the ice and fell on his back.  Now who knows when he will be able to ride again. :(  Needless to say, the horses haven't been outside because it's way too icy to even get them to their paddocks.  According to my instructor, at this point, it either needs to snow or melt, and it doesn't really look like either are going to happen for about a week.  I think Walker would have more of a chance of being turned out if his field wasn't at the very back and my trainer didn't have to walk up a hill (that is literally just ice) to get them there.  I can only pray that the weather won't be like that for the two weeks that I'm barely riding - you know, those two weeks before I do the clinic. :S  I'm sure Bruce will be out in full force if that's the case!

Luckily, I'm done my first two exams and my next one isn't until next Tuesday.  I will be able to get out to the barn quite often over the next week, I'm hoping.  He will get lots of exercise, if I have anything to say about it!

On a final note, check out this super cool video someone posted on my Facebook wall.  It's impressive and awesome:


Monday, 10 December 2012

Snow Day

Today we got a snow storm, and it's hilarious how people forget how to drive once snow is on the ground.  We live in Atlantic Canada.  It's not a surprise that we will get snow every year!

What happens when I get bored at the barn and no one is around
Even though we were also getting freezing rain and the roads turned out to be pretty slippery, I went out to the barn to see my boy.  Not surprisingly, it was quiet out there even though there was no school for the kids.

I have to say that I didn't have a good ride.  Nothing inherently bad happened.  On the contrary, he was a really good boy considering that he was cooped up because of the weather and I was too lazy to lunge him.  He did everything I asked him to, but it just felt like something was missing.

The past month's worth of rides have been so great, but then I talked to my barn owner the other day and really started to worry about whether or not my riding was adequate for the upcoming clinic.  I went out to the barn with the intention of videotaping myself and seeing a fantastic improvement in my skills.  This was probably a flawed plan from the beginning.  After all, there was nothing different really about today's ride than the rides I've been having, rides which I was ecstatic about until today.  I haven't had a chance to dissect the video yet, and unfortunately it's pretty blurry. But I was overall content with my position and hands, and Walker and I did a lot of canter work.  I was disappointed because I wanted to work on pushing him into the corners since he has a tendency to make the circle smaller, but I wasn't as successful as I wanted to be.  Then, to make matters worse, I decided to ride bareback after I exhausted us both, and I wasn't able to get him cantering.  I don't know what it is, since I have cantered him bareback before.  He was obviously tired from the ride, but I think I was probably more tired and lacked the strength.  Every time I kicked him, he just seemed perturbed with me, like when I took off his saddle, he was hoping that the ride was over.  I was already frustrated as it was that I hadn't successfully accomplished what I wanted to work on today (at least by my obviously too-high standards), so I ended up just giving up and getting off.

"Where is all the grass?  WHERE IS ALL THE GRASS?"
But I did take Walker out into the snow.  From what I gather, Walker came from somewhere warm, and I don't know if he's actually ever seen snow before.  He was puffing and blowing and was quite distressed that all the grass was gone.  You'd think that the humans didn't feed him or something, and we were going to leave him to forage through the tundra alone.  It was pretty cute.

"Maybe if I wish hard enough and long enough, it will go away"

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Clinic update

I talked to my barn owner today, and apparently the kids were mistaken about the clinic.  She told them that she wouldn't take them to any QH shows unless they did this clinic because it was pointless unless they knew some of the training techniques he uses.  The clinic in January has only 6 spots, but apparently I have one of them.  From what I understand, she already told the clinician, Herb Best, that I was going to the clinic so I guess I'm doing it after all. :S  I can only imagine that having most of December off will make us great participants!  Apparently we ride twice a day for two days in this clinic, and we also have an hour of showmanship. I'm going to be exhausted!

I'm a little nervous especially because the clinic is only composed of 6 people.  Knowing what I do about the other participants, I will be the most beginner rider there.  Plus, I always get the impression that my barn owner thinks I'm a lot more of a beginner than I feel like I am (hey, maybe she's right - she sees riders all the time).  I'm afraid of what she might have told him about me.  I don't want to be worked like crazy, but I don't want to be patronized either.  I do know that she told him that Walker was a talented horse and that I was still "getting up to his level", whatever that's supposed to mean.  Walker is talented for sure, but that also means he isn't easy.  He doesn't just give up the goods for nothing!  I may not have the best form or be the most controlled, but I don't feel like an absolute beginner, that's for sure.  I don't know if I think well enough of my riding to call it an intermediate level, but hopefully an advanced beginner for sure.  I may be getting back into the swing of things (I had probably 10+ years off of riding after all), but I don't think an absolute beginner could sit through half of Walker's temper tantrums or be starting to jump (at least not at our barn - I know that some barns start jumping earlier).  What do you guys consider a beginner/advanced beginner/intermediate rider? I just hate to be patronized.  I sometimes feel like people are just patting me on the head and saying, "Oh look at Natalie.  Isn't she cute with her pony."  I work as hard as everyone else; I'm just never at the barn when people are around to watch me (other than lessons, which, if that's what people are basing their assessments off, would be fair considering our track record).

Other than that, Walker and I had a good ride today again.  We rode with another girl in the ring with us for awhile, and I find that when we're in close quarters like that, he gets a little forward.  This is fine with me as long as he pays attention.  After she left, he threw a mini temper tantrum because he wanted to go with her, but then he was great for me.  I even got him cantering at a decent speed, which I find much harder to accomplish in the indoor arena.  If only he would do that when I want to jump!  I was also proud of him because I got him going fast at a canter and then was able to slow him back down to a semi-slow lope.  Some speed control exercises are always good.


On a final note, here's a picture of Walker's poor chipping feet.  I feel so bad for him.  Let it snow so that the ground will not be so hard!  I would put shoes back on him, but my barn owner thinks that his feet will toughen up, especially since he's only had them off for about a month so far.  Apparently, the farrier has had that conversation with some of the other boarders at the barn, so I guess I will leave it for now, if that's what he thinks.  If they haven't improved by the time it snows/January, I'll put his shoes back on.  I'm sure that my barn owner is probably right.  We took his back shoes off when I first got him, and they used to chip like this.  Now, they aren't chipping at all.  I'm just such a sucker.


Thursday, 6 December 2012

Back in the Saddle Again

"Let's get this over with then"
Finally made it to the barn today after my three (horrible) days off.  I got out there plenty early in the afternoon after passing in my paper and doing a few other chores so that I was able to have as long of a ride as I wanted.  Grabbed the pony from the paddock and gave him a nice relaxing brush.  He wasn't as dirty as I figured he would be.  However, I had a bad oops moment while grooming him.  Lately I've noticed that one of his back legs around the fetlock has got a lot of mud/dirt dried into the hair.  It's been driving me crazy, and I've been slowly and carefully cutting some of it off the way that you might cut a dog's matted fur.  Well, today I ended up cutting part of his "ergot" - the chestnut-like thing on his fetlock.  I only know this term because I freaked out when I realized what I had done, and went online to make sure that I wasn't going to kill him.  Apparently people actually do trim them (chestnuts too), so it's not as big of a deal as it could have been.  Next time I'll be a little more conscious about whether or not I'm cutting mud off my horse's leg or part of my horse's leg!

Today was mild enough so that I could ride in the outdoor arena, but I rode in the indoor anyway.  The foal was turned out in the outdoor, and I know that he has been cooped up for awhile because of the weather and because he was just recently gelded.  I knew that if I brought him in, he'd be in for the rest of the day since my trainer has started arriving around 3PM to do supper (yeah, early, I know).  There was a horse turned out in the indoor as well, but he has a huge stall and he's also like 30 years old - he doesn't do too much running!

His favorite part of the day: supper time.  We have that in common.
I was pretty happy with Walker today.  He had three days off and he was a little angel.  I didn't have to lunge him or get into any big arguments.  I even loped him with one hand for pretty much the first time successfully.  I rode him one-handed when I showed Western at the walk/jog, but I was also in novice (no lope).  I neck reined a couple of times in the outdoor arena when we were having issues and I thought he might enjoy it better, but it was never really that successful or controlled (mainly because those were the days when we got into massive arguments at the lope).  Today was the first time that I loped him with one hand that he actually paid attention, and it was very nice.  It's obvious that he prefers neck reining to two hands on the rein, and he definitely prefers as little contact as possible.  I've often noticed that using two hands and trying to wrench his head around is much less successful.  I suppose that's all in his training though.  I'm sure that I'm very entertaining to watch as I ride around in my English saddle on my Western pony while I post and neck rein.

Speaking of training, I'm proud to say that I taught Walker a trick.  Well, its not so much a trick, but I taught him how to do it all on my own.  I have taught him how to back up with me in the saddle and no hands on the reins by simply saying "back".  Yes, my horse now speaks English.  I always say "back" every time I'm on the ground backing him up or if I'm in the saddle using the reins, but a month or so ago, I was riding around the arena, no hands on the reins, practicing moving him around with just my legs when I halted him and asked him to back up.  He backed up at this point with no added aids, but I thought that he may have just associated the phrase with the action because we had done a lot of backing up that day (so he would have heard me say "back" a lot).  I left it and haven't really done much with it since (although I still say "back" every time I back him).  Today, at the end of my ride after not having backed him up once today (and not having seen him in three days), I just decided to try it out.  And back he went.  It's cool because he takes one step per every time I say "back".  So if I say "back back back", he backs up three steps.

I have to say, having a smart pony can be both a blessing and a curse!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Busy busy busy

My next week isn't looking too good for Walker.  After his 3 days off, I will be sure to give him lots of attention tomorrow afternoon because it doesn't look like I'm going to get to go out to the barn too often until I get my first two exams under my belt.  If I can manage it, he will probably only get ridden every other day for the next week, and frankly, I probably don't even have time for that.  Unfortunately, I also should be going to the Living Christmas Tree on Sunday, which my friend is dancing in, but right now, it's not looking doable.  I haven't scheduled it in, but I will just have to see what the end of this week brings.

December is going to be a pretty lazy month for Walker.  After my first two exams, I have about a week until my last one, which will be good for him because I don't really need a week to prepare for it.  After that, I will ride him every day for about half a week until I leave for Christmas, and then, unfortunately, the best I can do is four days in between rides (since I will have to drive 2 hours back here to ride him).  He's going to be so fat by January!

Also, if you recall, I was supposed to do a clinic at the beginning of January.  I've heard rumours that this clinic was actually just for 6 people who are supposed to be on some winter show team or whatever.  They tell me that there is another clinic at a later date.  When I talked to my barn owner about the clinic, I suppose she never specified if I was doing that first clinic or the second one.  I was a little cranky at first because I felt like I signed up for the first one and was pushed aside because I'm not one of the top riders at the barn.  However, looking at my schedule for December (and my dire financial situation), it's probably a blessing that Walker doesn't get a bunch of time off and then I expect him to be in tiptop shape for the beginning of January.  I'm still not sure what the situation is but I've sent my barn owner a message to insinuate that January 3rd may be a little early for us after all.  I want to do a clinic with this guy before I move in May, but the Christmas holidays are about spending time with family and relaxing.  I'd much rather have a few enjoyable rides and see my family and friends (including a friend of mine who is currently working out west) than stress myself out for this clinic.  Currently, the only stress I have time for is this blasted paper and my three stupid exams. :S

Can't wait to see the boy tomorrow.  Walker always cheers me up :)

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The Long Stretch

Today was the last day of classes, and I finally passed in one of my two papers.  I have one more to pass in on Thursday, and then I simply have my three exams until freedom.  Unfortunately for Walker (or perhaps not so unfortunately), he is getting three days off in a row (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday), and we are missing our lesson.  I usually take December off for lessons anyway because of my normally very hectic exam schedule and because I go home for Christmas, but this December my barn owner let me have free lessons all December whenever I want since she knows how busy I am and because I had to miss so many lessons throughout the semester.  She has been very good to me since I got Walker.

On Thursday, I plan to have a nice long relaxing ride with the pony.  On Sunday when I was riding with M and Lark, M set up the crossrail on a diagonal in the ring, and I think I may try that out the next time I decide to jump.  Normally, I set a crossrail up along the long end of the indoor arena because it gives me the entire arena to get him building up his speed, and then the crossrail is conveniently in our road. :)  However, this is problematic because when I'm done jumping (and too lazy to get off my horse and move the crossrail), the jump is in my way.  M set up the crossrail in the middle of the arena, but not so that I would have to cut across the middle of the long end to get to it like most of the girls do.  I don't like that way because we have to make a quick 90 degree turn and then we have barely a stride before he has to jump.  He slows down on the turn and we just don't have enough momentum (#slowponyproblems).  M's way was perfect for us.  You can go around the entire arena without the jump being in the way, but I can turn at the corner and come down the diagonal.  I have included this handy diagram for your viewing pleasure.  The box is the arena, the red cross is the crossrail, and the blue line is our path (which probably actually does look that erratic in real life).  I know that I keep saying that our indoor arena is super small and it's difficult for you guys to imagine, but for reference, it takes Walker about 1 - 2 strides of a lope (lope, not canter) to do the short end and probably no more than 4 to do the long end.  I'm sure most of your horses who actually do jump would eat up our arena.


On a final note, I am stealing this video from Julie at The Little Bay Princess which fits in line nicely with the other post I did on this subject.  For the record, I don't regret getting my undergraduate degree.  I don't think that university is for everyone, but I did enjoy my degree (I studied Classics, with a double minor in History and Latin - yeah, that's right, Latin).  I learned a lot of things there that I wouldn't have learned elsewhere.  I learned to be a better writer, a more critical thinker, besides all the lovely things I learned within my degree itself.  I also learned a lot of life lessons, about living away from home, growing up, etc.  However, I have always taken issue with an education system that focuses on regurgitation and which doesn't allow the mind to grow creatively.  I believe it was Margaret Atwood who said that she was glad that she never took a writing class because they would have forced her to choose a writing style, and of course she dabbles in everything. I agree with this guy's idea that education comes in many forms, and often people discount the knowledge that others have because they didn't go to university.


Sunday, 2 December 2012

Fun Sundays

My other boy helping me write papers last night
Although the barn is usually pretty busy on Sundays, it was actually just me and M at the barn today.  I like riding with M and Lark because we're the only adults at the barn, and sometimes it's just nice to have another adult around.  Lark and Walker seem to get along pretty well actually, especially since Lark doesn't exactly get along with all the horses at our barn.  I also never worry about anything happening because I know that if Walker had a freak attack, Lark can handle herself and so can M.  Sometimes I just worry when I'm around kids, especially little kids, that they might get in the way at the wrong time, since they don't necessarily know any better.  I find it good practice for me to ride with M because she and I got back into riding around the same time, so it's not as intimidating as it is to ride with people who are busy being awesome while we bumble around the ring.

Today we worked on a little bit of everything.  I especially was glad to work on some cantering while another horse was in the ring because our indoor ring is so small that it is going to be difficult in lessons with 4 people.  In fact, in lessons, we usually only have room for 1 - 2 people to canter at one time, so the others have to wait.  I'm often at the barn alone, and of course, we rode outside for most of the summer and fall.  So it was nice practice to canter and maneuver around Lark, the speed demon, without also hitting M's mom who comes out to the barn with her most days.  Walker's lope and Lark's canter are two different speeds altogether, so it takes some thought not to hit each other.  We even set up some crossrails, and although Walker was lazy at first, he really seemed to get into it once he saw how excited Lark got.

Then, before we finished our ride, we practiced riding around the ring without any reins.  I do that a lot with Walker because he has nice slow gaits and he's really super about moving off the leg.  We're getting pretty good, and I can almost pivot him on the spot with just my leg.  Lark, on the other hand, being trained English, seemed quite distraught that M didn't have any contact on her mouth.  She's also so much faster than Walker, and I died laughing while Lark pretty much took M for her own guided tour of the arena at top speed.  I then convinced M to hop on Walker, and it was a whole different kind of hilarious.  Of course, he felt so slow for her, and she couldn't tell if he was trotting or walking! Then, when I convinced her to lope him, she started to yell: "Why is he putting his head down?  Why is he putting his head down!  Natalie, where is his head?!"  By this point, some other girls had shown up to ride their horses, and they were laughing also. Of course, that's Walker's thing: his head never goes above level.  Whereas sometimes, when he's feeling a little fresh, his head goes up at the trot, his head NEVER goes up at the lope or canter.  He's trained so that every time you apply leg, he puts his head down - which, might I add, really does take a long time to get used to!  All in all, it was a pretty fun ride, which is nice to have.

Other than that, I tried Walker's rainsheet on him to make sure it fit because my instructor says that it's best to start them out with a rain repellent summer sheet for Winter because of the barn being heated.  The lightweight sheet won't make him overheated while he's in the barn but will offer some protection when he goes outside.  Then we'll slowly move him up to his midweight Winter blanket that I bought him.  Unfortunately, temperatures are going back up and today after it snowed, it rained :S  I left the rainsheet hanging on his stall but I doubt he'll need it for a couple weeks again.  Make up your mind, Winter!

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Conformation

After reading this post by SprinklerBandit, I've become a little obsessed with conformation.  I tried to take some pictures of Walker and compare them to SprinklerBandit's thoroughbred, but this was an inherently flawed plan since Walker is not a thoroughbred.  Walker is pretty fat by my standards, but as a general rule, quarter horses are just not as slim and trim as other breeds.  I personally love looking at ads for jumpers online and laughing at how much slimmer they are than my boy.  Don't get me wrong.  I love that Walker is chubby, and in fact, it is due to this characteristic that we continuously won ribbons in Halter Gelding in the summer.  Judges like their quarter horses with a little meat on their bones apparently.

So I looked through a few pictures I had of him to try and compare his progression, but unfortunately pictures really don't do him justice in that way.  The quality of most of them just don't show off the parts of him that I want to compare.

The first picture is one I found of him online.  It was taken before he came to me, and although I don't know how old he is, I would imagine he was around 4 - 6 at the time.  The second picture was taken this past August.  He definitely seems a little thicker in the belly, but generally the same.  He's all shined up here because I had just washed him, so the sun really gleams off him.  I also love how perturbed he is with me in this.


I also went and found this photo from the American Quarter Horse Association.  Apparently it is a painting that was done in order to show the "perfect" quarter horse.  Comparing it to Walker is difficult since you can't really see all the muscles in the same way, but it's clear that Walker is still a little more overweight than "ideal".  I read online that quarter horses bred for halter classes have a tendency to be a little thicker than their performance counterparts, and so perhaps this is why Walker has got such a belly.  I was actually worried that he was losing weight until I started looking at pictures like these.

As a final comparison, I found this photo of Zips Chocolate Chip (one of the horses that is in Walker's pedigree and a pretty famous quarter horse, around here anyway).  In  my opinion, he seems slightly comparable to Walker, although I think that it would help if I had a good shot of Walker with his head carried level (unlike the one in August).

Finally, for my own amusement, I tried to take a more recent conformation shot when I was at the barn the other day.  Walker obliged, since he didn't want to come in from the fields, but he has a weary eye on me just in cases I try something smart!  I'm posting this photo not as an accurate conformation shot, but as a laugh.  Walker has put on his winter coat (he started putting it on in August actually) and he looks so shaggy here.  Considering the dreary backdrop of dying grass and hard ground, he almost looks like one of those backyard ponies that you see sometimes, instead of a horse who is very well-looked after!  Also, notice that he is not wearing a tail bag.  I then had to go through the field looking for it.  Bad pony!

Don't worry, love, you look better in person
Today we put an extra 500 bales of hay in the barn.  My barn owner always gets 5000 bales of hay per year for the horses, but she always does the last load at the end of November to give us a chance to make a dent in the first load.  At my barn, the barn owner gives us a discount if we help put the hay in, so it's usually a pretty fun affair, with a whole bunch of people around and hay EVERYWHERE.  My barn owner was running around like a maniac trying to rake up the loose hay which was getting all in her brand new footing in the arena.  All the kids tacked up their horses to ride afterwards, and I drug out all my riding gear, planning to do the same.  But then there ended up being 5 - 6 kids trying to ride, and they decided that the outdoor arena was still frozen.  Our indoor arena can barely hold 4 at a time, and because I was running late as it was, I decided Walker wouldn't mind a few more hours outside in the sunshine with his friends.  I'll ride him tomorrow to make up for it.  

I took this photo of one of the horses the other day in the field.  This is Ash, the horse that my friend H rides in our lesson.  He has boundary issues.  When you go in the field, he comes right up to you, and after I took this photo, he even put his nose in my hair before I got angry and shooed him away.  He's a pretty fun guy to ride, or so I'm told, although he is a little stiff in one direction (aren't they all?).  However, he has some serious tacking up issues.  He pins his ears against his head the minute the saddle touches his back, and H tacks him up with a crop in her hand because he always bares his teeth like he's about to bite.  He's fine in every other way - he just absolutely hates to be tacked up.  I'm assuming that he must have had problems in the past with a rough kid maybe.  It's unfortunate because he's really like a big dog - he loves being scratched behind the ears and being brushed. 


Now back to my dreaded papers. :S

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Lazy

I ended up having a bad sleep last night, so instead of getting up, working on my papers, and going to the barn, I decided to go to the barn first thing to help invigorate me for the tedious task ahead.  I was pretty cold when I left the house, but riding in the indoor arena warmed me up pretty fast.  Apparently they finally moved to the indoor arena last night since the outdoor arena is officially a frozen mess.  I don't know if it's going to stay like that since apparently the temperature is going back up again next week, but I wish we would just stay inside so that I can stop switching back and forth and start preparing myself for the long winter ahead.

Speaking of the long winter ahead, I feel pretty bad for Walker's feet.  His front feet are chipping pretty bad, but I checked with my trainer today and she said that it's not uncommon at this time of year since we don't have snow yet.  Once the snow comes, all should be well.

Today Walker and I mostly worked on some basics: walk/trot/canter in my English saddle, and I did a little bit of: trot a circle, canter a circle, switch directions, repeat.  I set up a pole in the arena and went over that a couple of times, and then I put up a crossrail to trot over.  He was feeling pretty lazy at first, and he was trying to slow down to a walk over it.  I made him pick up the pace, of course, but the whole ride pretty much exhausted me!  He's so lazy that it takes SO much effort to keep him going either at the trot (i.e. not a jog) or a canter/lope.  I usually end up puffing pretty bad after just a couple circles of the lope, and I feel like I've run a marathon.  It's times like these that I wish he was a little more forward.  Of course, a lot of that is his training and the fact that the indoor arena is so much smaller.  He actually picks up a nice pace for me considering his tendencies, but I feel like I'm going to pop a lung just getting him to lope more than one circle in a row.  Perhaps that's more a sign that I'm out of shape...  Of course, I've never been so in shape since riding Walker.  Horses really do that to you and lazy ones especially!

On a final note, I joined Instragam today and I decided to play around with some photos of the pony.  Still getting used to all the buttons, but hopefully it will encourage me to take more pictures at the barn!

Shadows, kisses and love :)

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Follower

So I generally don't fill these things out, but I'll do pretty much anything to avoid writing my papers right now (even though I had to skip my lesson to do school work).  Luckily, I get tomorrow off from school (and by "get school off", I mean that one of my classes was cancelled by the professor and I took the liberty of cancelling the other one for myself).  That means that I can work on my papers, see my boy, and go to a last class bash that we are having where all the funds raised go to a scholarship for a student who passed away in my first year.

I got these two fill-out thingies from Julie at The Little Bay Princess but I'm pretty sure they came from Viva Carlos since they've been popping up on  my blog feed for a week or so now.  Here goes:


  1. Equestrian Goal(s)? learn to jump and get to do cross-country
  2. How many horses do you own? one
  3. Do you watch horse races? sometimes, but not regularly
  4. Ever been to a horse race? I have and I would much rather watch them in person - it's the gambling thing!
  5. Dream horse? Hmmm.  I feel like it's wrong if I don't say Walker, and Walker is definitely my dream horse of the moment.  I don't think he will be able to do all the things I want to do in the future, but I also don't think that I will ever sell him, no matter how many other horses I own.
  6. Dream barn? not one in particular, but if I had to describe one, it would have: LOTS of turnout/paddocks, big box stalls, locker room, indoor/outdoor arenas (maybe even more than one, including a cross-country course), and I would love for Walker to have his own runout 
  7. Describe a barn friend. knowledgeable and helpful, and someone fun just to play with on horseback
  8. Describe a rider you're jealous of. can't think of anyone in particular, but pretty much anyone who has good control and talent.  I am inspired by Ian Millar though - he's such a talented rider and I hope that I'm still riding when I'm older!
  9. What do you wish to improve on? everything.  mostly: better hands, better seat, better control
  10. Best thing you're good at in riding? my heels are always down.  it's like I have lead in those things.
  11. How many hands is the horse you most often ride? 15.2 hands
  12. What breed of horses do you ride? Quarter Horse
  13. Favorite supply store? Northstream Tack, a little tack store not far from where I live - they know me by name, they know my job, and they even remember the times I have horse shows or activities.  they are the sweetest people ever and they look out for me (especially when I need things)!
  14. Do your parents approve of riding? they do, although I think my father is sick of hearing about Walker!
  15. How many people ride at your school? Only one other than I can think of and she started riding again because of me :)
  16. Any other sports  you participate in? haha.  no.
  17. Describe your perfect ride. Walker and I had one beautiful ride where he acted like the perfect Western Pleasure horse (in the summer, when that's the discipline I was focusing on).  He had this beautiful controlled lope, and I just felt so good about us
  18. Riding flaws? lots of them: leaning forward (hard nut to crack!), hands out of position, thumbs never on top (ever), hunched shoulders
  19. How many times do you ride a week? 6 times a week if I am able
  20. Describe horseback riding in one word. Escape

Splurge or Save:

  1. saddle: splurge (although both of mine have been kind of a save right now; next time I will splurge though)
  2. board: save, as long as it doesn't compromise Walker's well-being
  3. halter: save, even on his show halter (although I may start singing a different tune if I showed more)
  4. bit: save, although I don't know if it counts that I have bought a million different bits...
  5. bridle: splurge (two splurge bridles, two save: use the splurgey English one and the save Western one on a regular basis)
  6. saddle pad: save
  7. trailer: if I had a trailer, it would probably be a save, as long as it was safe
First thing that comes to mind:
  1. Haflinger: I've got nothing.  Never seen one in real life.
  2. Quarter Horse: Walker
  3. Thoroughbred: Izzy (horse at the barn)
  4. Warmblood: Lark
  5. Welsh Cob: Hi (yes, that is the name of the pony)
This or That:
  1. English or Western: even though I want to ride English so I can jump, I think Western will always be in my heart
  2. tall or short
  3. trail ride or beach ride
  4. long mane or short mane: I'm kind of undecided on this.  I'm letting Walker's mane go shaggy just so I can see what he looks like as a wild horse, but then I will probably cut it again
  5. hunters or jumpers
  6. XC or barrel racing
  7. outdoor arena or indoor arena
  8. trot or canter
  9. canter or gallop: Walker and I haven't done much galloping, but I think that if we did, and I could semi-control it, I would love it
  10. paddock boots, tall boots, or cowboy boots
  11. horse shoes or barefoot
  12. saddle or bareback
About you:
  1. How long have you been riding? I started riding when I was in middle school through the summers on and off for the next few years.  I have no idea when I stopped, but I started again in university in the summer (then got sick and had to stop), so I consider my "real" training starting in the summer of 2011 when I began riding regularly again in law school (we "re-riders" all seem to have that similar story)
  2. Do you own or lease a horse? own
  3. Breed? Age? Height? Name? Quarter Horse, 7 years old, 15.2 hands, Walking Hocus Pocus (Walker)
  4. Do you have any other pets? Chester (a cat)
  5. If you horse was a person, what kind of voice would they have (you can use a celebrity for an example)? Walker would be like Joey from Friends because I can definitely hear him in the field with all the mares saying, "How you doing?"
  6. Does your horse have a "color"? teal
  7. Does you horse do any tricks? he can get his bucket off the hook in his stall (and spill water everywhere)
  8. Have you ever dressed your horse up for Halloween? no, but oh did I consider it...
"How you doing?"
Favorites:
  1. Breed? Quarter Horse (for now)
  2. Discipline? Well... if I could answer that question, my life would be less all over the place.  Western Pleasure in the summer , but I want to jump on  my clumsy boy who is going to hate me for this ambition
  3. Coat color? Dark (although I used to be a palomino fan)
  4. Famous horse? Big Ben (mostly because I love Ian Millar)
  5. Horse race/competition? Anything at Spruce Meadows
  6. Brand of tack? don't really have one
  7. Thing to do with your horse?  just ride and be with him

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Whiny Baby

The title of my post, "Whiny Baby", refers to me, not Walker today.  I am so exhausted from writing my papers, and I had such a chill in my bones today that it took every ounce of energy I had to go out to the barn, even though I got out of class early and I was in no rush.  I didn't even bother to take my camera so I also have no pictures.  :S

I thought that Walker might be a little hyper today even though he was outside since it has been so crisp lately, so I threw him on the lunge line for a few minutes.  This pretty much set the tone of our ride to follow.  He was pretty lethargic, and I had to really get after him to get him to move.  Since all I wanted to do was lay in the arena and nap, the lunging ended pretty quickly.

I rode English today mainly to try out my new Winter riding boots.  I tried them out the other day in my Western saddle, and I'm having a hard time adjusting to them.  They are pretty warm, and I definitely like them.  But as with all warm things, they're pretty thick and I find it hard to maneuver.  When I rode in the Western saddle, I could barely tell if I was kicking him at times between the thickness of the stirrups and the thickness of my boots - luckily, Walker seemed to know what I wanted from him regardless.  Today was a little better.  They're definitely an English style boot and they work better in an English saddle, I think.  They're still bulky, but at least I could tell if I was kicking my horse or not!

Our ride pretty much lasted a maximum of 20 minutes.  Have you ever had one of those days where you're just too tired to bother doing anything too strenuous and so you quickly run out of things to do?  Instead of wasting my limited energy trying to get after Walker to canter for a more extended period of time as I often do to work on his laziness/fitness, I decided that I would just canter him for a circle, stop, do a turn on the haunches, repeat.  I did this at all the three gates for a while, but the little bugger is smart, and he quickly figured out the pattern.  I did some leg yields but I got bored of that as well, and Walker was clearly in a similar mood.  When my trainer arrived to feed the horses, I figured that I might as well call it quits, and Walker didn't seem to mind!  He was turned out today anyway so he got plenty of exercise with his buddies in the field.  Even though I did absolutely nothing, I feel like I wrestled a wild boar - just one of those days, I guess.

I was proud of my big puppy dog because he followed me down the barn aisle without me bothering to take a hold of the reins even though there was a giant stack of hay bales and my trainer was rolling the grain cart down the aisle.  He just lumbered on by beside me.  He only got a little greedy when we got to his stall, and I had to make him wait for me to take off his bridle before he practically bashed his head trying to get his supper.  Silly pony.

In other news, I guess my trainer got herself into a sticky situation the other day.  She was trying to bring in one of the horses, a 5 year old mare, and the horse was misbehaving big time.  She was rearing and dragging my instructor all over the place and wouldn't settle down.  This is another horse at the barn that I do not entirely trust, and what makes it all worse is that my trainer is pregnant and she has high-risk pregnancies.  Because my trainer was trying to get a handle on the mare, she couldn't latch the gate and a whole bunch of the horses in Walker's field escaped.  Walker didn't go anywhere of course.  He is smart enough to know that the humans feed him.  Needless to say, the mare is currently not being turned out anymore until they can manage to figure out what to do with her.  My trainer isn't allowed to ride, and from what I gather from the situation, she really shouldn't be doing strenuous/horse-related activities of any kind.  There's no one else who does chores who could put the mare out or bring her in, and we only have one trainer at our barn.  There's a girl that currently rides the beast mare regularly so they're hoping that she will be able to manage her with a little guidance.  Another horse who needs to be put into line.  :S

I realize that from my last two posts it sounds like my barn is a madhouse, but I swear that most of the horses are angels!  There are only three horses I do not trust - well, two horses and a pony.  The two horses are Lark and this mare, and the pony is this evil little jeezer that I hate with a passion and seem to be the only one who does.  He's a bigger pony, and he needs an attitude adjustment as well.  I'm not afraid of him; I just don't like him at all.  Something tells me that when the clinician comes next month, this mare is going to end up getting put in her place real fast.  The clinician often works with my trainer and barn owner with breeding and training some of our horses.  I know that my trainer looks up to him as kind of a mentor, so I imagine that the mare will be put through her paces soon enough!  As will Walker and I, I'm sure... but hopefully in a different way

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Keeping Bruce at Bay

I never made it out to the barn yesterday like I was planning because I decided to go Christmas shopping instead.  Even though it is a month before Christmas, it was crazy around town, so by the time I got back, I decided I better work on my law papers instead.  That, and it was raining like crazy.

Since I promised to exercise Lark for M, I did that first thing when I got to the barn today.  Lunging Walker when he's hyper is like lunging a wild mustang, but lunging Lark is like lunging a tiger.  She's super strong, very fast, and wildly unpredictable.  When Walker freaks out on the lunge line, he usually pulls away from me.  Oh, he will buck and flail around, but it's pretty predictable horse behaviour.  Lark is kind of terrifying.  She bucks and rears, but she cuts in a lot on the circle.  I always have this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that at any minute she is going to strike, leap out at me or trample me when she spooks at something.  Granted, it was a pretty spooky day - cold weather, flurries flying, and the wind trying to take us to Oz - but still.  I don't entirely trust her, but I'm sure that comes with time.

Hide and go seek Walker-style
Lark is the only warmblood I have ever been around.  Most of the horses around here, if not ponies, are quarter horses, and I've seen the odd standardbred or OTTB.  I'm sure that not all warmbloods are the same (especially considering all the great bloggers I follow).  I'm also sure it doesn't help that she's a fairly dominant/aggressive mare, but she hasn't given me a very good first introduction to the world of warmbloods, that's for sure!  Some quarter horses can be "hot"-ish, but as a general rule, they're pretty easy going animals.  Maybe I just need to spend more time around them to get a better feel.  Or maybe I just need to spend more time around Lark.  :S

Anyway, I hopped on Walker shortly after without lunging him, and after about 2 minutes, I decided that was a very bad idea.  I could feel a little Bruce in him, and he was curling his head up under himself at the walk as though at any minute, he was going to explode and buck me off.  I wasn't in the mood to personally test out the softness of our new indoor arena footing, so I lunged him in the outdoor arena.  He cantered/galloped for 25 minutes straight like a wild thing, and then he was back to being a little angel.  I ended up only riding for about 20 minutes, but he was sweating bullets from his crazy run.  He definitely got his exercise!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

What if Money Didn't Matter

This isn't entirely horse related, but in a way it is.  Someone on Facebook posted this video and I just had to share it.  When I was in high school, I did very well in school, and the guidance counselors and teachers tried to push me to do things that I didn't want to do with my life.  I had one guidance counselor in particular who used to ask me what I wanted to be, and I always used to tell her one of either two things: I wanted to be a writer, and I wanted to be a farmer.  It used to drive her crazy that I wanted to be a farmer (and a writer, although the farmer thing concerned her more), and she used to pull me out of class, thinking that I was just joking around, not taking her seriously.  Anyway, it became a big thing in my graduating class, because a lot of the students were very smart that year, very motivated, and they too felt like they were being funneled towards something they didn't want.  I used to have random people come up to me in the hall and tell me that they honestly hoped that I did become a farmer.

Somewhere along the way I ended up in law school.  This probably isn't the place to talk about that decision or whether or not I actually want to be a lawyer, but I think it's easier, as we get older, to get lost from the goals that we used to think were so promising.  It's easier to fall in with the crowd, and it's easier to see why those teachers pushed us - because they had fears that we now have, about money and debt, surviving even.

I don't know if I will ever own a farm, but getting Walker was a step back in the direction of those goals I once had, those dreams that I wasn't willing to sacrifice in high school.

We all get a little lost sometimes.