Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Well Crap

Well crap. I came off of Maisa on Sunday. We were in the roundpen. The grey in the picture is 'the Evil Daf'. The black is the clueless Maisa. (Or he's stoned...not really sure).
I had just gotten on. My student, the owner of 'the Evil Daf' (as she shall be henceforth known) held Maisa and my stirrup while I got on. She'd tied Daf to the side of the round pen. Good plan, no big right? Oh, so wrong.

I had lunged him in the big arena. Nobody was around so I figured I should err on the side of caution and head to the round pen.

My student and Daf show up. Maisa was wiggly, so she stood at the front, and held my stirrup. No big, standard for Maisa. He's very used to Daf and the student. I sit for a moment. Student exits the round pen, and is standing by the gate. Daf is tied to her right. I ask him to move...and he slow motions his way forward. We've make it about halfway around the pen. I hear a hiss...and my horse is shooting sideways.

I had a moment when I looked down as we were moving at light speed, with that weird slow motion taking in everything that you get when things are going bad...I could see the front of the dressage saddle, and my legs...but there was no horse in front of the saddle. I thought, 'pull him up' and in the next instant my mind jumped to 'if I pull on him, we're going down together...better to go alone.' Don't be pulling on unbalanced babies, you are likely to end in a heap together.

I landed in a mud puddle. It's like 38 to 40 degrees out. I get up, my horse has run over toward the student for safety, and I see the sprinklers are now on. I ask my student, "Who turned on the sprinklers?" She says, "I don't know." Then she looks over at Daf and says, "Oh! I think Daf may have turned them on." Yup...Daf had turned on the sprinklers. I swear she has the ability to have worked this out. Too dang smart for her own good (or mine apparently). I think her evil little brain went to, I can't get rid of her, but I know he can. lol

I had her hold him while I got back on. He was still worried, but I figured we better get this worked out now, and not let him dwell on it. So I had her walk with me until the hump went out of his back. Once he was moving forward freely I got off. Took him back to the barn, gave him a treat, and cleaned the mud and muck off of my Passier. That was the hardest part. Stepping up into my lovely saddle with all that wet mud all over me, soon to be transferred to my saddle. The sprinkler had hit him on the left side of his neck, in his ear and down his cheek. Guess he had a right to leave. The hiss and then getting blasted in the head by the water seems like a pretty decent reason for a colt to blow.

Gave the student a lesson on Daf after I put Maisa up. She was a holy terror. I was too cold and tired to even think about fixing it on Sunday. I'm sure Daf is stewing, waiting...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Cami (aka Shesa Peppy Cami)

This is Cami...most often called Cami-do. Cuz, Cami do everything, and is very pleasant about it. She is my catch all, put pretty much anyone on. Probably one of the smartest if not the smartest horse I've ever owned.

I bought Cami on a mad. I was ticked off. I had just sold my 3rd, training 4th level gelding...because I just had to have the Hann mare. Well, that isn't the only reason I sold him. I sold him because he had broken a coffin bone a few years before, and everytime he fell on the forehand, tripped, seemed uneven I'd panic and think I'd broken him again. So, I didn't use him much, and sure didn't use him like he should have been used. I sold him to a woman as a trail horse...and have regretted it ever since. Have even tried to get him go, no dice. My farrier laughed at me, and said, "You are never getting that horse back. She loves him. I keep expecting him to turn up on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous." Yeah, Strider has it pretty cushy, with a lady that adores him. It would probably be culture shock to come home.

Well, I was supposed to get this Hann mare, five years old. I told a woman that was going down to this farm if the mare really looked suitable, just to pick her up. I already had a deal with the breeder. Well, the woman picked her up, and when I asked...her price had gone from $5000 to $7,500. The woman bought her. That hauling charge was a just a tad too steep for me. In retrospect, I'm really glad I didn't end up with the mare. Her gaits weren't very good, and she was a worrier.

So, me in a tizzy fit I start searching the horse classifieds. Am I looking for another WB dressage horse? Oh hell no. I decide I'm so bent, I'm over that and those people...screw them. I'm looking at cutters and reiners...going back to my roots so to speak. I find a yearling Camiseta Badger daughter over in Red Bluff...$5000, and chestnut. Allrighty, I like red horses. Well, I watch it for a few days, call the folks...they're willing to sell her for $3500. Sounds good to I make the 3-4 hour drive over to Red Bluff.

I get to these folks' place. Very nice people. Cami is not quite what I was expecting...being a Camiseta Badger x Robs Prescription bred mare. She was kind of scrubby. Her front legs came out the same hole. She's a long yearling, and nobody has ever done anything with her. Oh...PERFECT.

So, me being the diplomat I am...and irritated I say, "There is no way I could see giving you more than $1500 for this filly." The woman should have told me to take my rude butt off her place, she would have been quite justified. It wasn't Cami's or the woman's fault I didn't get the Hann mare (blessing in disguise). The woman says, "Well, okay I think my dad will go for that, but I don't think he'd go any lower." In my little pea brain I'm thinking, 'Well crap, I just bought this dink. Now what am I going to do.'

Cami loaded well, even though she'd only been in a trailer once as a suckling or weanling. I hauled her home to Humboldt in a driving rainstorm. She rode like a trooper. I get her home late in the afternoon. She comes out of the trailer calmly and just looks around. I put her in a pen. She'd spook a bit...but she'd stand still, and drop her head and look. least she's thinking.

I didn't start Cami until she was four. She just looked too babyish until then. Her teeth say she is a year younger than her papers say. I'd be really questioning who she is, except that she's DNA'd.

I started giving sporadic lessons on her when she had about 60 days on her. Cami is the bomb. The first time I took her over to Elaine's after I started her Cami was quite the hit with Elaine. After working with her, Elaine reaches over, rubs on her gives her a pat and says, "You're just the little Einstein of the horse world aren't you." Elaine loves Cami...even if she can't move her way out of a paper bag.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

It's Been Hectic

Sorry for the even later than usual post. I've just been buried. By the time I get home trying to put a post together seems overwhelming.
I haven't gotten to my horses as I should. Had Top out the other day. The footing wasn't spectacular and I realized Top has no sense of self preservation. Yeah, I was scared. Not for the normal reasons. I wasn't worried about him being naughty. I was worried he was going to pull something, bow something, hyper-extend something, or we were going to land in heap in the slop.
I took Maisa out to lunge. There was a big puddle at the back of the arena, but plenty of room in a dry area with good footing to lunge. Maisa decided he wanted to run through the water. He drug me over to the large puddle and gleefully would accelerate his way into the water. He'd canter through, slapping his front feet to make a bigger splash. He did this over and over, like a child playing in mud puddles. One of the ladies from the barn hollered over to me, laughing, "Where are his rubber boots." Maisa is an odd one. At least he's never dull.
I always think of Maisa as a raw boned, kind of rangy thing, without much depth. And then I realize things like, he and Top pretty much wear the same size blanket. They cinch the same, but Maisa needs a wider tree on his saddle. I look at the pictures of him with BH on him, and realize how much shoulder is in front of her leg. It is really quite long and sloped. Kind of curious as to what he'll look like at 7. Most winter blankets are too snug through the shoulders for him. And if they are cut like a Big D...they slide behind his withers and will rub. So, Weatherbeeta's, Turnout Masta, and Pessoa's fit well. His Amigo Bug Buster fits well too. He wears a 76-78" winter blanket. Cob sized bridle with a full horse brow, 5" bit. Passier wide tree saddle. Medium splint boots, med bells. Not sure of his shoe size, probably 1's. Haven't shod him yet. He has very round feet. Perfect circle prints. Stands just about 15.2h.
Top's proportions don't make much sense either. Wears a medium to medium wide tree. Stands 16.2h. Wears #3 shoes on the hinds, and 2's on the front. Regular horse size bridle with 5.75" bit. Large and x-large splint boots, x-large bells. And...a 76"-78" winter blanket.
My student that usually cares for Top and Maisa in town went home for Thanksgiving. I had to move my pen and gravel while she was gone. Feed and clean and do my usual chores. I only got her mare Daf out twice while she was gone. Suffice it to say, Daf is a lunatic at this moment. I let the girl that was caring for Daf lunge her yesterday. OOPS. Kind of a mistake. She has Daf in just a halter on the line. Daf is flying around the girl, slinging her head, and starting to cut in on her. The girl goes to check her, to slow her up and stop the head slinging. A Daf I hadn't seen in a year appeared. She cocked her head toward the girl, and was eyeing her, sizing her up starting to move in on the circle. OH CRAP. I hollered in a mean growly voice, "DAF!" She slowed and looked toward me. Gave me the stink eye as if saying 'You fun killer, I could have had her. '
Daf can be pretty intimidating if she chooses. It is disconcerting to have her tracking around on the lunge with her head cocked toward you...moving steadily around staring you down. Waiting for you to weaken, or lose focus. When she first arrived she cow kick at you, or try and come in on the lunge to get you. One of our first few sessions she came in, head down snaking, stomping her front feet at me. Those of you touch feely folks should probably stop reading now. I slid my whip, handle up, and drilled her right between the eyes with a good deal of force with the handle end of the whip. She stopped, and looked at me in shock. I hadn't given any ground, and she was surprised. I put her directly back to work. We've never revisited the 'I'm going to stomp the trainer into the ground' again. Funny, I'm now one of her favorite people. If her owner is riding her, and she sees me coming, even my car coming...she'll bolt in my direction. "Hello, hello, I'm happy to see you." She's quite the goob, and really terribly sweet. She just has these moments now and again. And if she can intimidate or bully she'll go for it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Maisa, Daf, and Top

I had lessons in town today. It was a pretty nice day. Not the normal lesson routine. Daf has been doing something funky with her right front. She shortens the stride, and sometimes doesn't swing it forward well and will kind of stab it into the ground. Now this is a very athletic you gotta wonder. Not sure what it going on. It isn't consistent. It is intermittent. Gave her owner a lunge lesson on her. It improved, but didn't completely disappear. Put another student up, and it lessened, but would still show up now and then. Had the owner just ride her loose, and forward. Don't worry about position, or anything, just go free and forward. She did better out strolling around the barns than in the arena.

The other student and I went to get Top. She was going to have a lunge lesson on him. She groomed him, and I tacked him up. He was even good, and held his feet up for her. She's 11. Apparently he likes children. A LOT. I had her lead him to the arena. (Yes, we took peppermint treats). I lunged him for a bit to see where his head was. He was very good. Her father had to give her a leg up to get on Top. A little bigger step up than she is used to. I was actually impressed she got her toe to the stirrup...up on her own just wasn't happening. Maybe next time.

We started slow at the walk to let her get the feel of him. She is smiling. Says she loves his walk. So, I have her start to pick him up. Make him round up a bit, and go to the bit. It took more leg and contact than she is used to. It took a minute to get the feel. Once she had it, she was on. We went with this forward, connected swingy walk for awhile. I said when she felt ready to ask for the trot. (I'm the dope on the rope at the moment. Just there as a safety net). She asks for the trot. Top wont trot. She asks again, more firmly...he gives her more walk. I take a good look at him. He's worried. He is walking on eggs. I say, "He's babysitting. He's worried...who knew." She laughs, and pats him, tells him he's fine. He halts, knickers for a treat. She whips one out and gives it to him, before I can say, "No." I tell her to make him go again. She does...he makes a quarter circle, halts, knickers for a treat. UHM...NO. I say, "No treat, push him up, and go. Make two circle...halt then give him a treat. You halt...don't let him decide to halt." She does this. Top now seems to be on the same page as us.

She walks a couple more circles, asks him to trot. No go. I tell her to hold the reins, and grab strap...ask him to go. I take a connection on the line, and lift the tip of the lunge whip and cluck to him. He goes into a trot. Well, Top's version of a western pleasure jog. I have her halt...give him a treat. Tell her to push him back up, mean it...and go immediately to posting. She does, and he 'jogs'. I tell her to squeeze every up stride...and he loosened up a little and had some forward. She is thrilled. Starts to laugh...pats him and says, "He's like a giant Shad. I love him." Kind of choked me up. He is kind of a giant Shad when he's on. This is the kid that could sit Shad's extended trot at 6.5 or 7 years old. And Shad could extend. He'd look like a speed boat cutting across a lake. Haunches buried, and front end elevated and just snapping out the front. She loves forward. Now Shad was a big 14.2h, maybe 14.3h if he needed his feet done, and Top is 16.2h...slight difference. I think there will be more lunge lessons for her on Top. Top likes this kid thing. He drops his head, for brushing, is all attentive and quiet.

When we finished with both Daf and Top, on to Maisa. Maisa is now on about 5-6lbs of grain a day. I'm thinking it is a good thing. One of my students went out and got him. I see them round the side of the barn...and he is just all loose, swinging gumby horse. He looks like he's walking in slow motion, but my student is walking at a good clip. He's all blinky, eyes half lidded...looking like a stoner.
I lunged him. He was a good boy. One of my old students comes into the arena. Now, I'll be perfectly honest here...Maisa's stopping makes me nuts. I get irritated. Not fair of me, I know. But I start to get mad at him. And that just isn't going to help anything. I ask if she wants to ride him. She's more than happy to get on. She rode him after I rode him the other day, and loves how he moves...when he moves. lol I'd forgotten a whip. Of course. I'd packed a whip the last two rides, and the halting had pretty much stopped. Now and then, but pretty much gone. So, he starts out pretty good. Then he starts gawking around and halting. He is in love with a little paint mare that was in the arena.
So, I grab a lunge whip and help from the ground. She got him going, and then we went to trot. I've never seen him trot with a rider as I'm the only one that has been on him. was beautiful. Heather just posted along and let him go. She's very quiet. Once the stop was off, he just went. Free and forward. Once he gets the idea of carrying and connecting it will be gorgeous. I'm so pleased. The first time she rode him, she could see I was getting irritated. Kind of cocked her head looking at me. I said, "You want up?" She laughed and said, "Yeah, of course." She gets along well with him and likes him. Doesn't have any expectations, is just enjoying the ride.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Some Maisa Pictures

Okay this is Maisa Fahim. Gee wonder why Elaine hasn't used any of these pictures on her website? LOL I really need to get some good pictures of him.
He is bigger than the Quarter girls. But they just rule him. Kind of sad. Iris is only his friend if her mom isn't in the field with them. He just doesn't get it.

Toys, everything is a toy.

Okay, here is Maisa this summer. ( I think?) lol

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Top and Maisa

That is KB Maisa Fahim with BH on him. Yes, I happen to own the only ugly KB Omega Fahim baby in existence. Go figure. Okay, so he's not ugly, he just isn't as beautiful as his siblings and cousins.

What Maisa lacks in looks he makes up for in movement. I'll be lunging him before we ride, and I find myself just staring at him. It is all so effortless and correct.

So, the rule is now...I work Top before I work Maisa. If I work Maisa first I keep looking at Top trying to figure out what is wrong with him. Is he off? Why is he so thuddy, why isn't there a lovely upward jump to the canter, does he look a little lateral? Why isn't coming through from behind more? Poor Top.

Maisa is still very babyish. Much younger than his years. He looks like he's two, acts like he's two. That is probably my fault. I haven't gotten his training going as I should. It has been pretty hit and miss. I started him about a year ago, and I think I can still count the rides on my fingers. Not good. He isn't fearful, or worried at all.

I was riding him Friday. We couldn't stay in motion to save our lives. Maisa would be trucking along, and suddenly halt. It isn't the normal slow to a crawl baby halt. We have forward, swing and then we have halt. No middle ground. Something will catch his eye, or he'll just stop for no discernible reason I can find. The more that is going on in the arena the more prevalent his halting becomes. Funny, I've never had a horse do this, quite this way. Lovely forward walk to halt. He is either moving forward well, or not at all apparently. His isn't pissy, or resistant...he just stops.

Maisa has kind of been a little contradiction from the get go. He is very people oriented. He is an orphan foal. His mother died when he was 2mths old. When I first took him home to the pasture, I put him in my pen with another babysitter horse. We'd have to sneak away when he was occupied or he would run screaming and calling for you as you went to the car. It was heartbreaking. This lasted for a couple months.

He's never quite figured out herd dynamics. Okay, that is an understatement, he is clueless about herd dynamics. Seems to always have at least one bite mark on him. They warn him and warn him to leave them alone...and he just doesn't move. So, they finally nut up and bite him. Half the time he doesn't move even then. Lately, I've been seeing him stand up for himself more, but still doesn't quite get it. He is the largest in the field, he is however the youngest.

My son taught him to play fetch. (great, that's what I want, a giant Labrador). When we'd had him home for a couple months our old lab died. My son said, "Well, it's kind of okay. We have Maisa. He's black and kind of like a dog."

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Top's New Attitude

Okay, check out Mr. Chunky-butt. I didn't realize how much weight he'd put on over the last 9 or 10 months. I came across some pictures I'd taken after I'd had him for a month. And I was so pleased with how much weight he'd put on then.
(I have no clue why blogger wont let put in all my paragraphs. It is a blogger mystery.)

This was, I think May '09.

This is Aug of '09.

This picture was taken January of '09. I was so pleased with his gain at this point. UGH. He looks almost racy doesn't he.

With his added pounds has come a calmness he lacked before. He is comfortable now. He seems to like his life. He knows what is expected of him. He really likes structure. It makes sense for him, no big surprises from rider or handler. He has his group of people. He knows his group of people and likes them. Scary loud fast moving people need not apply for a position in Top's world. Erratic or unpredictable people and their actions spin him right out of control. (Big bay Oldenburg in your lap, seeking protection is no fun...believe me).

The other day after I'd ridden we had him out. A student's father is looking at him and says, "He's kind of like a plow horse, isn't he." There were about seven people standing around, talking and looking at a mare the student was considering for purchase. You could have heard a pin drop. It struck me funny and I said, "Yeah, he's pretty common." An ex-student (owner of the mare) snorted and said, "Dammit." Then laughed. Then there was a collective exhale, and giggles and laughs.
I knew what he meant though. The mare is a very pretty, small footed, light bones APHA mare. One of those teacup headed, exquisite mares. Alert tipped ears, downright dainty. And there stands Top in his size 3 shoes. Quite the contrast.
I rode him again yesterday. A student was watching. He was so quiet. So present. No tightness, no hurry, or coiling through his back. He was almost 'soggy'. I had to really ride to keep him up and forward. If I 'weakened' at all in the canter, he'd transition to the trot. I'm having to ride him up and forward, and he's taking it. He seems to be liking it. Almost like he wants more input. Interesting. He's not hurrying to get it right. Not rushing through transitions, or getting antsy at a change of bend. Tempo is holding, rhythm is good...hell we're on our way to real cadence.
There was one point in our ride when I realized how much he'd really changed. It became crystal clear. We were tracking left in a working trot. This flock of birds whooshed up and past us. I have no idea where they came from. It was like no birds one instant, and this whole flock darting through the air in front of us, and over us. Startled me, and I jumped. Top didn't even pause, bobble his head, nothing. He was Joe Steady. Kind of like, "Jeez Sharon, they're just birds. Get over it."

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Carrie Lesson HAH! Top is So Good

Top and I had a Carrie lesson today. I was concerned as I hadn't ridden him all week. First my son was ill, and then I got it. Stomach flu really hinders the want to ride. Funny how that works. I got on him briefly on Wednesday. His right hind shoe was loose, and both hind shoes were paper thin. We walked around, made maybe two trot circles and called it a day. By Friday the left hind was pretty much gone, or half gone, and the right still hanging on, but it was more welded to his foot than nailed on.

Tuck came out this morning before my lesson up the hill with Carrie, and put new shoes on. We discussed the fact that he was 8 weeks, and the shoes were pretty much toast. We were going to schedule out six weeks, and then decided to just check him at six weeks...and if he needed them done, Tuck would just come out. The front shoes were not nearly as thin as the backs.

Top was a sweaty mess when I pulled him out of the trailer. Dang, we kind of back-slid on that. Tied him to the trailer, gave him a peppermint and let him chill for about 10 minutes. After he was settled, I groomed and tacked him up. We went to the round pen and lunged until he was stretching, instead of trying to look at everything outside. (who's that? what'r they doin? did you see that big dog? is that paint my friend Vandy?)

There had been some cancellations due to sick people (guess it is going around) and a lame horse. So, we could start a little early. I took Top in, and over to the mounting block. He was antsy. (Crimeny, let the old fat chick get on, would ya). He finally was still enough for me to mount. Then he wanted to immediately be on his way. Uh, no. I have to get my right foot in, and squatty body settled, thank you. He stood, and I have him a peppermint. Wah-lah...focus.

I rode around in circles and figure eights waiting for Carrie to be ready. I told her I thought he had turned the corner. She asked if the drawreins had helped. I said yes they had, but I thought the peppermints had been the tipping point. She smiled with a question on her face. "Watch." I pulled a peppermint out of my pocket and tapped Top's neck. He turned his head to me, nickered and took his treat. Carrie started to laugh. "You taught him to speak?" I replied, "No, the speaking was his contribution, I just started giving him treats, and he settled. So, I think I'm going with it." She said, "If he does better with the treats, no problem."

We started on our diamond and he was so on. Then we went to 20m circle and spiraling in and out. No problem, he was on it. So, then we shifted to the 'snowman'. The snowman is a figure eight, with a 20 meter circle, and a 10 meter circle. (I love the snowman, always have. Hey, I'm easily amused). We were trotting the snowman at first. Then I was to canter the 20m and transition to the trot at the change of bend going into the 10 meter. We did this a couple times. The third time at the change...he changed. Freaken perfect flying lead change. Effortless. I say, "I'm just going to ride this with him like it was a plan. I'm not going to shut him down" Carrie says, "Yes, that's good."

I finished the pattern and halted to ask, "It wasn't late behind was it? It didn't feel late." She responded, "No, it wasn't late. It was good. Now, pick him back up and ride it with the lead change." So we did, both directions. He's a tad better to the right lead. The initial change was going to the left.

When we were about done, or I thought we were about done she says, "I want you to try them on the diagonal. Start with a 20m circle to the left, at B head straight on the diagonal to S. Three counts, and change. Okay, I'd love to tell you it was beauteous, but I can't lie. (Well I could, but what would be the point). I was anticipating, and really wanted to tag it. I gave my cue so strong, we had jump. Not a leap, but alotta jump in the change. I was apologetic. Carrie said, "No, that was good. We like jump, remember." I asked, "That wasn't too much?" Nope it wasn't, it just needs to not be hurried.

We did a couple more. Top was tired. I was really tired. I'd feel him anticipating the change, and hurry to cue him before he just offered it up. Damn...I need to wait. We discussed that a little. I told her I wouldn't be practicing changes until I saw her again. I'd do simple, or change of direction changes...but not on the straight ones. Too easy to mess them up, get late behind without good eyes on the ground. At least for me.

As I'm getting ready to leave Carrie says, "Welcome back. Where are your white wraps? You're part of the crew you know." We both knew this was the first time I'd ridden anywhere near what I used to. It was nice to have it validated. As I'm about to get off, she says, "Make him nicker again." I pulled a treat from my pocket, tapped his neck. He nickered, took his treat. Carrie laughed, "I love that. What a nice horse."

Top definitely has a home if something should happen to me. Nice to know. (No, I'm not anticipating anything, or being maudlin. It's just nice to know he'd be safe).

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Peppermints Could Be Horsey Valium

Hey, I've got a question for any that have given lessons to adults and children. Have you noticed with a kid you can tell them to do something, that may be a small series of movements to accomplish one goal...and they can just do it all as one. But with adults it has to broken down into itty bitty pieces?

I've ridden pretty much since before I can remember. So a great deal of what I do I don't even think about. It seems innate. I've really had to stop and think about what I do with my body to explain how to accomplish something to people.

I had one student ask me how I could put one leg on and not the other...and not slide off the side of the horse? I was baffled. It was like, you just do it. I actually had to get on the horse and do it...and break down all the pieces of putting on your right or left leg, and what you do with your seat to maintain your position. I had no idea it could be so complicated.

Okay so my questions are (Oh I'll have more another time. lol). How do we get adult beginners to learn like kids? How do we make it less difficult? How do we make it seem less like some arcane secret knowledge to them and more innate?

In my book there are no secrets. If I know it, and you want to know it...I'll give it to you. I just have to figure out how to explain it in more varied ways. Simplify and take the apprehension and fear out of it. They are going to make mistakes. It's okay...everybody makes mistakes. Quit worrying so much about 'doing it wrong'. If you're beginning, you're probably doing it wrong, or not well. No big deal. Keep doing it. It will get right. (Okay, you need a ground person, but it will get right). You can't learn to ride from a book, or a DVD or tape. You can't learn riding in 45min to 1hr lessons once a week. (Okay, you can. But it is going to take a hella long time). It will take two years to build muscle memory alone. (If you were going to learn to play the piano and you took one hour lesson a week, didn't have a piano to practice on at long is it going to take you to learn to play the piano?)

OH...and who came up with the term half-halt? How confusing is that? Re-balance your horse makes more sense to me. Stronger or steadier contact, legs on (sometimes? Hey there are 50,000 reasons to apply a half halt, and 50,000 different ways to apply it...yeah explain that to the woman that has read every dressage book ever written, and hasn't ridden a single forward stride in her life) feel the give, or the softening and go on. Oh...and it really is in the release, not in the take. (I'll rant about the lack of independent seats another time.)

Okay, can you tell I rode and gave lessons today and feeling like I'm pounding my head into a wall?

OH and get this...I think I need to pack a whip on Top. WTF? A tad to relaxed...I was kicking him to keep him forward (forward hell, going) in the trot. HOLYCRAP...peppermints are very powerful things.

I told Norma about it this evening. She laughed at me. She doesn't think it's the peppermints...she thinks he just turned the corner. (I think it is the peppermints, and they helped him turn the corner).

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Busy Busy Busy

Yeah, I've been delinquent. Going to try and do a little catch up here.

Top is doing much better. The peppermint horse treats are a miracle. I will be riding him again tomorrow afternoon. Now I'm starting to back off on the treats. He is a tad pushy about the treats now, so he is now learning patience.

There was a Shagya inspection here on Monday. I helped Elaine get her horses bathed and ready, along with two of my students. My favorite of course scored the highest, worried that he price is now going up. Glad I have good taste, kind of bummed she is no longer under the radar. I guess she is high scoring filly in the nation. (Great. Just great). She scored 8.2. With a 9 for her canter. They went and evaluated her dam KB Salim Fahim (Sally). She scored 8. I guess she is now approved for Shagya, like her full brother Omega Fahim. And of course Sally is my favorite mare, has been for a long time. I believe she is 20 now. Elaine isn't planning to breed her anymore. So, Sequoia and Sitka are the last.

I was contacted by a very nice woman regarding Top. She is looking for a horse. I'm not sure Top is the right horse for her situation. She would like a horse that can be 3rd Level this Spring. Top is probably a Training, or 1st level horse at the moment. I'm not sure he can move that far, that fast. He would also have to be shipped to Texas. From past posts, many of you know how well Top hauls. He's 13 years old now. Not the most solid horse I know. I don't think pushing up through the levels quickly would work out real well. Conditioning alone is going to take some time.

She came out with her husband and son. All very nice. The son is living here in Humboldt and she was out to visit. I told her if she hadn't found a horse, in six months Top would be a far different horse, and she should give me a call. She owns a boarding stables outside of Dallas, and gives lessons. Looking at her website the place is beautiful. She used to live in Europe, and rode and trained there. So, it looked like a great home for him, in theory. Not sure if Top would rise to the occasion. It would be awful to send him halfway across the company and it not work out. Unhappy buyer, unhappy horse. Certainly not a win/win situation.

Hey, it isn't like I couldn't use the money. Damn conscience. lol
The mare in the picture is Sally.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Treats! Who Knew?

I rode Top yesterday. Got him out of his pen, he seemed pretty quiet. Once we were to my tack area he was starting to build. I'd purchased a bag of peppermint horse treats earlier in the day.

I tied him up and started to brush him. He was fidgety. I went over and opened the bag of treats and stuffed some in my front pocket. When he started to fidget again I said his name and pet him. When he looked at me with any kind of focus I gave him a treat. Oh my goodness. We can stand quiet to get tacked up.

I led him down to the arena. He hesitated going in. I stopped, pet him and told him to quit being such a chicken and turned and walked into the arena...he followed. As soon as we got into the arena he noticed the BMX racers on the track flying through the air across the field. Now he is on hyper alert. Very tall, very rigid and staring hard at the BMX-ers. Great, Top has left the building.

I pull his head toward me. Brief eye contact and his head springs back up and over toward the BMX track. I pull a treat out of my pocket. No response. He is locked on to the track. I say his name, and pull his head toward me again...he is resisting looking toward me. I wave the treat under his nose. He follows the treat toward me and stretching down. I made him wait a moment quiet and then gave him the treat. OMG....he is cured. I have focus on me. (okay, I know, I have focus on the treats in my possession).

I hook the lunge line to his bit and start lunging him. Now, Top very often goes on 'auto-pilot' when lunging. He checks out, and just goes through the motions of lunging. When you say, "Whoa" you often get no response. You have to go bigger, and step forward, pull on the lunge and say it more firmly with a tug, then he trundles to a halt and looks at you vaguely.

He's trotting along on the lunge. I keep redirecting his nose to the inside of the circle. He is not present. I ask him to halt. No response. So, I make him halt. I drop the line and the whip, walk toward him telling him he's a good boy, and give him a treat. I walk back to my whip and the end of the line and ask him to go again. Have him trotting along and ask him to whoa. He keeps trucking along. I ask again, give a little wiggle to the line and he halts. I walk back out to him, telling him what a good boy he is and pet him, and give him a treat. We start again. He's trotting along, keeping his nose more in the arena than gazing out. I say, "Whoa." Top my have a future as the worlds largest reiner. He buried his butt and halted. I walked out, and gave him treat.

We made a couple more circles both directions and I led him over to the fence to get on. I get on, and my stirrups are way too short. (HMMM...interesting). So I have a student stand in front of him while I adjust them. (Oh yeah, he'll a heartbeat). I get adjusted. Stand up to see if I'm where I want to be, grab a treat out of my pocket. I pull his head to the left and hand him a treat. I ask him to move and he walks off quiet, no tension in his back. Seriously, none. He's never been this soft, even at Carrie's. So we walk around, trot around doing random patterns, he's actually hearing just my seat and legs, my hands don't even move and we are doing figure eights, leg yields. He is on. He got a little tense when another horse showed up. I halted, stood in my stirrups grabbed a treat out of my pocket. He lifts his head and nickers at me. Good lord. He is on this new program quick.

To my watching student I say, "Man, he caught on to this really quickly." She says, "We're talking about Top here. He didn't learn it quick, this has been done before." Uhm, yeah. Probably. I'll bet she's right. It would explain his inability to stand at the halt when I first started riding. He was looking for his treat. Who knows for sure. I'll just have to mix it up, so it isn't automatic. Can you see him in a dressage test...'halt at X'...and his head pops up and he nickers for his treat? How many points would that cost? lol

So, while I have issues with this method it is working. I will do it for awhile, or sporadically. I don't want it to become 'Pavlov's Dog'. This is a leg up for him...not the fix for his issue. It is a step in the right direction for sure.

Thank you Kestrel.

And yes I know, I'm collapsing my right side in the picture. (CRAP, I hate when I ride poorly).

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Okay So I'm not Completely Nuts

One of my ex-students came out to try Top. She was thinking of taking him for the winter. She's a good rider. Rides probably 5 days a week on many different horses. She works for a dressage/training facility. So, she's not a chicken, or looking for issues. I told her most of what I'd experienced with Top.

I have her go get him, and tack him up. Figured she should handle him from beginning to end. I wanted to see if she was comfortable with him, and he was comfortable with her. Everything went well. She laughed at 'how small' he is. lol Top is an honest 16.1 to 16.1 and a half. Little in her world now. I told her he was about as big as I was willing to go anymore. It's not the size while riding so much as the on and off. lol I climb on the fence to get on Top. I can mount from the ground, but I read something about that being hard on them. So, I try to mount none of them from the ground anymore. I'm getting used to is harder for me to get on from the fence or mounting block. 40 years of getting on from the ground builds some muscle memory and habits.

She lunged him, and he was really quiet. He did have shots the day before. She did note that his quietness wasn't 'real'. She was watching him close. She was trying to figure out what it was...I told her, "He's holding through his back, don't believe his quietness now." She laughed again, "Oh, I'm not. We're going to go around a few more times and see that go away before I get on."

She gets on. Hates my new saddle. It pushes you toward a chair seat...I thought so too, but so many people kept saying, "No, it looks good. You look much better in this saddle." I don't like it. It doesn't give a hugely secure feeling if things get 'western'. It also may be that it is new to me. I'll keep riding it and see.

So, she's riding Top around. He looks good. He looks calm. I figure, 'okay, it's me. I'm creating monsters where none exist.' About the moment this is running through my head she says, "I get what you mean about the timebomb feeling." Kind of a double edged sword there. Glad that I'm not nuts, but bummed that he is such a mess. Now, something I never mentioned to her, or anybody else is he does this funky thing with his neck. It is kind of behind the vertical, but not. It is an empty feeling with no contact or control. It is like he isn't there. She pipes up, "I can't deal with the weird neck thing. I feel like I've got nothing...that if he does something there is nothing I can do." Uhhhmmm YUP.

So, she rode for awhile. I then got on. He was actually having a pretty good day. I didn't have any moments of 'oh man, what's he going to do'. He went along really well for Top. We weren't riding in drawreins.

The deal is, I have 30 to 60 days to get him lined out. She doesn't feel she is equipped to deal with his issues at this time. (So, the old fat woman is up) So he needs to be going forward between my elbows and knees, staying in his 'box' and respecting boundaries without checking out...and not feeling like a timebomb. lol If I can do this, he'll have a great winter with her south of here. Getting ridden through the winter, taken out on trails, and she may ride him in her lessons. He'll be in a dressage barn, where things are quiet and sane. I am concerned about trying to keep him in town this winter. With the woman that antagonizes him, I'm not sure he can go in his stall. He panics in there now. Which is a real bummer. He loved his stall...his little secure happy place. (Hoping for Karma on this one in regards to this 'trainer'). So, I have to have him going decently before the rains come.

I'll be riding him today.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Now I'm Confused....sort of

Well took Top to another Carrie lesson. He was great. Really a good boy. Carrie did have me ride him with drawreins. Not a first option for me...but they did really help. He seemed to relax more quickly with them. Actually chewed softly on the bit, and stretched over his top line. I know some of you purists are going to be horrified. Oh well, not much I can do about that. The horse is happier, and steadier. This is not a permanent fixture...these are a temporary aid to help both of us. He can't lever my butt out of the saddle and it sets better boundaries for him. I'm riding on the direct rein, and only engaging the draw when needed.

I'd like to know what the difference is in his mind. The drastic change from the barns in town, to Carrie's place. He actually comes out of the trailer, and you can see him relax...let down. He has been like this since the very first time he arrived there. He was a lunatic at Elaine's. I'm stumped.

One thing is really irritating me though. There were a couple ladies from the barns in town there. My friend was sitting there and listening to them talk to Carrie. Carrie was wondering if Top's issues could be anxiety or fear from me. As she has never seen any really poor behavior from him. So, of course sycophants that they are, (even a supposed friend that was there) said things like. "Oh yes, we've never seen him put a foot out of place. He's just perfect in town. Never does anything wrong." I am so very tempted to hand them (one in particular) his lead...and say, "Since he's so good, and I'm manufacturing, or perhaps fabricating his issues please show me."

I guess this one person in particular said something about it to a student of mine. Saying she thought he was such a nice horse, and how she didn't think he did anything wrong. My student (bless her heart) said, "Yeah, if you don't mind rearing. I was there when he went up." A big, "Oh, really I didn't know he really did that." This is the same person that when I said I got Top, was horrified. He was a terrible horse. Had issues, wasn't sound yadda yadda. Guess it matters which way the wind is blowing, huh? I do want to ask her, 'Well, you freaken moron, why would I say a horse did something that bad, and that dangerous when he didn't? I'd like to be able to find him a good home down the road, and rearing is pretty much the kiss of death.'

So, I'm beyond irritated. Wow, I never realized I was so fearful. (Please). I respect his ability to move quick without warning, and that he could probably dump me...that doesn't mean I'm immobilized by fear, or going to make shit up about a horse.

Haven't quite decided what or if I'm going to do anything. Still stewing on it.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Whew Top?

I took Top over to Elaine's to ride him in a quiet place for a few days. Well, that didn't work. He was a basket case. He was having trouble just existing. Pacing, screaming...he spooked at a weed with a blue flower. We were watching him graze in the pen...he has his head down eating...sees the flower and jumps backwards splay legged. Sometimes this horse flat makes me crazy.

When he does something like this I often look at him, and say pretty loudly, "What?!" He looks at me, and I put my arms out a little from my sides palms up...he looks and settles. Who freaken knows what goes on his little brain.

We arrived at Elaine's in the late afternoon yesterday. We left Elaine's late afternoon today. Top didn't eat any hay, nor drink any water. He drank a little this afternoon when I led him over to the trough, and held him...and kept him company while he drank. So, he drank his fill, which was quite a bit.

Yesterday Elaine watched him for a bit yesterday. Watched me work him on the line. She says, "You're riding this horse?" Oh never a good sign with Elaine. She is basically saying he is not together enough, or trained enough, or sane enough to be riding. Well shit....strike two. (Strike one was the neurotic behavior in the pen). The last time she said this to me was when I took Strider to her 14 years ago. And he was naughghghtttyyyy. He used to rear, and slam me into crap while on his hind legs.

But hey Strider came around. She didn't get on him until she had at least 30 days of lunging and driving on him. He came around huge. He left Elaine's after one winter at 2nd level and very steady. He was young though. A quarter horse and not afraid of anything. Fear wasn't Strider's issue. Strider was more 'You wanna fight...we can go to war.' He was great if you asked him. You could get after him and he'd dig a little deeper. He had an extreme sense of fairness.

I took Top over to the cross ties, and tacked him up. Lunged for a bit and got on. Yup, major timebomb feeling. (I really am hating that feeling). We got a little work, not much. He was really struggling. Couldn't get into the outside rein to save his life (or mine). I was working him long and low. Trying to get him to stretch and relax. He spooked. He spooked so hard and fast sideways my back is still hurting. Elaine said, "Well that was hard and nasty. For no reason."

Strike three...Elaine wont get on him (no I didn't ask. She volunteered up that bit of info). Really bad sign. So, we'll see how it goes. I have a Carrie lesson next weekend. I know he's a project. I know he isn't a short-term project. The problem is I have three other projects standing in my field. I need to figure this out. Maisa stands, Iris stands, Cami stands. Not a fair trade is it? We'll see if Carrie has any ideas.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Feeding Time with Top

Whew, long weekend. Only got half of what I planned done. Top got neglected. He stood in his pen, and watched the goings on at the stables. There was a gymkhana there, I swear he thinks it is horsey tv. It is all for his entertainment.

He has finally stopped freaking out over the 'humming woman' at the barn. He couldn't see her, but he could hear her humming and singing. He couldn't figure out what the hell it was, and would start running and leaping in his pen if she hummed for more than 5 minutes. He has now seen her, as she's humming. Huge light bulb moment for Top. Now he just listens, and waits to see if he can see her. She is very interesting to him. One of my students pointed this out to me.

My plan is to ride him after work today. Hopefully he keeps his little feetsies on the ground. He's been pretty darn good. Only little moments.

Last night he was being a jerk to the filly in the pen next to him. He got his hay, his beetpulp, and ricebran with his supplements. She is quietly eating her hay. He slings his head in her direction..big snaky frown at her. She ignores him (I love this filly). So then he takes a dive at the panel that separates them, she looks at him sleepy eyed chewing her hay. Now he's pissed. She's ignoring him. She should be fearful, and very impressed. Oh...but his bucket of food is waiting. So he stuffs his head in the bucket and bucks and kicks out behind while he eats. Occasionally will pull his head out of the bucket, frown at her, and kick again.

He takes a dive at her again, and the filly bless her soul...steps toward him, just out of reach. I swear she was going, "Neener, neener,'re big and stupid." Evil little Skipper W bred filly. I think she may be a keeper for my friend that bred her.

I tell Top to knock it off. He makes one more pass. I lean over and pick up a couple rocks. He quits. I swear the goober saw me pick up the rocks and quit. I have never thrown rocks at him, but I was going to. He stood there quietly eating. I watched for about five minutes. All was quiet. So, I dropped my rocks, and started to turn to walk away. Bastard, moved like greased lightening to spin and frown at that filly again. Maybe Top isn't as stupid as I think? My student is cracking up. She says, "I can't believe he waited for you to drop the rocks." Crap, now even a dumb-blood is out thinking me. I tell you, I'm slipping.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sunday Carrie Lesson

Top and I arrived at Carries with time to spare. Top needs his chill time after hauling. He is invariably wet and sweaty. No white foam on Sunday. Hey, it's progress. I gave Top a couple Berrygood Treats while I groomed him. He loves those. I tacked him up, and took him to the roundpen and let him walk around on the line. Did a little trot and some canter. He was pretty quiet.

As the lesson before mine is coming to a close I lead Top over to Carrie. I ask her about the saddles. She looks around for Kathy, and or Haylie. Nope they are gone. They know where everything is. lol She says, "Hang on for just a second. I'll find them." We head over to one of the tack areas. She heads into a tackroom. Can't find the saddle. Looks at the tack lockers...locked. She doesn't have a key. Then another of the girls that works there magically appears and says, "I have the keys." Yeah! Nope, the saddles aren't there. Carrie heads back into the tackroom. Success! "I've found it, it was under a cover. Oh, it's got mold...oh well your butt will clean most of that off." We both laugh. We pull the saddle Top has on, and set the new saddle on. It fits, and it's a 17.5" with a narrow twist. How perfect is that?

I ask what kind of saddle it is. She says, "Uhm Passier?" I ask what model. Nobody seems to know. I talk to is a custom saddle that was modified for her. Narrow twist, longer flap for a longer thigh, and a nice wide seat. So, it is either a Passier modified by Schleese, or a Schleese modified by Passier. It has Passier buttons, and a Schleese plate under the flap.

I get on Top with the help of the girl with the keys. (Her name will come to me later). I step on her hand. OMG. I felt terrible. She laughs and says, "See if I ever help you again." Oh, this saddle fits me good. It fits close to the horse, my legs just drape off his sides. The only thing is, it has larger rolls than I am used to. Carrie must have taken pity on me, when I asked how much she said, "$500?" Wooohooo....that I can do. She let me give her $250 on Sunday, and I'll give her the balance in August when she comes back.

We start our warm-up. Top feels really good. He seemed like he picked up where he left off the day before. We are doing walk halt on the diamond. Go to trot on the diamond. If he starts to get out of whack or leans on me...10 meter circle at each point of the diamond to regroup. If that doesn't get is..halt, wait for the release, and immediately forward.

So, we're going along pretty good. Top starts to build....I start a circle. He gets stronger, I take a stronger contact on the inside to push him through. Carrie half yells..." outside rein, outside leg." Too a little leapy hop out of Top. My bad. I left him no place to go in his mind. So the rule with Top is...if he starts to go up, or run through...maintain your bend...apply the outside aids. I am so used to horses that buck...I went immediately to the inside aids to shut him down. Wrong answer. If he's thinking up or out and gone...outside aids. Hey, make me a roadmap...I can follow it. lol

We ended our lesson with a nice soft forward horse...that was traveling on the outside aids. Very cool. It's the magic saddle. lol

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pre-Lesson Sunday

Well, since he kept his feet on the ground the day before I was feeling much better about things. He loaded well on Sunday. I wasn't sure how he'd do getting in after working and hauling the day before. Not a problem. Seems like the more he hauls, the better he does. I really have to work that into my schedule.

It was shaping up to be a chaotic day. I had to bring Daf to town. I had two lessons in town, before I needed to head up the hill to Carrie's. And then after Carries go pick up two more horses to bring to town.

One student was riding a clients horse. Vandy. Terribly cute, very round Vandy. Vandy was a maniac on the lunge. Holycow. He leaped in the air, he jumped he bucked and scooted along at what would be lightspeed for Vandy. I hollered at him as the student was lunging him. He slowed down and gave me the stink eye as he trotted by. Yeah, the 'fun-killer' had arrived. lol So, he had to get his yah-yahs out both directions apparently. Once he was done the kid got on. I'm thinking...well she'll be riding today. Nope. Vandy was over it. Done. Can't move at more than a shuffle, trot was a jog. He was grunting and complaining as only Vandy can and dying on the vine. I say, "Push him up. You look like you're headed to a funeral. Lets see a little oomph in his gait." Nope, no go.

I end up getting on to see what is going on. I ask him to go. He dogs it. I give him a squeeze...he grunts at me, but no more forward than before. I kick him...he does a little shuffling jog. GAAK! I have no whip with me, other than the lunge. I ride him over to the rail...and get the lunge whip. He's like...'eh no big guess were done, and we're going home.' (I've carried whips, and lines and reins on him before...he's pretty used to the routine. Yeah, I'm lazy. He can carry me and the equipment home).

I tap him with the lunge whip. Well, I felt him gather himself a I give a squeeze and nothing. So, I swat him with the whip. Oh my goodness...he could suddenly engage and go the the bit. It's a miracle ladies and gentlemen...he's cured. Hallelujah, can I have an Amen. He didn't even grunt for awhile. lol I realize that Vandy is wider than Top. Vandy is a hand shorter than Top. I'd done something to my right calf the day riding Vandy it cramped up. That's Vandy in the picture. See, Vandy Pants is terribly cute.

I hurry off Vandy, and go grab Top. Top loads well and off to Carries we go.

Monday, July 20, 2009

First Lesson This Weekend

Top and I had two lessons with Carrie this weekend. It seemed like a good idea in light of his new (old?) propensity to rear. (Man, I hate rearing). Funny thing is a rear is a way easier move to ride than a buck, at least for me. The problem is, it's just so damn dangerous. I think of it as the ultimate evasion. Well maybe not the ultimate, I did know a horse that would just flop over on the ground and lie there. (Talk to the hand bitch, what are you going to do now?). I just stepped off and swatted him, gave him a tug up and got back back on. The horse was totally shocked. It had worked well in the past I guess. He tried it one more time. I swatted him harder, and hollered at him this time, got back on. End of that game. I guess he'd flopped over on the previous owner. Previous owner didn't step off on the way down and had a leg pinned under the horse and couldn't get free. They went and got my shoer, who got the horse up and off the guy. That was Om. He turned out to be a truly great horse. He just didn't do stupid well.

I arrived at my lesson about 45 minutes early. Let Top chill for a bit. Then tacked him up and lunged him. He was really calm, very good boy on the lunge. I led him over to the mounting block to get on. One of my students had roached what was left of his mane off. What was left resembled the hair attached to those rubber Halloween masks. Very sad. Think thin and straggely. He'd rubbed most of it out sticking his head through the bars of his pen. It was a truly lovely Freddy Kruger kind of look. Figured it would be best to start from scratch. He actually looks really good. One small problem...the girls roached it all. I didn't even have a tag of mane at the withers to get on.

So, I'm on the mounting block (not nearly tall enough in my opinion) with the reins in my left on his slick withers, and my right hand on the back of the cantle. I went to step up, and my left hand slipped (huge surprise, right) and I bumped his mouth. He waited until my butt was in the saddle, and then filed his protest. A sharp kick with his left hind to one of the letters holding up the dressage rail. I didn't get after him, figured he could make his statement regarding my klutzy ham handed-ness.

So I start walking loopy soft circles waiting for Carrie to be ready for us after the lesson before me. When the other rider exits, we walk toward her. I say, "We need to have a talk." Carrie cocks her head, "Okay, what's going on?" I replied, "Well, I think I know why I'm the third person to be given this horse for free." She laughs, "I like the way you said that. What's he doing?" I made a motion with my hand of going up. All laughter is gone from Carrie. Instant serious. "He's rearing?!" I nod. "That isn't allowed. He can't even think about going up. We can't have that."

Some years ago a horse reared with Carrie, and went over on her. Hurt her bad. Broke (crushed?) her pelvis. It was a long hard road back. She did it, and in someways came out better. The woman has amazing focus and discipline. (Two things I lack. lol)

I have to admit I was twitchy. Any change in his movement, any hesitation, or pulling I was reactive. At one point he went to halt, and kind of hollowed and I tensed. Carrie smiles, and says..."He has to pee." Oh, I'm not on pins and needles here. lol That made me realize how tense I was. Carrie say, "I really sympathize. I know this is tough. You have to ride through it. You can't let this go. I know it's scary." I don't scare easy, but I was not comfortable. It could have easily escalated to full blown fear. Then we'd of both been sunk. Carrie is very good at sending me confidence. I don't know what it is, but I feel like it will always be okay.

Poor Top, even when he wasn't being a jerk, I was waiting for him to be one. One thing I've learned, and it isn't always easy to follow through on....ride the horse you are on at that moment. Not the naughty horse you had yesterday, or the horse you hope to have next year. Ride the horse in the moment. If you expect them to do something 9 times out of 10 that's what they'll do...good or bad.

So we go to work. Back on the diamond. Walk halt, walk halt, over and over, until he was just soft soft soft. Hung neck, back up, quiet chewing happy guy. We'd add a little trot here and there, as soon as he'd build, back to walk halt, walk halt, walk halt.

So, I told her the advice I'd been getting in town. I didn't give any names, as that is just not nice. When I told her, she said "Don't listen. Tune them out. You were doing fine with this horse. We had walk trot canter. Walk to canter, halt to canter. No problems. Stay on your program. That advice will get you hurt. You need to go find a quiet place to work, ignore everything except your lesson. Stay focused." (Yeah, focus is an issue for me.) Top and I are a pair to draw to. Neither of us can keep our heads in the arena.
I then asked her about how heavy he is or can be. That I've been being told, 'You just aren't used to this kind of contact. That's how these horses are.' I hate heaviness. I prefer a light horse. So I was thinking 'Well crap if this is how it has to be, after all these years I don't want one of these.' My Swedish mare was light and responsive. I was told that's because she was 'hot', and not the usual WB. (Hmmmm????) Well, hell give me hot then. Top is hot. So none of this is working in my pea brain. I say, "I think he's just hanging on me." Again, "No, they have to have that kind of contact to be able to do upper level work." Okay, I've never been 'upper level'. I've made it through 3rd, training 4th. I was sitting on a TB and a quarter horse. Maybe I am clueless.

Carrie is momentarily speechless. (accent on momentarily) "NO! We ride great big horses, and they are light, light, light. You know how he feels when you halt, and he gives? That's how light he is. That's how light he can be all the time." Allrighty now, that I can live with. I needed a light at the end of this tunnel.
As we're wrapping things up, I let Carrie know I have another lesson the following day. She says good. We need to get this handled now. I agree and say, "I have to get a saddle that fits me, and him. This is the closest fit I have for him, and I still have to pad it. And it's a 16.5"...I don't have a 16.5" butt." Carrie says she thinks she has a couple of saddles that might work that she would sell me reasonably. I'm thinking...oh man what's reasonable to Carrie may not be remotely reasonable for me. If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.

So, that was the end of day one.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Remember Jasper?

I don't know if you all remember Jasper. He was my rescue toward then end of last summer. Jasper hadn't had it very good. He's six now I think. When he arrived at my place he was 5.

Jasper was one of those hard luck kind of horses. He is a sensitive guy. Well, the 'trainer' (use the term very loosely) couldn't get on him when she started him. She decided it would be a good thing to tie up his leg, and then get on. You know, make him stand still, and teach him a little humility. Yeah, cuz you know it always works really well to scare the shit out of a young horse when you're starting them. Now in my little simpelton's mind, I'm thinking if the horse is panicked and can't stand still for you to get on, he's probably not ready to be ridden. But hey, what do I know?

So, the woman got on, with the leg tied up. Can you imagine how scary for a young horse. It's tough enough for a youngster to figure out how to balance with us on them, let alone try and do it three legged. Well, I guess she loosed the rope, and made about one lap around the arena. Guess what he did? He bucked her off. I know, you all are so shocked.

Well, this poster child for humanitarian of the year award is now pissed off at him. She heads to the house and gets her husband. Tells him to dally this colt up, and drag him around the arena for an hour. I have no idea if the was off another horse, or a vehicle. I do know Jasper has some nasty scars. Like major road rash scars. Nasty old rope burn scars on the left hind (hmmm wonder which leg she tied up?) and other assorted lumpy scars.

This incident had a lasting effect on Jasper. If you stood next to him and lifted your left leg, he'd jump, blow sideways and sometimes almost fall down. He was sincerely scared. I found that if I stood on a mounting problem. I could put weight in the stirrup, swing a leg over and sit on him. We wandered around twice, no pressure. Getting off the first time was a little instense, but the second time was no problem.

Well, an ex-student really wanted him. I was fine with that. She asked me what I wanted for him. I told her I'd just started Iris the Virus and if she would ride her, put some time on her, get to canter...Jasper was hers. She was incredulous. "That's it, are you serious? Really?" I said, "Yeah, Jasper needs a person, and I need Iris ridden. I'm short on time, I know how you ride, it will be a good combo." They couldn't pick Jasper up, until they got rid of this WB they had. They couldn't give him away. Great. I said no problem, just start paying for his food, and when you sell the WB you can come pick up Jasper.

This goes on for about 2 months. The girl calls me and says, "You want that warmblood?" I said, "No." She says, "We can't get Jasper, until the WB leaves. We don't have room for him." Well, two days before Jasper had one of his less frequent panic attacks. A young student, 9 or 10 years old went through Jasper's pen with the wheelbarrow full of hay. No big, this happens every day, twice a day. On her return trip with the empty wheelbarrow it scares Jasper so bad, he falls down.

I was never worried about Jasper doing anything mean. He really doesn't have a mean bone in his body. I was however, very concerned that he could panic, and hurt somebody. Well, a small somebody.

One afternoon we were riding in his pen. The young student's father was holding Jasper. Jasper is pretty timid at this time. Really wants to be social and friendly but very worried about making that jump. He is standing a little behind the man. He put his head on the man's shoulder, and slowly, very slowly does a turn on the forehand with his head on the guys shoulder till he is facing him. Very quiet, very careful... "Hello I'm here, would you love on me." I almost cried. Swallowed hard, (it's just not cool to weep in front of students and parents, you know) and told the man to pet him. Poor horse. He wanted to be okay he wanted to be a part.

Well, after the falling down because of the wheelbarrow, and my concern over beginners in and out...I said, "Sure, I'll take the WB." Well, you all know the WB as Top. The kid never did get Iris to the canter... (typical..dont' you think?) lol

Well, after this long winded's the point of the story. The ex-student didn't keep Jasper. She sold him...made a nice profit on him as a matter of fact. She wasn't very forthcoming with the truth about him though. Well, the woman that got him loves him. She's just going really slow, and he adores her. He looks like a different horse. His face is soft when you see him, he's relaxed. I am so pleased this is working out. And the coup de gras....she took Jasper, now called Cody to Cuneo Creek last weekend, for a campout and trail riding. He loved it, she loved it. Jasper/Cody led on the trail rides, quite the brave horse. What a good boy. What a great home, and owner.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Two Days in a Row

Well, rode Top two days in a row. (ooohh, I know. lol ) He had today off. He didn't seem especially pleased to see me today. Makes sense for a horse that hasn't been worked with any consistency for a couple years.
Day before yesterday he started out very big, I thought he might fall when lunging. He just couldn't contain himself. He was really scattered. He got it together enough for me to get on. Well, 'Hello Mr. Timebomb'. So we walked around, bend left, bend right, make a circle. Halt, give, relax and go on. He was just starting to get it together, when a friend came by to watch. She had all kinds of advice. Lots of it wasn't really applicable to this horse, but she means well. Much of what she had to say was in direct conflict with what Carrie has me doing. So, I'd give a try to the stuff that wasn't in direct conflict, and kind of ignore the rest. This woman could really get me hurt. I really don't think she 'sees' the horse I'm sitting on. I could be wrong, but I really don't think Carrie is.

One of the basic tenants of riding Top per Carrie, is if he gets out of shape, or builds...just halt. Hold, I don't mean pull, but hold until he gives and then release. Once he releases pet him and go. If he pops up or pulls, immediately halt, and wait till he gives and try forward again. Pretty simple. It really helps him. As soon as I halted, and Top is leaning against me she says, "Let go." I said, "No." She said, "Release." I said, "No, not until he gives and relaxes. Carrie said so." Yeah I know, pretty chicken shit invoking the name of Carrie, but it worked. She had other advice, like 'ride him deeper'. I told her this was as deep as he gets. And I don't want spurs, and I don't want a whip. We'll get. It may not be immediate, but we'll get it. He's had plenty of 'do it right now' to last him a lifetime. That is part of his problem, or problems. He rushes, he builds, and he panics to the point of bolting, bucking...oh and rearing. That was a shocker. So, I figure slow down, and wait to see how it goes. I'm not on a schedule here. I don't have some big deadline to meet.

I want a horse that doesn't feel like he's on pins and needles through 60% of the ride. That's down for about 90%. So for me that's progress. The fact that he can stretch down, go on a loose rein and not pop up, invert and bolt is a big deal for me. I really didn't like that. He can also halt, and stand without wiggling, fidgeting and trying to walk off. Big progress. Okay, it's not like we can stand quiet for 5 minutes...but we can get more than a minute now.

Yesterday was tough. Really tough. A woman I know had her mare and new foal free running in the big arena. OMG...Top lost his mind. Was totally enthralled. Puffy, bouncy, jigging on the line. He made a couple circles around me. Drug me over to rail to see...huge eyed, fascinated. You'd of thought he was one of those foal stealing mares. "It's a baby, it's a you see. It's a baby!" Okay, we knew he was different, we just didn't quite know how different.

We finally get to the dressage arena. He's still beyond wound. I had trouble getting him to stand still enough to clip on the lunge line. Holy crap, what a bouncy worm he can be. Well, across the field, the bmx bikes are going. One end of the arena is baby fascination, at the other end scary flying bikes, with the metallic click of the starting gate and me with the goober in between. Man he really checks out hard. Spun is the term, I think.

I got him going pretty decent on the lunge after the momma and baby departed. So, I was feeling okay about getting on. I get on. He's a little tight and pushy. But it is workable. An ex-student is riding her gelding. He's a real goober too. He was having a bad day too. So, of course they are feeding off of each other. One does something stupid, so the other has to follow suit.

I have him going pretty decent. We're going down the long side. Student rides past Top at a slow lope. I mean slow, quiet, no big thing. She took the inside track and was just putting along. Top kind of lifts and goes to push through my hands to go with the other gelding. I half halt, and he is pissed. Sucks back, no nothing in the rein and his back hollows. It feels like the dashboard has just fallen out of your car. It is not a happy feeling. I think, okay don't change your position, just put your leg on and push him back up. Well, apparently that is Top's cue to rear. We are at the corner of the arena, just starting out turn. I guess I let out a yelp, I think I cussed and booted him and pulled his head around on the descent. My student looks over just has he's landing, and asks, "Did he go up?" I say, "Yeah, he did, bastard." Scared me. Not at my best when I'm shook.

Right back to work. She goes by again. He goes to repeat his antic. Uhm, no. I'm not maintaining my position. You suck back, I get a hold of you, turn your head and kick you forward now. It seemed to work. I got some soft work out of him. My student says, "I'd of called it there. He did that good. He needs to be done." I'm about to disagree with her, and realize she's right. It's the same thing I've said to her umpteen times. We got one more good, soft forward circle, and halted. I got off. Done for the day.

Looking back, what I felt was a rear, probably couldn't have been. We were moving, and bending into the turn. It had to be a very vertical jumping motion. Don't know, but know I don't like it.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Top's Back on the Schedule

Well, finally got shoes on Top. What a difference. I'd been calling my shoer a week into his last trim to get shoes on him. Hey, it only took him about six weeks to get it done. Yeah I was a little irritated. I asked him if his back had been bothering him. He said, "Yeah, for about a week or two." I replied, "Maybe a month or so?" He looked a little sheepish and said, "Well, yeah. We're you ready to kill me?" I replied, "I was this close." Holding up my hand showing less than an inch of space between my thumb and forefinger.

Top was good boy for his shoes. He wears 3's all the way around. My shoer actually likes him. Rare for him to like a WB. Top's just not typical WB I guess. He is kind of a giant Arab/TB or something. So, he's a branded Oldenburg. Sire was Holsteiner, dam was Hanoverian. Have no clue as to why he seems like a giant Arab. There is a substantial amount of TB though.

I rode him the other day. Had to test ride the new shoes. They really did make a difference for him, especially over rocks on the gravel drives. I take him to the main arena. The bridge for the trail classes had been left in there from the show last weekend. It was apparently a 'horse eating bridge'. I hooked him up, and started to lunge. Every time he came around near the bridge he'd get tall, and bow his body away from the bridge. I figured I'd ignore that behavior, and just continue like I didn't notice anything. I'd just take a little contact on that side, and redirect him quietly, and wait for him to get over it. He did pretty well going to the left.

Change of direction to the right. OMG...the sky is falling. The bridge looks even more monstrous from this direction. Top can cover about ten feet sideways in one hop, in my direction. Giant horse in my lap wanting me to save him from what I now realize is the 'Troll's Bridge' from the 'Three Billy Goats Gruff '. I'm just not sure how I could not have been aware of that from the get go. I must be very unobservant.

I look at my very tall quivering mass of horse. I pat him, step to his left side and say, "Oh, come on you big baby." We walk together over to the very scary bridge. He stops about seven feet shy of it. I turn and look at him, give a little tug and say, "Oh come on, you're fine." I walk up to the bridge. I stand on the bridge. He stands next to me by the bridge. I turn and walk over the bridge. He walks with no hesitation over the bridge. No big thing. I think we're good to go.

We go back out to our lunging spot, and begin again. He comes around on the circle...sees the bridge, and catches air again. AHHHH! So, we just went in circles until he could walk, trot, canter past the bridge without falling apart.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Strider's Beginnings

Years ago I had a quarter gelding, Strider. I owned his mother Winnie. She was a Cal Bar mare. Nice mare. She'd had her hock broken when she was coming four. A pony and a gelding sandwiched her between them, and kicked the snot out of her I guess. Busted her hock. I got her when she was 8. She'd had two foals. The folks that had her, had been riding her. I got her so she wouldn't be ridden, could hang in the field, and make me a foal. This was back in '88. There is no way I could have afforded this mare if she wasn't so damaged. I also really liked the mare. I'd tried to purchase the filly she had at two days old. One of those, 'omg...that's the horse' moments. Doesn't happen to me often. It's immediate, I can't explain what it's just a feeling.

So, the owner of the mare said I could buy the filly when she was weaned. I showed back up when she was five months old. The owner said, "Oh, our daughter wants to keep her. So we sold her to our daughter for $1000." I almost had a full blown temper tantrum on the spot. I didn't...I bought the mare, and the older gelding. Screw em, I'll make my own. Yeah, the conceit of youth.

I bought the gelding for my boyfriend the chef. His name was Ohm. Gotta love it. He was very anything you asked. Ohm fit him. Kind of like the meditation mantra ...'ohhhhhmmmmm'.

So, I bred Winnie to Poco Joe Satan. Terrible name. Great horse. 15+h black AQHA stallion, by Hot Lightning out of a Poco Bueno bred mare. I knew the stallion well. I used to work and ride him, and handle him for breeding. We got on well. You didn't pick at him, but you didn't give any ground either. You just had to be clear, and fair and he was great. He had a sense of humor. As I've noted before, not always a good thing in a horse. I swear that horse could tippy toe...stealth horse. I was bent over cleaning out his water trough one day. Never heard him. He put his nose on the back of my neck and blew. Scared the living crap out of me. I jumped about 5' in the air, screeched and swung my arm at him as I turned. He hopped backwards, just out of range, ears straight up like he was grinning at me and saying, 'What? I didn't do anything.'

I remember one afternoon I was riding him out on the trails. He decided he wanted to go one way, when I wanted to go another. We were at an impasse. He was a stout old boy. I couldn't even bend his neck. I was like the little kid on my giant Shetland pony that wouldn't move. I'd yard on the reins, kick his side, kick his shoulder, lean and pull. Yeah, my big 120lbs was really going to knock him off balance. (Bastard) So now I'm cussing him. Giving him the Alpo lecture (you know...'Do you know what Alpo is? Do you want to be Alpo....) basically starting to nut up.

He's a giant black rock underneath me. Well, he takes a step in the direction he wants to go. Steps on a branch that snaps and drills him right in the gut...or further back, not really sure. He thought I'd gut shot him. He rocked back on his hocks, and turned the direction I wanted to go in the first place, at a pretty good clip. I slowed him his neck and said, "Good boy." You bet...take your gifts when they present themselves. Serendipity. That sulling up...we call 'Poco Bueno-ing Out'. Stubborn...but once you win, you win forever.

Well, the lady that owned Satan sold him to Winnie's owner. The new owner thought it was cool to have him all wound up a blowy. (Yeah, novice). Satan was more than happy to oblige. It's a good thing whoever trained him originally had really ingrained his manners on him. Satan never hurt these people. I remember one day the owner came running in the drive with Satan. He'd take him on walks. He wasn't much into riding. Well, Satan saw my colt Shad, and wanted to go visit over the fence. So he's basically dragging this guy over there. The guy tries to set his heels, and is kind of skiing-skipping along. Well, he gets to the apple tree. He thinks if he plants his left foot against the tree, and braces with his right foot on the ground, he's going to stop this 1200+ pounds of testosterone that is in motion.

It levered the guy through the air. It was like he leaped through the air off his left foot that he'd placed about three foot up that apple tree. (Think para-sailing) He landed in a face plant and let go of the rope. Satan jogged on over to talk to the yearling, oblivious the havoc he'd created behind him. The guy jumps up and says, "Well I'll be damned." At this point I started cracking up. Told him, "I've never seen anyone catch that much air. It was like a Tom & Jerry cartoon. " The guy was a good sport, and is laughing too. Then he tells me he used to be a wing walker. The guy is an adrenaline junky. He now builds canons and blows things up. He's great fun, and has great stories.

His wife on the other hand is always getting hurt. It's like inevitable. You ever meet people like that? She decided she wanted to groom Satan one day. So, I get sent out to supervise, and handle the horse while she grooms. She's grooming away, brushing his tail and falls down. Falls right under the stallion. I tell her, "Just roll away, get clear, then stand up." She wallows herself around until she's sitting 'indian style' directly behind the stallion. Before I could say or do anything she reaches out and grabs his hock with one hand, and his tail with the other and heaves herself out of the dirt. I quit breathing. Satan whips his head around and looks at her, whips it back to look at me. Little wrinkles above his, "What the hell? Did you see that?"

After she left I went inside with the previous owner. She made me a White Russian.