Thursday, 30 January 2014

Ebb and Flow

On Tuesday I spent two hours at the barn - a half hour lunging, an hour riding, and a half hour working with a feed bag.

Walker was pretty calm on the lunge line which I took as a good sign.  Consistent work is always a blessing.

My ride was not so good.  I got all caught up in the good thing I had going in my last ride and tried to push it too far.  Lately I've been noticing that his right lead canter simply isn't up to snuff - like there's a weakness there.  I kept trying to get him to push through it, so he became vocal (i.e. he threw a couple well placed bucks).  I was also trying to get him to put his head up so totally my fault - trying to work on too many things at one time and also pushing too hard.  I can always count on Walker to let me know when he's not cool with what we're doing.

Butt shot.
The only horse on the planet who continues to get fatter in Winter.
After that, I worked with the feed bag.  One of the girls at the barn was trying to get the horse she was riding to walk over a feed bag as part of the desensitization training they do in the Program.  Since Walker's only fear is bags, I decided that it probably couldn't hurt to finally introduce the concept to him.  I know, I know.  I've been lazy.  And avoiding it.

I was actually quite proud of him in one regard.  We managed to have our entire ride in the arena while this girl flipped this bag through the air and while her horse freaked out over it.  Luckily, the sound wasn't that audible and Walker doesn't really feed off the fear of other animals.  For a brief second I thought that maybe he wouldn't be afraid of the bag when I got it out, but nope.  He was not impressed.

We started out with him not wanting to be within 10 feet of it, but by the end of the half hour, I got him to stand at the edge of it and sometimes step on the corners by accident.  I consider this a win.

Meanwhile, the other girl spent an hour and a half working on this.  I kid you not.  I applaud her determination, but there comes a point when you need to give in.  That horse was not going over that bag.  I told her to quit while she was ahead, but she was of the mind that she was not "ahead" since she had gotten the horse over the bag every day this week.  

She told me that she's a firm believer in the adage that most people quit just as they're about to succeed. I disagree - at least in this circumstance.  There comes a point where you do more harm than good, at least in my lowly opinion.  And as a person with my own phobia (needles - let that be the last time that word is ever spoken on this blog), I told her straight up that if she had put me through that, she would have only made things worse.  

But to each their own.  I guess you have to know the horse you're dealing with.  If there's one thing I do not do, it's judge other horse people.  Of course, I have no problem with judging idiot non-equestrians :)

Tuesday, 28 January 2014


I once had an instructor who insisted that every time I halt my horse, I back him up.  He wanted the horses to get into the habit of rocking back on their haunches instead of falling into a sloppy halt.  That was back when I was a kid so that was all “whatever” for me, but on Sunday during my ride, I decided that this might be a good lesson for Walker.
On Sunday, I worked on being forward again with a lot of upward transitions, but this time I worked on some downward transitions to accompany them.  There was a lot of halt, back up, walk/trot/canter off, halt, back up, etc.
I used to do things like this a lot, but I was actually really impressed with Mr. “I live on my forehand”.  Most of the time, the upward transition from the halt was kind of whatever, but of course I was looking more for an immediate reaction than anything else.
Then two beautiful times when I asked for a canter, he launched into a nice, actually collected (or at the very least, connected) canter - not heavy on the forehand at all.

Don’t get me wrong.  Each time lasted for literally one stride, at which point he promptly said, “Yeah.  This is a lot of work”, but I was excited all the same. 
First of all, I wasn’t intending to work on this since my goal was just to get him to shoot off my leg like a rocket ship.  This just proves the power of transitions.
Secondly, I have only ever achieved that kind of beauty when Walker was feeling like a nutjob (and was thus extremely forward, almost uncontrollably so).  As far as I can remember, this is the only time where he was feeling normal that I have gotten him to really use his big butt in that way.
Finally, he is out of shape so I’m content with the single stride a couple of times.  I read blogs and articles about horses losing weight during the Winter and all that, but not my porker.  He’s as round as a bus and contentedly so.  He puffs like an old man when we canter and loses steam pretty fast.  But oh well, that’s what getting back to work is all about.
The moral of the story: the upward and downward transitions go hand in hand. The key to one is the other. In my humble opinion, at least.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Le Spook

Wednesday, we got a snowstorm so I didn't make it out to the barn.  Thursday is stupid dog night (and apparently my barn owner has prostituted our barn out to the dog people on Sunday nights too - as if they didn't run rampant enough!).

Friday I had every intentions of going to the barn but then got invited to the movies.  I seriously considered saying no because, well, I just told you.  I was going to go to the barn.  Sheesh.  Don't people know I need to see my pony!? Then I reminded myself that I would probably come home after the barn and lament to myself on the couch while drinking beer alone how I had no friends, so I decided to overcome my antisocial tendencies.

Saturday afternoon I had a hair appointment so I knew I'd go to the barn afterwards.  My hairdresser loves to curl my uber straight hair, and I didn't have the heart to tell her that 10 minutes after I got out of there, I was going to do this:

Shove it in a pony tail and smash it under a tuque.  But it looked nice for 10 minutes.  I swear.

The pony and I had the barn to ourselves.  He started off calm on the lunge line but then threw in some bucks, spins, and even some rears/hops for good measure.  

I have got to do something about the spinning.  Half pony's fault, half my fault.  He drifts.  I don't hustle.  Suddenly I'm ahead of his shoulder.  He spins.  Although I swear that he sets it up that way.  I can't prove it.  But I know it's true.  [insert pony conspiracy theory]

Then I got on and worked again on forward forward forward.  He was really panting his little heart out as I tried to cycle through as many of his jog/trot gears as possible.  Semi-successful once again.  We're getting there.  

Finally, as I was just getting ready to stop, he decides to spook.  For realz.  This is noteworthy because I think it is the first time he has ever spooked in the entire time I've owned him.  No wait.  That's a lie.  It's probably the second.  I kid you not.

So then I had to spend 15 more minutes working where the ghost was just to be sure that it was a fluke and that he had his QH brain back.  He did of course.  A couple pony kisses later, and I was out the door.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Belated Christmas Gift

On my way home from work yesterday, I stopped by the Post Office and picked up my belated Christmas gift from my friend, A.  She designed this patch for me and then had a seamstress make it and sew it onto a saddle pad. 
a white saddle pad - because she likes to encourage
Walker's nonexistent dressage dreams
I thought it was very thoughtful of her.  Now I have approximately four months to come up with something equally thoughtful for her for her birthday.  The pressure!

After that, I drug myself out to the barn against my own will on Tuesday night and was pleasantly surprised with the ponykins.

First of all, we actually picked up where we left off on Sunday.  Which made starting over on Sunday seem less frustrating.

Mainly we worked on forward.  I didn't care what he did as long as he went forward.  And because I'm a slave driver, I insisted that he not only be forward like a rocket ship, but that he be as light as a feather.  If he didn't go when I barely touched him on the side, he got a wallop.

This is where the "pleasantly surprised" part came in.  Right from the beginning, he was remembering this lesson from Sunday, and I was impressed with some of the trot we got out of it, all things considering.  

Once the trotting started exhausting him, his "light as a feather, forward like a rocketship" mindset started to dissipate, and I decided to quit while I was ahead. (Side note: This mantra makes me think: "I'm a leaf on the wind.  Watch how I soar.")

I applied this to the canter too for a few minutes, but then thoroughly screwed up our ability to leg yield.  The minute I put my leg back, he freaked out despite all the other aids telling him it was just a simple side pass.  That's ok.  We'll go back and smooth that over soon enough.

It could also be the fact that I almost side passed us into another horse.  Pish posh.  Technicalities.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Little to Say

I know I just fell off the face of the earth for about two weeks, but I promise that I'm going to try not to 
let that happen very much this year.

I finished studying for the bar and wrote it two weeks ago. Then I was promptly met with disaster at work that consumed me for much longer than I anticipated. I worked late almost every day last week and I also worked late last night. I anticipate the week going much the same.

Needless to say, my plans to put Walker back into regular work got delayed until this week.

I started lunging him last week for a few days to get some of the crazies out but apparently there are a lot of crazies to be had. 

I rode him on Sunday and he was atrocious. I absolutely hate starting from scratch with him every time he gets a couple days off, and he acted like he had never had a rider on his back. He was pulling out some of his old tricks - like scraping me against a wall, so I spent the majority of my ride just reminding him that those things don't fly.

I spent the rest of the ride trying to get him light off the leg again. The constant journey. I was only mildly successful because he was so tired from the extensive lunging session he got that I couldn't ride for long.

Now that my jumping instructor is gone, I am on the fence about my lessons.  My barn owner isn't being overly accommodating and work is making it extremely difficult for me to commit to a weekly time. 

Last night I thought I had a lesson. When I texted my BO to tell him I couldn't make it, he never answered me. When I texted the instructor, she told me she wasn't even at the barn because she had no idea that she was supposed to teach me to begin with. Needless to say, these types of things irk me.

I might take a bit of a break from the lessons until I can get a handle on my work schedule and also until I can get my horse's brain back. Right now, I think he needs the work more.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Neat Story

I read this really neat story today about a QH who simultaneously competes at reining and dressage.  While many QHs have the mind to be good all-arounders, I have rarely heard of people competing at higher levels in two completely different disciplines.

I also found this quote from the article very interesting because it's true:
"He's not unique," she continued.  "To me that's something that's maybe a common belief in the dressage world.  I'm a Quarter Horse person doing dressage.  I'm not a dressage person with a Quarter Horse.  I see Quarter Horses every day that could go to where Matt is without a problem, but they're usually in the reining or cow horse pen earning good money for their owners.  I know there are a lot of amateurs like me that want to have fun and learn, and these horse are certainly out there and willing and able to do it successfully and give their owners a heck of a ride on the way."
This kind of thing gives me a lot of hope for Walker and me.  There are certain things he'll never do because of physical limitations, but he has already shown me to a certain degree, at least in healthier days past, that he is capable of doing more than one thing at the same time.

Maybe this can be us someday.  You know, minus the reining part.  And probably the high level dressage part.

In other words, I'm just going to keep riding my horse Western and English.  Haters be damned.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Two Words: Mechanical Bull

On Saturday, my riding instructor, L - the one that just left my barn - sent me a message and asked if I wanted to go to a bar with her and some friends.  The bar was almost an hour away.  When I asked why that particular bar, she said, "There's a mechanical bull."

Oh yeah.  I'm in.

We all crowded into L's boyfriend's truck and made the trip.  L also brought some of her students from the barn at which she runs the lesson program so I got to meet some other horse people from the area.  We had a few drinks, played some pool and chitchatted.

Trying out my new Hunter boots on this rainy day
Only four of us decided to do the bull: L and I, and L's two non-rider friends.

It was hilarious.  The funny part was that every time the bull "bucked" - for lack of a better word - it didn't bother L and I at all.  It didn't even feel like the bull was doing anything.

But then they spin the bull.  Really fast.

The bull is plastic so there's no grip, and L and I were too tall to stretch our legs down long enough to give ourselves a little more stability.  L and I each lasted for maybe 60 seconds or so.  Apparently the record is 8 minutes.  I want to meet this person.

The other funny thing was that every time the bull threw us, L and I would automatically walk all the way around the bull in order to mount from the left.  Her friends, on the other hand, would just clammer up onto that bull however they could - from the right, the back, whatever.  One of the girls could barely figure out how to get on it.

I wish there were pictures but unfortunately it was much too dark to get any.

Needless to say we'll be going back there.  Probably in full seat breeches.

I have found my calling.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Decisions decisions

It turns out that 2014 is off to a suspiciously bad start.

On Wednesday I worried that Walker might get cold in the cold snap, since we all know he managed to destroy his liner last week.  I went out to the barn to blanket up, but it was locked.  No matter how much I prowled liked a burglar through the night, I could not find a way in.

When I got back into the car, I couldn't get it started.  Great.  Now I'm officially friends with the neighbours who had to jumpstart it for me.  I'm sure the sweet older couple were thrilled to have a 25 year old dressed all in black with everything but a ski mask on come up to their door in the middle of the night.

Today went much the same.  I just found out that  my instructor - my wonderful, fantastic, fun jumping instructor - has resigned at our barn.  She's a nursing student and also runs the lesson program at another barn.  Needless to say she's a busy woman, not to mention a horse owner herself.

Now I find myself between a rock and a hard place.  I've paid for the month of lessons and I have a lesson to myself.  My barn owner hasn't contacted me yet but I have a sneaky feeling that he will want me to join the Program full time.  After all, the only instructors left are his Program inductees.

Even if I can wrangle myself into a jumping lesson (which I suspect will be difficult since I know of no replacement for this instructor), I know for a fact that the jumping lessons done by the other instructors aren't nearly as heavy on the jumping as mine were.  Don't get me wrong, flatwork is great and blah blah blah, but I do plenty of that on Walker.  I find that I get just as much flatwork training in a jump course as I do without jumps - if that makes any sense.

I have been suspecting for awhile now that our time at the barn might be coming to a close anyway.  Let's just say that I pick my barns primarily for Walker.  It is one of the best facilities with great care, and I really want him to be healthy and sound.  However, I learn more and more about the barn and certain personalities everyday, and I'm not too sure how long we will be there, whether voluntarily or not.  If you can read between the lines.

This new turn of events might accelerate that a little faster than I had hoped.  Here's hoping we can work something out and that we can stay.  January is a bit chilly to be homeless.

On the study front, I've been watching a Criminal Minds marathon for six days straight.  So studying has been super productive.  Not.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

The Year of the Horse

2013 was many things for me:

Dream destroying.
A reminder.
Memory making.
Dream creating.

While many of you I'm sure will have extravagant plans for you and your equine significant other, I have only these few:

That we are healthy.
That we are happy.
That we are together.

Happy new year, everyone!