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.