Sunday, 29 April 2012

Reeeellllllaaaaaxxxx....

Today was a continuation of my slow-and-quiet-bore-you-to-death plan. It worked pretty well! I had a really nice ride. Can I just say how much I love this horse? The tiniest hint of a thought and she's ready and waiting. A slight confirmation and away we go. As I'm finding out, this can be a double edged sword, but on days like today it's pretty darn cool. We got some really nice relaxed leg yields. Probably not a big deal to some, but for me a big grin from ear to ear because lately it's been all about trying to fly forward or sideways, mortally offended I am actually touching her. Today I played around a bit more. I know logically she has to accept more leg. Here's what I think has been happening though:
Me: think about what I'm going to ask
Her: "OK, ready when you are"
Me: "OK, get ready"
Her: starting to get confused..."Just let me do it already"
Me: Asks, quietly
Her:" OMG, you don't need to shout! I knew what you wanted when you were thinking about it...In case you didn't notice I had started doing what you wanted AT LEAST .5 second before you touched me. Why are you asking me twice? Was I not fast enough? Is this not what you wanted? I'm so confused!"
So, in short, she can read me like an open book and is anticipating everything. Today, as mentioned, I focused on just having her relax, and compromised with her by trying to be very conscious of my body and keeping things as simple and quiet as I could. I know there is the thought that I need to just ride "normally" and she needs to get used to it. But oh my, do I wish I was a fantastic rider who would never accidentally lean or bump...I'd keep her just the way she is.
As an example, I'm embarrassed to say I'm not always 100% at picking my diagonal...especially with her when I am focusing more on other things. She lets me know pretty darn fast what I'm doing is WRONG and tries to scoot under so I am "right". (Actually maybe this could be a super handy trick in an equitation class;) Time to step up my riding, Ms. Gingersnap deserves it.

Here's the muddy beast:

Saturday Barn Day

No lesson yesterday. Trainer Girl was actually around this weekend but I had misread the schedule and didn't think to double check. I'm a bit sad about that!
It snowed like crazy Friday night. I woke up to about 6" of snow on the ground. Perfect excuse to hang out at home watching Rolex cross country. I wish I had a tenth the skill set of some of those riders. I watched the course walk video and those jumps are huge, and not at all straightforward- yet there were many riders out there making it look easy. Part of me is wildly inspired, the other part depressed at my current lack of skill.
I finally headed out to the barn mid afternoon. We were back to normal spring weather, the result being all that snow spontaneously melted, flooding everything. At least the grass will be green! The outdoor ring was unusable and under about 6" of water. Ginger had to cross a mini lake to come see me in the paddock. Luckily Lainey lead the way once I promised treats.
I brought Ginger in and gave her a good cleaning - wow was she filthy! I really need to figure out her mane. Part of me wants to pull it, the other part says let it grow long. The result is about an 8" long mane that looks awful.
We spent some time playing with groundwork. She's so amazing at it that it's fun to play with. We did some pretend in hand trail and some pretend showmanship. I then rode walk trot, focusing on being very relaxed and quiet. I was joking about practicing for western pleasure :) I know a lot of people would want her to be "working" ie more engaged and on the bit, but she's naturally so reactive and forward I don't think slow stretchy work will hurt :) My gut is saying she's a bit overwhelmed with things right now and I need to make things easy and fun to get her confidence back up. I'm not saying that's the whole problem, but it's certainly one of the things I can try to control better. I suspect she'll always be quite reactive and spooky, but if we can find a "happy place" I think we're going to have an incredible partnership. We did a few single trot poles to end the ride and she was pretty proud of herself! Rolex, here we come ;)
We finished our nice relaxing day with a walk around the grounds and a bit of hand grazing as a reward for being such a good girl.
Apologies to those reading, this is going to continue to be a super slow and steady and probably boring process for a while yet. Trainer girl is resuming full time work with her this coming week and I'm madly researching barns on the coast that might be a good fit for us if I take a new job. I've got a couple of connections from previous clinics that I hope pan out.
Mr G thinks if/when Lainey sells I should buy a lower level packer and take full advantage of the opportunity to advance my own riding and compete. Not sure about that, because I don't want to short change Ginger. As I told him, these are also exceptional horse trainers and I have much to learn there also and already have the horse to do it with :)

Friday, 27 April 2012

A bit of everything

First off, I am loving being able to watch Rolex on the USEF Network. Secondly, production at work was less than stellar this Thurs/Fri. A random coincidence, I'm sure.
I'm all itching to get out eventing now though, and it's not even cross country day yet! I don't think Ginger will be ready this summer, especially with me being a wannabe as well. And the spookiness might be an issue cross country, not sure ;) But I think we're still on track to hit a couple of small dressage shows before I go just to get her out and about.
As it stands, I'm leaving July 1st for home. I do have an option for some work June through December close to home which I might be tempted to take. It's in an area thats an eventing hotspot. The chance to take some lessons with some seriously qualified people would be a dream come true, although I would probably be so intimidated by their credentials I'd be unable to function :) Its a consideration because once I return to my "island" its quite difficult to find reliable instruction and very costly to travel to shows. Of course as far as friends and family are concerned, I'm considering the job because it's an excellent career opportunity with great pay. Nothing at all to do with horses, you see. They are still hoping the horses are something I'll grow out of, so I like to pretend to be all responsible now and then to give them hope.
As far as Ginger goes, she's doing just fine. The weather here has been absolutely terrible- rain, wind, more rain, more wind, and now they are calling for snow tonight. I'm guessing there will be no outdoor riding tomorrow. Sadly, trainer girl is busy the next few weekends taking her prospects to shows, so my private Saturday lessons are a thing of the past. I will, however, be attending the dreaded Monday night group lesson, and will try to schedule a second weeknight lesson.
In general I'm feeling pretty lucky to have so many choices available to me and the wonderful Mr G on my side. He's an animal lover, but would have been much happier in a small house on the ocean with a cat or dog or something. Instead he ends up shoveling poop and mowing pastures. I'm super spoiled and I know it!

Saturday, 21 April 2012

A good day

I popped into the tack store this morning to pick up some essentials, and ended up picking up a new breastplate for the roly poly Ginger. I was pretty happy to have found exactly what I needed, but when I got to the till and the owner informed me that the entire store is 70% off, my day just couldn't get better. So, I spent $21.50 on a new breastplate with all the attachments, a big bag of horse treats, and some detangler. And now I'm thinking of all the things I don't NEED but can't afford not to buy :)
I think a new show outfit might be in order, and a super fancy bridle for each of the girls. We'll see.

After that, I ventured back out to the farm to try out the new gear. I lucked out and it's the perfect color to match Ginger's "ebony" saddle and bridle, which is more of a chocolate color. In my world as long as the tack is functional we're good. If the color is sort of close we're very stylish and sophisticated ;) Perfectly matching is unheard of!
The wind today was unreal, which was too bad because it's finally warming up a bit. I rode Ginger in the outdoor ring and she was actually pretty good considering the wind and the fact that there was a lot going on in the general area. I did break out the western saddle just in case! I focused on just keeping her relaxed and quiet. After a month of fairly demanding work, I think she enjoyed a nice quiet ride on a loose rein. She'll be back in boot camp Monday though. Here's hoping the little break did her some good and she'll be on her best behaviour.

The view of the outdoor today. It's a tough life!

Friday Night Horses

I have such a busy social life, can't you tell? :) So, yes, Friday night was spent with the horses. It was super quiet last night, I was the only one there. The girls were both happy to see me. Or maybe the apples I brought. Details!
I had a little cry and pity party for myself- too much stress at work, not enough horse/Mr G time. Lainey was like "Um, OK, let's talk later when you get a grip" Ginger of course was like "Oh, you're so unstable! So am I! Lets be friends forever!" Or again, it could have been the apples :)
I gave Lainey a good grooming worthy of the queen she is (or imagines herself to be).
I took Ginger over to the outdoor ring and just lunged her and did some ground work. She's fun to play with, she's so in tune and tries so hard to please. When we have rough patches I like to go back to a little bit of ground work. She gets so upset when she's "wrong" so it's good to get her back to the stuff she knows and just have fun.
She was pretty relaxed and all in all, it was a nice evening.
There was a bit of poop left in the ring from other riders so I thought I'd pick it up and let Ginger wander around on her own to explore. She seemed content to follow me around until she realized she didn't have to stay. At that point she had a little canter around the ring, and then surprised me by doing a figure 8 complete with flying change before coming back to hang out. Show off!
She's impossible to take pictures of because she's always moving. Even if I ask her to stand, her feet might stay still, but the rest of her is looking around for something more interesting to do! Here she's ever so slowly inching closer, while pretending she's not.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Long Time No See

Finally made it out to see the girls tonight after what felt like forever. I'll post a better update in the morning. For now, here's a picture from tonight.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Not much new

Been super busy with work again, and trainer girl is off on a much deserved vacation. My next lesson isnt until the 21st! I'm wondering if a little mini vacation might be good for Ginger anyway. We were doing quite well, then the last 2 or 3 weeks have been downhill. I've found previously that some horses that are wonderful to start get a little tricky and testing once they get a bit more confidence with things, so I'm hoping this is just that phase! Whatever the case, I'm planning to bring her in and clean her up this weekend. Her mane is totally out of control and I'd love to get rid of the remaining winter hair she's got going on. Beyond that, the outdoor ring is open for use again, which I'm quite happy about. Its a beautiful property, and the outdoor ring overlooks some open pasture and a small lake. Very inspiring after being locked up inside. I hope to make use of it this weekend and see how many monsters Ginger can find. I sure wish I didn't live over an hour away, because this barn is perfect otherwise.
I'm hoping to also borrow Lainey and pony Ginger out around the pastures. It's looking more and more like I'll be returning out to the coast in the beginning of July and it would be wonderful to have a bit of a head start on getting her out the trails...the trails at 'home' are gorgeous and I'll be a bit sad if I dont get out on them for some good rides by the end of summer. That could be a big ask for a horse like her, but I think we can get there. Hiking or riding my bike is great, but not the same as trail riding!

Here's what I'm dealing with as far as the winter hair goes...this picture is from a month or so ago, but 99% of that coat remains, luckily minus the ice mustache :)

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Better

Yesterday I spent time doing some groundwork with Ginger. We even did a little in hand trail course out in the field. What's super funny was that it was windy, so every little movement or noise was obviously something very scary sneaking up on her. Apparently tarps, bridges, water, all the normal "scary" things, are no big deal when there are imaginary lions sneaking up on you through the grass. This pony has her priorities!
Today I had another quick lunging lesson. I'm really getting the hang of it, thank goodness. I'm really interested to see how it translates under saddle too and hope to learn more. This could be a very useful tool for me in the future. No more lunging just to take the edge off.

Trainer girl rode Ginger first so I could see where she is at with her. It was neat to see someone riding her and to see that all in all, she actually looks pretty good! Riding her, it's hard to tell because she still feels so wiggly and inconsistent. That's not to say I couldn't see it at all on the ground, but it really doesn't look as bad as it sometimes feels. Ginger was, once again, pretty "up" and spooky. Trainer girl started working on nicer canter departs last week or so...and since then ginger has taken every excuse to try to leap off into a canter and be very silly. So we are back to slow and very quiet, walk/trot with a little canter at the end if she is relaxed. The trick with her is to let her be forward, but keep her relaxed.
I didn't bother switching out saddles after the trainer rode. Trainer girl is very tall and I am very short, so her saddle was a bit to get used to. I was caught fiddling my outside foot in the iron a bit trying to get comfy. Ginger surprised me a giant leap from a walk to canter. I brought her back to a walk within a stride or two, but she was pretty flustered after that and was randomly leaping forward if I used my leg. It was hard because I knew she was going to leap forward, but I still had to ride normally and use my aids normally and try to expect that she would be fine. Eventually she was. I won't lie, it's frustrating to have these setbacks, but it is sort of funny/interesting to see how she thinks things through and how she tests things. ("OK, you moved your outside leg....canter?? No? Are you sure? Here, let me try again! No? Really? Because it would be super fun to run around and spook at everything!")

I think we're going to have an amazing partnership once we understand each other better. We've had some wonderful moments so far, and I expect many more to come.

On a sad note, it sounds like the girl leasing Lainey wants to buy her. I'm a bit torn about it, on one hand I know it will be a great home and she'll get the attention she deserves. On the other, I want to be selfish and keep her for myself because she's just a really good horse. The reality is, though, that the home is perfect and the money is enough to set me on the path of some of my horsey dreams. I don't really have a job for her and I'm pretty busy with work and the ever demanding Ginger.
I'd be silly to say no. But if they change their minds I won't complain :)

Friday, 6 April 2012

Long week

Work has been a little stressful the last couple of weeks. Combine that with final exams for the classes I've been taking, add a nasty head cold, and I've been just too busy/exhausted to make it to the barn.

Things here are wearing on me in a big way. Life's much too short to be unhappy, so some changes are coming! I hope to spend time at home this summer with friends and family (and horses!) just having fun, and then take on some shorter term contracts away. It's not ideal and will be a little stressful figuring out the logistics, but it's the best option I can think of to keep my foot in the door career wise and still have time with the people that are important to me. Mr G's awesome about coming out to visit, but the travel time is a bit of a nightmare so we only end up seeing each other every couple of months or so. I've been here over a year, so it's time for a change.

Ginger will, of course, accompany me on my adventures.
I'm off to the barn now to de-stress.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Rough night at the barn

I went out after work last night for a 7:00 lesson. I should have stayed home :)
Ginger was really well behaved bringing her in from the field. Usually she's a bit uptight leaving her friends, but last night she seemed content, and once again really enjoyed being groomed. I took her into the arena a bit early to just lead her around, and she was super quiet - which is rare for her. I got on and walked her around on a loose rein. She had been worked by the trainer earlier in the day, so we didn't lunge her. And then, the two people from the previous lesson left and the two people I was to be riding with came in. And she lost her mind. I tried to settle her and put her to work, but she was just getting more and more frantic, spooking at the other horses, trying to bolt, and generally just in panic mode. I dont think she was upset about the other horses leaving, it was the new ones she was quite worried about. There were two of them and she wanted to keep an eye on both at all times. I was getting a bit tense and it just wasn't working. The instructor led us around a little, but she was still pretty 'out there'. So embarassingly, we had to hang out in the center and watch while the others had their lesson. She was a mess, I was uptight and feeling bad for being so disruptive...all in all not the best night. At the end of the lesson, the other horses left and again new ones came in, but this time she didnt seem too worried so the instructor took 10 min to lunge us walk/trot to end on a good note. I walked her around a bit more, and that was that.
We're going to try bringing her in to the barn overnight for a couple of weeks (she's currently on paddock board). Maybe that will help her get more used to the comings and goings. The trainer usually rides weekday mornings and it's pretty quiet then. My lessons up to now have been private, so again pretty  quiet. Thats not to say she's never been ridden with other horses, but last night was obviously too much for her. Trainer girl is awesome and also said if this continues she'll start hanging out on Ginger while she teaches lessons, which would be a huge help. I'm frustrated to have such limited barn time and am leaning more and more towards heading to the coast for a few months this summer and just getting Ginger out and about every day. Of course wonderful Mr. G is there too, which is my main motivation. Mr G, after hearing my sad story last night, suggested we take Ginger to a deserted island and ride on the beach. I was like "!?!". He said "It worked on that Black Stallion movie". I love him, he always knows how to make me laugh :)

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Shiny Happy Pony

I have another lesson tomorrow night so Ginger got the day off from riding.
I did, however, bring her in and give her the ultimate spa experience.
She started out tense and worried again but once she realized she was just getting a super thorough grooming she relaxed and really enjoyed herself. Sorry, no pictures, the weather was terrible today and even with all the lights on in the barn it was still a little too dark and gloomy for nice pictures. Of course by tomorrow she'll be back to her muddy awesomeness, which sets off the half shedded winter coat to perfection ;)
Here's a cute pic of her I found online..she was probably a yearling here. It's interesting how much her coat has darkened since then.