Thursday, 31 January 2013

Rainy Daze

Head shot - as requested!
Last night Walker and I had a pretty good ride.  We didn't end up jumping in our lesson though.  We had an extra girl join our lesson who is younger and doesn't jump, which tipped the scales to two vs two on the jumping front.  It was also a little crowded in the arena with four of us.  All the other lessons have four, but the fourth person in our lesson hasn't been able to come for a while because he has a bad back.  Anywho, my instructor promised me that we would jump next week.  There was just too much going on this week to add that in, but I could tell that she was just as disappointed as I was!

But of course I couldn't keep my big mouth closed during the lesson, and I had to bring up that I wanted to start cantering crossrails although we've only just officially had one trot lesson over rails.  I'm impatient, and Walker and I have been practicing trotting (and cantering) them for awhile now.  Anyway, one thing led to another, and my instructor, who is thankfully the most thorough instructor in the world, insisted that we learn to canter as many poles as possible first so that we will get used to distances.  Cantering the pole is not the problem, I explained.  It's getting him deep enough into the corners in our tiny arena so that I can come at the pole straight.  What I didn't tell her was that last week when I was cantering crossrails by myself, I could not achieve a straight approach every one time and so Walker, surprisingly willing, jumped it an angle... towards the wall.

So, my instructor decided to put down a few poles to create a barrier to keep him straight.  She started with this.  The red line is the pole we are actually trying to canter.  The blue lines are the other poles intended to be barriers.


Walker was still able to cut off the corners though so she added more:

But you see, Walker is a master of getting around my instructor's traps, and he is very resistant to my inside leg when he wants to be.  He also wanted to be with his friends who were watching this hilarious show from the middle of the arena.  So by the end of the performance, my instructor built a race track of sorts to force us to stay on the rail.  

No, I am not kidding.  This is what it has come to.

Did we stay outside the blue poles and come at the canter pole straight?  Of course not.  He happily clambered over all the poles while my instructor screamed "INSIDE LEG" and I kicked with all my might in those stupid little English spurs.  For the record, I am more than capable of keeping him on the rail in Western spurs.  Sigh.  Lazy pony.  But we did do it correctly enough times to make my instructor happy.

Dirty pony.
Needless to say,  when I got to the barn today, I worked on pushing him into the corners!  I only actually set up two poles diagonally in the corners at the top of the arena where he tends to cut the most, but I made it very clear to him that cutting them was not an option.  Of course he's lazy, but he's also more willing to oblige when he doesn't have three horses to show off in front of!  I kid you not. He did it every time for me, the little bugger.  But no, not when people are watching.

Other than that, I threw in a little stirrupless trotting, some turns on the haunches and forehand, and some canter departs from a halt.  Just a mishmash of different activities.  Tomorrow we will trot some crossrails, and probably practice cantering some poles (and staying in those corners!).

Walker attacking the crossties.
For the record, he is normally very quiet on crossties.
He just likes to aggravate me.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

New Horses

My barn owner got a new load of horses today, so although I did get a little bit of work done with Walker, I was mostly distracted by the cute new arrivals.  My barn owner finally decided to bring in a couple of ranch horses instead of the show horses she normally brings in.  They're quarter horses, but they're not the big quarter horses she usually buys.  Oftentimes, those horses turn out to be too much for the little kids to handle, and she needs more beginner-friendly horses.  These are the smaller type of quarter horse.  They've been roped off of, ridden by lots of different people, and are supposedly bombproof.  I guess two of them also came from a First Nations community somewhere in the States.  She has a bay, a black, and a fleabitten grey.  When she put the little bay pony in his stall, he wasn't in there for more than two seconds before he ripped his bucket of its hook and threw it across the stall.  My barn owner exclaimed, "Oh no!  Walker Junior!"

pony love
Walker was out again today, but I don't think he'll get out for the rest of the week.  The paddocks already look a little icey, and we're expecting a lot of rain tomorrow and the next day.  When the temperature goes below freezing again, the paddocks will be skating rinks.

As you can see from the picture to my right, Walker was spreading his love around the field today again.  It's nice to know that he doesn't discriminate because today he was cozying up to another gelding.  All the mares were in another paddock!  It never ceases to amaze me that he is able to get right in other horses' faces (or other parts of their bodies!) and they never kick him or squeal or make a fuss.  I don't know how he does it!

That being said, he was protective of me for the first time today.  When I was leading Walker out of the paddock, another more ill-mannered and pushy gelding tried to ram through the gate.  I had my hand between the gate and the post, so it was potentially a broken hand, but before I had a chance to act, Walker whirled around and sent the other horse flying.  I was such a proud mama.

Polo pony - blue is definitely his colour
Other than that, our ride was pretty bland.  I am happy with our accomplishments though.  We worked on some halt to canter transitions, and we also did some stirrupless work since I fell off the stirrupless wagon a couple weeks ago when I got busy.  Unfortunately, I didn't get to do too much of the latter because the new horses arrived shortly after I started that, and my barn owner needed me to move my car for the plow to come in.  Once I got back into the arena, Walker had a mini spook because the plow (which was immediately on the other side of the wall to the arena) was crashing around and scraping along the ice.  Walker was fine, but I decided to just put my stirrups back down and cool him off.  After all, I had kept him 40 minutes from his supper as it was, and I was anxious to see the new horses.

The other thing that I accomplished today was wrapping Walker's legs in polos.  Thanks to everyone who responded to my last post about boots.  When I wrote the post, I pretty much had one pair of open front boots picked out, and I was hoping that a sensible voice would convince me that I probably didn't need them.  Now I have two or three different kinds of boots picked out!  Oh joy!  If only I had the money...

I probably could have done a better job wrapping his legs.  I can see where it is a little uneven/loose, but I'm still practicing.  I only wrapped his front legs today because I'm pretty sure he's never worn polos before so I wanted to make sure he wouldn't trip all over himself while we were riding.  Ironically, he tripped in the deep sand and his whole hind end slipped out from underneath him (this is not the first time...), so he probably could have benefited from a little a back leg protection!  Next time maybe.

Chester in his new kitty tent - he had to be encouraged to go in here,
or rather discouraged so he thought it was his idea

Monday, 28 January 2013

Question Period

I've been bored the past few days, and ever since buying polos and learning how to wrap them, I've been researching boots instead.  Because frankly, while wrapping polos is a lovely skill to know, that just seems time consuming and unlikely to occur!

Encouraged even more by similar recent posts from Pia & Prairie's Parade and SprinklerBandits, I have a few questions about boots for you hunter/jumpers out there.  For starters, I have never used polos or boots on my Western Pleasure horse.  Frankly, very few people use boots at our barn at all, whether they ride English or Western.  Now that we are "jumping" (I use the quotations intentionally there), I want to know our options.

Open Front Boots: I realize that open front boots are common for jumping because the open front allows the horse to feel if he knocks the poles.  However, that begs the question (for me at least), why one would bother using the boots at all.  I realize that they are for interference in general, but Walker doesn't overreach (he's too lazy for that) and he'll never be jumping anything too high (if that matters...).  Just what kind of interference should I be wary about here?

Hind Boots: The same question applies to boots for back legs.  If he's not the type of horse to interfere with himself, are they necessary?

Other Types of Front Boots: I'm curious if anyone uses anything other than open front boots for jumping.  I've done some research and know that there are cross-country boots that are closed at the front.  Walker and I don't really have anywhere to practice cross country jumping, but I'm hoping to do a little more trail riding in the summer.  I don't want him to hurt himself jumping logs/brush/etc just because he's too lazy to lift his feet up.  Honestly, if I could only get one of the videos up of us jumping, you would understand why I am so concerned about his lack of natural talent and need for protection!

What kinds of boots do you own? Do you have different pairs that you use for different occasions (shows, schooling, trails, cross-country, etc.), and what do you suggest?  

I'm really enjoying our foray into the land of jumping, but my barn owner is pretty sure that Walker is going to max out at about 2 feet, maybe a few inches higher than that. Whenever that happens, I'm sure I'll start taking jumping lessons on a real jumper, but until then, I want to make sure my little QH is well protected.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

The "Player"

This is the text I got from my barn owner when I work up this morning:

Your horse is a "player".  Yesterday he was loving Sizzle but today he loves Starr!! "MEN" hahahaha.  He truly does have quite a personality!!!

Don't I know it.

Modelling his rainsheet - the sun is directly in the way, of course
When I got out to the barn, I was happy to discover that Walker was turned out yesterday and today, and it is finally getting warm again.  There was actually snow melting off the roof!  Yay!  I also felt like an idiot because apparently D blanketed Walker for me this morning when they were putting them out since it was a little chilly this morning.  Blanketing isn't included in our board so if you want them blanketed, you have to do it yourself.  It was so nice of D to do that for me, but it was also the first time that Walker has worn his blanket all Winter long.  In fact, it's not even his Winter blanket - it's his rainsheet!  But he doesn't really need his winter blanket so this works fine.  However, when I went out to the paddock to look for him, I couldn't find him because I wasn't used to looking for my blanketed horse!  At one point, I was actually like, "Who is this horse in the plaid blanket that keeps getting in my way?  OH!  It's Walker!"

Anyway, Sunday is our easy ride today.  As in, we should be ashamed of how little we do on Sundays!  But everyone should have a lazy day.  Walker and I rode with the little girl on the pony that we did the clinic with, and nope, he still hasn't gotten over his pure disdain for ponies.  I'm pretty sure that the little girl's grandmother is worried that Walker is going to take the pony out or something because he is definitely a cranky camper when that pony is around.

We weren't riding for very long when T came in and asked if she could lunge Ella, otherwise known as the nutjob mare.  Ella is only 5 years old and is quite the handful.  We originally gave her half the ring, but when Ella started freaking out, we had to stop while she tried to get a handle on her.  Then my barn owner came into the arena.  I don't know if I've ever said much about my barn owner but she is about 5 feet tall and 100 pounds, and every single horse in our barn is terrified of her.  She gives off this No Tolerance attitude and they quiver around her.  Anyway, she took over the lunging, and we actually had to leave the arena because it was that much of a performance.  I was so excited to see the show that I trotted Walker down the hall, ripped off his bridle, threw him in his stall, and ran into our viewing lounge still holding the bridle so that I could watch. Needless to say, Ella got a much-needed attitude adjustment, and she was a million times better for T to ride afterwards.

I actually felt a little bad for T because Ella doesn't belong to her.  She's our barn owner's horse, and as T said to me, it's hard to know how far to take it with someone else's horse.  She doesn't want to be responsible if Ella goes crazy and gets hurt.  I definitely wouldn't have done some of the things that our barn owner did with someone else's horse either, but now T knows what she can and can't do so I guess that's solved.

After that performance, the little girl and I came back into the arena and finished off our ride.  We just cantered a few circles in each direction and chitchatted with T, and then I called it a day.  Helped out with barn chores, sat around and talked to people, and came home for a cozy Sunday night.  Not a bad day at all, if I do say so myself.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Equine Nutrition

I just wanted to write a quick post to let everyone know that I stumbled upon this free online course starting Monday that deals with equine nutrition and feeding. I've never taken any online courses from this place before, but it seems legit and it can't hurt to get a little more info on anything horse-related. I believe it's only a one hour lecture a week with readings, but since you're not paying for it or getting credit, I guess it's up to you what you put into it. Anyway, I just thought I would pass the link along. Walker is currently on a generic feed, so I would definitely be interested in learning more about how I could enhance his diet.

The link to the course is: University of Edinburgh Equine Nutrition Course

Friday, 25 January 2013

Give Head a Shake

So you know how sometimes you have those mediocre types of rides where nothing exciting happens either good or bad?  Well today, I had kind of the opposite - Walker was both really good and really bad, with no mediocre stroke inbetween.  It's kind of hard to explain other than that I was jumping him over some crossrails, and he was being super willing to participate.  I usually have a hard time convincing him that he is in fact capable of cantering a crossrail, but today he was breaking into a canter all the time and jumping really nicely, if I do say so myself. 

However, at the same time, he was being, well, Walker.  When I was going around the circle on his stiff side and jumping the crossrail, he would come barrelling out of it sometimes towards the hay mound, where a horse currently has a makeshift stall.  The horse, Sizzle, was less than impressed to have Walker bounding towards her little stall, and he was being a jerk about actually turning and continuing on the circle.  In fact, at one point, I asked him to canter towards the jump, and he took off like a rocketship so uncharacteristically fast that I knew he was up to something.  Sure enough, he leapt over the jump and ran right into her stall.  I kid you not.  He literally slammed his body into it.  I realize that he has maybe less than 2 - 3 strides to turn coming out of the jump, but I'm pretty sure that my outside leg jammed into his side and my hand tearing his head to the correct direction should have been warning enough!

Then I set up two crossrails.  One on either long end so we could just keep going around the circle and jumping.  When we would canter over one of them, I would feel really good about my position, his position, etc., but then he would decide to cut the corners despite me obviously trying to stop him from cutting the corners and we would come into the second jump like a hot mess.  I know that my barn owner likes to watch people riding on the security cameras on our arena a lot, so I'm sure that she broke out her popcorn for the show that was Walker and me.  Of course, all the wonderful beautiful jumping took place in the blind spot where she would never be able to see, whereas all the major arguments and knocking rails down happened straight ahead of the cameras.  :S

Really, I must have been having an off day or something, because I also almost fell out of the saddle like 3 times.  I wish I could say that they were times when Walker and I were fighting, but no, not even remotely.  At one point, he was happily and patiently cantering along, and I managed to lose my stirrup. The next thing I know, I'm hanging diagonally off of him while he continues to patiently canter but is clearly concerned that he has a monkey on his back.  This happened several more times, and I lost my stirrup several times too.  I'll admit, I'm not always the best about keeping my heels down while cantering, but falling off and losing my balance?  I'd like to think that I can canter a straight line on a good day without falling off!

So who knows.  Maybe Walker and I were both just really good and really bad today.  I'm sure we'll both appreciate the day off tomorrow. 

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Frisky

This morning my first class was cancelled because my professor lives outside of town, and I guess something froze and snapped off the railway crossing that he needs to cross to come into town.  He wrote, "I'm literally on the wrong side of the tracks!"  Because he cancelled, I decided not to bother to go to my other class today because the professor is a little rambley anyway, and I rarely take notes as it is.  Even though we had the severe wind chill warning still, I decided to have a day with Walker instead.  And thus ends my complaints about the weather.  It was cold.  I got over it.

That being said, I decided to pull out the quarter sheet that my mother got Walker for Christmas.  I never could find an excuse to use it before because this Winter has been a pretty warm one all around, and sometimes I'm just so in a rush at the barn, that I'd rather just chuck his tack on as fast as I can and go.  I'm not 100% convinced about their effectiveness, but at least I know his rump was warm!

It also made him kind of look fat, but I checked the online ad when I got home, and apparently that is supposed to be how it fits.  I just can't help but think about how his tummy is showing and how it is pulled tightly over his body.  Oh well.  It's not supposed to be a blanket anyway.

It makes me laugh that you can see his tubby tummy
Walker was pretty frisky today, which wasn't surprising considering his run like a lunatic last night.  I didn't lunge him, and he pranced around and threw his head for a few minutes, but he's always lazy at heart, so once we got working, he calmed down.  It was kind of nice to have that energy at the beginning though because when I got him cantering, I actually kept him cantering with fairly little reinforcement - which is a big deal for Walker, the king of "I'm not working hard unless you are too".  Since I had the day off, I intended to ride for a full hour instead of the short 30 - 40 minute ride that I normally have to do on Thursdays because of class, but when I got out there, he was coughing a lot and making weird sounds, so I figured that it might not be the best idea to overwork his lungs in the cold air.  We only ended up riding for 30 - 35 minutes, and then I took him back out to let him run free and gallop for a few minutes to get any leftover wiggles out.  I tried to catch some of that on video, but to no avail.  The sun was shining in on the arena in just the wrong way. :(

Other than that, I gave the pony some love and alfafa, and I gave him some extra special loving in the grooming department.  I am kind of known at my barn for being a super fast tacker upper, and I am also usually quick in the grooming department too.  I can't help it.  Walker just doesn't get that dirty!  So today, I brushed his tail a little bit and loving went over his body with the nice new soft brush I bought to replace the one he destroyed.

I know I've probably said this before, but Walker is blessed with some serious luscious locks.  I love it!  This is his tail after I trimmed it so that it wasn't dragging on the floor anymore.  I can't wait until the summer when I can wash him (including his less than white socks) and throw some conditioner in that tail so that it can be all that it can be.

Tomorrow I'm out to the barn in the afternoon to see my boy, and if it's warm enough, we might try a little crossrail again.  Then I'm home for the night to go to a baby shower on Saturday afternoon.  I'll be back to the barn on Sunday where we'll have our obligatory useless but fun hack with friends. :)

Blog Hop: Horse Staff

These blog hops are really starting to grow on me!


From vets to farriers to instructors to the people who support you at home, it really takes a village to make this whole riding thing work.  So in honor of all the people who have kindled our love of horses... share the best story you've got about:

An instructor:
A barn manager:
An "unofficial" member of your equine staff:
A farrier (added by L. Williams)

And for a special bonus prize of 1000 unicorn sparkles, just keep adding people to the list so that we have the whole picture of what a horse staff looks like by the end of the hop.

An instructor: My current instructor is amazing, but because of that, I have few hilarious stories about her.  Instead, I'm going to talk about my first instructor who was a little more rough around the edges.  I'll never forget reading one of those horse magazines for kids when I was younger that had a checklist about whether or not you had a good instructor and being unable to check any of the boxes.  I make him sound like he was a bad person, when in fact, he really helped to kindle my love of horses.  He was easygoing, and if not 100% safe, at least helped encourage confidence around horses.  We went to horse camp there, mucked stalls, played around on horses whichever way we liked, and had a blast doing it.  It was exactly what I needed starting out riding.  My best story about him was the first time I learned to "jump".  I rode this old cantankerous paint named Casper who was the slowest creature on the planet.  I have no idea why my instructor wanted us to jump because we were all riding Western, and there wasn't even an English saddle in the barn.  He had never taught me anything about two-point, diagonals, distances, poles, whatever.  I remember that I trotted (or cantered, who knows) into the jump, the horse barely lifted his feet over the tiny rail, he landed, slammed on the breaks immediately afterwards, and I fell to the ground.  From what I understand, this was the most hilarious thing to watch on the planet because apparently Casper had come to a full stop before I slid off his back onto the ground.  The last thing I remember is looking down the arena towards where my instructor was literally doubled-over in laughter trying to come over to me to see if I was ok.  These were the types of first experiences I had with horses and instructors, but god bless him, he was fun!  I didn't actually jump a horse again for 15 years though.

A barn manager: At all the barns I've been at in the past, the barn owner was always the barn manager, and I never even knew people used this term until I started reading people's blogs.  At the current barn I'm at, my barn manager is also my trainer who happens to be the barn owner's daughter.  I know, I know.  I feel like I should have a diagram for these people.  My barn manager is a lot like most of the horse people I seem to attract to myself: hard-working, foolhardy and pretty rough around the edges.  She is currently pregnant and not allowed to ride, but she has still been known to get on the odd misbehaving horse from time to time.  I see her lead in four horses at a time, trying to fit them all through the barn door and down the aisle,  her belly leading the way, and needless to say, I both admire her determination and shake my head at her craziness.  My barn owner told me a story last night that apparently when she went into labour with her first daughter, she finished all the barn chores first (we have 30 horses and it takes probably 4 hours to do everything) before she went to the hospital.  She then only took a week off from work before coming back to the barn. I will tell you now that when I'm pregnant, I will probably become a couch potato for 9 months.

An "unofficial" member of your equine staff: My mom is my "unofficial" member of my equine staff as well as an important part of my life.  My parents don't really know much about horses, and everything  my mother has learned, she has learned from listening to my detailed rants every night or from reading this blog.  She makes such an effort to pay attention to me and goes out of her comfort zone to buy Walker things he needs (and doesn't need!) even though it can be quite overwhelming for a non-horse person to try and navigate their way through a tack shop.  My favorite story about my mother and Walker was at one of the last horse shows where I asked her to hold him for me while I went to talk to someone.  When I turned around, Walker had taken complete advantage of her and had led her all the way down the hill towards a gigantic patch of grass for him to graze, and I could hear my mother saying, "Stop, Walker!  Stop, Walker!" as he continued to pull her onwards.  Incidentally, that was also the show where my father met Walker for the first time.  Walker, in following tradition about misbehaving while people are watching, decided to bolt during warmup and buck the entire way down the rail while my cowboy hat (yes, cowboy hat, not helmet!) went flying back into the wind like a rodeo cowboy.  Then, to make matters more hilarious, H who is in my lesson and has never met my father before happened to be sitting behind him, not knowing who he was, and when my father gasped, she said, "Oh, don't worry.  He does that all the time!"  And yet, my parents remain supportive to this day!

A farrier: I haven't really had many dealings with my farrier, although he does a wonderful job on Walker's feet.  My barn owner always holds Walker for me, and apparently Walker is a doll about it so I have no real crazy stories on that front.

Added: A barn friend: I have a horse friend, A, who I'm very close to but unfortunately, she is in a different city in a different province at a different barn!  At my barn, I am the only adult who owns a horse, and there are only about 2 other adults who take lessons.  This means that I have become wildly attached to teenagers who have become my barn friends instead.  In particular, D is 14 years old, but I often forget how young she is.  She has been riding since she was 3 years old and is an amazing rider.  Her horse, Starr, is also one of Walker's girlfriends, so I particularly love riding with them because then Walker and I both have a friend!  The nice thing about riding with kids is that they remind you to have fun.  They are constantly doing crazy things at the barn, and I just get caught up in their enthusiasm.  One day, they all decided to ride sidesaddle (and no, we don't have proper sidesaddles at our barn...).  Another day, they were doing tricks on their horses (including standing up in the saddle, which just stressed me out), and their devotion to their horses always remind me what it was like to simply be a horse-crazed little girl.  D is also the person at the barn who seems to have the most faith in me.  Frankly, she thinks I'm a much better rider than I am, but it's nice to have someone believe in you like that!  I think a barn is definitely worth the community of people it creates.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Weather Complaints Continued

I have a friend in Northern Saskatchewan, and quickly after writing my last post about temperatures in the -20s, I felt bad because she has been experiencing temperatures as low as -30 degrees Celsius. That was going to be the subject of my post today, but then I woke up and found out that we were in the middle of our own severe wind chill warning of -41 degrees Celsius. Incidentally, -40 degrees Celsius is also -40 degrees Fahrenheit so we can all commiserate about this deathly temperature together.

Naturally, I went to the barn anyway.  Leave it to me to insist on going in extreme temperatures.  Because of course, if I were even remotely sick, I'd probably find a whiny reason to get out of my dreaded lesson, but when the weather network tells me that it is unsafe to be outdoors for any longer than 5 minutes, I decide I'm Canadian and I can handle it.

Clothing worn for this adventure: 
- long johns under fleece-lined winter breeches
- normal socks under subzero thermal socks
- a long sleeve shirt under a sweater under a coat
- topped off with gloves and a gigantic tuque

When we got out to the barn, the kids riding in the lesson before us were beyond frozen.  I have never seen people so red in the face from cold before.  My barn owner was surprised H and I even came (she has so little faith in us), and she told us that our instructor had already thought of other non-riding activities we could do instead.  We decided to take her up on her offer since it was getting progressively colder as the night went on.

Instead, we did some body awareness activities where our instructor had us sitting on a hard surface and really feeling the way we use our bodies on the horse.  We also learned to wrap polos, and although I had watched a billion videos, I realized it's not as easy as it looks - at least to get them tight and even and semi-decent.  Walker was not impressed that he was guinea pig for this adventure since H and I wrapped and re-wrapped all of his legs a million times.  H also got a lesson in lunging because although she's been riding for 5 years, she has never actually lunged a horse.  She doesn't own a horse, and the lesson horses are rarely lunged because they get so much work.

Surprisingly, doing all that actually took over an hour (and of course we talked as well).  Our instructor's horse is in his mid-20s so she doesn't ride him very much anymore.  After our lesson, she always lets him free in the indoor arena because he likes to roll and run around for a few minutes.  After she did that, I decided to "free lunge" Walker as well.  I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but free lunging Walker is more an exercise in join-up or "whose the boss" than actual lunging.  There is too much junk in our indoor arena that is in the way, and although I think he knows that he's supposed to run around me, he usually just ends up running like a maniac to and away from the hay that is inconveniently stacked at the bottom of the arena.  Add -40 degree weather and a horse who hasn't been ridden since Sunday, and he was an absolute lunatic.  I was actually kind of embarrassed by his behaviour.  I never got a chance to talk to my instructor about him afterwards since she left halfway through the adventure, but I hope she doesn't think that Walker is disrespectful/uncontrollable.  If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you've probably figured out by now that I'm a major worrier and I really shouldn't care what people think, but hey, we all do that to a certain extent!

Anyway, Walker was a lot like he was the other times I've "free lunged" him this past week - tail up in the air, snorting like a dragon, galloping full out towards the hay, and bucking around.  It's just that he was even more hyper because of the other circumstances and the temperature.  I trust him not to run me down or anything, but whereas when I normally put the whip in his path as he is barrelling towards me, he will change directions and go back the way he came, tonight he was changing directions but still zooming past me towards the hay - just in another direction.  It reminded me a lot of those basketball players on TV who fake a direction and then spin around the person guarding them.  To do this, he had to get really close to me, and when I was getting him out of the hay each time, he would usually buck while exiting the area - unfortunately, he was bucking with his legs kicked towards me, which he usually doesn't do.  I don't think he meant anything disrespectful by it since it's quite close quarters the way the hay is stacked and he was sooooo up that he needed to let loose.  It's just that when my instructor lunged her horse, he happily cantered around the arena very controlled while Walker went bonkers.  If it was just me, I wouldn't care at all because I know he is just young and has so much energy.  Sigh.  It's just always my luck to have Walker be a lunatic when people are watching.

Tomorrow I'm going out to the barn to properly ride him although we are continuing to get this severe windchill warning.  I'm hoping that if I ride him in the afternoon, the sun will at least dissipate some of the cold, whereas at 8:00 at night, it is pretty deadly.  I'm going to see if I can get away with just hopping on him and not lunging him, but I'm not completely ruling it out...

Monday, 21 January 2013

Good Reason to Be Happy I Can't Make it to the Barn

Normally, I am excited to go see my man at the barn, but this week is turning out to be busy.  I guess January is just going to be like that!  As far as I know right now, I am only getting to the barn on Wednesday for my lesson, Thursday for my short no stirrups ride, maybe Friday (depending on what time I have to go home), and Sunday. :(  Because I don't even know if I'll make it out to the barn on Friday, that means I may actually only get out there 3 days this week.

As sad as that makes me, here is a good reason to be happy that I can't make it to the barn this week:

Temperatures in Celsius.
For reference: -10 degrees Celsius = 14 degrees Fahrenheit
-25 degrees Celsius =  -13 degrees Fahrenheit

I love my province, I really do, but I can't say I love Winter.  :S

With that thought in mind, I am backtracking on my initial eagerness to jump in my lesson Wednesday.  Usually when temperatures go that crazy cold, the poor horses seem to have a hard time doing overly vigorous work, and it breaks my heart to see their little whiskers freeze after about 5 minutes.  We sometimes don't even bother to canter on those days because everyone just can't wait to get out of the cold.  It also doesn't help that our lesson is in the evening when it is always at it's coldest. We'll see what my instructor thinks, but I think that unless I am being warmed up by all our hard work, we will just speed through the lesson so I can put the pony away in his nice, warm, heated stall (and I can take a nice, warm bath!).

Sunday, 20 January 2013

I Survived the Weekend :S

It turned out to be quite the weekend for me.  On Friday, I got out to the barn to ride, but on the way home, there was an accident on the bridge during rush hour and traffic was backed up.  This made me late getting home which meant that I had to get ready in a whirlwind for a masquerade ball our law school was having.  I was bartending and helping out the organizer, and it ended up being a gong show.  It was supposed to end by 11:00, and I intended to be in bed by midnight because I had to wake up at 7:00 the next morning.  Unfortunately, it took us 2 hours to kick everyone out after the dance was over, and I didn't get home until maybe 1:30.  Nothing makes me crankier than being sober and exhausted and knowing that I am going to be even crankier the next morning.  At one point, I actually heard a guy at the school say to someone else, "Who is that mean blonde girl kicking everyone out."  I marched over to him and was like, "Me.  GET OUT!"  Anyway, this meant that I didn't get to bed until maybe 2:00, and then my lovely insomnia kicked in.  I never fell asleep until 4:30 in the morning.  :(

I was pretty much dead on my feet, but I met my mother in the morning and we went on a little shopping spree - including to Greenhawk!  I used my gift certificate to buy Walker some turquoise polo wraps.  No, I don't actually wrap Walker's legs, but I've decided that I should learn how.  I'm horrible for going to a tack shop and seeing pretty things I don't need and buying them just in case someday I'll ever want them!  I also got some new brushes to replace the ones he mangled the other day and a new lead line since my other one is rusted shut.  BUT, best of all, my mother got me a new helmet!  My old helmet was purple and looked like a glorified bike helmet.  It didn't fit, and although I always knew that it never quite fit, when the lady at the tack shop was measuring me for my new helmet, I realized just how much it didn't fit.  Frankly, it was time.  I ended up getting a Charles Owen (see picture), and I'm ecstatic.  It's super comfy and I look much less stupid now (yes, yes, and I'm safer...).

Then on Saturday night, we went out for J's birthday party, and although I was dead on my feet from a long day and no sleep, I had a lot of fun.  I got to sleep in this morning, and then I came straight back home.  I didn't think I would get home in time to go to the barn, but I got out there this afternoon.  I tried out my fancy new helmet, and I felt as fancy as it looks! I rode with D, and we pretty much just walked, jogged, cantered. I think I'm going to have to do a lot more circles and bending exercises because I found Walker particularly stiff today to the left.  At one point, I was trying to canter him in a circle (radical, I know), and he just kept expanding it and almost sidepassing out of it to see if he could just switch directions and see if I'd be the wiser. Silly pony.  He'll do anything to get what he wants.  Walker is also in love with D's horse, Starr.  Starr is one of Walker's girlfriends (he has several), and she's a good influence on him - as all good women are on men!  I always love riding with D because D is  my favorite kid at the barn and Starr brings out the best in Walker.  Win win!

Now I'm settled in on my couch for a relaxing night.  Walker is getting Monday off like usual and Tuesday off because I have an appointment.  Then we'll be back to our lesson on Wednesday, and hopefully I can convince my instructor to let us jump.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Goofball and Escape Artist

He tried to eat my hat
Walker escaped his stall today.  I am too trustworthy.  I left the door unlatched and was literally sitting 3 feet away from the stall when he rapidly threw open the door and made a break for it.  Luckily, all the barn doors were closed so he quickly discovered that there was nowhere to go.  He had no halter on so he tried to make it difficult for me to catch him, but he finally succumbed to me when he realized that he was not getting to go for an extended walk around the property after all.  Perhaps I should invest in one of those stall guard things.

He also destroyed a few of my brushes.  This is not his fault.  He is curious and very playful, and since I think it's "so cute", I let him play with them.  He finds this wonderful, and once I give him one, he automatically assumes that they all belong to him.  He likes to throw them in the air, chew on them, and drop them in his water bucket.  The orange soft brush is officially dead.  Luckily, orange is not his colour and it just gives me a good excuse to buy him some new ones this weekend!

Today we had a nice long ride alone at the barn.  I did a lot of bending and made him do a ton of circles bent to the inside.  He hates bending, and it drives me crazy.  Usually, if I can get him to bend, he will not keep the bend for the entire circle or else I find it difficult to keep him turning and not pushing out too much expanding the circles.  He's so stiff on his bad side that he gets really perturbed when we do this exercise.  I also worked on some simple lead changes.  I would lope a circle and then come to a full halt in the center, change directions, and lope off.  We could use some work cantering from a halt, but he was generally not too bad at it.  I think I did them for too long though because after awhile he started picking up the wrong lead so I moved on.

We also trotted a crossrail today again.  I decided to take my instructor's advice and just trot him over it a maximum of maybe 5 times in each direction so that he doesn't grow sour with jumping.  Since I'm not really going over them that many times, I can really work on my position, and I felt pretty good about it today.  I briefly debated trying to canter him over it again but I decided to end on a good note.  I think I am going to see if I can talk my instructor into trying to canter them the next time we have a lesson.  She's being so thorough about teaching me to jump which is absolutely amazing, but of course, I'm impatient!  I've already cantered him over crossrails before (haphazardly, at least), so I'd really like to do it with her watching so she can critique me.  Other than that, we trotted a few pole patterns on the ground for warm-up before jumping, and I did about 10 minutes of no stirrup work.  I would've did it for longer but I was already sore from yesterday and I have plans tonight so I wanted to make sure that I would still be able to walk!

Tomorrow he is getting the day off because I am going shopping with my mother and staying the night at my friend J's apartment.  It's J's birthday, and she is like a little sister to me so we have a fun filled night of drinking ahead of us.  I am going to try to make it to the barn on Sunday night, so hopefully I don't do too much damage to myself tomorrow!  The last time I went to visit her for her birthday, I slipped on the ice and fell straight on my rear end and could barely walk the next day.  Birthdays shouldn't be allowed in the winter!  They are dangerous!

Inspecting which brush he'd like to play with

Choosing his favorite to chew on

Putting it in his stall

Throwing it in his water bucket for me :S
I think it may be time to invest in some chew toys or things to keep him occupied...

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Collegial Equestrian Blog Hop

I don't normally do these things, but it seemed like fun so here goes!  This is from Carla at The Collegial Equestrian.


Share a memory from:

1. The first horse experience you can remember.

My first horse experience was on a trail ride.  I don't even know where it was, but all I remember was that there was this mini oval track through the woods.  Your horse just followed all the other horses since it was blockaded by the trees anyway, and it only took like 5 minutes to go around the track.  You went around several times, I think.  Although I hadn't taken riding lessons yet, I remember being very angry that my horse was following all the other horses because I wanted to actually "ride" my horse.  It was probably years from that before I actually started lessons, but I have a lot of horse experiences in the early years on trail rides.

2. Your first "aha" moment -- when something really clicked for you as a rider.

I think my first "aha" moment was probably when I learned the difference between the outside/inside leg/hand.  For whatever reason, my first instructor really confused me on that when I was a kid so it took a month or so before I realized what in the blazes he was talking about.  Other than that, it was probably learning my diagonals, which I don't ever remember my first instructor even teaching me about.  I remember him yelling at me for not being on the correct diagonal, but I don't actually remember him teaching me how to find the correct one!  I figured that out much later!

3. Entering the ring.  Could be your first show, or another time when simply entering the arena could be considered a "debut" of sorts.

This is an easy one because my first debut in a show was this past summer!  Although I rode when I was  younger, I never went to any shows.  It wasn't until I bought a horse that I even set foot at a show (other than watching barrel racing or driving at our local fair).  I was a wreck.  My first class was Halter, and although Walker would not stand still, we managed to get Reserve Champion.  Perhaps if I showed when I was a kid, I wouldn't think of them as just a big ball of stress!  I'm working on that...

How to joint the blog hop:
  1. Copy/past the logo, the prompt, and the questions in bold.
  2. Respond to them on your blog.
  3. Publish your blog post and copy the URL.
  4. Come back to this page, click the button below, and enter your blog name and the post's URL.
  5. Then click this link and copy/past the appropriate code in the HTML of your blog.  Enter the code at the very end of your post so it appears at the bottom.
  6. The list will update on everyone's blog automatically once you sign up!

A Day Without Stirrups

I was inspired by L. Williams at Viva Carlos to try a day without stirrups.  Umm.  I have massive appreciation for this activity now!  I am exhausted!  And to be perfectly fair, I was not even capable of posting without stirrups so all I did was sitting trot and cantering (with lots of walk breaks in between!).  I think that it will definitely be a good exercise to incorporate into my weekly routine so I think that Thursdays are going to become my one ride a week without stirrups since it's always a shorter ride anyway, and then I will just do a bit of stirrupless work on the other days (depending on how much pain I am in every day afterwards).

Hello, Handsome
Because my ride was more me-focused instead of Walker-focused, I decided to do a little bit of groundwork/free lunging/join-up with the little bugger after I was done riding.  I did a little impromptu showmanship work with him while he was still tacked, but he was getting pretty lazy.  I decided to untack him and free lunge him (without his halter or anything - good thing I trust him!).  We have a bunch of hay in our arena down at one end, so the exercise quickly became an exercise in moving his feet, making him change directions, and most importantly, trying to keep him away from the hay pile.  I would try to keep him down at the other end of the arena, and when he was cantering along the rail, I would get him to change directions a billion times so that he could never make it back to the hay.  This perturbed him to no end, and so he would try to dodge me and the lunge whip at a rocket ship speed, galloping like a wild thing down the rail to get past me before I could get in front of him with the whip.  I wish I had caught all this on camera because it was pretty hilarious, but after about 5 - 10 minutes, he puffed a big breath of air and then trotted over to me defeated.  After that, he was more than willing to let me be the leader, and I walked him around the arena without a lead line for a few minutes before I took him down to his stall for supper.  Once again, thank god I trust him, because I didn't put his bridle back on.  I just walked him down the hall halter-less and bridle-less to his stall.  Like any horse, he's more than willing to let you be his leader if you earn it, but he'd much rather be the boss than you!

My barn owner stopped by while I was getting Walker's supper, and she complimented me again on the progress Walker has made, especially with regards to his physique.  As I've said before, I often think that she doesn't have that much faith in me (for whatever reason), so I appreciate every little compliment I get from her!

Unfortunately, with all this warm weather we've been getting - well, relatively warm weather anyway - the horses haven't been getting outside.  Warm weather in the winter is not a good thing.  It melts the snow, and when the temperature inevitably drops again, it freezes into ice.  There is a nice sheet of ice lying in wait underneath the snow everywhere around the barn, and apparently one of the other barns in our area had to put a horse down this week who had slipped on the ice.  :S  Needless to say, I'd rather Walker be safe and cooped up than dangerous and free.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Argh

Sorry for the nasty picture but I felt the
need to share my pain
I had a bad ride today.  I shouldn't complain because Walker wasn't bad or anything, but I just felt like I had a bad ride.  I have resigned myself to hating the d-ring snaffle bit.  As you can see from the picture, I rubbed my finger raw trying to get Walker into a frame.  My reins are also rubber so that didn't help. :( I talked to my trainer about it briefly, and she says that when she uses a bit like that on her horse trained like Walker, it is absolutely useless.  And she doesn't think that a French link will be any better, although she did tell me that it never hurts to try.  So I'm pretty sure I'm going to use two bridles now - one for jumping and one for the flat.  This way, I can get over the fact that it is a gong show in that bit because we'll be jumping so I won't care as much about putting him in a frame, and we will use the other bridle and bit for our flat work.  I'm considering buying a new bit anyway.  I'm thinking something like a slow twist with d-rings.  I have a full cheek slow twist that I haven't tried yet, but I don't know what I think about full cheek anything.  I would just like to try something different in the flat bridle to see if I can improve on what we have going on, but if not, I'll probably just go back to the bit I was using before.

I was also frustrated with our ride because of how out of shape I'm in.  It's bad enough when I'm using that disaster bit and practically wrenching Walker's mouth around because he won't listen to me (and feeling like a bad rider/horsemom for doing so), but he also wears me out.  When I rode my friend A's horse, I had so much fun because when I asked her to canter, I only had to ask once and she was like a rocket ship.  I cantered for circles and circles and circles, and I couldn't understand how my friend could possibly get winded on a horse like that.  This is because I have Walker who is SO LAZY.  It's bad enough that I'm out of shape in general, but Walker also requires so much more leg and constant leg and added reinforcements all around.  He is not a forward horse to say the least, and in fact, when he is teetering on the crazy side, I usually have a more enjoyable ride because I don't have to work as hard!  Today I did an exercise where I cantered for 5 circles, trotted for 5 circles, changed directions to repeat, and then went down to 4 and then 3 and so on.  Let's just say that I never made it to 1, and considering the tiny size of our circles, I am quite ashamed.

Since I got Walker 9 months ago, I have packed on the muscle and got into shape like nobody's business, but there's still a long way to go.  I've been trying to figure out a way that I can get in shape outside of the barn but I'm at a loss.  I'm really not a gym kind of person.  I think I've only ever been to a gym maybe 6 times in my entire life even though I've had free gym memberships at every university I've attended!  If I didn't think that I would slip on the ice and break my leg, I would try jogging outside, but instead I'm cooped up in my apartment and the neighbours below me don't seem to like me running in circles through my kitchen and living room.  I would like to try lifting weights as well, but I have no money to actually buy them.  Even if I could convince myself to go to the gym, I don't actually have time because the time I do have, I spend going to the barn. :S  It's quite ironic really.  Only in this sport do the "athletes" feel the need to get fit before they get fit!  What do you guys do to keep in shape for your horses?

So with the bit being a disaster, me wrenching around and flailing in the saddle to try and make it work, rubbing my finger down to the bone, and generally feeling exhausted like a 90 year old on a horse, it wasn't the best day I've had at the barn.

I also tried to get some conformation shots of Walker to check his weight loss/condition but he did not want to participate.  Because I was already angry about our ride, we had a little lesson in ground tying where he seriously regretted not listening to me when I asked him to, especially since I took him away from his supper to do it.  Luckily, he's a smart little bugger, and after about 5 minutes, I was able to put him in the arena untied and leave the arena without him moving.  He appreciated his hay, grain, alfafa and apples all the more after that!  Yes, I may have overdone it on the treats at feeding time!

Starting to walk away from me - not cool
Message received
"I'm sorry.  I'm sorry.  I'm sorry.  Now can I have supper?"
Unfortunately, now that I'm looking at the pictures, it's hard to tell that he has lost weight.  Oh well.  It's so hard to get an accurate representation of their build and all in the Winter when they have a Winter coat.  It's more perceptible in person, or at least it is for me.

You can tell that he still has a belly, but not nearly as much so as before
Comparison from August - I realize it's harder to tell the difference
since he's shiny here, doesn't have a winter's coat, and there's better light

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Disaster Bit, Round Two

Today I went out to the barn to deworm Walker and get a ride in before visiting M and Lark at their new barn.  I've never actually dewormed Walker before because my barn owner usually does it for us all, but I wanted to do it myself in case my new barn doesn't offer that service.  Walker is losing weight, and according to my barn owner, it's because he's replacing fat with muscle.  When I weighed him a couple months ago, he was closer to 1000 lbs, but today he was 960 lbs.  I'm always so conflicted about his weight.  I like him plump and fat.  It's definitely a quarter horse thing, but of course I want him healthy, muscley and toned.  My biggest concern is always that he's not getting enough to eat, which is probably me just being delusional since it's true that he's probably losing weight from all the work he does, not from being underfed. Just another over-worried horse mom!

Anyway, I rode Walker in the d-ring snaffle bit again today and although he was less forward, I still couldn't get him in a good frame.  My barn owner said that she wouldn't be surprised if I wasn't able to get his head into position in that bit just because of his training and blah blah blah.  She is the exact opposite from my instructor.  My instructor is a big fan of  gentler bits, and my barn owner is a big fan of harsher bits.  It's merely a discipline preference since my instructor has a jumping and dressage background, and my barn owner has a quarter horse/Western background where you pretty much don't ride a horse unless it's in some ungodly long shank bit.  My friend, A, has a French link bit that she doesn't want though, so I think I'm going to buy that off her and see if I can make that work better.  I realize that you're supposed to use seat as well as hands to get a good frame, but it's just very difficult to take a horse used to something so harsh and expect similar results from something so gentle.  I'm pretty sure that every time I put the d-ring on, Walker thinks he's on vacation and can do whatever he wants.  I just feel like I have no control!  And also, I think I do more damage in the d-ring just because he forces me to be so much more aggressive with my hands in order to drive him into a frame.  I just have to find that happy medium!

Other than that, I went and checked out M`s new stable.  I think I mentioned in my last post that I had the opportunity to read the nasty emails exchanged between M and my barn owner, and after that day, I was pretty much convinced to move to this barn.  However, I had a good ride with my instructor on Wednesday which calmed me down, and now that horses are getting turned again so my concerns are quickly dissipating.  This barn that M is at is pretty nice.  The indoor is much larger than ours, which isn`t hard to do, and the horses get LOTS to eat.  They`re fed three times a day, and they get lots of turnout.  However, the paddocks aren`t very big, although I think that there are bigger ones around front that are simply impassible right now because of the snow.  The barn is also not heated.  I shouldn`t be such a big baby about that since I never had a heated barn before, but you really get used to it once you have it!  It seems like a great place for M and Lark, and M has already found a pretty eager and experienced kid to ride Lark on the days that she isn`t able to get out to the barn.  They also have a plan to teach Lark some manners, and the barn is mostly dressage and jumping as opposed to our barn which is so rooted in the quarter horse world it`s unbelievable.  Lark, who is a Canadian warmblood and has a background in dressage, is probably much better suited there.  I probably would`ve been out of my league!

Anyway, Walker is getting Sunday off uninentionally.  Apparently there are makeup lessons all afternoon in the indoor arena, and I don`t have time to go out any other time tomorrow.  Unfortunately he is getting Sunday and Monday off even though he already had two days off in a row this week AND I missed Friday. He seemed more than content chilling out in the paddocks with his friends though so I`m not going to worry too much about it!

Friday, 11 January 2013

Second First Jump Lesson

I'm a little slow at writing this post but it just seems like the last couple of days ran away with me.

On Wednesday, I had my second first jump lesson.  Although Sunday was my first jump lesson ever, I consider Wednesday night my first real jump lesson, especially since on Sunday I had simply dropped in on a jump lesson designed for people who already jump.  When I led Walker down the hall in my English gear, my instructor (who has a h/j and dressage background) pretty much lit up, and when I told her that I wanted to jump, she was pretty excited.  Our lesson even ended up running late because she had so many plans for me!  I even convinced H to jump in the lesson, although she was nervous.  I don't know why she was nervous though because she has jumped before.  Apparently it was a few years ago on a horse who was an old jumping pro, as opposed to the horse she rides now (Ash) who has a Western background like Walker.  Ash was actually pretty good at it.  Despite his training, he's pretty forward and has a lot of suspension.  In fact,  he's so bouncy that my trainer rarely lets the younger kids ride him because she's afraid that they're simply going to fly off when he starts trotting.  Anyway, my instructor asked us to trot into the crossrail, but Ash was so excited that he cantered in each time.  Once H got going, she felt much better.

As for Walker, he did pretty good too.  Although at one point, my instructor said, "If he goes any slower, he's going to take the whole jump down with him!"  Yeah, I know.  I'm working on it.  The crossrail she set up was in fact much smaller than the crossrails we did on Sunday and which I play around with on my own.  It felt much better though because my instructor actually took the time to make sure I was going into the jump in the correct position, as opposed to Sunday when my trainer pretty much just pointed me to three jumps and said "try it".  I'd say my two biggest issues were trying to keep my shoulders back (same story, different day) and not leaning forward too far.  According to my instructor, that is a tall person problem (she is like 5 feet tall and I am not!).  I'm pretty excited that I'm finally getting some instruction in jumping and that I've convinced H and potentially the other girl in my lesson to start jumping too.  My instructor is also clearly excited that we are doing something she's actually interested in, and she seems to have big plans for me.  She kept talking about the summer and doing a crossrail class in the shows.  Obviously she forgot that I'm switching barns when I move. :S  I'm hoping that I will be able to trailer back for some of the shows though because I'd really like to try some crossrail classes, especially if my instructor thinks she can get us to that level.

It was actually a great end to an otherwise horrible day, whose highlights included getting an eviction notice from my landlord and reading some pretty nasty emails exchanged between my barn owner and M which brought me up in the content.  :S  Luckily, the eviction notice was simply a misunderstanding about the rent that I have since resolved, but the emails were not so fun.  I was talking back and forth with M about going to visit her and Lark at her new barn this weekend, and she told me that my barn owner had sent her some angry emails.  She forwarded me the emails and I was less than impressed that she had drug me into the conversation (along with other people at the barn) to try to justify some of her actions and explain away M's complaints.  M went out on a limb for me and asked the new barn owner if I could have one of the empty stalls at her new barn, but unfortunately I can't afford the extra rent and my current barn owner is my connection with my new barn in the city I'm moving to.  Unfortunately, I don't entirely trust her not to screw me out of there, especially since he only took me because she recommended me.  As I've said before, I don't have nearly as many issues with my barn owner that M had, but I was pretty upset after reading the emails.  At the time, I seriously considered taking M up on her offer to go with her.  My instructor's great lesson really calmed me down and reminded me that I'm sure I can put in a few more months and avoid the drama.

My instructor also made me feel really good because she told me that I was doing a great job with Walker.  She said that he wasn't easy, and most people who had him as a first horse would have given up on him long ago.  I felt pretty good after that!

One of my errands today: annual vet checkup for the other man in my life
Thursday I was only out at the barn for a short period of time, but I switched Walker's bit from the kimberwick to a regular D-ring with a jointed mouthpiece.  That was the disaster bit that I used on him in the summer for maybe two days before I realized that it was, well, a disaster.  I really hoped that it would be better in the indoor arena with literally nowhere for him to run, but I'm not so sure.  He was definitely more forward, which my instructor will love, but it was infinitely harder to get his head into a frame and keep it there.  I only switched bits because my instructor thought it would be a better option to learn to jump in, but I might have to shop around for something else.  D's horse is a lot like Walker in training and she uses a French link instead of the one I'm using now because she said that she had the same problem.  I may give that a try and see if I can get the best of both worlds - forward but packaged.

Unfortunately, I had so many errands to do today that I never made it to the barn, but I'm going out tomorrow.  I'm also going to visit Lark's new home tomorrow so I'll be interested to see what this place is like.  From M's emails, it sounds like a nice place.



Sunday, 6 January 2013

First Jump Lesson

Walker and I had our very first jump lesson today.  I'm sure that to anyone watching, including the other riders, it was hilarious with me all over the place, but it actually felt really good.  First of all, even though I've dabbled with jumps before, I've never actually had an official jump lesson - not on Walker or any other horse.  So I was super ecstatic to get some instruction.  Unfortunately, the exercise was really hard, and my trainer even said that normally she would start out much easier but because I was doing a makeup lesson with girls who already jump, instead of running around switching jumps, she just asked me to try it anyway.  She pretty much said that she was throwing me into the thick of things, and I definitely agree with her!

The exercise was like this:  There were three crossrails, one on each long end and one on the short end so that you had to keep your horse bent and turning around the jumps.  I only did it at a trot of course, although Walker broke into a lope a couple of times and I just let him.  I know I have complained about the size of my indoor arena before, but it makes the world of difference with a course like this because there would literally have been maybe 2 canter strides (at least quarter horse strides) between each jump on a turn for someone like me who hasn't even been taught how to jump straight!  I have to give Walker credit though.  My instructor said that he didn't seem like the type of horse who would be "eager" to jump but that he was more than "willing" to jump.  In fact, because I had a really hard time turning him fast enough to hit the centre of the jumps, we were literally jumping them sometimes on the side where it's higher instead of the middle.  But he never refused once and he never gave up.  Considering the flailing going on on his back with me trying to push him faster, keep him halfways decently centred, and trying to tighten up those stupid reins, he was a pretty good boy!  

I actually intended to ride Western in the lesson but one of the girls conned me into riding English.  I didn't have my good English boots with me, but I had a really cheap pair in the back seat of the car (you know, those $50 rubber boots with a heel).  I borrowed a pair of English spurs and changed his tack at the last minute.  Some of the girls in the lesson actually ride in cowboy boots with Western spurs, but I figured that I would just end up jabbing him with the spurs when I jumped if I tried that.  They're more coordinated than I am!  The only problem with the little English spurs is that I got winded fast, and when we were working on cantering earlier in the lesson, I could feel how hot my face was.  I was pretty much panting, and Walker was loving it that I had to work to keep him going.  I'm not sure, but I think he may have won the battle for whose fitter.

Despite my complete lack of jumping form/position/ability, it was a great lesson!  I can't wait to start doing it in my own lessons.  Now that I've done it once, I'm pretty sure that I will start to beg my instructor to let me do it more often.  My trainer also complimented Walker on his form earlier in the ride before we were jumping.  She said that he had a great head position and that he would look really good in some English classes this summer if I could get him to go like that all the time.  I was pretty proud, but I know that it was all because of the clinic.  The clinician really helped me get a handle on Walker's form and my own position.  He pretty much told me things that my instructor and trainer have been telling me for months, but for whatever reason, he just got through to me better.  I'm so glad that I did it.  Our rides have been infinitely better.

Walker gets Monday off like usual and Tuesday off because I have an appointment.  Then I have my lesson on Wednesday. :) Until then, I'll be dreaming of jumping.


Thursday, 3 January 2013

Herb Best Clinic

It's been a whirlwind two days, and no, I don't have any pictures. :S  The clinic was a wonderful experience, and I'm sure it would have been even more wonderful if I wasn't as sick as a dog.  Unfortunately, I started to feel under the weather the day before the clinic started, and by the time Wednesday rolled around, I was beyond nauseous.  I rode at 9:00 in the morning and 1:00 in the afternoon on Wednesday, and when I got home around 3:00, I slept from then until 5:00.  I had supper, forced myself to stay up until 10:00, and then went back to bed.  Unfortunately, when I woke up this morning, I was still super sick, and so I ended up skipping my morning ride in the clinic.  Even though I'm super disappointed that I missed out, I felt so much better for the afternoon ride.  I think it really did my body good to just have a bit more sleep and medication.

In general, Walker was pretty good for the clinic.  Mind you, when I say "pretty good", I mean it was Walker, not Bruce, so I didn't have an uncontrollable monster trying to run around the arena.  However, Walker did some major bucking during the clinic, and I learned that he doesn't like ponies.  I was paired with a little girl and her pony for all of our rides, and a couple times, when Walker got close to her, he actually kicked out at them.  Oops.  Since Walker is generally the most sociable horse I've ever met, I take this as his not-so-subtle hint that he doesn't like ponies.  In truth, Walker hasn't bucked with me on him for a while, so I'm not sure why he decided to buck in the clinic.  Herb thinks that I may be gripping too much with my knee/inside leg and thus going against his motion.  I'm not entirely sure about this since he also bucked when Herb got on him, and obviously Herb doesn't grip.  Oh well, like I said, it was more of a fluke than anything else - except for the pony-hate kicks, which were obviously intentional on Walker's behalf.

Herb actually rode Walker twice during the clinic.  He got on him the first day, just to see what kind of horse he was dealing with.  Walker was less than impressed, and he reared.  Then, this morning, when I missed the first ride, Herb got on Walker again, and he also put another girl on Walker.  I was not exactly happy that he got the other girl on him, mainly because I had only given my barn owner permission for Herb to get on him, and also because this other girl is the favorite of the barn, if you know what I mean.  She could burn it to the ground and they'd still love her.  I know that some of the kids complain about favoritism with her, and frankly I was mostly upset because I didn't give my permission and I also didn't want the star pupil to make Walker go perfectly.  I know that sounds petty and stupid, but I've often had the feeling that my barn owner doesn't have a lot of faith in my riding, and so it would have been just my luck if Walker would have been an angel for her and made me look even worse.  Luckily, he did the same things with her as he does with me, and she wasn't on for long anyway.  I was mad initially, but I got over it because I know that it was Herb that asked her to get on.  He's the clinician, and he probably thought that my barn owner got permission for that as well since she had been the one to suggest that he pull Walker out and ride him at all.

In general, we talked in the clinic about a bunch of different things with my riding.  I got yelled at perpetually for not sitting up straight (shocker) and on the first day especially for not riding into the corners.  These weren't a surprise to me, but I did learn some things that I never knew.  For instance, since I was riding Western with a Western trainer, we did things very differently than I do with my English instructor.  I had to ride with my inside rein at least as high, if not higher, than the horn on the saddle, and the outside rein long and low back by my thigh.  Apparently that's a Western training stance, and you're also not supposed to thread the reins between your pinkie and ring finger in Western.  I honestly never knew that before.  I guess your thumb and index finger are supposed to have the greatest grip, and the other three fingers are gently holding the reins, squeezing only every so often.  I could get over the hand stance since I've done that before with my trainer, but the hand thing took some getting used to.  I know that my English instructor is going to murder me next Wednesday.  She has been trying her hardest to get me to stop riding so Western just to have all her hard work undone in two days.

Other than those things, he really tried to help me package Walker up.  We worked on head stance the entire time, and everyone would be yelled at if the nose went out or head went up even an inch.  This really helped with Walker's canter though, and I had one really good moment where I felt very controlled and packaged up at the canter.  He also pretty much told me that my rear end wasn't muscular enough and that I really need to shove my seat into my saddle more.  I also grip with my knees apparently.  We had about five disastrous minutes of stirrup-less trot work.  I know that most of you don't ride Western, but I dare you to try to find a good place to put your feet when your stupid Western stirrups are down and smacking you in the leg while you're trying to get your slow horse to pick up the pace to even have a chance of propelling your body in the air without stirrups.  I had no idea where to put my knees since the bars and horn on the saddle were in the road, and I pretty much just flopped around until he said stop.  And then we laughed about how disastrous that was.  Other than that, there was a lot of discussion about speed.  I would get yelled at if I passed at the jog (no one was allowed to pass at the jog  or walk at all because you're supposed to keep your horse going slow), but then when we were trotting, I got yelled at because the pony was faster than us!  On this point, the girl who rode Walker and I both agreed that Walker likes to try to break into a lope instead of fast trot, and so we have a lot of work to do on that point.

Then, as though the clinic weren't enough, there was a major meltdown between my trainer, the barn owner, M (who owns Lark) and M's mother. M's mother got banned from the barn, and M got 30 days to find a new barn. It all went down because M and her mother were complaining about the no turnout, the stalls (which I personally only find dirty because the horses are in - horses are dirty, otherwise they're fine), and other things. M's mother tried to drag me and another girl into it, and I really don't know where I stand now with my trainer - although I managed to clear things up with my barn owner. I mean, don't get me wrong, I am unhappy about the no turnout issue, but we're all doing what we can to make things work. It's been an unfortunate Winter, and weather is mostly to blame for that. I still think something needs to be done, but other than that, I don't have any serious issues with the barn. I really can't afford to burn bridges with my barn owner anyway - I have nowhere else to go and she's my contact with the new barn I'm going to in May.  I felt bad for the other girl who was there with us during the screaming match because she's only 13 years old and kids shouldn't have to be a part of that.  I pretty much shooed her away, and the two of us went and waited quietly until all was said and done.  :S  I'm too old for drama.

All in all, with my weird flu-like sickness, the intense riding, and the barn fight that went down, it has been quite the two days!  Also, to exacerbate everything, it was -20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit) both days, and we're getting this cold snap for at least a week or so.  Tomorrow I'm giving the pony a day off because he was slightly lame after the farrier came and also because he had a hard couple days of riding.  He deserves a break, as do I!