Friday, 30 March 2012

Lesson 03/31/12

I was sick last week and had to cancel my lesson Monday night, so I was pretty excited for this one. Due to trying to finish up some night classes and the fact the barn is an hour away, my last ride was last Sunday. It was also unfortunately "interesting". I'm the type of person who, if I allow myself, will start to dwell on that and get discouraged. I find it much harder these days to stay positive after a not so positive ride. I think previously, since I rode every day, the "bad" ride was forgotten within a couple of days. Now I have all week to dwell on it and worry about all the things I imagine I'm doing wrong.
Long story short, I was determined not to play mind games with myself today.
And I think it worked!
Ginger was really full of it to start. Her paddock buddy had been taken out for a ride before I got there AND apparently in this part of the world they shoot gophers in the spring. So, missing buddy + random gunfire in the area = Ginger thinking armageddon is near. Apparently she's been really "up" all week though.
We started with a little lesson in lunging. Trainer girl has a very specific way she likes to do it and strongly believes that you lunge them as you would ride them. For example, Ginger is expected to round herself and look for the contact, keep a nice steady tempo, and generally be obedient to what I ask at all times. She is there to do her job, not burn off steam or goof off. We don't use any "gadgets", but she does wear her bridle with the lunge line clipped to the outside bit ring, over her poll, and through the inside ring. This is the way I've always done it, so thankfully at least that was familiar to me. I'm expected to keep a steady contact and support her outside rein, I'm also supposed to "push" her more in a square rather than a circle. The idea is to keep her straight, rather than letting her curl her head inwards and trail her hindquarters to the outside. Ideally I want to keep her just like how you would like to ride her on a circle. Seemed like so much common sense to me, but embarrassingly, nothing I had ever really thought much about.
After my crash course in lunging, I had a nice ride. Just walk trot today, working on our transitions and riding her with the support she needs. This seems a bit counterintuitive to me. She's very hot and spooky, and my default seems to be to want to back off and ride her very lightly and sensitively. As usual, trainer girl was right, and by me adding that extra bit of leg and contact Ginger was happier and went really nicely. There were some amazing moments...I literally have to close my leg a teeny bit and exhale and she walks or halts. I think trot and she trots. I don't know about you, but I've heard it before in lessons, especially for downward transitions - "Just sit deeper! Close your leg!" etc etc and well, I always sort of faked it with a quick grab on the outside rein when the horse inevitably plows through my hand. It was a bit amazing to feel how it should be. Of course after one particularly great transition I had to ruin it by laughing out loud at how wonderful it was and spooking Ginger. Apparently we don't talk or laugh loudly while riding ;)

I still feel like I'm the weak link and desperately need to improve for this horse. Lainey was easy to start and I don't think I appreciated how easy until now. Trainer girl very kindly said I did a wonderful job with Lainey, and to just think of Ginger as my next step up as a rider. We'll both be learning as we go, and that's OK.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Run Away!

When Ginger arrived last June she was scared of everything. I thought moving out into the great big world just temporarily blew her mind. Now that I know her better, I know that's the way she is naturally inclined to always approach things. Once she trusts you, things are of course greatly improved and she becomes much more outgoing. The catch is, she doesn't trust just anyone. Each new person she meets has to prove themselves to her. The contrast became pretty obvious the day G (my ever so wonderful partner) came out to the prairies to visit us. After burying him in video of the horses (of which he watched every minute, knowing he'd be questioned on it later), he had "seen" Ginger when she arrived, the first time I tacked her up, lunged her, etc. This was pre-trainer and I was doing it all myself so I was of course super excited to show him in real life how far I had come with my wild pony.
It went sort of like this:
We pull into the driveway.
Ginger: "Oh hi, you're here!" (leans over the fence)
I get out of the truck.
Ginger: "HI!
G gets out of the truck.
Ginger: "OMG! There is someone in your truck!!! Look, he was hiding in your truck all along...run while you still can!!!!" (Runs away)
G: "Well...she's sure pretty"
I do damage control and catch Lainey and give G the job of "looking after" Lainey. Lainey, smart girl, works it for all she's got and gets ear rubs and belly scratches out of the deal. Lainey loves G, because he treats her like a dog and even takes her for walks. This, combined with the fact that, in her opinion, he needs a little looking after makes them the perfect match.
I'm still anxious to show him how hard I've been working with Ginger. Just one small catch, no matter what I do she will not let him within about 10 feet of her. So he saw me ride, but had to hide on the other side of the fence. Not quite what I had in mind. Finally, in a moment of inspiration, I handed him (the very end!) of her lead rope, and told him to try taking her to graze. Turns out the way to a pony's heart is most definitely through her belly.

Pre-bribery Ginger: "OMG! He's LOOKING at me!!"

About Us! Part 4- The Situation

The title makes it sound like I'm about to involve you in some elaborate spy plot or gambling scam. Don't worry, it's just a post about my current set up as it pertains to the horses. Then you'll know all there is to know about us and we can progress to fun things like lesson recaps and the always exciting adventures of Ginger.

In the past, I've mostly kept my horses at home on the coast. I rode almost every day, and while I had great ambitions of eventing and was pretty religious about taking advantage of every clinic that came my way, the majority of my rides were spent out on the trails. Regular coaching was non existent, and forget about attending an event without a (very expensive!) ferry ride.
Now I'm on the prairies and still trying to decide whether I'm here to stay. So, for now, that means the horses are boarded. It also means real winter, and little to no trail access. On the plus side, there's a great coach on site and plenty of horse-y things going on most weekends and within an hours drive. Part of me also likes having someone else care for them. I can go away for a weekend and there's no stress. The current barn is wonderful, and the amenities are obviously much improved over what I would have at home. But no outdoor riding in the winter!
The bigger part of me misses having them close by and being able to spend quality time with them. I feel rushed working full time and trying to fit in barn time too. I'm frequently frustrated that I can't just pop in and see them. I'm also starting to realize just how much work I got done with them when I had that bit of time every day.
So, for the time being, Lainey has a half leaser and Ginger is being ridden by the trainer. I'm only riding them two to three times a week, including lessons on the weekends. I try to remind myself how lucky I am to have that, but that doesn't stop me from doing everything in my power to improve it and I hope to have some positive changes come late spring.

About Us! Part 3- Me.

I was the typical horse crazy kid trapped in a suburban lifestyle with parents who were sure I'd grow out of it. 25 years later, my parents are still waiting. I'm starting to suspect the horses are here to stay, but what do I know?

When I was about 10 I was smart enough to take matters into my own hands. I got a job at a riding stable in exchange for the use of a pony on the weekends. This was no small feat in a small town on the Pacific coast of BC -horses and the property they require are few and far between. I'm not sure what the child labour laws were like then, but it may have been a good thing no one paid attention :) And it may have also been a very good thing my parents were completely ignorant of what I was doing all day.
I'll save the stories for later but suffice to say a lot of fun was had and a lot of lessons were learned the hard way.
Eventually, I had to face the real world and go to college and get a job. Horses took a back seat for a few years, until once again I took matters into my own hands and bought myself a horse. My boyfriend was unimpressed with my initiative, and shortly thereafter became my ex-boyfriend. I bought a house with space for a horse or two and settled down for the long haul. And lived happily ever after.

No, not really. I got bored. And quit my job. And went back to school. And met someone new. And finally, last year, got a new job 1600km from my hometown so I can have that career I always wanted. I brought Lainey with me, because she is awesome like that. Unfortunately, my "someone new" (who is by now, not at all new) is still working on the coast while we figure out just what it is I'm doing! I tried to lure him on the trailer with Lainey but it didn't work and I had to buy Ginger instead to fill the space. Can't blame him though, he's been at his job for about a million years and is all responsible about pensions and savings and such. He's also absolutely amazing. He's the nice guy best friend you would have passed over in high school for the totally inappropriate party guy with the motorbike. Can't wait for Mr. Nice Guy to finalize things and get out here!

Sunday, 25 March 2012

About Us! - Part 2 - Lainey

Lainey is a coming 7 year old 15.3hh thoroughbred cross mare. I've owned her since she was 2. She's the queen of the world, and she knows it! Don't let her soft exterior fool you, she likes to keep the world in order. She's a fabulous trail horse for this very reason, because nothing frightens her. She's also wonderful with beginners because she takes great pride in looking after her herd. It's people like me that cause her a bit of worry. I have my own ideas about things and usually don't listen to her demands. Cue the sad whinnying, the heartbroken stares, the worried looks.
I imagine she is thinking: "How dare you pet that horse I haven't met! Is it safe?" "Here, let me get that dog away from you...he might bite!" "Are you sure you want to canter?...it's just you seem a little off today"
Always so well intentioned, and everyone thinks she's the sweetest horse ever, but underneath is steel, I swear!

About Us! Part 1- Ginger

Let's start first with Ginger, since the blog is "hers".
Ginger is a coming 5 year old Welsh Sec D mare. She's about 15.2 hh, bay, and loads of fun. She arrived here last summer after much obsessing on my part. I'm sure the sellers were wondering why their ad had been viewed about 10 billion times :) Well, maybe not 10 billion, but at least once a day for just over a year. The problem was, I already had a perfectly nice horse, and I was in the process of finding a new job - not exactly the right time to buy another horse. I still have no idea why I was even looking at online ads or why I couldn't get this particular one out if my head. So I waited, and waited, and waited, and when the timing was finally right, I couldn't resist. I'm hoping to use this blog to document our progress (or lack of :) ). I'm hoping she'll make a fun dressage pony, but really, I'd love to event her!