Thursday, 31 December 2015

NHW Blog Hop: Year In Review, Fav Pictures

I didn't want to bore anyone with a month by month recap of a fairly uneventful year. Lucky for us all there is a No Hour Wasted Blog Hop to streamline things!

She asks:
2015 is coming to a close. With this comes the end of good and bad. Share your favourite or most important memories from the past year.

My not-so-favorite moments of 2015:

-Moving for work. It stinks to be away from G. (But, see below, silver linings)
-Getting on Ginger after 3 months at the trainers and realizing everything still felt the (awful) same.
-Ginger not finding her perfect home, then struggling a little to fit in here.
-Letting myself get discouraged/frustrated with my lack of progress and Bridget's lack of work ethic last spring.

My favorite moments of 2015:

-Getting the exact job in the exact location I'd been aiming for the past few years. Long term planning win, eventually G is moving there too.
-EC having space to board Bridget. Again long term planning for the win, this is the barn/coach I wanted when I first started eyeing up moving to the area (and honestly a big part of the reason the area was attractive to me in the first place).
-Bridget doing great at her first shows and clinics

-Ginger settling in here after her training stint and being a useful member of equine society.
-My green pony and my inexperienced self jumping around proper courses. Never, ever thought that would happen.
-Bridget really stepping up to the plate and going from Ginger's back up/my fun trail horse, to main ride and surprising us all with her enthusiasm for jumping and dressage.
-Finally getting a baby kitty after years of talking about it. Great decision, he's the best.



Monday, 28 December 2015

NHW Blog Hop: Prezzies

I deliberately saved this great blog hop from No Hour Wasted until after Christmas, because hey, optimism :)

The winter season brings gifts, whether weather (;) ), Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Solstice, what have you. So, let’s talk gifts! What has been your favourite gift from another person, your horse, yourself! 

Favorite Gift From Another Person:

So, did I ever mention husband G made the whole Bridget thing happen? Pretty sure nothing will ever top that!


Favorite Gift from My Horse:


Confidence. Seriously, how much fun is riding when the pony makes me feel like we can do anything? A: Super fun!


Favorite Gift From Myself:


Dedication/Stubborness. I have wanted to try jumping and eventing and compete in 'real' shows for the better part of 20 years. It's always been my number one goal as far as riding. Due to a combination of growing up without parental support for the horse thing, living in a very isolated area, real life responsibities, confidence issues, horses unsuited for the job, blah blah blah, it just wasn't happening. I probably should have given up, and got into a cheaper hobby I'm better at naturally, but wow am I glad I didn't.
Best present ever!

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Holiday Ride

Since I worked right up to Christmas, I really felt like I needed a day off this year before travelling home. Thank goodness G is the most understanding husband ever, and decided he could live without me for one more day ;) I spent Christmas Day at the barn, free from responsibility/stress/guilt. Best gift ever. I spent Boxing Day travelling and visiting, and will spend the next week or so up the coast with G ( minus one midweek trip south for my weekly lesson and to do a shift or two at the barn - dedication to this horse thing is not my problem lol). 

This Christmas Day was all about enjoying the sunshine Santa brought to the barn. This is the second year I've wished for sunshine after months of wind and rain and the second year it has magically appeared for Christmas. If not Santa, a Festivus miracle, at the very least.

My ride was fantastic because daylight! and sunshine! but technically not the greatest. Midge again felt great through her back, but almost off going left - she was so unsteady in my outside rein. I felt like we should do a little flatwork, but she was still in bad ass steeplechaser mode from the day before so there was that to contend with too. Not a bad ride, but not the best, so after a nice canter transition and halt in each direction we diverted to the trails. Someone on one of the neighbouring farms got llamas for Christmas I think.  I've never seen them there before and they had shiny new halters on. Midge confirmed they were new by being super suspicious of them. They ran away from her, so of course her ego was inflated even further and she was pretty full of it. New clip job in December, plus letting her jump the day before, plus scaring off llamas singlehandedly = 200% more sassiness than normal. That translates to about 500% more sassiness than the average horse ;)

On our return to the barn I finally noticed I had buckled the noseband of her bridle over and through the off side ring of the snaffle she wears, effectively making my right rein less than useful. So that explains the weird feel to the left! I would have failed Pony Club. In a strange way my poor tacking up skills made me happy - to the right, where my inside rein would have been compromised, she felt wonderful, so obviously we're turning off our outside aids much more consistently than before. Remember when she used to fall out and get mad and slam the arena wall? No, me either, please let me live in denial that that ever happened lol.

Bonus awesome thing: I got an eventing vest for Xmas from G. Bring on the cross country with Bridget! (Also useful for normal, everyday rides on Ginger - sorry just kidding, I couldn't resist, Ginger's doing really well and going fabulously. No vest required. Promise. )

Friday, 25 December 2015

Nice Surprise

Work surprised us and let everyone leave early on Christmas Eve. Time for a daylight barn visit = best work gift ever! 

Ginger got spoiled with a visit to T's Salon and Spa. I swear her favorite thing in the world is having someone groom and fuss over her. She stands patiently (literally for hours sometimes) and lets you do pretty much anything. Zen stillness is not her normal head space, so she gets more than her fair share of pampering from me - it's nice for us both. She got her mane and tail conditioned and her beard (yes, she is an equine bearded lady!) all trimmed, plus her new bridle fitted so she'd look pretty for Christmas. 

And, Bridget:

Bridget was itching to go do something, so off for a ride we went. She warmed up soft and loose and just felt wonderful so her Christmas indulgence from me was to let her jump all the things and gallop around. She almost launched me over one of the first oxers, too bad we didn't get video. The girls figure she cleared a 2'3" oxer by about 2 feet lol. So much ambition! Bonus overheard commentary from a random (non horsey) grandparent "WOW the little horse is good!" Silly people, don't encourage the beast, her ego is already huge and if she keeps jumping like that we'll look even more ridiculous at the local hunter shows. Thankfully, the rest of the ride was less exciting and I didn't fall off for Christmas. I currently chicken out around 2'6", particularly if it's an oxer or set in the beginning or middle of a grid rather than the end,  but Midge has no such worries, and spends every dressage lesson asking to jump the stuff left from the prelim rider the session before us. I'm pretty sure that would end badly for her, but it's nice she feels so confident.

Last one's a doozy:

Merry Christmas!

This card is one that I think Midge would approve of. Robbing Santa of apples? Totally her ;) I've added her little treat face  and I think it fits right in. I hope the holiday season brings all of you some of your favorite things! 

Now, off to the barn I go!

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Quiet Mornings

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but the barn I'm at has a co-op kind of approach to the daily chores. It's not because the barn owner isn't hands on - she's our coach and there all day along with her husband, who is usually fixing or improving something around the place. We're all expected to chip in, even the girls taking lessons and/or leasing borrowed horses. The reasoning to this is that EC wants all the boarders and riders to be hands on and generally good horse people, not just riders.

I admit, when I first visited the barn, I was like "Wow, great idea! This is going to be perfect, everyone will be involved and informed in the barn's daily goings on." Then, when I thought about it a bit, I was more " Ughh, I've had my horses at home, I've worked as a barn manager, and I have a full time job... right now I just want to ride and enjoy the good things about horse ownership and skip the early mornings mucking out paddocks in a rainstorm." Of course I still decided to board there - it's one of the few places with an indoor and the coaching and horse care is great.

Currently, I feed two mornings a week, and muck out once a week. Morning feed is actually one of the easiest chores, it's just the getting up early thing that deters people. The horses just get their hay nets filled and water checked and cleaned, plus I usually give the feed room a good tidying and of course, sweep the aisleway. It takes about an hour and is totally do-able, since my real job doesn't start until 9. Mucking is the least desirable job, and more time consuming but counts as 2 chores (as an owner, I'm expected to do 2 chores/horse boarded). This morning, the paddock mucking was in the freezing cold rain/sleet, in the still dark early morning light.

Loving this hay feeder. Hard to see (dark, early mornings, remember? ;) but the top little bit has a hinge that folds down to fill it - no struggling with the net! They're about 8 feet wide and 4 feet deep and fit about 1 - 100 lb bale of hay each. The horses share paddocks (6 in each, mares on one side, geldings on the other) and each  paddock has access to a 24x48 area in the barn with their own feeder.
You know what? I'm loving the early mornings. I love being the first one there, just me and the horses. I like seeing how they interact with each other when no one else is around. I really enjoy saying hi to my girls and giving them their breakfast. I love how the horses all want to visit and say hi. I like the leaving the barn all neat and tidy for the day's activities. Rather than being tired, I find my 'real' workday goes faster and I'm generally more positive and energetic. This early morning barn thing is totally working for me!

All ready for the day ahead!


Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Happy Solstice

It's one of my favorite days of the year, particularly as I live in the Great White Rainy North. Congrats, we've made it halfway and the days are getting longer, we'll see the sun again one of these days!

I finally made it home this past weekend and had a nice visit with my husband, G. Since I grew up without TV, there are tons of movies I've never seen and every once in a while we hide out and catch up on some of them, usually cheesy 80's stuff. This weekend it was Top Gun, Ladyhawke,and one called War Games I found much more amusing than I probably should have. Honestly, I suspect I found them all much more hilarious than was likely intended. The music in Top Gun and Ladyhawke in particular, oh my ;) At least there were some pretty horses!

Midge went out Christmas caroling with her favorite barn kid, which sounds like it was fun, but I was happy to be inside and warm at home. I'm kind of a grinch. I'd post pictures, but see above about dark and rainy - you can see her little blaze and some other shadowy horses and that's about it! Ginger had her favorite barn kids riding her all weekend too, but I think had less fun, even pony boot camp being boot camp and all. She whinnies to me every day, I think in hopes I will keep her and take her back to her favorite farm, but I'm holding strong and trying not to feel too sorry for poor drama mare, lol. In all seriousness though, she's settling in and has a few regular riders loving on her and keeping her occupied.

The more relaxed frame of mind I've been in lately snuck into my barn time last night. Being serious and focused just wasn't happening. Mentally I am remaining on vacation and anticipating my upcoming week off. Next year I am just going to book this week off, nothing is getting done (beyond me eating copious amounts of holiday chocolate) anyhow. 

My desk, show planning totally counts as getting things organized for 2016.
My attitude carried right on in to my lesson, so I was expecting it to pretty much be a write it off. Midge wasn't in the mood either - her barn kid adores her and lets her do whatever she likes, so after a weekend of that buckling down for a lesson with a meanie like me wasn't high on her list of fun things to do.

Midge's first (and I suspect last) clip thanks to EC. Apparently pony has super thick, non fluffy, swirly pony hair that isn't much fun to clip. Who'd have guessed?
 Surprisingly, ended up being one of the best dressage lessons I've had on Bridget. With no expectations on my part, everything felt more relaxed and "freer" than normal and I actually feel like I rode really well (for me, of course). I want to be better so badly that I am usually working much harder than I need to. So, once again, a reminder - while my crazy focus can be a good thing, I need to let go of the anxiety about getting things perfect and live in the moment/let it go  a little. 

Rogue photo app at it again, although the sparkly superstar thing suited for tonight. I should delete the app because it's been taking over my camera and photos, but phone is nearly dead and I'm kind of enjoying the random stuff I find.
Homework: Accurate, balanced transitions, ride large around the area and add in 10-15m circles every time I start to lose bend or softness or the tempo gets quick. Let the exercise work for me, don't fuss with Bridget or get in a fight. Focus on bigger steps, speed staying the same between big and small trot and canter. In particular, working on consistent correct left bend as that's our weaker side currently. Suggested exercise: ask her to bend left around my leg while travelling to the right, then return to right bend as soon as she offers left without a fuss. Lots of serpentines and changes of direction, start expecting her to balance herself consistently through the change of bend and canter transitions - ie less babysitting on my part, more effort on Bridget's :)

Sunday, 20 December 2015

2015 Goal Review

From last January:

"I haven't posted any 2015 horsey goals at all because I'm having trouble quantifying things or setting a specific end goal like a particular show or jump height. As you can guess, I want to ride regularly, keep my horses sound and healthy, and catch a few shows and clinics this year. I also want to buy a trailer so I can take advantage of more training and showing opportunities. The details beyond me getting out and working consistently and saving my $ are vague beyond that. Pony training just takes as long as it takes I guess, and there is no point in stressing over meeting bigger picture goals for the time being"

Thanks to Tracey's health and fitness blog hop I later added the following:

-Lose 15-20 pounds through healthy eating.
-Work on fitness. Run a 5k, ride 5x a week, stay active.

I like how the me of a year ago says "Ohh, not really setting goals..." then goes on to mention lessons, clinics, trailer shopping, saving $, losing a fairly substantial amount of weight...nope no goals there at all lol. Then, of course I got a new job and life changed pretty substantially. On the downside, I have less free time, on the plus side, I now have access to coaching and a small local show circuit. On the really awesome side, our barn also goes to the bigger events, including Rebecca Farm. Big changes, and so many opportunities.
Nothing to do with anything, I added a new photo app to my phone and it apparently thought I wanted cartoons rather than pictures the other night. A bit of a surprise, but cartoon ponies ARE pretty fun.
How I did:

...ride regularly...: Yes. I'm proud of this one because my life has changed completely, including a new job, new town, and new barn. But I can honestly say I rode 4-5x a week every week, all year long.

...horses sound and healthy...: Fingers crossed, yes

...a few shows...: If by a few, I meant two, then yes, OK let's count it. (We attended one dressage, one hunter/jumper, both just local events). I'm giving myself a bit of a pass on this as we moved to the new barn/town mid season and my life was pretty chaotic this summer.

...clinics...: Yes, rode in a dressage one last winter that was no fun at all, a cowboy one that was a bit better, and a weekend Backcountry Horsemen clinic/camp out. I'm totally counting all the ones I audited too. (Some clinic notes here and here) Current trainer is also one of my favorite clinicians, so she counts too :)

...buy a trailer...: No longer neccessary since trainer has a huge trailer with room for everyone. Still on the wish list though, just not urgently!

...saving my $...: Nope, let's not even try to pretend that happened.

Lose 15-20 pounds through healthy eating. Meh. More like 10, and partly because I'm simply too busy to eat all the chocolates of the world. Healthy eating is a still a somewhat hit or miss affair: I ate a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner last night, a mocha for breakfast and a cupcake for lunch lol. Another 10 pounds would be a good thing, but 15 more would make me unafraid to wear a bathing suit in public ;) This weight loss thing is taking forever, seriously. I'm (an embarrasing) 40lbs down from my all time high, but it's taken 3 years to get here.

Work on fitness. Run a 5k, ride 5x a week, stay active. The 5k did not happen. I was running the distance earlier in the spring without issues, but life changed and now I don't have time or daylight to run at all. On the plus side I feel I am pretty active. I usually ride a minimum of 5 times a week (schooling rides on a green horse are almost as good as a good gym visit lol, and 2 of the 5 rides are rather punishing lessons). I work at the barn part time as well, feeding and mucking 15+ horses and we all know that's labour intensive. I walk/hike on the weekends. I'm not under any illusions I'm going to get super fit this way, but it's a good balance for me. Some weeks I feel run down, but mostly I feel pretty good.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

What Breed?

Inspired by this post over at Bel Joeor asking what your favorite breed is and how/why you have that preference.

I know you're all expecting me to say Welsh Cobs are my favorite breed ever, but honestly, no they're not. Don't get me wrong, I love my girls, but if I had an unlimited budget and was going to pick something to go look at based solely on type, it would probably be something a bit different.

I had one of those books as a kid with all the horse breeds and this guy was my favorite:
Sorry, blurry but I'm sure it's the same picture. He's either a Furioso or a Nonius, not sure.
There was obviously a Welsh Cob in the book, but he looked an awful lot like the nasty pony at the barn no one wanted to ride so of course I couldn't like him best. Years later, I ended up with Ginger because she is very much my type, but she's also quite refined and tall for a cob mare and maybe not the most typical.

What I like about my cob girls:

-Their big, healthy feet
-Pretty heads
-Round barrel
-lots of bone
-Hardy, easy keepers
-Smart!
-Quite surefooted and careful
-People oriented
-Size range is pretty ideal for a shortie like me

But in a perfect world, my dream horse would:
-have a shorter back
-not have feathers/excess hairiness
-be slightly finer built ie more athletic as far as galloping/jumping goes

No idea what this horse's breeding is, but love the heavy but athletic build. From Wikipedia
I absolutely love the look of some of the Welsh Cob/TB crosses I've seen. I also have a soft spot for some of the Connemaras. Definitely like the look of Irish sport horses (with the more ID the better), but they are mostly too tall for my comfort zone.
Steeped in Luck, RID. Please may I cross you with a small TB mare and event all the things?
I really love the "old school" type Morgans, like the ones Denny Emerson posts on his Facebook page. There was one I used to care for that was Lippitt bred very near and dear to my heart. He was a fantastic dressage and eventing pony in his day and totally sold me on the breed.

I also like the Canadian horse. Although type seems to vary widely by breeder, some look to my eye a lot like those Welsh Cobs and Morgans I'm so fond of, not to mention that horse in the book all those years ago :) Might not be the world's next big sport horse, but I'd be pretty happy looking at one in the barn!

Seriously, just my type.

Generally speaking, I don't think my "type" has changed all that much over the years!




Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Look, No Hands

Subtitle: Actually, Don't Look - Because I Made My Face Bleed

Lesson night was pretty straightforward - those grids from the weekend got raised up a little and my only job was to ride them and stay out of superstar pony's way.

Our first trip through the bounces was...interesting. I got all muddled, asking for canter, not getting it, panicking a little, correcting pony's (quite sensible) decision to abort mission...which resulted in a giant leap into the grid. When EC said I was a knocked bit loose in the tack, she was being pretty kind :) Since I had told Ms Bridget We Are Doing This For Real, she took me at my word and somehow lept and contorted over the other two essentially from a standstill each time and still didn't bump a pole. I, however bumped my face off her neck midway and stuck a tooth in my lip.  "Oh dear", said EC, "better try that again." EC is obviously not very easily scared by bad riding, or perhaps she was simply fascinated by whatever physics were keeping me in the saddle.

Thankfully, I learned my lesson and did not smash my face into the ever patient pony's neck again. I did manage to do lots of other things that would make GM cry, but it got better and better and that's what I'm clinging to rather than the initial failure(s). 

The line of three one strides rode nicely, although Midge was wanting to be a bit wiggly and backed off since we were headed away from the barn. She's a funny little thing, she purposely tries to jump to the outsides of the x's because obviously that is much more fun and exciting than the boring 2' middle part.

I finished off with the dreaded no reins/hands out to the sides exercise. Midge thinks it's a fantastic exercise, because see above about charging in and jumping the biggest part of the fences, then bucking and swerving around in celebration, because obviously she's the best ever at tiny grids. I felt pretty secure and fine with the no reins thing (the one time my bad habit of riding with super long reins pays dividends) but more practice is needed before lines of bounces will feel easy from a general riding perspective- my timing is definitely a bit suspect and I am a bit ahead going in more often that not. Bridget is really honest about going to the jumps, less so about staying straight without reins, so we can work on that too. Makes sense since her go to evasion on the flat is running through my leg.  

The best thing about it all? Technically speaking it was the worst riding I've done in just about forever. But, as I said to EC "That was still SO much fun! Imagine how much fun it will be when I learn to actually ride!" Seriously though, we're both getting pretty excited to take Bridget out on the cross country course this spring - she's going to love it!

Monday, 14 December 2015

Weekend Happenings

I opted to stay on the lower coast this weekend rather than travelling home to see G. The weather continues to be horrible and I wasn't really feeling the prospect of being stuck on the way there or back due to ferry cancellations or downed trees/flooding on the highway.

Obviously monsoon rain and hurricane wind gusts don't make for the best riding weather either, but a weekend without responsibilities really can't be spent anywhere but the barn :)
"Let me out of jail, please!"
Ginger has been busy with students trying her out as their potential lesson or lease mount, so fingers crossed she finds a long term use at my barn - I'd obviously like that very much! EC has been riding her too, so I'm being quite spoiled as far as great riders schooling the big mare. I'm trying not to feel guilty! As always, Ginger is taking quite a bit to settle in and is half heartedly pretending to be feral and untouched by a saddle. "Do you find she's a little bit...dramatic?" asked EC. Why yes, yes I do :) I'm very, very appreciative of what a great barn this is. Ginger is not an easy ride, but many of the girls have cheerfully signed up to ride her for me and there is zero pressure or judgement that I'm not up there myself. I miss riding her and am feeling the urge to give it a go again, but we'll see, all in good time I think.

Midge was a little rock star this weekend. She's been very fussy lately and trying to say she can't bend left or be properly on the bit. I think I mentioned I had quite a frustrating ride a few days ago where she was running above/through the bridle (as well as my outside aids) and generally being grouchy and rude.
RAWRRR so angry! (OK, just yawning)

I've switched her from her D ring snaffle back to a loose ring French link and she feels slightly happier in that. I also lengthened my stirrups and shimmed my saddle a tiny bit. Although I'd like to leave it there and blame a tack issue, as I'm sure we've all learned, horse problems usually = rider problems. 

The past few rides, I've been focusing very hard on sitting quietly and staying centered with my shoulders back and level. I've also been very conscious of what my hands are doing. Most of all, I'm concentrating on being super consistent with my aids and expectations. I'm as guilty as anyone of getting in the frame of mind that I'm doing a jump school and going to address that unbalanced transition or sloppy turn in my next go through, or even worse, in my dressage lesson later in the week. 

Long story short, really focusing on my riding and consistency as far as training opportunities go resulted in a much nicer Bridget, go figure.
Our current little course. Strangely, it all rode great first time through, except that lone oxer. We smashed that!

After a quick jump school the rain cleared a little and we ventured outside for a trail ride Sunday afternoon. With it still being quite windy, the horses were really edgy and spooky. Even Bridget had a good spook and scoot at a couple of things but was her typical solid trail pony self 99.9% of the ride, leading the others past the scary stuff. I've mentioned before there are some really fantastic horses and riders at the barn who either already are or are going to be quite successful. I sometimes feel like I don't fit in with my pony when even the teenagers are already doing prelim and 1* eventing or GP dressage on their talented horses. While of course I dream of riding at a high level, my reality is that I don't have the dedication and willingness to sacrifice other aspects of my life to get there. What I do have is a wish to have fun, and an endless appreciation for the pony I can just hop on and have a good ride on, even in the middle of a huge windstorm. In short, even when offered the chance to ride an upper level horse,  I still find a reason to hop on Bridget instead and have zero regrets about it.
It was a dark and stormy night....

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Figuring It Out

Poor Ms Ginger had a slightly dramatic day yesterday. She got moved from sharing with Bridget to her own bigger paddock yesterday due to a space opening up. When I got to the barn this morning there was a smashed gate with Ginger on the wrong side of it. Since she is very respectful of fencing, it seemed a bit odd.  Until we saw one of the neighbouring geldings charging the fence and really threatening her. I guess the poor pony thought she'd best run far away from him. Luckily no one was hurt! Later on I got a text that her blanket was destroyed when the same gelding managed to grab on to it as she ran away. Again, over the fence. Silly horses. I'll have to take a picture, it essentially got torn in half and there was stuffing everywhere lol. On the plus side, I don't need to feel super guilty about the gate because the gelding starting the havoc/wrecking blankets is the barn owner's! The joys of boarding, I sure miss the giant pasture we had last year and blankets being optional. It's just too mucky at the new place to make that practical, not to mention I don't have as much time to groom and cool out sweaty ponies these days.  At least Ginger was standing her ground and making nasty mare faces at him as of this evening, so I think peace will return shortly and hopefully new blanket purchases can wait for off season sales. I'm not taking any chances though, for now she is wearing her oldest and ugliest blanket!
Goodbye, orange and brown plaid 1970's couch pattern blanket. It's been fun ;)

As for Ms Bridget, my saddle has been tipping to one side (the right) again. And pony has been VERY crooked and wiggly...she says she simply can't bend left and can only run through her right shoulder. The saddle fitter will be out this coming week to re check the saddle. In the meantime we did a little experiment and I rode bare back tonight to see if the crookedness was saddle related. Is it a chicken and egg thing - is the saddle making the pony go crooked, or is the crooked pony tipping the saddle? Or (most likely!) is it the rider?

The answer? The pony starts it, then the rider makes it worse. She definitely prefers to evade through that shoulder, particularly through transitions. It's quite dramatic and the initial motion is enough to tip me slightly to the outside. Once that outside seat bone is weighted, then it's game on as far as running out the outside - no amount of outside leg or rein is going to really stop her when my seat is tipped over there and she tries to re-balance us and get up underneath me! I think it's taken a bit to puzzle this out because I was taught to slightly weight the seat bone you want your horse to move away from. The visual I was given was 'opening the door' in the direction you want to go. This is pretty easy for a not so coordinated rider like myself because the action of using my leg to move her over weights that seat bone a little anyways, despite my best intentions of sitting up and staying centered.

Old pic of Ginger from the same day as the one above, re posting because I like the colors :)
Midge's inclination is to do the opposite of that, so my 'opening the door' really doesn't work that well. We've taught her to do it, but it's really not an easy button or one that comes without a ton of nagging. particularly when my saddle is tipped and in her mind, needing rescuing. I played a little with my body position on our ride last night sans saddle, and moving forward, I'm going to go with her preference. I've seen it taught/described as 'correct' both ways, so I'll choose the way that works for her. It still won't solve the whole popping the shoulder as an evasion thing, but at least it will make the correction a little more intuitive for us both.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

My Ponies Are So Hard Done By

Lesson Recap:

Me: "I just can't even."
Bridget: "I can't either."
Me: "Cut me some slack?"
Bridget: "No, I hate you."

The end. Somehow we both got a great workout by accomplishing absolutely nothing beyond being frustrated with each other :)

Ginger Update:

We've been marketing her towards an experienced, motivated rider, because although she is the kindest mare around, she's really fussy about her rider. 

EC is totally going with the opposite approach and "poor" Ginger is in bootcamp to be an easier ride for the average person. She's currently getting ridden every day by a different rider, and the end plan is to put even the less advanced kids on her. Essentially, the expectation is that she is just going to have to suck it up and deal with less than perfect riders and less than familiar or predictable faces and surroundings.
This look is the one you can expect if she doesn't know you and you ask her to do something. It's about 99% successful in getting people to back down/scratch her ears/feed her treats/tell her she's a good girl. True story, she's convinced multiple people she has never been blanketed/tied/had her feet handled/worn tack/had some kind of abusive past, etc, etc. Nope, she just knows how to trick new people and work her cuteness to her advantage.
 I have no idea why none of us have considered this as an option before. It's always been just the accepted thing that she's sensitive and needs someone experienced. Every single trainer that's ridden or helped me has told me that. Yet when EC basically says we are spoiling/limiting Ginger's options by catering to that...it really rings true for me. Particularly when I consider how easily she gets people she doesn't know to back off/do what she wants (pets, treats, loving) on the ground when she is perfectly capable of being a big girl and calmly doing anything I ask of her without drama. It would make sense that would carry over in the saddle too. 

So traumatized. Don't believe it for a second.
Sad, neglected, hard done by pony whinnied for me today when I pulled into the barn. I must remain strong...I must not give into her powers of manipulation via her needy adorableness ;)




Saturday, 5 December 2015

So Busy


And about to be busier! Look who's here:

Ginger arrived safe and sound last night and settled in really well. I was a little worried about her because we are in the midst of some big storms, but apparently new barns aren't scary when the only other option is to stand out in torrential rain and hurricane force winds :)

When I arrived at the barn this morning, the weather was still truly awful. I was surprised to see the lights on and the parking lot full. Our barn is dedicated! One of the barn girls already had Ginger in the arena for a try out, and apparently pony managed to keep her brain in her head in the new surroundings even with the wild weather. I was in time to see EC get on and pick a fight with Ms Ginger, since Ginger immediately attempted to default to her "OMG I don't know you and I'm scared/never been ridden before" routine. I was disappointed to say the least - pony normally goes way more nicely than that! Ginger realized the game was up pretty quickly but didn't really settle in. She still really does need to know you before she offers anything up easily. I didn't ride and honestly don't have any plans to at the moment. I'm having fun with Ms Bridget and leaving Ginger in the capable hands of EC and her students. I'll take her out on the trails and longe her in the arena, but for now I'll leave the hard stuff to those more dedicated than myself :)

Ginny's mane is really long right now, very wild mustang. I combed it out the best I could today, but I think it needs to go. I know some people love long manes, but I'm not one of them - she has a nice neck and the crazy long mane makes it look short and thick.

As for Bridget, I had a really rotten ride on her last night, and an OK one today. That is until we cantered, and then it was awesome and best ride of the week. The ring is obviously very wet, and while the footing is still great, cantering did lead to a lot of water splashing around. Midge thought that felt weird and was really lifting her legs and her belly/back up. We were essentially faking a really fancy collected canter, since it was well beyond anything I can actually ask for on purpose right now. It felt kind of awesome :)

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Brave Pony


The big storm front we were expected to start hitting us sometime overnight  showed up a little early - and by early I mean just in time for my after work ride! It started in our warm up with Midge being quite looky and spooky. I was more focused on watching the lesson in progress to realize she had good reason for being a bit jumpy. The wind had gradually picked up to the point where things were starting to blow around, including the blue plastic barrels we normally jump. Midge was caught by surprise when they were suddenly chasing us and for the first time (I've witnessed at least) had a bit of a panicky moment.  Falling tree branches started adding to her excitement, but she just as quickly remembered she is a horse who spends a lot of time outside and therefore should be able to cope with weather events.

Since this is an eventing barn and enough jumps were (temporarily) standing, our jumping lesson was still a go. 
Shiny winter pony. She's much less round than before! I know it looks like she has no tail, but she does, I promise! I'm keeping it braided for practicality this winter because mare likes to sleep in poo/muck and no amount of detangler seems to help. 

I was slightly nervous about jumping my fresh and spooky pony in a windstorm, but I forgot that the default when Midge is unsure of things is for her to actually back off a little and listen harder to her rider. Rather than getting wild, she's quieter and less opinionated than her norm. I really, really appreciate that about her, because all I need to do is pretend to be somewhat confident and keep my leg on.  It's actually an easier ride for me than when she is over enthusiastic and confident and dragging me along.

We had a productive lesson in which I focused on riding assertively even though I felt a little off and one oxer in particular scared the %*#^ out of me :) I also needed to focus on keeping the same canter throughout the course, rather than trying to do too many adjustments and messing up the poor pony's attempts at nicely fitting the strides in.

On our way back up to the barn post lesson, EC's little wild child came running out of the dark to say hi to his mom and managed to wipe out and slide through the dirt, rolling to a stop right in front of Bridget. She thought that was an interesting way to say hello, but didn't move a hoof. Once he stood up, she gave him a sniff and a hello, then politely asked him to move aside - her dinner was waiting in the barn, after all. And just like that the world was returned to normal: the confident little mare we are used to, back to looking after her humans.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Dressaging

My first feeling when I got on the pony last night was that she felt stuck. It's been a few months, but all the signs were there: slow off my leg, sucking back behind the contact, moving more up than out. EC of course spotted it immediately and we spent the next half an hour or so getting her to move up into my hand and relaxing over her back. We yo-yo'd back and forth between behind the bit and quite strong and pulling me along, before it got consistently good. (Exercise of choice: 10m collected trot circle, then down the area wall in the biggest trot I currently can ask for, then circle again. Focus on having her rate off my seat and finding a good rhythm to relax into. Keep the tempo the same throughout, loftier steps in our baby collected trot, longer ones in the medium trot.) I was away this past weekend and had someone else riding, EC says sometimes even a ride or two with someone else is enough to make them go differently with you (good or bad!). Other rider is a lovely rider, so I suspect it was something else/me Midge was upset with last night.

Canter work showed some real progress, and we got a few strides here and there of nice round pony working on a proper bend. My homework is to insist she carries herself in the canter, and when I get a response to remember to give that inside rein (that I love to hang on). EC feels pony is strong enough now to carry herself properly in the canter, so it's up to me to teach her that yes, that is what we want and then to make it happen when I ask. When she gets resistant, I'm to go back to (collected) trot and almost exaggerate the bend and roundness and weight on the hindquarters before transitioning back to canter. Essentially saying "Here, you can do it in trot, now that you are stronger this is what we'd like in canter too."

Dressage pony in the making

Which brought up that whole interesting topic of whether it's best to teach them the correct way first, or do as we are doing where it's different shades of "wrong" building up to correct. I've had coaches go either way on that. EC obviously goes with the latter, feeling they need to build up strength and balance first and the best way to do that is via adapted versions of your end goal. In B's case, simply holding any sort of canter had to be our starting point. (Full disclaimer: In defending her viewpoint, EC explained the method we could use to teach Bridget piaffe one (very far away) day, and my mind was pretty much blown and I didn't really take in any of her other reasoning and advice past that point in the conversation.  I'm beyond grateful for her belief in the little mare, but whoa...she really thinks we could do that!? Short answer: yes!)

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Christmas Wish List

Tis the season with a built in excuse to buy myself things...although honestly the excuse is more End of Season Sales than Christmas itself :)


1. A safety vest. Otherwise there will be no cross country for me! I admit to being slightly superstitious about this one, like if I buy it early something weird will happen so that eventing is off the table for us.
Currently have my eye on the Tipperary Eventer Pro. ASTM/SEI certified and a store somewhat local to me stocks them so I can try it on before making a decision
2. Navy breeches. I don't need more breeches, but that doesn't stop the wants. As someone with a less than tiny bottom half, I like to stick to black or charcoal but I really love all the fun styles and colors currently available. I'm going to be 'wild' and go for a pair in navy. Navy is a color, right?
Gersemi Saga breeches

3. A show shirt. Another item that's been on my list for multiple years. The ones I own are cute, but now much too large and starting to look a little old school.

This looks like it would be flattering, and would look cute with my new navy breeches for clinics !

And, now for the really important things:

4. More time with G. Living apart a lot of the time really sucks. We're both good at it and there's no drama involved, but obviously we'd both prefer to come home to each other every night! Don't get me wrong, I am super grateful to have found my dream job this year within a couple hours of home rather than in another province, but I can't help but wish for more! Fingers crossed one of us finds a great job where the other lives in 2016.

5. A great home for Ginger. I'm pretty stressed over this to the point I am losing a ton of sleep over it. Fingers crossed!

Friday, 27 November 2015

Ride Notes

Midge's polite streak ended this week and she was wild and VERY pushy, even on the ground. Do I need to start riding her 2x a day to burn off the energy? If only I had the time...my discouragement is still fresh with Ginger, so the not so great rides on Midge seem to have a bigger impact right now as far as beating myself up goes.

That being said, we still had a really great lesson this week. Rather than doing the square peg/round hole thing by trying to dressage on a hyperactive pony, instead we wisely opted to funnel that energy into a jumping lesson.

We started over single fences, then added in a 4 stride line, then a 3 stride, then put it all together into a little course of 10 jumps. There were barrels, Jimmy Wofford inspired low/wide oxers, a few verticals and a couple of cross rails. My focus was to be on creating an adjustable canter, and keeping a consistent pace after the jump. Straight lines and accurate turns as always, we tend to cut corners and get all unprepared when a jump 'magically' appears suddenly. Everything was about 18 - 24" so nothing overly big - we don't tend to multitask well when I am focusing on the jumps themselves so tiny stuff is our friend while we continue to sort out Bridget's canter and my lack of preparation.

I pull this mane every day and braid it over. And it still looks like this...I'm so close to giving up and letting it grow double sided and super thick.

 I don't think there was an entire course that went without either a (minor) pony or rider oops, but I was happy - we're a long way from pony who couldn't hold a canter (or turn lol), not to mention a rider who got all weird and nervous about jumping. Mostly importantly, we both had SO MUCH FUN.  Like all good ponies, Bridget is very brave and smart with her feet, so I feel quite confident about getting around safely. I still get a little anxious about my ability to ride some of the more random and enthusiastic efforts well, but even that is a pretty low level worry these days - she's becoming quite consistent and I'm getting a better feel for where I need to be/what she's going to do. EC has promised to set up a lot of grids to work on my position (in a month or two when Bridget is a little more solid) and I look forward to it, I think it will definitely help me feel more confident.

My other rides this week were not so great. We do need to dressage and pony was not pleased about that. She also can't bend left at the moment...unless of course there are jumps involved, then magical things happen. As for the actual canter, I can't believe we've been persisting with it for over a year now. Word to the wise - lazy welsh cobs who were taught to drive (and not canter with the cart) may prove to be a bit of a time sink as far as actually establishing anything beyond trot, particularly if you're very amateur yourself. Last night's ride was the worst in a long time, super rude pony tried to say she can only gallop along on the forehand with her head in the air.
Old photo to illustrate - Bridget still looks the same on a bad day, except there is now some pulling like a train, usually with a gaping mouth and lots of groaning and noises like I am strangling her.  
Lots of groaning and complaining took place every time I called her on her rudeness and did some spirals and transitions. Eventually she got softer and more willing. I guess I should appreciate that 'crazy' mood Bridget only equals the above nonsense and not anything challenging. Once she burns off the sillies, she goes back to being a little more agreeable (and the groaning/strangling noises stop, thank goodness). Knock on wood, consistent jumping lessons seem to be the key to unlocking her beautiful canter and it does make an appearance quite often these days - even on the flat! Maybe one day soon we'll have the perfect trifecta: Daylight, Sunshine, and Photographer, so this blog can be less boring and more pictures again :)

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Job Profiles: Ginger and Bridget Edition

Inspired by Jen at Wyvern Oaks' great (and much more insightful) posts on the herd dynamics around her place.

I'm going to make my version a little crazy, because I'm in that kind of mood.

Ginger: 

Life Ambition: VP of The Herd. Likes power and attention, but insecure underneath it all and prefers someone is still there to make the big decisions.

Actual Job Title: VP and Interim President of The Herd.

Strengths: Everyone likes her. Smart, ambitious, generous, looks after her staff and is respected. Motivated to do a good job, hard worker.

Weaknesses: Emotional and can crack under pressure. Insecure in herself, so wants to be friends with everyone, flirts with the boys.

Office Rumor: Persistent rumors she's interviewing for a bigger, more glamorous gig and may leave The Herd.

Summary: Super fun, beautiful and likable, but brings way too much of her personal drama to work. Her staff regularly miss lunch because of last minute 'important' meetings, topics including: How the guy in payroll brushed up against her and she's pretty sure it was no accident; Changing the dress code to formal/black tie because everyone should look as fabulous as her; How she's fairly certain she saw the IT Manager staying in the same exclusive hotel as her on vacation (which there is no way she should be able to afford on her salary!) Everyone still likes and respects Ginger (even that guy in payroll) because they all secretly wish they could be more like her. All the silliness and gossip is a cover for a high IQ and natural talent- she'd rather be liked socially than risk intimidating anyone.

Bridget:


Life Ambition: Ruler of the Universe

Actual Job: IT Manager. Speaks a different language than the others. No one actually knows what she does all day (or ever sees her working) but apparently she has a couple of staff members and is critical to the survival of The Herd.

Strengths: Super smart, independent, resourceful.

Weaknesses: Unmotivated to tackle "boring" tasks. Knows how smart she is and thinks herself superior to all other members of The Herd. Keeps management busy with complaints related to her disrespectful behavior. Doesn't care because if she gets fired from The Herd, she'll do just fine as an independent contractor, thanks very much.

Office Rumor: There are rumors she's a black market hay dealer, hacker and/or international spy in her spare time, but no one knows for certain since even HR has no resume or home address on file...

Summary: The pony everyone loves to hate because she's so rude and condescending but frustratingly she's the smartest equine in the company and gives no shits what anyone else thinks of her. Keeps The Herd running smoothly behind the scenes; fantasizes about running the place, because in her mind she'd do it better than anyone else. Too bad The Herd is biased against super smart little bay mares making it to the top...yep that's it, it's nothing to do with her abrasive personality, nope, couldn't be that!



Monday, 23 November 2015

Weekend Ride Recap

This was the first weekend in just about forever where the weather was nice and the only thing on my schedule was barn time. Happy, happy me!

Saturday:

Bridget felt a lot less wild than on Friday (mental note, days off for B  are currently not my friend). She warmed up fairly loose and relaxed, but got pretty tense and over reactive when I picked up the contact and started asking for a little more. She's gone from being behind the leg to bracing and rushing, so that's a bit of an adjustment for me! I feel like if I am not careful she can start to feel a little restricted/stuck if I am not soft enough in my shoulders and elbows. Which sometimes I am, because instinct is like "Ahhhh pony is running away with me, don't give her any more rein!" Rule #1 - give her somewhere to go, otherwise I'm only creating more resistance. We figured it all out pretty quickly for a change, and finished up with a few jumps. I did something silly there, in that the final fence in a series of three related distances looked slightly bigger than we normally jump (in my defense I thought it was about 2'6 ish, so not hugely outside the norm, but one of the barn girls today said 3'3". The ring trends downhill in that corner and stuff placed there looks smaller from a distance than it is. Still, I might want to reevaluate my apparently non existent height judging skills. Oops) Whatever the actual size, we were jumping the first two in the line, then circling, but Bridget kept saying "let me try that one, I can do it!", and I was like "Maybe...OK, I guess...oh shite now we are committed and this looks bigger than I thought! Commence backwards riding!"  Poor Midge got buried, then made a huge effort, but hit it behind. She was choked and went off on a bucking spree to let me know how mad she was at me. I deserved that :) As my gesture of peace, we went out on a short trail ride and I think she forgave me.
Happy ears, been a long time since we ventured off property


Sunday:
I was warned she was a little wild all morning, serving as a distraction to the horses and riders taking lessons in the arena by bolting around her paddock bucking and spinning. Whatever crazies she had must have been burned off by the time I rode because Midge warmed up beautifully. Our flatwork felt really soft and consistent. I'm living in hope we can bring that energy and relaxation to a test at some point. Right canter was beautiful, left was nice but feels like the weaker side currently. Collected canter accidentally happened for a few strides when I played the transition game off my seat - amazing feeling but not something I need to play with without help on the ground (see above about our tendency to get "stuck"). Jumping was great, I lowered that third fence a bit when Midge wasn't looking and she jumped it all huge and proclaimed herself champion of all the things. When we got back to the barn she tried to tell all the other horses how awesome she is, but they weren't buying it and quickly put her back in her place in the pecking order. She's such a confident and funny little mare.

The little path from the indoor back to the barn
 Last weekend is still gnawing away at me, but weekends like this one remind me why I spend so much time working away at the barn. Bridget is really stepping up and loving her job, and it's starting to feel like she is getting halfway rideable, with more and more cool buttons being installed. She's getting much more sensitive to me, and with that comes some responsibility on my part - no more 'big' or vague cues - she knows the difference now and is super adjustable from my seat. I finally feel like we're really developing a partnership. She's a lot more generous with me these days, and (SO embarrassing to admit) I'm finally really believing in her in her own right, rather than constantly comparing her to Ginger.

Hand grazing cool down for good ponies
Next lesson: Tonight.
Next show: Not until mid January (Did I ever recap the dressage show a couple of weekends ago? Ginger did great with M and got a third place this time, again at training level)

Friday, 20 November 2015

Impatient

The ponies moved to their winter paddocks a couple of weeks ago, a move which really didn't cause any undue hardship on them as our wet and windy weather meant they've all been opting to stand inside in the dry barn the vast majority of the time anyway. This week though, we've switched clear days and freezing temps and the horses have all woken up ready to play! Without exception, they've been more than a little wild, and the lack of any large winter turnout space has meant we've all had some interesting rides. Summer feels like it just ended, but I am already missing the late evening light and kinder weather.

Pony ears in the dark:

For Bridget, her excess energy has given her a level of sensitivity and motivation on par with Ginger. She's also getting very fit and impossible to tire out, which I seriously thought would never happen. It's all good though- I am having a ton of fun driving my newly found sports car pony, even if it randomly bucks and bolts off now and then ;) 

My Wednesday lesson was nothing exciting. We discussed some ideas (and riders/potential buyers) for Ginger and then my general impatience with not being the rider I want to be. I love that EC does not waste time sugar coating anything, instead she gets right to business and has you quantify your goals then maps out a plan for you to work towards. 

Riding wise, we did a ton of transitions and played a little with extending and collecting. Honestly though, EC was uncharacteristically easy on us. Perhaps she reads this blog? More likely, in real life I am easier to read than I'd like to think and she very wisely opted to avoid risking any further rider meltdowns/drama.

My other rides this week were more of the same: dark, cold evenings, me feeling a little out of sorts, and a very ramped up/tense/impatient pony. Tonight I just let Bridget go on a loose rein and let her burn off some steam. She asked to gallop around a little and have fun and I said OK. That's probably the exact thing you shouldn't do with a pushy little freight train of a pony, but sometimes you just need to live a little and enjoy the moment. (For the record, galloping a slightly out of control/stir crazy pony is just as much fun as an adult as it was when I was a kid - I highly recommend it the next time you're feeling a little down :)

Standing still on the off chance I have treats:

Thursday, 19 November 2015

25

Pretty Suzie
Thanks to Cathryn at That Red Mare for the blog hop!

1. Mares or Geldings? Why?
Mares. I never make a conscious decision to own one or the other, but I seem to end up with mares!

2. Green-broke or Fully Broke?
I've only ever had green. I like it because I know the history and can build a great relationship. I'd never rule out buying something experienced though if my budget ever allowed!

3. Would you own a "hotter" breed (ie. Arabian, Trakhener, etc).
Depends. If 'hot' = forward and hard worker, then yes. If 'hot' = needing to be worked every day and needing 100% focus, then no, that doesn't fit my lifestyle.

4. What was your "dream horse" growing up?
Probably a solid black thoroughbred type.

5. What kind of bit(s) do you use and why?
Ginger has a loose ring french link because she likes it. Bridget has a plain D ring snaffle because that's what the tack store had in her size, and it seems to work for her!

6. Helmets or no helmets?
Helmets every time!


Nope, no color preferences shown here.
7. Favorite horse color?
Bay with chrome (obviously lol), but I do like a nice coppery chestnut. Huge sucker for a blaze!

8. Least favorite horse color?
Paints with white faces. No real reason for it, and wouldn't stop me from owning one though.

9. Dressage or Jumping?
I like both.

10. How many years have you been riding?
Way too many for my level of (non) expertise.

11. Spurs/whip or no spurs/whip?
Sometimes both, sometimes neither. Depends on the horse and how they're feeling.

12. Your first fall?
Playing tag bareback in the backwoods on a bouncy pony about a week into learning to ride. Also my second through probably  tenth fall, all in the same ride. I really had no fear back then!

13. When was the last time you rode and what did you do?
Last night - dressage lesson. Tons of transitions!

14. Most expensive piece of tack you own?
My (stubben) saddle, which isn't saying much - although I got it new,  I got it on a super clearance sale back when the canadian dollar was doing better than the american one.

15. How old were you when you started riding?
11. The deal was I had to wait to be old enough to work somewhat unsupervised in exchange for the privilege.

16. Leather or Nylon halters?
Either. Current barn the lesson kids tend to mix halters up, so cheap nylon. At home they live in leather ones because they're prettier :)

17. Leather or Synthetic saddles?
Leather! Although synthetic may be in my future, my love of animals has me seriously re considering buying leather things.

18. What "grip" of reins do you like?
Laced. Bridget is fairly heavy in the contact and I hate gloves, so everything else with any kind of grip shreds my fingers.

19. English or Western?
Prefer english, but can be seen in a western saddle now and then on the trails. Sometimes in an english bridle and western saddle at the same time. I have no pride :)

20. How many horses do you currently own/lease?
I own two.


Full board with great turnout = the best
1. Do you board your horse? Self-care/full board? Home board?
I've done all of the above, but currently full board is suiting my lifestyle

22. Have you ever had to put down a horse that you loved?
Yes, but it's been a very long time (and fingers crossed never again).

23. How many saddlepads do you have?
Rather than counting, it's easier to say the stack in the corner of our basement is about 5' high.

24. Slant-load trailer or straight haul?
Angle haul. Owning smaller horses, I like being able to turn them around and lead them out head first.

25. Why do you ride?
I've just always loved riding and animals, particularly horses. Also, my mind is always going a mile a minute - horses are the only thing that make me focus, live in the moment and enjoy it.