Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Happy Halloween!

I talked to my barn owner yesterday and she is going to have my trainer hop on Walker for a ride.  As great as it would be to be able to have Walker in full-time training, I just can't afford that.  Besides, as great as my trainer is, she was trained Western Pleasure (as was Walker), and so naturally, she tries to bring out the Western Pleasure horse in him.  This was fine in the summer when I was actually competing in Western Pleasure, but frankly, it's not what my purposes are right now.  I got mad in the summer when she was training him because I specifically asked her to jump him, but she just ignored me and did what she wanted to do.  I like her a lot, and she usually brings out the best in Walker, but I don't want to pay for something that I don't want either.

Patient pony in crossties

That being said, the fact that Walker refuses to pick up his good lead now has begun to worry me slightly.  It happened over night, and even when he was stiff on his other side, he always picked up the correct lead.  He would simply not be able to make turns or full circles because of it.  I'm afraid that he possibly hurt himself, and because my trainer is a really good rider, I imagine that she will be able to help figure this out for me.  If she has problems getting him to canter on the correct lead, then we will know that something is wrong.  If she is able to get him to canter and it feels wrong, we can call the vet and sort it out.  Most likely, he is just being a brat, but I would rather find that out before he gets hurt.

My boots after I cleaned them up - back to brand new!

On that note, my barn owner said that she was watching me up in the arena yesterday.  From her house, she can see part of the arena (and she has cameras so that she can watch out for strangers and accidents).  Anyway, she must not have noticed the part where he was ramming me into fences, but she did say that Walker looked great at the trot.  Apparently he had his head in the perfect position and she said that he reminded her of our prize-winning old timer horse at the barn in his younger years.  I was pretty excited to hear this (even though he was a jerk otherwise) because it just reminds me of his potential.

Having heard that, I started to think again about the disaster bit.  Obviously, that lovely head position would not have been possible without it.  I find in the leverage bits that I often ride him in, his head naturally hangs lower.  Of course, he was taught to hold his head low (and I think he was bred that way also because he does it in the field), but I find that in certain bits, he does it 100% of the time, whereas in the disaster d-ring snaffle bit, his head was flying up more often than not.  Someone once said to me that it was much easier to pull a horse's head up into position than it was to force it down.  But I'm not so sure.  When you have the classic "peanut rolling" Western Pleasure horse whose nose just loves to scrape the ground (and pull you forward in your English bridle), it might be easier to convince him to put it down from a raised position.  Oh well.  In the normal bit that I use, I can attach the reins either to the snaffle part or the leverage part, so maybe I'll play around with the snaffle position and see if I can find the happy Walker medium.

I hope everyone is having a Happy Halloween!  


Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Hurricane Sandy or should I say Hurricane Walker

Walker was horrible today.  Absolutely horrible.

Being cute in the crossties

Although Hurricane Sandy is battering the East Coast, we're really only getting a little rain here.  The outdoor arena was a bit of a mess, so I decided to put off jumping just in case the klutz managed to hurt himself, but I rode outside anyway in between showers.

I rode in the disaster bit again, and I attribute most of his misbehaviour to that. After all, I've ridden Walker in much more hyper states than he was today (even though he didn't get out), but it's been a long time since he has felt the need to SCRAPE me from end to end along the arena fence.  Oh yes, we're back to that.

My boots after the ride - a combination of mud and white fence paint

When I first got him and he realized I was not the super-experienced, strong, aggressive rider that he was used to, he liked to remind me of that by body slamming my leg into the wall.  That's when we decided that riding Walker without spurs was nonsensical.  He is an extremely strong horse, and if you're wondering why I didn't jab my spurs into him to push him away from the wall - well, you obviously can't see the tiny tuft of wet fur hanging off the end of my spur.  When I say Walker is strong, I mean that when he decides that he is going to slam you into a wall, you are going to be slammed into a wall.  And the only decision you have to make is whether you are going to fight it, try to head it off in someway, or give into it completely.

He stopped doing that after a couple months when I stopped passively letting him do it to me.  Also, I normally ride Western and wear bigger, stronger Western spurs (like he was trained in).  He respects them more.  He is pretty much your typical spur-dead Western horse, and evidently, he is also unresponsive to gentle little d-ring bits.

And yes.  They are my good boots

Because I in no way sat by while he attempted to break my leg, I can only assume that I had no control because of the bit.  This was also evidenced when he bolted down the arena, resulting in a few strides of a hand-gallop (oh yes, a gallop), or when it took every effort in my body just to get him to do a simple circle at the trot.

I am also angry because I have officially decided that his left lead is no longer his bad lead.  Today, he would not pick up the right lead at all at the canter, even though we were outside and even though I never had this problem with him the whole 7 months I've had him.  In all the time we've been together, he's always picked up the correct lead; it's just that oftentimes he would have a hard time making a full circle because he was more stiff on one side than the other or he would resist making a circle for that reason.  In those glorious days, I was angry because I couldn't lope frantic corner.  Now, I simply can't lope on his right lead AT ALL.  

I do not blame him for all of his issues.  For instance, he likes to drop his head below the bit while we canter.  This is probably partially my fault because, as I've said time and time again, I just don't have quiet hands at the canter.  In fact, I don't know if I ever explained how I'm using the elastics.  I have attached them to the d-ring on the saddle and looped them through my wrists.  This way, you get the give of the elastic in case you get into an argument, but you feel it every time your hands go out of place.  Needless to say, today I broke the elastics.  Thank god I bought in bulk!

"Time for supper"

Sunday, 28 October 2012


While I was in the middle of a take-home midterm yesterday, I got bored of working and decided instead to go to the barn.  I decided to ride bareback because I knew that I would get exhausted faster and then I could go home and continue to study.

It was a great experience actually.  I've ridden Walker bareback before but I was pretty proud of how much stronger I am.  When I first rode Walker bareback, I could barely stay on for longer than 10 minutes, but yesterday I was on for 30 minutes before I decided to call it a day.  Riding him bareback is particularly a lot of work not just because you're using more leg muscles all around, but because he's hard to get to do certain things when you're in a saddle (let alone without one!).  For instance, I cantered him bareback for the first time yesterday, but it was only for the length of one wall.  Getting him to make the turns in a saddle is really hard and requires a lot of leg and kicking, and I just didn't have the strength to hold myself on him and kick with all my might without falling off.

I do think that the next time I ride him bareback though I will ride him without spurs.  I have a feeling I may have jabbed him with my English spurs a couple of times because he didn't seem impressed with me, and one time he gave a little squeal.  My legs are pretty long and so I need to physically hold them up in position, so it's more than possible that they slipped low and I caught him somewhere I shouldn't have.  If I'm going to put myself through the physical pain of riding bareback, I might as well put myself through more pain by riding without spurs.  Needless to say, I don't think I've ever gotten him to lope without spurs, so it should be an interesting experience.

Speaking of pain, I was in a lot of it yesterday after riding and today as well.  When I hopped off, I felt like I had 95 year old knees.  I must have been gripping so hard with them to keep my legs up and myself balanced.  I wanted to try posting (or even two-point) but I could not get myself up.  I'm thinking that momentum probably helps and Walker was just doing his Western Pleasure jog (which is pretty comfy for bareback).  A couple of weeks ago when my instructor was telling me about the correct position on a horse, she said that your pelvis will naturally be in the correct position when you ride bareback.  Well, apparently she is correct because this morning when I got up, my seat bones were so sore from sitting on him that I could barely sit on a chair!

the other man in my life - he likes to chew on bridles and expensive things

Other than that, I have been thinking a lot about my weekly schedule.  I like consistency, and my instructor always talks a lot about making sure to do lots of different types of exercises to have a happy, healthy horse. I am enjoying learning to jump, but I really don't want to overdo it with him.  I've come up with the following schedule:

Monday: day off (for both of us)
Tuesday: jump
Wednesday: lesson (which means lots of turns, lateral movements, and exercises that I often leave out of our routine)
Thursday: jump
Friday: work on W/T/C (but mostly canter)
Saturday: turns, laterals, playing well with others
Sunday: bareback ride

When I say Tuesday and Thursday I will jump, I really mean that there will be jumps in the arena, and I will work them into our ride.  Obviously, I won't overdo it with him, and when I start jumping in my Wednesday night lessons, this will probably change the dynamic of the week.  On Friday, I have the barn to myself for the entire afternoon, so I like to work on our cantering issues - getting him to turn, do patterns or circles, etc.  On Saturday and Sunday, the barn is always packed, so on Saturday he needs to learn to work with other horses in the arena (and not bolt).  It's a good day to do the boring stuff I never want to do (turns, laterals, etc.) that we do in lessons because I often don't canter him in the arena with other horses (or at least not on purpose or for a long time).  Sunday, I would like to do some bareback riding, and although I may ride him under saddle first (or ride him bareback on other days), I think it's obviously going to be key to my posture and strength to do some of that regularly.  Sunday is a good day for that because Sunday is a lazy day anyway, and then I have Monday to rest my weary bones!  

The next day I'll be at the barn will be on Tuesday and I have plans to set up two crossrails for a change.  I also want to try cantering one of them (maybe even both) and see how he behaves when he has to pay attention enough to me to do a mini-course (if you could call two jumps in a giant arena a course).

Friday, 26 October 2012

Grand Prix Jumper

Since I'm super busy with school, I will simply re-paste my Facebook status as quick and dirty way of explaining my ride this morning:

I have found the perfect formula for jumping your horse. First, start with a horse that is so uncharacteristically hyper that he attempts to break the cross-ties while you are tacking him up. Be sure to turn out all of his friends in front of him so that he knows that they are having fun, and he is not. Then, put a brand new bit in his mouth - make sure it's gentle and something you won't be able to control him in. Take him to the top of the arena and ask him to run down towards the gate. The jump, you see, will be in the middle of your path. As he picks up the speed to something seemingly dangerous, feel free to yell "Whoa!" and flail around - this will encourage him to ignore you. Then jump. Don't forget to swear and look wide-eyed in terror as you soar over the jump. Voila! You're a jumper.

That pretty much sums it up.  Other than that, Walker was being a pretty big jerk.  I think the D-ring snaffle bit (which, from now on, I will refer to as the disaster bit) is not strong enough for him.  I realize that it shouldn't make a difference, but if he's going to be that strong in that bit, I would need to life weights to even get his head down, let alone control him.

Oh, and he managed to electrocute himself.  He kept trying to run into corners where he could see his friends in their pasture.  He stuck his head over the arena fence and rubbed his nose by accident along the electric fence.  I would feel bad except I'm hoping he associates the spark with me punishing him! At least I would have gotten some of the upper hand.

I think I would have been mad about my ride except, frankly, jumping him like that was fun. I was all by myself in the arena so there was really no harm to be done, and I had a friend there grazing her horse (who is a nurse and could presumably resuscitate me if Walker made it over the jump and I didn't).  All in all a success to compare with my disastrous day yesterday!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Roller Coaster Ride of Emotions

The last 24 hours has been a roller coaster ride of emotions.  I really should've written about the happy things before the bad things happened, because now I am not in the super fantastic mood I was originally.

It all starts with my lesson on Wednesday night.  If I had've written this post last night, I would've told you how proud I was of myself.  I managed to keep myself from getting too anxious before my lesson, and then when I got to the barn, I took on a devil-may-care attitude that meant that it didn't matter what Walker did.  Unfortunately, I'm not in the same great mood I was last night, so I will only give the cliff notes version.  Walker bolted like he always does, but instead of pulling him back and then not letting him pick up any speed again for the rest of the lesson, I just let him canter to wherever he wanted to, and then I just cantered or trotted him back to the spot where he bolted to pick up what we were doing like nothing was wrong.  Of course, I've always known that this was the way to deal with Walker, but whenever other people are around, I don't think straight.

There were only two moments that Walker's bolting really bothered me.  One time, he bucked while he was bolting and almost kicked one of the other horses.  I had to yell, "Watch out", and I ended up ruining the other person's attempt at a pattern.  The second time was when he was on one of the other horse's tails.  I had a tight grip on the reins, and he was getting agitated.  He dropped his head to get behind the bit, I wrenched it up like my instructor kept telling me to do all night, he let out a squeal and then proceeded to do his own personal bucking bronco moves.  It was surreal.  He's never done anything like that before and I actually even grabbed onto the horn (for whatever peace of mind that gave me).  I didn't feel like I was going to fall off or anything, but I was not a fan of the mini temper tantrum.

On the way down to the barn, I was asking my instructor lots of questions about jumping, at which point she said, "You know, Natalie, if you ever want to jump in a lesson, just throw on your English tack and we can do that."  I was really excited because I have been waiting a long time to get the green light from her to jump.  She has strict requirements about what someone has to be able to do before she will teach them to jump, so I was flattered and thrilled that I finally qualified.  Now, three out of four of us ride English in our lesson (or at least I intend to switch over during Winter), so I suggested (and my instructor agreed), that we should make that our little Winter project.

Wednesday = Success.

Then today my class was cancelled and I was able to devote some time this morning to working on a midterm.  As I've mentioned before, I'm swamped with my school work these days, and I will have very little time this weekend to go to the barn.  So I was happy that I could get some work done this morning. About 10 minutes before I had to go school, someone buzzed me from the front door.  And it turned out to be my bridle!  Never was there a happier person than me this morning as I gingerly felt the nice leather and BEAUTIFUL soft grip rubber reins. Believe me, it took every ounce of energy I had to force myself to go to class after that arrived!

The bridle before I put it together - the picture doesn't do it justice

When my class was done, I excitedly ran home, put the bridle together and hopped in the car to go to the barn.  This is the descent part of the roller coaster (in case you're keeping track).  

I arrive at the barn and there is a random giant dog wandering around the yard.  He didn't look particularly mean, but he was not you're friendly golden retriever type.  He was more like a rottweiler kind of dog, and I was afraid that if he ran out in the arena while I was riding Walker, he might scare him (or me).  So I spent the next few minutes trying to shoo him away from the yard.  I eventually succeeded.

I go into the barn and I'm subsequently greeted by a horse... wandering the halls.  She has dropkicked opened her door, breaking the latch and god knows how long she was just wandering around the yard.  Because her door was broken, I had to put her in another stall, but I knew that this was only a temporary fix since we barely have enough stalls for all the horses we have already.  I tried calling up to my barn owner but I got no answer.  

Up I went next to the outdoor arena where I wanted to set up my crossrail.  I was so excited all week because I decided that today was the day that Walker and I were going to canter it.  I had been dreaming about it for days.  When I got to the outdoor arena, however, the foal and one of the ponies was out there.  Sometimes horses get turned out in the arenas when their paddocks are a mess, which I find very annoying for this particular reason.  I grabbed a lead line, and proceeded to spend 20 minutes trying to catch them.  The pony is extremely bad, and the foal is just recently weaned so that means that when the pony was galloping (and I do mean galloping) around the arena at top speed, the foal was chasing after him to stay as close as possible.  When I FINALLY managed to catch the pony (who tried to bolt out of the gate when I opened it), the foal started to freak out.  He didn`t want to be left alone, and he almost broke his leg trying to crawl through the fence after the pony.  Obviously I knew this wouldn`t do, and I also knew that I couldn`t lead them both at the same time (bad foal; recently weaned pony - one of either side of me).  

So that was the end of the outdoor arena, and subsequently my cantering of a crossrail as there is not enough room in the indoor for that.  At this point, my rollercoaster is in steady decline, and to add to the situation, I had wasted a lot of time dealing with all of this.  On Thursdays after class, I barely have a window of an hour to ride, and usually end up only riding for a half hour before the girl who feeds arrives and starts bringing in the horses.

Tacking up Walker usually takes no time, but because the bridle was brand new, I spent another 10 minutes trying to adjust it (including the tight buckles).  By the time I even got into the indoor arena, the girl had already arrived to start feeding (which inevitably meant a distracted horse).

But I started riding and videotaping my ride.  Now the exercise that I had wanted to do for quiet hands was to strap my hands to the saddle.  I know this sounds crazy but I read online that you can attach elastics to the d-rings on the English saddle and put your wrists through them.  This way, your hands have enough flexibility to move, but you feel the pull every time your hands go a little crazy.  I wanted to videotape my ride because I wanted to see how much of a difference it made for me.

The cherry on top of this lovely day was that Walker decided to be bad as well.  Mind you, he wasn`t any more bad than usual in the indoor arena; it`s just that I had already had such a hard time up until this moment, my time was running out, and I knew that I wouldn`t make it back to the barn again until Saturday (hopefully!).  He was doing all his crazy indoor cantering tricks - running into corners, trying to turn instead of canter, and also cantering on the wrong lead on his good side.  This is my new frantic corner-esque annoyance.  It drives me crazy because it`s his good lead for god`s sake!  I`d understand if he was picking up his good lead on his bad side.  I could almost justify it.  But he`s picking up his bad lead on his good side!  And either it`s a disaster, or else he will simply counter canter the entire arena.  Once again, I couldn`t once get him to pick up the correct lead on that side (a problem that I clearly need to work on in a maximum of three weeks before we get stuck in there for 6-7 months).  

Because he was also distracted by the horses getting fed, by the end of it, he wouldn`t even canter at all, and we were getting into some major battles.  I was kicking the bejesus out of him, turning him in little circles, forcing him to back up, etc.  I was so angry, and I know that I was aggressive with him (hopefully not overly so, but I wouldn`t put it past myself...).  To make matters worse (or yes, they can always be worse), I stupidly changed his bit when I put together his new bridle.  I have been curious what he would be like in a simple d-ring snaffle bit, even though when we first got him, we immediately concluded that it was a horrible bit for such a strong horse.  Lately, I`ve gotten much stronger though, and I thought that if I switched to the gentler bit, especially when we move indoors for the Winter, I might be able to soften us both up a little bit.  I haven`t completely given up on the idea of the bit yet, but it was definitely a disaster of an idea for today.

Walker`s new bit - fool that I am

So now, despite the fact that I was pretty much bouncing off the walls when my new bridle arrived, I`m quite deflated about my entire ride - my entire day at the barn (all one hour and a half of it).  And of course, my camera didn`t work so it didn`t videotape more than a few minutes of my ride.

Walker modelling the new bridle - bad quality photo, but it does look nice on him

Tuesday, 23 October 2012


I love my massage therapist.  She is so helpful.  I have really bad back problems and she goes in and fixes me up on a regular basis.  She's also very helpful with my riding, surprisingly enough, because although she knows nothing about horses, she knows a lot about posture.  I tell her my problems - specifically, not keeping my shoulders back, my pelvis tipping forward, my unquiet hands - and she gives me exercises to fix them.  She also tells me why it is that my body works the way it does.  According to her, I hyperextend my knees when I stand which means that my pelvis tips forward.  I let my shoulders go forward and I'm really tense in that area so my shoulders are unable to move freely and independently.  Because of this, my hands move with my torso instead of staying independent and steady.

She suggested a myriad of exercises.  To fix my pelvis, she said that I first needed to fix my knees.  If I make a point to have a bend in my knees, my pelvis should tip back to neutral automatically.  She also suggested that I try tipping my pelvis backward to help strengthen the muscles.  With my shoulders, she gets me to put my arms out at a 90 degree angle from my body (thumbs pointed downward) and push back, making sure to keep the arms at that angle.  Another thing I do is push my head forward so she wants me to push my head back.  If I combine all these exercises and do them on a regular basis, I should be able to improve my overall posture on a day-to-day basis and hopefully it will translate into my riding.

In the meantime, I'm gearing up for my exercise to get steady hands - or at least the activity that I think will help me see what I'm doing and help me to fix it.  Here is the ingredient (but more on that to come, hopefully on Thursday although I'm stressing out about my school work...):

Monday, 22 October 2012

Horrible News

So I just found out some bad news.  There is this adorable little grey pony at our barn that is a sweetheart.  She came in on the shipment with Walker, but some of the kids became convinced that she was pregnant.  Our barn owner kept laughing it off and I did at first too, but after awhile, I would take a look at her and think, "That's one fat little pony" - especially considering how she was carrying her weight.  Walker is pretty hefty these days, and she definitely had a belly - in a different way.

Well, apparently, one of the girls came into the barn last Sunday to do chores and found a dead premature foal in the stall with her.  And then this girl (who is only 14 years old by the way) had to help my barn owner's husband dispose of the body.

I feel so bad for the little pony.  Like I said, she is such a sweet pony.  It would be one thing if no one had any suspicions that she was pregnant, but everyone thought so.  This shouldn't have happened.  I don't want to judge my barn owner because I don't know the whole story, but I wonder why she never got her tested.  I heard rumblings that she was thinking about having her tested (and maybe she did plan for an appointment in the end, I don't really know), but I'm sure this could have easily been prevented.

All that being said, I also heard that my barn owner suspects that the pony was bred (probably by accident) to a horse, and the baby would have been too huge for her to carry to term safely anyway.  That makes me feel a little better about this tragedy, and I do realize that things like this happen, but it still makes me feel really sad.

Unfortunately, I was unable to go to the barn today like I planned to, and I won't get there until Wednesday. Ugh!  I'm so swamped with work and all I want to do is see my own big baby.  I have a new plan for teaching my hands to be quiet which I'm excited to enact (more details to come when I actually do it), and I'm also thinking about cantering Walker over the crossrail since he did so well on Sunday.  Hopefully I will get the chance to do all this soon.  In the meantime, I'm in the middle of paper research, discussion preparation, a midterm assignment, and preparations for a second midterm.  Is it Christmas yet?

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Off the Wagon

I have fallen off the wagon this week both with my desire to go to the barn and my actual ability to go there. As I mentioned earlier in the week, I suddenly got swamped with school work and try as I might to avoid it, it got the better of me. Unfortunately the next couple months only look like they're going to get worse. Also this week, I had to go home for the wake and funeral of the mother of a friend of mine - an unfortunate but unavoidable reason to miss out on Walker time. When I got back, I tried to be devoted to my school work, but one thing led to another and I just got lazy instead - including with Walker. Yesterday it poured rain and I knew that the barn would be busy because of the rider level exams and because everyone would be forced to ride inside, and so I went on a mini shopping spree instead. I have been doing so good with my money these last 6 months of having Walker, but last night I just felt the need to buy things - and not horse things either. In total this past week, I only ever did get to the barn Tuesday and Thursday since last Saturday and then finally today. I guess you could say I fell off the wagon in a number of ways.

The shakes

That being said, I had a pretty good ride today.  I got to the barn and no one was around, so I had the outdoor arena to myself.  I decided to ride Walker English outside for a change (as I usually ride him Western in the outdoor - more for habit than anything else), and we even jumped our first crossrail outside.  Up until now, I have only been trotting crossrails in the indoor arena because I didn't want to give him the opportunity to misbehave or bolt while I was learning.

The size of our crossrail - not huge, but a good start

He was pretty good overall.  While jumping, he even trotted into the crossrails and a couple of times he cantered out - which is the first time I've done that since there's no space for that in the indoor arena.  With regards to the cantering, however, I was disturbed to find out that he was still picking up the wrong lead on his good side.  It wasn't all the time; I definitely had more success outside than inside, but it was more frequent than I would have liked.  However, frantic corner is no more - since he's picking up his stiff side easier now, we have been actually cantering the corner.  I shouldn't jinx myself, but I was pretty happy.  Now on to the new problem...

On his way back to his friends to tell them how annoying I am

I also managed to catch the majority of my ride on video - including our little jumps. I am in the process of trying to figure out how to cut it (since a lot of it is focused in on nothing with me out of the frame), but my computer really isn't cooperating.  I'll post it as soon as I work it out.  Although my form over the jumps leaves a lot to be desired, I'm not too mad about that since I've had little to no direction on how to jump and we're really just starting out.  I am, however, pretty cranky about my form while trotting and cantering and I will not be posting videos about that.  Why can't I seem to manage to keep my hands quiet!  I'm going to glue them to the saddle!

Single file; follow the leader


Friday, 19 October 2012

Quick Update: Wrong Leads

I didn't think I'd make it out to the barn until today since Tuesday, but I ended up making it out on Thursday.  I had to go home for a funeral, and because I had to be home by suppertime on Thursday, I decided to skip my last class to pack.  The minute I got in the door I realized that it wouldn't take me that long to pack and if I played my cards right, I could go see the little darling.

When I got to the barn, there was a lady there with her daughter cleaning stalls in the afternoon.  Usually it's my trainer who does that but she's on vacation in Florida this week, so this lady is doing it instead.  Her daughter is homeschooled so she could help her.  Anyway, apparently the paddocks were dangerously muddy and none of the horses were put out even though it was sunny - except Walker and his crew because they have a grass paddock with minimal mud.  Just as I was tacking up Walker, the daughter decided to put her horse out in the outdoor arena for 30 minutes or so to let him run around, and when she came back down, she asked which arena I was going to ride in.  Of course, I wanted to ride in the outdoor arena but I felt bad for her because her horse is so energetic so I just rode inside instead.

Weirdly enough, Walker wasn't picking up his good lead again.  He was ok on his bad side, and I was able to push him around several circles successfully (even in my tiny English spurs).  However, no matter what I tried on his good side, he kept picking up the wrong lead.  I made sure that he was bent the correct way, I tried exaggerating the bend, trying to lope him out of a tight circle, etc.  I even counter cantered him for a circle or two to see if he would get aggravated with me and pick up the correct lead on his own.  Nothing!  It's really not like him, but I assume it's a byproduct of this week - not being ridden a lot and only being ridden in the indoor arena.  I shudder to think what awaits me in the Winter.  Hopefully, I'll be able to ride him outside this weekend where I suspect that he won't have that problem.

That being said, my instructor once told me that sometimes horses switch which lead is their good lead back and forth as you continue to work on mastering their bad lead.  When I first got Walker, I always found that his current bad lead was his better lead, at least when I was riding him (my trainer swears it was always the same side).  I've been working for months on cantering frantic corner and getting a handle on him on his bad side that maybe I ended up overdoing it.  Now, I have no doubt that he will go back to his tendencies in the outdoor arena, but the days of the outdoor arena are coming to a close.  I worry that when we're cooped up in that small space, I'll have a whole new problem on my hands.

In other news, as Winter comes to a close, I find myself more and more irrationally wanting to take Walker on a trail ride.  In fact, I really just want to canter him across a field.  I ended up cutting my trail rides days short once Fall hit because frankly we have a lot of different hunting seasons here, the arena where the barn is is very wooded and secluded, and Walker looks like a giant moose without antlers.  I'm still not comfortable taking him down the trails, but the more I read blogs of other riders who have the opportunity to school their horses cross-country, or even just take him on trails that they can canter/gallop on, I want to do that too.  Unfortunately, as I've said, the area where my barn is is mostly wooded and I know of no fields in the area that I could even ride him to to canter across.  I also think that it would probably be a disaster, but I'm sure it is just the Winter blues - that inevitable feeling that you'll soon be cooped up indoors for 6 months, dreading going to the barn because everyday you do, you risk hypothermia!  Well, I'm a little dramatic, but Winter is definitely hard.  The only thing I'm excited for is that I bought myself a nice new pair of riding gloves - although I could stand to wait another month or so before I use them!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Crazy Week

Unfortunately this week does not appear to be shaping up well for me. My mother came to visit me on the weekend so I took Sunday off from Walker so that we could plan our trip to Italy (!) and I could get some work done. I took Monday off as usual and then I panicked on Tuesday because Walker had two days off but I needed to work on a seminar presentation. This resulted in me skipping my last class on Tuesday so that I could do both, and I rode Walker in a whirlwind 30 minutes, pretty much just walk/trot/canter, home. Then, to add to my school stress, the mother if a friend of mine passed away yesterday so I'm going to skip my lesson tonight to get my school affairs in order and then I'm going home immediately after class on Thursday for the wake and the funeral on Friday morning. Then I'll rush back (hopefully), ride the pony, and start work on all my neglected school projects. In the meantime, the only thing still keeping me going is tracking the shipping of my bridle which is still in Philadelphia today. It will probably be a week or so until it hits here (or even Canada), but at least it keeps me occupied.

With regards to my ride on Tuesday, Walker was pretty good. I practiced my seat position and I realized that my hand positioning is only a problem at the canter. They're pretty quiet at the walk/trot. In terms of the canter, I started on his bad lead and I was really proud of how he made it around the tight circle (we were inside because it was raining). Weirdly enough, when I changed directions, even though it was his good lead, he kept picking up the wrong lead. Try as I might, I couldn't get him to pick up the correct lead and I was too pressed for time to stick with it. I'm sure it's just a fluke, the product of a whirlwind ride perhaps. Here's wishing I could go out today and find out :(

Sunday, 14 October 2012

School vs Barn

School is getting in the way of the barn. I had to take Sunday off in order to prepare for a meeting about a paper I haven't even picked a topic for and am supposed to have a developed "plan" for. Ugh. Can't I just be a full-time rider already! Or at least sleep in the barn lounge. At least it's heated!

Since I won't make it to the barn today either (Walker usually gets Mondays off and I have more stupid law school stuff to do), I thought I'd leave you with this nice picture someone posted on my wall. It is very true (in more ways than one):

Quiet hands, Solid Seat

Quiet hands, solid seat: I have neither of these things, and if you've learned anything about me by now, it should be that things like this (i.e. things that frustrate me) drive me crazy (frantic corner, my horse's bad lead, etc.).

Ignoring everything else about this picture (Walker's bad head position, my hunched shoulders, etc.), you can see that my pelvis is tipped (red line) even though my heels/shoulders/hips (green line) may seem correct-ish

Friday I had a pretty unlucky day. I ended up doing all these errands that took longer than expected that included me going to the bank in my breeches smelling like a horse and my law school in the same attire. The laundry machines are broke in my apartment building and I no longer have clean towels. Then I get to the barn excited to ride outside, I step in the barn door, turn around, and a torrential downpour starts! Just my luck! Instead I decide to ride Walker English and trot the crossrail a couple times instead since I didn't have my Tuesday/Thursday jump days this week. I even brought my camera to videotape my ride. I got all the bad stuff out of the way first, and wouldn't you know it, the blasted camera shut itself off before I jumped the crossrail and I missed everything that I actually wanted to videotape!!!

All that being said, it was actually a pretty good ride.  Walker was a trooper over the crossrail, and even though my cantering could use a lot of work (flailing, me pushing him for every step, him drifting into corners and breaking stride, etc.), we did some nice work at the walk and halt.  I did some pretty nice turns on the haunches, and I did some reinless work where I maneuvered him around the arena with just my legs.  I think I'm going to try a little more of that in the future at more of the gates.  It's good for him to listen to me, and good for me to figure out the appropriate way to maneuver my horse as well as to strengthen my leg muscles.  Then, without reins, I asked him to stop (not groundbreaking or anything), but then I said "back back back" and the smart little darling backed himself up without me needing to pick up the reins or even cue him with my legs.  Every time I'm on the ground these days or in the saddle, I'm always careful to say "back" when I'm backing him because he's smart enough to associate patterns with actions, and clearly he picked it up all on his own!

Walker in his cute little English gear - teal is his colour

Then on Saturday I had to have a quick ride because my mother was coming to visit me.  I got out to the barn later than I wanted to and it was pretty cold, but I decided to ride him outside anyway.  I was pretty proud of Walker because the other girls were having a hard time with their horses.  One of them lunged her horse and the horse bucked so high on the lunge line that her feet went above her head.  When I brought Walker out, the other girls were just going in, and one of them said to me, "Did you lunge him?" to which I replied, "Nope.  We'll find out in about 10 seconds if that was a good idea or not."  I hopped on my little bolter, and he fell right into his nice little Western Pleasure jog and never gave me any trouble.  It just goes to show that I know my horse very well, and I know the situations that bring out the worst in him (*cough* Wednesday night lessons *cough*).

Anyway, since I could only have a quick ride, I just did some of the usual stuff - walk/trot/canter, circles, etc.  I tried to work on some good position at the beginning, but pretty much left it for another time. I would rather be able to videotape my ride and dissect it later if I'm going to work on stuff like that.  I did what I could though.

With regards to cantering (our main area of contention), he was pulling a lot of his same tricks - lead switching, trying to veer out of the circle, etc.  When we went down towards frantic corner at one point, I got angry and hauled off and kicked him with the spur, which resulted in a nice little buck (bigger than normal).  The next time we came around frantic corner, I could feel myself losing him, like I always do, and just like normal, I kept my leg on anyway so that he knew that I wasn't giving up.  Then, when he was just about to break stride, he changed his mind AND HE LOPED FRANTIC CORNER!  It was the first time he's done that since I've been working on this (other than a couple hyper days where all he wanted to do was run run run run run).  I was so happy that I kept him loping and then stopped him before we got back to frantic corner to reassure him that he did the right thing.  Then I worked a little bit on controlling him without reins at the walk again (which I was also happy with since we were in the outdoor arena and he could very easily have decided to take off), and then we called it a day.

Never was there a happier person who ever cantered a simple circle!

My life is complete.  I feel like I should not ride him outside again so as not to ruin the high I'm on!  Well, considering that they are calling for snow tonight, that might just happen...

Thursday, 11 October 2012

As Promised

Yesterday I debated going to the barn because it was really cold and windy outside and I was so deflated and exhausted from working myself up on Wednesday, calming myself down during the lesson, and then irrationally working myself back up again afterwards.  However, I decided that I should go out because it was the first time in a long time that it wasn't raining, and on Thursdays, I get the barn to myself.  I knew that I'd be able to ride Walker outside, and most importantly, I'd be able to work on some of the things that my instructor was talking about on Wednesday.

Walker and I having a stare-off in the paddock: code for "you're going to have to come and get me"

Our ride was pretty good, but it definitely could have been better.  As suspected, my attempt to have a deep, correct seat started to fall apart the minute Walker started careening around the outdoor arena at full speed.  The problem is that my seat is pretty stable (knock on wood); it's just not correct.  I know my instructor wants me to sit with my pelvis tipped forward, thus forcing me into sitting up straight and dropping my weight into my heels.  It's just that I have bad posture in real life (and a touch of scoliosis, which doesn't help), and when I sit with what I assume is my pelvis tipped backwards, I feel more solid - back not pin straight, but heels definitely locked into position.  Obviously it's just something I have to work on.

In particular, today we worked on some smaller circles on his good side.  Half of the arena was a little messy from all the wind, and so I tried to get him to listen to my outside aids and do the circle I actually asked for.  He gave me a good couple of bucks, but as is often the case, I didn't have too much of a problem on that lead.  Once we hit the bad lead, he was up to all of his old tricks.  He was running into frantic corner, trying to do flying lead changes to switch leads, or else simply trying to ignore the circle I asked for and lope off on the incorrect lead in the incorrect direction (in the half of the arena covered in broken tree branches).  

Walker sporting a wind-mohawk.  I'm letting his mane grow to encourage the inner wild horse in him.

I did manage to get one really nice half circle out of him on his bad lead however, and although I would normally not be satisfied with a half circle (especially since it didn't even encompass frantic corner), he had been misbehaving and throwing a temper tantrum all up until that moment.  Then all of a sudden, I asked for a canter, and he gave me a beautiful, well controlled, half-circle, as opposed to a maniacal, speed-driven, zig zag to avoid a circle that I was getting for the rest of the ride.  I decided to quit while I was ahead!

And, as promised, I took pictures!

Are we done yet?

Negative Thoughts

So it rained. And the worst and best part is that no one else showed up and Walker and I had a lesson to ourselves. This is bad because if I had known that, I would not have wanted it to rain. Walker is fine in the outdoor arena at night without other horses.

Anyway, it was a good lesson because I actually got a lot of attention which is something I've been complaining about for awhile. My instructor started the lesson by complimenting me, saying "I was doing a really good job with Walker since he was not an easy horse." This made me feel really good about myself because she's a very accomplished woman and I sometimes feel like people don't realize how difficult my horse can be (at least to a rider of my limited abilities).

We worked on some fundamentals which is obvious very important. She helped me get a better seat, tipping my pelvis forward and inadvertently making me sit up straight. I have a tendency to sit forward and the small tip really made a difference to feeling (and presumably looking) like a better rider.

We also worked on Walker's stiffness. We did some turns on the haunches to move his shoulders and a lot of canter work, particularly on his bad side. She confirmed my thoughts that Walker was drifting and misbehaving on the turns because he's simply stiff and requires more outside aids to push him around the turns.

It was all very good basics for me to apply to our everyday rides, even though I was slightly perturbed and disappointed afterwards that I had to work on basics at all. Obviously I needed it and I'm glad we did it, but its slightly upsetting to realize that you still need to work on that kind of stuff. But I guess that basics are a constant in riding, and especially with Walker, who I have spent most of my last 6 months fighting with instead of working on those basics.

I guess last night was an important lesson in a number of ways. I spent all day thinking negatively about something that turned our positive and being anxious about something that actually went well. Then I spent the evening after my lesson feeling down that I had to work on basics when today I am clear enough to see that it was actually a really big help and I shouldn't feel bad about it at all. It can only help me progress faster in the long run as basics are, well, basic. I think perhaps I should pay for the occasional private lesson with my instructor instead of my trainer who I've had some disappointing thoughts about lately (with regards to how wrapped up she was with her star pupil all summer and how she wasn't always 100% there for me when I needed her).

Now I promise that I will try to get pictures of my horse to break up these long wordy posts I've been writing, but in the meantime, I found this nice poem:

Wednesday, 10 October 2012


It's Wednesday today and so in a little over 2 hours and a half, I have a riding lesson.  Naturally that has put me in a very bad mood because like every Wednesday for the past few months, it has been raining all day, but it manages to stop by the evening so that I am still forced to ride Walker outside (instead of inside where I know we could excel).  My instructor is a big proponent of riding outside for as long as we can since the ground will be frozen in a month or so and it will no longer be a viable option.  These days I HATE riding outside, and I even notice  myself riding inside on days when I'm by myself, even when it's not raining, even when the only reason I have is that Walker seems too invigorated by the fresh air for my liking.

Obviously I have a problem, and obviously that problem is some sort of fear.  I have spent today trying to discern what that fear truly is.  I know that I have said before that I have a type of performance anxiety so that I naturally get more nervous when I am in a lesson (group or otherwise) because it bothers me to look like a fool (which, when I'm riding, seems to be more often than naught).

However, I'm starting to think that it's more than that.  You see, I've been debating buying that event bridle that I posted yesterday (which I'm pretty sure I'm going to buy now), and it made me deeply reflect on my goals and dreams.  You see, the bridle is an "event" bridle, and obviously I don't event.  Now, I realize that a bridle is a bridle and I can use whatever I want day-to-day, but the fact of the matter is that I have certain aspirations for myself and Walker (and even just for myself) that I worry will never be realized.  I trotted Walker over his first crossrail last week and happily told everyone at the barn.  My barn owner (who helped me buy him) specifically congratulated me, but with the caveat that he would probably never accomplish more than that.  I know that he can jump at least a 2 foot vertical (since he did it in the video with his last owner), but I understand having only jumped him that one day that he really doesn't have the natural ability or talent.  It upsets me a lot because one of the things I asked for in a horse was a horse that could jump, and while I am happy that I got Walker for a multitude of reasons (one of the most fundamental being that I probably could not have handled a horse with the talent to jump 3+ foot fences), I will probably not be able to work towards the discipline I am most interested in with him (jumping, eventing, etc.).  I love Walker with all my heart, and so that only leaves me the option of leasing a horse that can do those things or else buying one, neither of which is an option for me financially (which is a whole other sob story in and unto itself).

All that being said, when I dream of being a jumper or an eventer, or I dream of galloping across the field or riding on the beach, I think what I am truly dreaming about is being a fearless rider - which I obviously am not.  I watched Heartland this past weekend and I was particularly interested in what Amy said to Mallory as she was teaching Mallory and Georgie how to jump.  She said that children are naturally fearless and it's alright that Mallory wasn't progressing as fast.  This is my problem entirely.  I get jealous of the kids at the barn or even older riders who I'm friends with who seem to be progressing faster than me or else who are doing the things that I want to do because I'm still stuck with a horse that bolts during lessons and who refuses to lope an entire circle on his bad lead.  I can blame Walker all I want, but a more accomplished rider, and undoubtedly a more fearless rider, probably would not have these problems with him.

The truth of the matter is that I dread my lessons.  And what do I dread about them?  Well, it's true that I dread performing, since I dreaded my lessons long before I had Walker, but now my new dread is of him bolting.  He proves to me time and again that he's going to do it in the circumstances (the circumstances being multiple horses, outdoor arena, nighttime, fall), and I'm starting to "fear" it.  Now when I say fear, I have yet to decide if I fear it in the sense that I'm afraid that I'm going to fall off and hurt myself (since his bolting has not managed to unseat me yet - knock on wood) or if I just fear it in the sense of unadulterated dread that it will ruin my lesson, that it will make me look like I can't control my horse, that I will look like an idiot, that I am wasting my time.  There's something different about Walker bolting compared to Walker refusing to canter frantic corner.  I don't dread the latter the way I dread the former.  The latter frustrates me beyond all hell, but there's something more to my fear of him bolting, something about not having control and the consequences of that.

I want to be a fearless rider.  I think that this is key to progressing.  When some people start riding, they are nervous to trot (like I originally was with Walker when I first got him), but when you conquer that fear, it becomes no big deal (we trot all the time; I love it).  I used to be nervous about cantering him, and now I see those nerves starting to dissipate.  They still exist but only minimally in the sense that I am nervous that I won't be able to get him to do what I want him to do at the canter, not that I'm going to fall off or anything serious.  In all reality, if I hop on Walker tonight and he decides to bolt across the arena (which, let's be fair, is simply his version of a canter that won't stop), I should just force him to continue to canter, control the bolt, push him onward so that slowing down seems like the better option for him.  I know that this is the solution with him.  I know him, so I know this would work, but for whatever reason, I just shut down.  I pull back and ask him to stop, and then I refuse to give him any more leeway for the rest of the lesson, refuse sometimes to even trot or barely let him pick up the pace.  I continue to punish him for the entirety of the lesson and instead let the fear stew down deep inside of me instead of confronting it.

I don't know what that fear is or what it truly means - whether I am afraid to fall off, afraid to lose control, afraid to look like a fool, etc.  But I need to get over it.  Because the rest of my dreams can't come true until I do.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Interesting Conversations and Dream Bridles

Although last week I designated Tuesdays and Thursdays as my "jump" days, I decided to ride Walker outside.  His days outside are limited and I know that he was cooped up for the better part of the rainy weekend.  I thought that I would be alone, as I normally am in the middle of the afternoon, but apparently the kids had no school so there were lots of people around.  I decided that because Walker is usually pretty bad outside these days with other horses around that I would ride him in the indoor for a half hour first and then take him outside.  This seemed to work pretty well and although I didn't have time to canter him outside before the other horses were brought in for suppertime (and I obviously lost the attention of my horse), I did get him worked in the indoor arena first and managed to keep his attention for the time I was outside.  I might try that tomorrow evening during my lesson since I'm desperate to do anything to get him to listen.

After that, I helped one of the girls finish bringing in the horses for supper, and we had an interesting conversation about one of my instructors.  There are a couple of instructors at the barn, but for the past few months that I've had Walker, I've been particularly unimpressed with one of them.  Don't get me wrong, I think that this particular instructor is great and she helped me a lot with Walker.  However, there's another girl at the barn who is quite a good little rider, and she seems to be the "star pupil", if you know what I mean.  This instructor spends a lot of time with her, especially at shows, and I was starting to get the impression in the summer that I was more of a waste of time, or at the very least, I was just something to get over with before she could move onto her better riders.  At one point, she even cancelled one of my private lessons and never bothered to reschedule (or refund my money), and although I let it go at the time, it still kind of irks me to this day.

Well, the girl who I was helping today had similar things to say about the instructor (and some not so nice things to say about the star pupil).  She said that she felt left out at shows especially since she was doing more classes than I was and needed just as much help if not more.  Her grandparents don't really know anything about horses, and in fact, at one show, I even had to tack up her horse while she got changed.  Our instructor was too "busy" with the other student to bother lending a helping hand.  Now don't get me wrong, I like this instructor a lot, and as opposed to the girl I was talking to, I do like the star pupil as well.  However, it's frustrating and discouraging, especially to a new rider like myself but also to someone like this girl who could use some help as well, that we have been virtually ignored. I am glad that I ended up having this conversation with her because I honestly thought that it was just me and that I was being dramatic - as I sometimes am!

On another unrelated note, I have found my dream bridle.  I say that with the full knowledge that I will probably eventually come down off the high I'm on and convince myself that I do not need this wildly expensive bridle and in fact a cheaper, more practical bridle will do.  But in the meantime, I just like to look at it and imagine how Walker will look in it, how the soft grip rubber reins will feel against my hands, how much more functional/practical/magical this bridle will be compared to my other, cheaper, synthetic, non-Amish made bridle...

Nunn Finer Event Bridle... drool...

Really, the power of suggestion has quite a significant effect on me.  I only found this bridle because I read a tack review of one of the bloggers I follow (SprinklerBandits), and I just happened to be dreaming of buying a new bridle.  Voila!  I became irrationally attached to this one.  Perhaps some day I'll get a clue. :S

Sunday, 7 October 2012


This weekend is Thanksgiving and so I am home for the weekend.  Even though I have Fridays off and we have Monday off this week coming, I didn't come home until Saturday because I wanted to make sure that the horse got the exercise he needed before I left.

I tried to take some new photos this week but my camera died in the middle!

I ended up not going to the barn on Friday because I picked up a friend from the airport, but I did get out on Saturday afternoon.  It was pretty busy at the barn, and there were people cleaning out the lounge.  Apparently, they cleaned out the old feed room, are planning on turning that into a tack room, and are going to turn the old tack room into a wash stall.  I have to say that I'm pretty excited for that and I hope that they get it done soon - or else at least before I have to leave in May.

Because my instructor was there planning to ride her horse in the outdoor arena, I decided to ride Walker in the indoor.  The footing outside was pretty wet, and I knew that he would be hyper since he didn't get turned out for a couple of days.  Brisk, autumn weather + puddles + another horse in the arena = bad Walker, so I'm glad that I rode inside.  I was a little disappointed because I had some big plans, but I think our outdoor riding days are drawing to an end anyway.  I tried to work on some simple lead changes in the indoor, but I was having a hard time getting him to lope a small enough circle to cut across the middle and have room to lope around another circle without hitting hay, the gator, the mounting block, etc.  He was also in a bit of a mood and was throwing some bucks (one of which hit the wall!).  It was no big deal but he was making me work for it and didn't seem too impressed that my instructor's horse got to go outside and he had to stay in with me.

Now that I'm home, I definitely miss his face.  Because it's Thanksgiving, I have a lot to think about in terms of what I'm thankful for.  I'm thankful for my friends and my family (especially my parents) for how supportive they've been with me and Walker, and because this blog is specifically about Walker, I am definitely thankful for him.  Walker has had a significant impact on my life and it has only been 6 months.  Because of him, I'm a better rider, and I'm a fitter, more active person.  He makes it easier for me to get off the couch and go see him when before I could barely convince myself to go to the barn because I was so lazy!  He teaches me how to be a better rider by making it clear that he won`t put up with just anything, but he is also very forgiving, following me around like a puppy dog after my ride even when we just barely got into an argument.  I am thoroughly a happier person because I have Walker, and he has officially made my dreams come true.

Walker always gets plenty of kisses

Thursday, 4 October 2012

The Bounce

Well, it finally happened.  Walker and I actually jumped a crossrail.  I was pretty impressed (mostly that he didn't faceplant like he almost did on the lunge line the other day).  I kept moving the crossrail up until finally I got a little bounce out of him.  And I would have to say that it was more of a bounce than a jump, and although we went over the crossrail several times at the trot, he only actually "jumped" it twice.  It didn't take him very long to figure out that he has really long legs and if he doesn't want to, he doesn't have to jump that either.  This was the problem with the smaller crossrails, but today I had the crossrail up as high as it would go on the little cavaletti (2 feet on either side), so I guess that will have to do.

I also practiced loping over some poles, and I even loped him over an elevated pole.  I started him very low though, just barely 6 inches off the ground, and I felt that he didn't really need to jump it.  He simply paid attention to his striding and I barely noticed when we went over it, which impressed me.  I'll move it up a couple more notches next week, and someday soon, I'll lope him over the crossrail.  But I figured that trotting him over it was a good start, especially since he was pretty tired by the end.

I tried to trot him over a vertical standing about 1'3" or 1'6" but he lost his nerve as we approached it, came down to a walk, and slammed the vertical to the ground.  I was going to take him around and try again, but I decided that maybe I did too much too fast (trotting low crossrail, trotting high crossrail, loping poles, loping low but elevated pole).

Frankly, I'm pretty happy with him.  He's not naturally gifted, that's for sure, but he tried his best for me and gave me nice little bounce.  Maybe there's a jumping career in our futures after all, however limited that may be!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Lesson Plan

Because I have to miss my lesson because of a test, I worked out my lesson plan for the next time I'm at the barn.

Unfortunately I'm wrestling with myself not to make it more complicated. You see, a friend of mine who got back into riding at the same time as me just jumped her first jump Tuesday and her instructor had them cantering two foot verticals by the end. Needless to say, I'm jealous and flashbacks of my jumping disaster of a pony have been plaguing my thoughts. I know Walker has it in him and I don't want to rush him, especially because I don't want him to associate poles/jumping with stress. I designed my lesson plan after my first crossrail attempt but I'm struggling not to just throw up a normal size crossrail (or vertical) and push him through it.

My original plan was this: start with some simple flat poles and then incorporate the mini-crossrail (elevated poles essentially) like Tuesday all at the trot. Then I'll start trotting the mini and loping the flat pole as in my diagram below. I may push the crossrail up to see if I can get a bounce from him but all at the trot. I like this plan because it builds on what we did together and gives me a chance to gauge his fitness before we really jump. Although my friend was lucky enough to ride a seasoned jumper pony, I have my Western Pleasure darling and I simply have to take it slow (although I know for a fact that he's jumped before - but that was no sooner than 6 months ago). Added to the mix is me: the girl who has never jumped before so although I may attempt to lope an elevated pole or trot a higher crossrail, for now I won't do both and I'll just take it slow.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Crossrail Attempt #1

Today, Walker and I attempted a crossrail.  I have to admit, my horse has got skills, and by skills, I of course mean that he couldn't jump a caterpillar if it crawled right in front of him!

First of all, I decided to lunge him over some crossrails.  These crossrails were SMALL, so small that I was entirely sure he could walk over them if he tried.  But of course, he didn't try.  Instead, he simply managed to take the entire jump down with him to the ground, not once, not twice, but almost every time he did it.

Say what you may about my determination, but I decided to get on him and try it anyway.  Once I was on him and able to give him a little direction (shoot for the middle, pick up your feet, etc.), it went a little better.  He only managed to take the jump down once, and he realized happily that he didn't actually need to jump.  I  started out very small (barely off the ground), and then put them up a notch (at 1'6" on the sides, so probably less than 6" off the ground in the middle).  We did that for about 15 minutes straight, and it was pretty clear that he was getting pretty tired.

Although we never actually jumped, I think that it was a good experience.  Clearly, Walker needs to build up a little more strength and stamina since jumping really isn't his thing.  He also has to learn to pick up the pace since his instinct is to try a Western Pleasure jog, which simply isn't fast enough to get him over the poles.  On Thursday I think I will repeat what I did today, and then try putting it up another notch.  In at least one notch or so, he will be forced to give me a little bounce over the jump, so I will finally get to see what it actually feels like to jump.  As much as I want to lunge him over them first to see how he's going to jump and get him exercised, I just don't think that's a viable option - not unless I want to repeatedly watch him take it to the ground.

Unfortunately I am crazy busy this week with school so I don't think I'm going to make it to my lesson on Wednesday, which is fine by me considering how ansy he gets.  I will try to get out there as much as I can between studying and writing a paper before the long weekend when I'm home for Thanksgiving.  Hopefully we can actually get in a real jump and I'll have something to brag about over turkey!