Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Equine Fitness (and Rider Pain)

Although this will probably be my last post before I leave for Italy tomorrow, I don't actually have anything big to say.  Sunday was the last day that I made it to the barn as this week has been crazy for me trying to prepare to leave and get all my schoolwork done.  I do have my lesson tonight, and it will probably be a jump lesson so hopefully we can improve a little bit on my position over crossrails.  I thought I had it last week (or at least my instructor led me to believe that I was improving!) but after watching the video I took of myself over the weekend, I obviously just resort to my bad habits when I am not being supervised by someone!

On the weekend when Walker was lame, I talked to one of the kids at the barn about stretches.  She suggested I pick up a copy of this book and I'm quite impressed.  There are lots of great stretches in the book for before, after and during the ride, and the book also explains various sweat and muscle patterns to help you better determine if your horse is in shape and using himself correctly.  I'm excited to be able to incorporate some of it all into my rides when I get back from my trip.

Other than that, I am in serious pain.  Although my chest cold generally cleared up about a week ago, the cough never entirely went away.  Unfortunately, I started to get a serious pain in my chest and so I spent 7 1/2 hours at the emergency room Tuesday night waiting to find out what was wrong.  The doctor told me that he thinks I pulled/tore a muscle around my lungs from all the coughing, but unfortunately, the only thing he could recommend was taking advil as often as the bottle recommends.  :(  Needless to say, I don't think the lesson is going to be a very good one.  Either I am going to be in pain from all the movement and twisting and turning, or else I am going to start coughing in the dusty cold air again (and coughing always results in the most pain).  So it is very possible that I won't actually make it through the entire lesson or else that I will decide not to jump.

The only reason I'm going is because I'm going to miss next Wednesday because of my trip, and the last time I saw him was on Sunday.  If I skip tonight, he probably won't get lunged or ridden by D until the weekend, meaning that he will have had an entire week off, and to make matters worse, I won't get to see him for over 2 weeks!  I don't think I can leave the country without at least one more kiss on that soft nose of his!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

When in Rome

Unfortunately, Walker was lame yesterday and today.  He went outside yesterday morning, and I think that he was so excited that he ended up hurting himself.  I decided to stop riding when I felt it because Walker is generally not a faker, or at least he hasn't pulled that on me yet.  I thought he would be better today, but he was still feeling off in his left front.  I decided to ride him for a half hour anyway to see if he would work himself out of it.  He didn't.  So after we had trotted and cantered for just a little bit, I ended up putting him away.

I was pretty disappointed especially since this weekend was supposed to be my last rides (other than my lesson on Wednesday) before March Break.

Because I'm going to Italy for March Break!  I'm very excited, and although I'm sad to leave my baby behind, it should be a lot of fun.  I will be checking my blog and other blogs regularly (probably), and hopefully I will have some nice pictures to post.

Gracie - one of the school ponies who needs exercise
While I'm gone, D is going to look after Walker for me.  She's going to lunge him or ride him every other day to make sure that he gets his exercise.  It turns out that D is going to be quite busy over March Break.  With our trainer pregnant, our barn owner needs a few more people to help out with riding some of the school horses.  Apparently some of them have been quite crazy in lessons and simply require a little more consistent work.  There are 3 of them that need to be ridden 5 days a week, so I think I'm going to offer to help out after I get back.  However, over March Break, D will be riding 7 horses all week!  She will have her own horse, Starr, as well as Walker and another boarder's horse, Izzy, since Izzy's owner is also going on vacation.  She is going to be riding the 3 school horses, and my trainer also wants her to put a few miles on another horse that they are trying to sell.  She should be thoroughly exhausted!

Hopefully Walker will be good for our jump lesson on Wednesday.  I don't want to jump him if he's still a little lame, but I think he should work himself out of it by then.

Walker undoing the knots that are keeping him from freedom

Friday, 22 February 2013

Now We're Cookin'

Walker's mane - I was hoping it would be long and flowy before Spring
so that I could cut it and know what his wild side looked like.
Instead, it's just scraggly and the scissors will be coming out soon
I didn't go out to the barn on Thursday like I normally do because I really had to get a handle on the state of my apartment.  I was sick all last week and busy all this week.  There was no food to speak of, everything was dirty, and I really just had to have a night to sit down and organize my life.

Today I decided that we would work on my jump position.  After I warmed him up a little bit, we set up some crossrails and went over them a couple of times.  Then, for my own pleasure, I decided to see if Walker could/would jump a 2 foot vertical.  Can I just say that my horse is a saint?  The first time we went over it, I definitely caught him in the mouth, added no extra leg, and was pretty much an uncoordinated monkey on his back.  He asserted his opinion of this by stopping the next two times I asked him to try it.  Luckily, they were by no means "dirty" stops - more like "hell no, you crazy" stops.  Then the last time, he graced me with a nice little jump and I tried to reciprocate by, you know, being more helpful.

I wish his body wasn't swung away from me, otherwise it would've
 made a better conformation shot
I have to say that I was pretty proud of him.  And now that I know that he can/will jump that high, I have something to work towards, and we can go back to our crossrails!  He definitely knocked the poles each time, but he was pretty exhausted by then.  I have faith that even if he never has the talent to do a full course at that height, he may be able to jump a little higher at least once or twice in a row (dare I say, 2'6?).  But I digress.

I took some video of our jumping today, and I managed to upload it online.  Fair warning though: I don't know why, but youtube added a green streak along the bottom of the video which is wildly distracting.  I also suggest turning the sound off.  I couldn't figure out how to do that on my own, but all you will hear in the background is hooves and my occasional lung-hacking cough.  For the record, my video camera works fine.  It's my lovely dying laptop which can't seem to handle videos of any kind.  At least I got it uploaded - for the first time ever!  Sigh.

Can't pull a fast one on Walker!
He always has to be the centre of attention.  And he usually is
Anyway, if you can manage to bear through the video (really, the green is the most distracting thing in the world), you will see at the beginning how he likes to pick up a canter closer to the jumps, but as he grows tired, he stops doing that.  At the end of the video, he just trots them.  This is pretty much how our lessons go as well.  I didn't set up any trot poles today because I wanted to work on other things, but I definitely think I'm going to start incorporating more poles before the jumps to see if I can stop him from doing this.

Also, keep in mind that I have had approximately 3-4 official jump lessons, and my position/form is trash.  I'm sure another thing you will notice is how low Walker's head is.  My instructor is afraid that jumping will undo his Western Pleasure training, but I don't see that happening anytime soon.  It doesn't seem to bother him to trot/canter into the jump hanging his head low, and I can't seem to convince him that this is not a good idea.  You should also know that this is the highest his head is ever at.  Oh well.  At least he's trying.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Temperature Rising

We were supposed to get a snowstorm yesterday, but for whatever reason, I guess it decided to bounce over us. I skipped my last class anyway because it kept threatening freezing rain. I decided to run out to the barn in the afternoon to lunge Walker in anticipation of him being a crazy man in the lesson. After all, the last time I officially rode him was Friday, even though I did free lunge him on Sunday.

Walker was in a pretty bad mood for that. He actually turned on the lunge line so that his butt was facing me as though he were going to kick out at me! Ummm. Excuse me. In what universe did you think that was ok! He's never done anything like that before, but he only did it once! I made him regret it immediately.

When I came back for my lesson, it ended up being just two of us. Walker wasn't hyper at all and frankly didn't need to be lunged. The warm temperatures seemed to make him lazy and he made me work for every step. Every so often, he'd get a little burst of energy and try to canter and then think better of it and slow to a walk. In the lesson we worked on turns on the haunches and turns on the forehand (kind of).

We weren't going to jump because snow was coming off the roof, but Walker isn't very spooky and the temperatures were dropping and solving that problem. Walker was much straighter in his jumping today but my position still has a lot to be desired. Either I am bending too far forward (and my legs are going back), or I'm taking my leg off when I should be applying it. Walker is also rushing the jumps a little bit. He's still trying to get his balance, and for whatever reason, he didn't want to trot the jump, only canter it. I think this is my fault because I let him canter the jumps when I practice on my own time, but my instructor is afraid that it will become a bad habit, so I'm going to have to work on keeping his pace consistent to the jump. I find it difficult because he'll have a nice speed and then we round the corner and he slows down so I apply leg and he sees the jump and doesn't go back up to a nice trot, he just bursts into a canter and by then it's too late to try and stop him. I appreciate his enthusiasm. I just don't want him to start rushing fences early on. I'm going to have to lay down the law!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Lay With Me

Picture proof, courtesy of D
I caught Walker laying down in his stall today.  For the first time ever.  Yeah, that's right.  In the entire 11 months I've had him, I have never seen him laying down - not in his stall, not in the paddock, never.  The other day I walked in and I know he was laying down because I heard him get up, but I never actually saw it.

Today, however, he was laying down in his stall and let me go in with him.  He was kind of moaning and groaning a little bit, but he put his head in my lap and let me give him lots of love.  It was pretty cute.  Other than the moaning and groaning of course which worried me a little bit.  So after I reveled in the moment, I made him get up just to satisfy me that he wasn't sick.

I was still feeling sick again today so I didn't plan to ride.  D and J were there (whose horses I rode earlier in the week), and so we decided to turn them out together in the indoor arena.  This may have been a bad idea because all though all three of them have been turned out together before and Walker and Starr are turned out together regularly, Walker was clearly in a bad mood.  There was some hay in the arena and he refused to share with the other two, which caused a mass upheaval.  We three were actually in the arena with them and had to crawl up on top of the therapeutic mounting block to stay out of the way of flying hooves and galloping horses.  I'm sure they get into arguments like that all the time, but usually Walker is the friendliest horse ever.  I've actually never seen him kick another horse, let alone find any kick marks on his body.  We managed to split them up, and that was that.  It was probably the dynamic of three horses in a small enclosed space in the middle of a blizzard that set them off.

After that, we set up the arena so that we could free lunge.  I didn't do much of that with Walker because it turned out that in his argument with the other horses, he crashed into a bunch of jump standards and had a little cut on his leg.  I let him run for a little bit but then I decided to clean it out and put some ointment on it.  Mommy to the rescue!

Anyway, you know how when you free lunge a horse, they will eventually come to you in the middle and follow you around.  Well, when I do this with Walker, he will follow me no problem, but only at a walk.  D can get Starr to follow her at a trot, but Walker is simply too lazy.  Tabu, on the other hand, will follow J at a canter.  I mean, she can run as fast as she can around the arena and he will canter after her.  He will canter after anyone, and when we discovered this, we played Tag with Tabu which was both fun and terrifying.  There's nothing like having a horse right behind you going full speed to make you question your sanity!

Friday, 15 February 2013

Trying to be on the mend

This is what he does within seconds of me attaching
one crosstie: smell everything in his vicinity
So in some ways I am feeling much better but in others I am still pretty under the weather.  I went out to the barn today anyway, even though I knew that the dust and cold air would continue to irritate my nasty cough, but I only rode for 35 minutes because of it.

We didn't do too much because I kept stopping to hack up a lung, but I did work on some halt to canter transitions which weren't that bad, after he got the silliness out of his system (i.e. after he stopped trying to see how much trotting he could get away with instead).  We didn't really do that much cantering because he wasn't feeling particularly frisky, and I continue to feel so wore down from the week.  We did maybe a couple circles in each direction, a couple half circles when we were doing the transitions, and a few loose rein circles.  Nothing to write home about.

Even though I was still feeling yucky, I decided to throw up a crossrail.  Days ago, when I thought I would be better for today, I was going to put up two crossrails to practice with, but since I barely had any energy, I just kept it to one.  We trotted it a couple times each way, and I cantered him a few times as well.  For the first time ever, he actually took the jump from a long spot (or this is what I assume happened since no one was around to explain it to me!) and I now understand why it is a good thing to learn distances.  Poor patient pony may have got jabbed in the mouth on that one.  But in my defense, up until now, if he didn't think he could make it with as little effort as possible, he would just break into a trot and go over it so I really wasn't expecting him to go for it.  In a way, I guess it means he's warming up to the idea of jumping.  He's starting to feel braver!

Because I only rode for a short amount of time, I decided to turn him out in a little paddock with one of the horses that has the heaves and is currently living outside to manage it.  The horses didn't get outside today simply because my trainer had an appointment and was rushed for time, but there was no reason that he couldn't go socialize.  While he made friends, I did part of the chores so that there would be less to do when my trainer's husband arrived to feed.

Also, as you can see from the photo above, Walker now has mismatched fuzzies.  I don't know if any of you use fuzzies on your halters, but I find that the halter rubs Walker without them.  He had lovely bright blue ones but he must have got a little rough with the other horses because he broke 2/3 of them.  My friend got him a green halter for Christmas so we got green fuzzies to match it.  Unfortunately, it turns out that the halter doesn't fit (even though it's horse sized and Walker is by no means a giant).  So I had to improvise and use the two green fuzzies with the blue one.  After all, I couldn't put three green fuzzies on a burgundy/red halter.  Christmas is over. :P

Well, hello there, handsome.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Musical Ponies

Today I am finally starting to feel better, although I'll be the first to admit that the dusty arena and cold air did not do my lungs any good! I didn't go to my lesson last night, which turned out to be a good thing because I slept for most of the evening anyway. Since being at the barn today, my cough has been pretty constant which is unfortunate, but I'm hoping it will wear down.

Today was a pretty great day other than my own sickness. I got nothing of value accomplished with Walker, especially since I was still pretty physically exhausted BUT I did get to ride two other horses today! Yay for pony swapping!

The first horse, Starr, is D's horse and she is also Walker's girlfriend. What a beautiful animal! She's so well behaved and puts her head into a perfect frame without ever being asked. Yeah. Talk about a dream. Her gaits are VERY different from Walker's although their training is so similar. Her jog is much slower than Walker's, and it should be slow since they're Western Pleasure horses. But she has a lot of bounce in each step whereas Walker is more floaty. Same with her canter. It was a lot of fun. D was particularly taken aback by how far Walker stretches out his neck. I can't say I blame her. Its like riding a headless horse the first few times you do it! I noticed after riding these other horses that Walker actually does have a very long neck.

The second horse I rode was Tabu. He's more of an English horse so although he was pretty lazy, once he got going, he was pretty forward (at least compared to my boy!). J, who owns Tabu, is in middle school and apparently she couldn't come to her lesson tonight, so her father came to the barn to exercise Tabu for her. Once he saw D and I riding, he just asked if one of us would hop on instead so I offered. But before all this, he decided to hop on. Let me just say that this man has never ridden a horse before, and he was visibly terrified! It was hilarious. He couldn't get him to turn, back up, or anything. When I got on him, I thought he was one of those horses that wouldn't back up so when the little bugger wouldn't listen to me, I asked him to back up pretty assertively. Umm. Turns out he backs up just find because the poor horse just about tripped over himself to back up fast enough for me! Tabu is only about 5 years old, and although he's pretty complacent compared to other 5 year olds at our barn, he has picked up a couple bad habits from having an eleven year old ride him.  One of these bad habits is bucking, and he likes to throw a few kicks when J asks him to canter, mostly because she doesn't really discipline him on it.  He tried that with me once, and I'm pretty sure he regrets it. I mean really. I'm used to Walker afterall. It takes more than a little kick to the side to scare me!

All in all it was a fun afternoon, despite being there longer than my lungs cared for!  It's nice when other people trust you enough to let you ride their horses, and it was also pretty nice when Tabu misbehaved and then had that "oh oh, big mistake" moment.  It's always pretty great when you realize that other horses respect you too.  You get so used to your own horse that you forget what other horses are like.

Anyway, I have a bunch of running around to do tomorrow morning and early afternoon, but I should make it to the barn at some point.  Hopefully I'll be feeling even better and I will get to set up a few crossrails (or one crossrail... or a pole...).

Happy Valentine's Day everyone.  Hopefully you all got the lovin' you deserve!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Chest Cold

It has been a while since I've posted but I've been laid up sick for the past couple of days. I managed to get out to the barn for a quick ride on Tuesday and I'm glad I did. Walker was beyond hyper, hopping all over the place. It was good practice to get him working some small circles to calm him down for when we go back to the outdoor arena and he inevitably loses it with excitement. Other than that, it was a pretty relaxed ride because I was so sick that every time I coughed, it felt like a wildfire was raging through my lungs. I'm debating going to my lesson tonight. I've missed a bunch of school and it would probably be a good idea to stay home and rest, but I love our jump lessons so much. :( I will probably just end up staying home though. I'm clearly not getting any better and when you combine the cold air and dusty arena with my cold/flu/whatever it is, it's not a good mix.

One of the horses at the barn is also sick. He's very snotty and gross, so obviously he's on quarantine right now. He lives in the outdoor arena coincidentally which makes it easier to keep him separated from the other horses. Anyway, on Tuesday, the little girl who leases him came to see him and I told her that she couldn't touch him and then touch any of the other horses. She said that my barn owner had already told her but that she also said that she could groom him. So she clips a lead line on him and walks him down the hall past EVERY OTHER HORSE in the barn and puts him on crossties. Now, I should've stuck to my guns on that one because my barn owner freaked out at her when she came down and found him in the hall, but when this was going down, I was in an argument riding Walker and she said she had our barn owners permission. Of course, our barn owner meant she could groom him in his stall. Anyway, I felt pretty bad that it happened under my watch, but I was in no state to argue and besides, she said she had permission. Who am I to argue with our barn owner. Sigh. The good thing is that the horse doesn't have a fever and is eating well so it's probably nothing serious. All the horses are vaccinated in the barn ( except the baby!) but the vet arrived just as I was leaving to check out the horse and give the baby some vaccinations. Hopefully all is well.

Even if I don't make it to my lesson tonight, in going to try to make it to the barn tomorrow. Thursday is one of my quick rides, and there's definitely a difference between a 30 minute ride where you choose the pace and an hour long intensive lesson. But I don't want to push myself. I'd rather be better by the weekend so I can give Walker lots of attention!

Saturday, 9 February 2013


I have a hard time accepting weather warnings. They say, "blizzard". I say, "winter". That being said, I almost didn't make it out of my parking lot through the crazy 3-5 feet high snow drifts, and I was pretty sure I was never going to make it back in. Luckily, I left at the perfect time. I arrived at the barn when the plow did and I got back to my apartment shortly after the plow arrived there too.

Although Walker only had one day off, I decided to lunge him because crazy wind has a tendency to make crazy horses. He was pretty excitable on the lunge line, but not nearly as crazy as Wednesday.

There also happens to be windows at the top of our arena, and so when I arrived, half of the arena was covered in snow. Luckily, another kid arrived at the same time I did and her father was kind enough to spread the snow around the arena for us.

Today, Walker and I did a lot of canter work. I did a lot of figure eights at the canter. I would mostly halt in the middle of the figure eight and ask him to pick up the correct lead on the bend, but every so often I'd try to coax a flying lead change out of him. Not surprisingly, he was bad at picking up his stiff side from the halt, but he was much better at doing a flying lead change to his stiff lead, for whatever reason. It's good practice for me, because it really forces me to reach up underneath him. He's so smart and I'm such a creature of habit that when I ask him to canter large, I have a tendency to ask for the transition in the same spots (horrible habit!). So he picks up the canter just find because he knows what I want. I need to actually practice getting the correct position - a nice bend, good leg position, etc. - instead of relying too heavily on my horse's attention to detail. 

After that, I rode bareback for a little while and I felt like a limp noodle. It's been a while since I've ridden bareback, and Walker just felt soooo boney today. It actually hurt to canter, and it especially hurt to halt. He's always been a bit boney, but I guess I just felt particularly sensitive today. Anyway, it's a great alternative to stirrupless riding because you get the best of both worlds - no stirrups AND better balance. Well. I'm sure it does with most people, but I'm pretty sure I just looked like a hot  mess.  Note to self: pull it together when riding bareback. I'm glad I didn't videotape myself because I'm pretty sure I was flopping all over the place, legs and arms included! I guess that's what I get for taking a break from riding bareback for so long.

Anyway, Walker was in good cheer, and I also got great news yesterday. The vet says he's as fit as a fiddle. The bump on his nose will just go down with time (and already looks better), and the vet suspects that the bald spots are simply the remains of bites/scratches he acquired while playing with his friends. I'm not entirely convinced about that last one, but if the vet isn't worried, then I'm not either! According to the email I got from my barn owner though, Walker was in a "fine goofy mood" during his checkup and kept them entertained. Never a boring day!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Somebody Broke My Pony

Isn't it always the way that when one thing goes wrong, a bunch of things go wrong?

Well, on Saturday, if you recall, Walker cut his nose by head butting a nail.  On Monday when I went out to check on him, I noticed a big bump, which I decided was simply swelling and he would live.  But on Wednesday when I went out for my lesson, the bump was still there (4 days later) and so I got my barn owner to look at it.  She said that it seemed to have no fluid, no heat, and she really didn't know what was going on.  Luckily, the vet was coming to see another horse today and so she said she would coerce him into stopping by Walker's stall to check him out.

When I got home, I thought that perhaps I should get his little bald spot checked.  You see, for the past couple of weeks, Walker's skin has almost been peeling in a very little spot on his neck (on both sides in different places) and although it's still pretty small, it just keeps growing.  I would not have been so worried about that if he was outside frolicking in mud or rain or god knows what else, but he's been inside for awhile now.  So I decided to get the vet to check that out too.

"What up, human"
Today when I went out to the barn, my trainer promptly informed me that Walker was not himself this morning.  Oh great.  Apparently he was laying down, moaning and groaning, and didn't really feel like eating. In the back of my head, I was thinking, "Why the hell didn't anyone tell me this morning."  But to give my barn owner the benefit of the doubt, my trainer said that the two of them were watching him this morning and that he seemed to come around not long afterwards.  I asked if I should maybe give him the day off, but she suggested that he could probably use a little light exercise just to work out the kinks.

So I tacked him up.  When I went out to the arena, I bent over to pick up his foot to stretch out his legs.  That's when I noticed that one of his hooves had some heat in it.  I hummed and I hawed about whether I should get on, but I decided to hop on anyway.  After a few seconds, he really felt off, so I got off, threw him on the end of the lungeline, and asked him to trot around me so I could see if he was lame.  Nothing in particular stuck out so I hopped back on him, and after awhile, he seemed to be fine.  I even cantered him, but only for a couple circles in each direction.  Since he really had me nervous, he got away with a lot more than I usually let him get away with, but I didn't want to risk an argument and him really hurting himself.  When I hopped off, I checked his feet again, and no heat. :S

On top of all of that, I don't even think the vet came out to the barn today!  I was positive that my barn owner said he was coming out today, but maybe I messed up the days.  Because the bump on Walker's nose and the little bald spot aren't really pressing, it's not big deal if he's not out for a couple more days, but it sure would have been nice to have a vet around when my otherwise healthy pony was having the biggest off day he could have.

All this comes on the heels of Wednesday night's lesson where he was such a maniac just to lead into the arena that my instructor made me lunge him.  He then proceeded to buck and canter like a madman for 30 minutes straight (no stop, no trot, no walk), and I promptly held up the entire lesson.  Luckily, we're the last lesson in the evening, and the other girls were pretty nice about it.  After I was done, there was literally steam wafting off his body and he smelled like a wet dog.  Oh joy.  But we still had a jump lesson.  My instructor set up some trot poles before a crossrail to help keep the horses consistent with their trot, but I still had a horrible time keeping Walker straight going in and out.  As with everything I do, once one thing falls apart, everything falls apart and I just come undone.  At one point, I was trying so hard to keep him straight going into the jump that I stopped squeezing him with my legs, he seriously considered not jumping it, and then decided to be honest at the last minute.  I got growled for slumping my shoulders, losing leg contact, and ducking out of the jump.  Haha.  Oops.  After H went with Ash, I asked if we could try it again, and we were much better - straight on his part, better position on mine.  As with all things with Walker, he likes to fool around and push my buttons when I first ask him to do something, but then he usually comes around.

Tomorrow I can't make it to the barn because I have some appointments, but perhaps it's a good thing since Walker clearly has some horse equivalent to the 24 hour flu.  :S  I may stop out just to give him some lovin and some apples and see if he's feeling a little better.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013


Just a quick post to say that I found another cute Superbowl commercial that I like.  It's not directly horse-related, but it is in a way.  Hopefully everyone's week is off to a good start.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Zombie Apocalypse

Every week, I give Walker Monday off.  This is mainly because I think that it's good for him to be guaranteed a night off every week although he undoubtedly gets other days off depending on my schedule.  I also don't have time to go to the barn on Mondays.  I have class until late, and now that it's Winter and lessons are going on in the indoor arena, the only time I could ride would be at 9 or 10 at night, which is hard to do when it's cold and dark.

Because of this, Monday has become my day.  I don't do any schoolwork.  I don't do anything remotely taxing like laundry or housework.  I simply lay around and do nothing.  All.  Night.  Long.

When I decided to take up riding hardcore again a year or so ago, it was a November.  I had been riding in weekly lessons for a few months by then, but November rolled around and I decided to do Nanowrimo.  Because I was devoting my entire month to doing something I really wanted to do (writing), I decided November would be my month to do a lot of things I really wanted to do.  This is when I leased my first horse, Hollywood, which really jumpstarted my return to riding and my ultimate purchase of Walker.

That November was a big turning point for me because it led me to Walker, and it reminded me that I had a lot of odd hobbies that I wanted to get back into or try for the first time.

This past year has been a bit of a whirlwind, but now that it's February and it's still blazing cold, I find myself looking to continue that theme.  So I joined an archery class.

Lucky for me, it runs four weeks (thus, all of February) for one hour only on Monday nights (the only night I could really go anyway).  I had a bow and arrow when I was younger (yes, I am that cool) so I'm kind of excited to do it again.  Tonight was the first class, and I have to say that I'm really enjoying it.

On a slightly related note, my friends now think that I am ready for the Zombie Apocalypse.  (Anyone out there watch The Walking Dead?  If not, you're missing out!)  They think it's wildly handy that I have a horse and can now shoot a bow.  I'm ready!  Bring it on!

Also, I absolutely love the movie Brave, and it kind of makes me laugh how similar I am to the main character Merida.  In particular, the quote by her father mocking her:

"I don't want to get married.  I want to stay single and let my hair flow in the wind as I ride through the glen firing arrows into the sunset."

Yep.  I'd be lying if my father wouldn't say the same thing about me!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Head Butt

I decided to go to the barn on Saturday even though I was feeling kind of lazy and Walker had been off for a couple of days.  Well, he definitely wasn't off yesterday, that's for sure.  I rode with two other girls, and Walker was really forward (and kind of naughty).  He was practically chasing one of the two horses every time we got around near them, and he didn't want to walk/trot.  All he wanted to do was canter.  So I made him canter.  A lot.  But of course, he didn't want to do that either.  So then he threw some good-natured bucks my way which simply resulted in more work for him by the time I was done.  I really made him listen to me, and even though I didn't work much this week on packaging him up in a frame (since I was trying to coax some jumping speed out of him instead), I made him go in a frame yesterday to show him that he couldn't just run away with me.

This might sound really weird, but it was actually a really great ride.  Walker is much more forward with other horses in the arena, and I like him that way.  It's great to have something to work on.  When he's feeling lazy, I spend so much of my energy actually trying to coax him forward that I get exhausted when we actually start working on things.  But yesterday, since he was already feeling up, I was able to work on cantering nice little circles and controlling him with the other horses around.

That being said, we had a few not-so-pretty arguments.  When he wouldn't listen to me or slow down, I took a page out of the clinician's book and started running him into the wall/making him change directions on the wall so that he had to pay attention to me.  This was all fine and dandy until one time, I ran him into the wall (so to speak - you know what I mean), and he head-butted the wall (all on his own).  Well, when I got off him after our ride, I realized that he had a little cut on his nose.  Sure enough, there was a nail on the wall where he head butted it. :S  I felt really bad about it then but it's mostly his own fault.  Obviously I didn't run him into the wall in that way.  I wanted him to stop at the wall, change directions, pay attention, etc.  But like an idiot, he actually rammed his head into the wall full force.

Anyway, the cut is just little (more like a paper cut really), but I put some salve on it to make him feel better.  I never made it to the barn today because we got a little snowstorm, but I'm going to go out tomorrow and check on him even though I don't normally go to the barn on Mondays.  My parents came to visit today so they brought the spoiled brat an entire bag of apples.  I guess I'll have to give him a few tomorrow!

I'm sure many of you have seen this ad, but I just love it.  The little foal is kind of bad/playful the way Walker is.  I'd like to think that Walker would come running for me too, but I'm pretty sure he'd just stay where the food was!

Friday, 1 February 2013

Stiff Pony

I could figure eight over the trot set or else do
circles the size of half of the arena
Today Walker and I worked on a combination of things.  I wanted to practice cantering a pole again so I put one on the short end of the arena and really worked at keeping him in the corners without any poles to block off his approach.  But before I got to that, I set up a trot set in the middle of the arena and practiced going over them in small circles and figure eights to really get him bending and picking up his feet.

Turning/bending is our biggest problem by far.  To be honest, it is the foundation of almost all of our problems.  He is not a horse that turns easily, and when he does, he does not like to bend into it.  This makes circles difficult, corners difficult, approaching jumps difficult, etc. It drives me crazy, and unfortunately I find that I am required to use more rein than I think I should be using.  I know it's not 100% his fault, but I think we share the fault pretty evenly.  He is stiff, but in Western Pleasure, you really don't do a lot of circles, bending, etc.  On Wednesday, my instructor had us all do circles that spiraled in smaller and smaller until we were practically walking a circle only a few feet in diameter.  I was able to get Walker to do this pretty well surprisingly, but my instructor was definitely getting frustrated with the performance of one of the other Western-trained horses.  As she says (in her biased opinion, no doubt!), "Western horses: ask them to walk in a circle and they'll just give you a turn on the haunches."  Very true.  Yet, I have no doubt that some of the problem is simply that I need to use even more leg to push him around.

When we were cantering the pole, I had the same problem.  He just wasn't bending enough and some of the corners were a little dicey for us - as in, I feared for the safety of my knees.  On a better note, I was pretty impressed with the nice pace he picked up at the canter - dare I say, a hunter pace...  He did that on Wednesday too, and my instructor really wants me to get used to it.  I'm not adverse to speed, but speed can be a problem when turning is a problem.  I found that we were coming so fast at the pole, and Walker was already so stiff about turning that we simply couldn't do it cleanly.  Oh well.  He felt a little off yesterday and a bit today as well, so it's possible that he's just extra stiff these days.

After that, I set up a crossrail on the long end and left the pole on the short end for approach and exit from the jump.  I figured that it would be a good guideline - something to trot over going in or canter over going out.  His stiffness especially showed up during the jump portion of our ride because I found him almost entirely unwilling to even consider going around the corner.  As in, he wanted to jump, go straight (towards the wall) and stop.  I was literally pulling and kicking to encourage him to keep at it.  He's usually not like that, and I find when he's that defiant, he resists me by turning to the outside or at least not letting me pull him around.  So that confirmed my theory a little more that he was feeling a bit off.

"You didn't need this, did you?"
Despite that, I was pretty happy with him today.  I did a lot of bending exercises throughout the week, and it's more than possible that he's just stiff and sore from all that work.  But not to leave it on that note, I was feeling semi-ambitious after the crossrail, so I put up a vertical (!) of about 1'6".  This might not seem very high to you jumpers out there, but it's only about 6" less than where Walker is expected to cap out (according to my barn owner).  I have only ever trotted a vertical once, and I think I put it up to maybe 1', 1'3" at the max.  When I asked him to trot it, he picked up a nice brisk canter so I said what the hell, and let him do it the first time at the pace.  He was really good about it.  He didn't even nick the pole, but I made him trot it the second time just so that I didn't get him sour on verticals.  I fought my very will power not to make him do it several more times, but I'm trying to be obedient and listen to my instructor who wants me to take things slow with Walker and the jumping.  So far he actually seems to be enjoying it but I could see where he might get sour especially if we go too fast.

After I cooled him off, I hopped down to get a picture of him in front of the vertical for proof that we in fact had a vertical.  When we're done our ride, Walker likes to follow me like a puppy, but instead of walking around the jump, he decided to show me how he could go over it.  Make life difficult for yourself, Walker!
"Look mom, no hands"
All in all, a good day's work.  I will take it easy on him tomorrow and Sunday just in case he is still feeling off.  I don't want him to end up sore on me!