Friday, 27 February 2015

Energized

Little Ms Bridget was pretty 'up' today for our ride. There was much spooking and silliness. I think my higher energy feed switch is finally hitting the pony brain, or maybe all our galloping the other day made her realize forward can be fun! We had decent effort with no rider nagging on the way out, and even cantered a bit on the way to the trail head. That is basically unheard of, but I love it and would be very happy if her energy levels stayed where they are.
Happy to see her friend. Also, we've worn a trail in the grass from all our outings.

Our buddy for today is all about slow and careful, so after we met them it was mostly a walk ride with a little bit of trot. I was proud of Bridget because we opted to trot side by side up an old road and she wasn't at all worried about where her buddy was and was quite happy to slow or speed up as I asked. No ear pinning or attempts to race, even when the other baby pony lost his mind a tiny bit - I like it!

She was the master of all the puddles as well - even the big huge one that's more like a lake that she normally has to inspect prior to entering. Last time we went through it our buddy opted for a giant leap in and almost landed on top of us, so this time she didn't linger and risk another bath lol. It's almost belly deep on her so it's a bit comical when she does attempt to stop in there in an effort to drink eat the nearby greenery. It's just inviting baby hippo comparisons, obviously :)

In other news, all this riding is trashing my gear and I truly need some new breeches and every day tall boots, not to mention a couple of saddle pads. I hate spending money! Canadian oil prices, you need to go back up so my dollar has more buying power...the conversion rate right now is making me sick, and of course Canada has no good riding gear of our own. I'm going for brown boots to match the mud, and nicer breeches so stay tuned - I might be somewhat fashionable for the next 30 seconds or so.

I just signed up for another clinic in April, and am confirmed for our March one, so at some point maybe I might even be able to look good in my new gear, and maybe even ride well at the same time- all on a forward pony of course. I can always dream, right? ;)

That time of year - a shovel full of hair and mud came off the pony (and I groomed her the day previously too, so that's only 24 hours worth)

Cleaner. It's quite difficult to take a good picture of poor Bridget. Ginger is the model, Bridget is more like me and always looks weird in photos.



Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Building Up That Fitness

I have a friend who used to do endurance (and may again!). Over the years, I've ridden with her occasionally, but generally speaking I am much too slow to keep up. 

These days, she has a new little horse who can be a bit of a handful for her, so she's more interested in slower miles than previously. That's a good thing for me and my fat ponies!
Everyone enjoying the sun pre ride. Bridget loves her cat.
 We met for a ride yesterday afternoon, and I have to say it was one of the best rides I've had on Ms Bridget. The sun was shining, the weather was warm, and the horses were feeling good! We went out for about 2.5 hours and got quite a bit of trot and canter in, but with plenty of long walk breaks as well. At first, Bridget was like "That horse is CRAZY, lets just walk back here and catch up to him later." But, by about halfway she got her game face on and got the idea. She was a bit sweaty and tired nearing the end, but really wanted to canter the last big sandy part of the trail, so I let her. The little monster then tried to take off on me in a bid to 'race' the horse in front! As some of you will know, a baby cob gallop really sounds and feels impressive, but the overall speed isn't really quick at all, so it was just funny and not at all scary. I let her think she was racing for a bit, before quietly reminding her a more sedate canter was the appropriate thing to do. It's a fine line - I want to encourage her to think forward and not shut that down when she offers, but I don't want her ignoring her rider either. She was pretty done after that, so we stuck with a walk the last 45 min to let her cool out and feel refreshed. It must have worked because she was on her toes and really spooky the last little bit to the barn. Either her new grain is working, or someone is getting an idea of how good it feels to move out a little bit :) Her overall fitness is actually not bad at all, as some of you have mentioned, all those long slow miles really work!

 I think if I'm going to ride with L more often I will need to invest in front shoes. My girls both have wonderful feet, but a lot of the road and trail surfaces here are shot rock or crushed granite and Ms Bridget's toes are currently wearing down at about the same rate as a trim - there's not a lot left for the farrier, even at 8 week intervals. If I start putting more miles on those surfaces I may need shoes to stop them wearing too much. Something to mull over - my end goal is obviously not endurance and trotting miles of rocky trails. I just want to have her fitter and thinking more forward for ring work and jumping! I'm reluctant to put shoes on when she has such great feet.
Our big loop outlined in white

Random pic of Ginny from yesterday - her mane is growing back!

Monday, 23 February 2015

Gold Stars

For all! I had a somewhat productive lesson on Bridget this weekend, and even better, Ginger was an absolute star with zero signs of that mystery stiffness/lameness that's keeping me awake at night.

Using some more pictures from Friday's ride - thanks G!
I'm going to  continue with bringing both girls to my lesson time. Ginger and S get along wonderfully. There was some roadwork going on just outside the ring, right on the other side of our little buffer of trees and also the neighbours on the other side seemed to be having a loud party. Ginger tried to tell S it was all a bit much, but S wasn't buying it and Ginger went really well for her. Bonus for me is that with Ginger being pretty well trained, S can teach off Ginger and I get the added help of someone riding alongside, plus the extra forward momentum big Ginger gives to little Bridget. Bridget gave some of her best work yet, so I was pleased. I must admit the big highlight for me was seeing Ginger going so well - I just love her and it's so confidence boosting to see someone else out there having a good ride on her:) Of course when I got on Ginger she knows I'm not so bold as S and we had to have the whole discussion over spooking all over again, but she was good and I had someone there to remind me to breathe and talk me off the ledge, ha ha. I ended up having a really good ride as well on her. My two mares are such a nice counterpoint to each other, it's such a treat to hop on Ginger and have that crazy work ethic and all the forwards, but also pretty nice to have my portable Bridget couch for when Ginger gets a little much! Both of them in their own ways make you really work for what you want, so between the two there is always hope I'll be a better rider someday.

As far as what we practiced, we took some inspiration from the 'western' clinic I audited this weekend and did some rollbacks, then upped the ante by backing on a circle, then reversing out through a rollback. Great prep for our canter departs and building up those hindquarters (looking at you, Bridget!).

Bridget: Bend around your leg? Ha, that's a stupid idea ;)
Add in our usual warm up, some spirals, haunches in, leg yields, and W/T/C and the hour was up pretty fast. I opted not to canter the big Ginger mare this time because my bravery only extends so far, but I watched S and am motivated to be braver next time. Bridget, however, managed an entire lap of the ring in each direction, which is a first!

I'll try to see if I can adequately sum up some of what we discussed and learned at the clinic this weekend in a future post. I got a ton of good tips for both ponies.

Friday, 20 February 2015

You Asked For It

Another boring ride update :)

I rode both girls today in a bid to be somewhat prepared for my lessons on Sunday.

Ginger was up first. She was pretty spooky today and much more reminscent of the 'old Ginger' I was used to. She checked out on the walk up the road when a nice lady riding a bike with a plastic shopping bag draped off the front handlebars passed us at a fair clip. Poor Ginger, flying plastic bags and bicycles all in one experience lol, The focus was really lacking even an hour later, and I chickened out and took it easy while I rode and did my utmost to not poke the bear. I hope she's the same on Sunday so I can pick that fight and get some help working her through it. Also I need reminders about my hands. They're depressing.


Spooking at the mounting block ha ha



Bridget was also up to her old tricks - namely when I asked her to move out she just kind of said 'I caaaannnnn't!!!" Unfortunately for baby pony, the game is up because out on the trails she's been a machine and pulling on me in a bid to be in front and get to our destination first. After a bit of a sucky ride, I got off and lunged her to really remind her the go button is non negotiable. Here's hoping these reminders will continue to become less and less. Poor Ginger was tied to the rail and traumatized by finally seeing evidence that I will touch ponies with the whip now and then. She took great exception to poor Bridget's plight, so we can rest assured at least Ginger learned a lesson and will never suck behind my leg and risk my wrath ha ha.

Stupid human, your spurs will not make me canter faster :) 

Ok then, if you insist


Her other latest evasion is getting her head down and trying to be all slow western pleasure pony



No clue what I'm doing but posting this one cause Bridget looks really cute



I need pony sized reins. That's your safety PSA for the day

Hi Ginger!

Whewww, all done.


Wednesday, 18 February 2015

So Many Miles

I'm having a bit of a blogging crisis. I'm happy, I'm riding tons, my horses are doing great... and I'm super boring. Local area trail rides just aren't overly exciting, and neither are training rides. 

Both girls have been good this week. I've been putting a ton of trail miles on Ms Bridget and she's been great. She really is the best little trail horse a person could ask for - she's fun, well behaved, and absolutely fearless too. Great out in a group and content on her own as well. In fact, her company is in such demand that I've been slacking on the arena rides. Ginger however, has been to the ring for a light free lunging session in an attempt to build up some base fitness. She seems to be a little more interested in the idea of having a job, which is always a good thing. Both are going to get another ride or two this week, and then both have lessons on Sunday. Same old, same old.

This view. For an hour or two or three every day. Pretty good life, right? :)

At some point I heard a clinician say watching good training is like watching paint dry. So, maybe our general lack of exciting blog material means we're doing well? I'm always easily absorbed by the detail in my actual rides and never bored, but when the time comes to write about my rides there's only so many times I want to write about Ginger being spooky and Bridget being slightly sticky in the transition to canter. Never mind holding the canter. Baby steps, day after day, month after month. Fun as the owner/rider, not so interesting as a blogger!

Adorable baby kitty is adorable. Life is definitely good.
In addition to our regular lessons, I'm going to audit a clinic this weekend, which will hopefully lend me a bit of inspiration. Also, I've got a dressage and a jumping lesson booked for Bridget in a clinic next month with a coach from the big city. If all is going well closer to the date, I'm going to add a lesson or two in for Ginger as well. It's at the exhibition grounds across town so it also might be a good chance to practice for an away show - I may opt to stable them overnight, Until then, we keep picking away, bit by bit, mile by mile, so that one day we will be doing all the exciting things :)

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Cobs For The Win

I was up bright and early for lesson day, and once again the weather was cooperating. I'm sure all the tourism people were out trying to get a million photos of our beautiful little corner of the world in an attempt to trick the rest of the world into believing it's sunny spring on the coast already.

Ginger enjoys the sunshine







Ginger was a bit stiff again to start. She warmed up out of it for the most part, but you can still feel that slightly short stride now and then even when she's looking pretty good from the ground. Unfortunately S is going through something similar with one of her horses, but fortunately for me she had a good vet and chiro reference to pass on, so I can get a second opinion lined up. The ride itself was fun, big mare remembers all her fancy moves even though she is tragically out of shape. Still, it was pretty nice to do spirals, leg yields, etc with a minimum of rider effort! The best part to me was S hopped on and had a short, but decent ride as well. Long time readers will know Ginger is extremely fussy about who she lets ride her, so today was a total win because she not only accepted S, she tried her heart out for her too. It's so cool to see someone else ride your horse, and in my (very biased) opinion, Ginger looked pretty darn good - like "wow, is that really MY pony?" good. S really enjoyed her and volunteered to ride her again any time. That adds some more motivation for me to get both the ponies out Sunday mornings for lessons - if S is willing to teach and ride and we can trade off on either pony it's silly not to take advantage of that! If we can get this lameness thing sorted out I'll be feeling very positive about my plans for Ms Gingersnap.
No riding pics today, just some video stills


After my lesson, I went back to the barn and got Bridget out for our monthly Backcountry Horsemen ride. We met up with 5 other riders and went for a fun little adventure in the local area. Bridget was a star as always, and wins the ride because she bravely led everyone past some scary stuff and was on her best behaviour. We ended up out for almost 4 hours and Bridget barely broke a sweat, so I'm feeling encouraged that lazy pony's issues don't completely stem from horrendus fitness! My fitness however, needs improvement. 5+ hours in the saddle in a day, although fun, is not agreeing with my knees and hips. I think we'll all take a day off riding tomorrow :)
Your obligatory Bridget ears pics

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Valentine's Rides

Guess what I got for Valentine's? Sunshine and a whole afternoon free to spend at the barn! I think our last beautiful day was around the Christmas holidays, if that gives you any idea of how appreciated today's warm sunny day was!

The horses were all feeling good, and both of mine were waiting at the fence looking like they wanted to get out and do something.
Pick me!

No, pick me!

I took Ginger first and she did pretty well. As mentioned, she was feeling good, so we had a ton of forward. Maybe we're gaining confidence in each other again as well, because she felt a lot more free and forward today and I felt fairly confident about riding proactively and directing that energy to good things.Such a nice change to have Ginger, who has all the forwards and just takes you along. I forget how much easier it is to ride a horse like that, provided I don't get nervous when it starts to feel a little too quick and 'big', for lack of a better word, I'm sure everyone that reads this blog has at some point been on a horse that is going decently enough, but you still feel like you're sitting on a keg a dynamite? That's Ginger - so much power on a hair trigger, it's slightly intimidating. I would be lying if I said I don't still have that nasty fall lurking in the back of my mind every time she scoots off or spooks at something, but of course the only way to work through it is to stay calm and keep her on the aids. So sad because my body seems to think I should drop the reins and go fetal, ha ha. In all seriousness though, I do feel like I've got the tools to ride her well, and have been riding her decently enough of late. There's just still that final bit of self doubt to work through. Stupid brain.
Ginger looking for trouble

I'm taking her to my lesson tomorrow, fingers crossed it goes well and I get some more useful input re: her quirks.
Big mare broke a sweat. Yes, I use a neck strap on her. Don't judge ;)


Bridget came out second, and there was much torture involved getting her walk out. It's way too hard leaving the barn, she says, and getting her to move out properly involves much groaning and sighing on her part and a bit of effort on mine. I persuaded her to trot part of the big hill alongside the road. Poor pony thought she might die. We just went out for about an hour hack and while she was dragging her butt on the way out, of course she did liven up on the way home. I took advantage of that and got some decent trot and canter work in. She earned her keep by not freaking out when 3 separate dogs tried to chase us along the way. I guess the dogs were feeling good today too? I've never seen any of them before today and I ride the same route multiple times a week.
I should put a pic of Bridget here, but I didn't take one. Instead you get Ginger ears in the ring

Too bad I can't somehow cross Bridget's street smarts with Ginger's love of working, Then I'd have the pony to rule them all ;)

I'll leave you with a pic of baby kitty and his valentine friend.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Bridget Finds Her Wings

Another rainy day, another ride. I was feeling pretty blah about heading out in the dark and damp but I know Bridget needs to up her fitness levels and the best way to do that is to head out and put the miles on!

We eventually met up with some friends and headed out on the trails. Midge and I were both happy to have the company to brighten the day. I think everyone must be feeling the same because we all were wearing crazy bright colors to cheer ourselves up. It must have looked like some kind of Mardi Gras theme - me in my hot pink rain coat, S in her red breeches and fluorescent yellow coat visi coat and saddle pad, and R in her bright blue rain poncho!

News flash: It's still raining

The highlight of the ride for me was our canter. S and R took off at a sedate pace which quickly turned into a bit of a hand gallop. Bridget spent 4 or 5 strides sucking back and generally being all "I can`t" before she realized no one cared and she was being left behind. Little mare got rolling and I was pretty happy. Then she really found her stride and I finally got to ride that gorgeous big uphill canter she shows off in the field! I probably scared everyone with my laughing and cheering, but seriously, it was wonderful after so many months of 'stuck' pony. I could literally feel the moment she got confident and realized she was strong enough to keep up, which was so neat. She was legit having fun and rolling along at a good clip, pulling a bit and taking me along so I could get up in a bit of a half seat and just enjoy. Google says we went about half a km, or about 1500 ft, and she was ready for more.
Possibly because I finally trimmed off her huge beard - she much more sporty and aerodynamic now!

She was super proud of herself and prancy afterwards, which made me even more happy. No sad tired pony, she was forward and happy the rest of the ride, Usually we head out on rides and either there's someone who doesn't canter, or else everyone does that QH lope that equates to a medium Bridget trot. My friends today were on a TB and a big draftie cross, so all the gaits including canter were a little more lively and just what Bridget needed to find her wings!

So there you go, a ride I was seriously considering cancelling out on turned into one of the best rides ever. From a technical standpoint, obviously cantering along a trail is no big deal (Unless you own a baby Bridget, ha ha) From a reward for sheer hard work standpoint this one takes the cake and will definitely be one I remember for a long time. For those counting (me!) we're at month 6 under saddle, so it's been a bit of a wait! Now that I know that sweet canter is attainable, I'm extra motivated again to keep putting the work and the miles in!

Thursday, 12 February 2015

TOABH: Idiosyncracies

This week, Beka at The Owls Approve asks:


Idiosyncrasies.
What personality quirks does your pony have?  What makes him or her special?



This topic was made for Ginger, however I feel like I've detailed most of her quirks in depth. Here's a post. Here's another. One more. Oh hey, here's another. This is a good one. How bout this? Or even this?

Let's talk about Bridget for a change:

-She's very social. She loves the barn and she loves visiting her human friends. To the point where when you put her out to the pasture you'd better make sure you're completely through the door before you take her halter off. Otherwise she'll back back into the barn and play impossible to catch. I've never in my life had to spend a half an hour trying to catch a pony in the barn aisle in order to turn them out with their buddies in a giant pasture. Usually you just open the door and out they go!  Seriously, she's all alone in there and there is no food. She's weird.

Also, I've probably mentioned it, but the whole needing to pee on the road centerline thing. On the hill so it all splashes and runs all around us. Super awesome.

On a less embarrassing note, she's one of the most sensible and confident horses I've ever met. She's very interested in everything around her, but she finds very little there to concern her. I appreciate that very much.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Magic Elves

I'm continuing to take advantage of G's vacation week availability as a groom and spent another nice afternoon with the horses. Again in the horrible cold, damp weather. My fingers are still numb.

I'm quickly running out of dry saddle pads and gloves to use. My first world problem is that G is reluctant to allow super dirty horse items in the house, let alone anywhere near the laundry room, so they take about a week to dry in the unheated tack room. Everything is just waiting to turn into a big pile of mildew. Never fear, though, our house apparently came with magic elves to wash and dry things for the horses in the winters. but they are shy and only come out when G's not home so often ;) Since they also do nice things to surprise him too. They are particularly helpful in stocking toilet paper before it's a last square situation, running the dishwasher prior to actually needing the dishes at dinner, and doing general laundry chores prior to work shifts, preventing the dreaded having-to-wear-not-quite-dry clothing for 8 hours. Future planning is not his forte, so he tends to overlook the odd horse hair in the dryer lint trap as long as "the elves" clean stinky horse things on the down low. Still, it will be nice to see some warmer temps and sunshine so everything horsey can be cleaned and dried with a minimum of effort, horses included.
Wake me up when spring comes.

On the plus side, as I curried off Ginger's mud bath today, there was hair on the ground too. Yay for spring and sleek, shiny horses! Yay for dry saddle pads and clean blankets! Yay for non moldy tack!

I did ride both ponies again today, but have nothing exciting to report. You guys are pretty tolerant of my endless ride recaps, but seriously, these were exceptionally dull. I was underdressed and cold and obsessed with the prospect of spring and warm sunny days this afternoon. My rides, although fun, felt a bit like we're just going to work and putting the hours in towards that elusive bigger picture stuff. Like happy summer shows :)
Adorable baby kitty to reward you for making it through this post.


Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Rainy Ride Pt 2

So, yesterday it was oh-so-convenient to drag Bridget along with us. And, even though I said I was going to limit my rides in the ring with her, I couldn't resist and hopped on for a quick ride. She felt tired and slow,  so I didn't push it since she'd been so good the day previous.

Whee! Wrong lead, but believe it or not she did a flying change before the corner and fixed herself. Smarty pants! (For the record, we're still not fussing about leads...it all about just going forward and getting some canter strides when I ask. If I set her up right we're going to get it 99% of the time, but the rest of the time I still let her go and tell her how amazing she is)

Motorbikes can bend their bodies around the circle at least
Ginger keeps an eye on things


Crazy cob trot. After months of being nagged about my hands, it appears I'm right back to burying them in her neck which of course leads to tipping forward. So appreciate G taking all the photos - it's so useful to be able to see what I'm doing wrong and remind myself.
More circles. Love this ring.

Why are you always so lazy? lol
 I'm thinking I'm going to switch her feed a little. She's currently on a nice timothy hay and a ration balancer due to needing to lose a bunch of weight when she arrived. We've finally got the weight to a good place, so it may be time to add in a higher energy complete feed in place of the ration balancer. I feel like her energy levels are pretty low considering her fitness isn't really too bad.

Bonus crazy eyes kitty. His life purpose seems to be to follow me everywhere. If I don't see him that's because he's hiding somewhere in order to stalk me better. Creepy. This is on the couch behind my head as I type my blog post.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Rainy Ride

Thanks to yet another pineapple express, we're being drenched with rain and wind yet again and everything is (still) flooded. Going outdoors is like what I would imagine walking through a car wash might be like. The ironic part of all this drowning in water is that the accompanying warm temperatures mean there is no snow in the mountains and we'll likely be facing a shortage of water come summer. Silly Wet Coast!

Ginger came out today for a spin in the outdoor. She's a bit less of a fair weather princess this winter as her desire for pasture time and friends seems to outweigh her desire to hide inside out of the elements. Not much to say for the ride itself, she felt super duper stiff and rusty again, which is a bit discouraging since that's all on me. I felt like my riding was sub par as well. Pony rides a lot greener than she should these days, but that's what happens when you take a year or two off any serious program. It's no reflection on her, she's still the best. She felt really backed off today in general, only to leap forward off my leg when I needed to (gently) remind her to move out. That's the old Ginger I remember :) We just did some walk/trot and worked a bit on bending and flexing - nothing complicated. She's been out of real work so long I feel like it's unfair to ask a lot.

 I got on Bridget after and immediately felt like I was on the better trained pony. Funny what a little work and consistency will do! As I hinted in my previous post, I do have a plan for getting the big mare going again and it starts with rides like this. I won't blab on, I'll leave you now with a Ginger photo dump (of, fingers crossed, the first of many more regular Ginger rides):
Warming herself up with a big trot


Love the big cob trots!
Yet another cause she's cute
Off we go


More warm up trot



My riding is really sucky in these photos. But Ginger looks cute and happy, so we'll post them



Again, no clue what I'm doing. I'm slouchy loose rein chair seat girl!

No wait, I'm tense grabby rein perchy person! She had just spooked/scooted past the jump standards in the background. When in doubt, go fetal ;)

Here I do remember asking for a leg yield. Interesting how all these photos show how NOT still I am in the saddle, even though I do put in quite an effort to keep a quiet and stable position on her.
Bonus baby kitty pic!