Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Wobbly

This afternoon, Midge and I finally got back at it with a 'serious' lesson.
She's very excited lol



We started out with a big win - once again she was way more confident about the canter and we had zero issues with forward! It's wobbly, but we can work with that.  S was so pleased and excited, what a difference in a very short time. Bridget's finally got the idea, or more importantly, gained the belief she can do it.

We set up some canter poles and baby pony was cool with that. Rather than bore her and tire her out, we moved on to some trot gymnastics with tiny x's and verticals mixed with poles. Midge felt quite excited to be 'jumping' but failed because she was so focused on the jumps themselves which were unfortunately for her, in the middle of the grid. She was like "Why are all these stupid poles in our way? Don't worry, T, I'll smash them out of the way so we can get at the bigger one and jump it!" She did figure it out after a few tries, but it felt pretty wobbly again after we set up some of the poles raised on one end. I tried to choose a line over the lower part of the poles to start, but she was convinced we must go over the center no matter what and was constantly trying to dart over. Eventually we got some consistently nice work in each direction with no Hulk smashing, so we upped the ante and started asking her to canter out over the last. She got a little uptight about that, so rather than pursue it too hard, we got one nice canter out then went back to easy trot poles.

My legs are sore tonight, Bridget isn't the only wobbly one - my two point has fallen by the wayside with all the flatwork we've been doing. I'm going to have to bring back 2 Pointober for April!

 We finished with a rock star photo shoot, because obviously she deserves to be worshipped ;).

This weekend is our mock show campout/party and I'm excited to take Bridget along. Fingers crossed the weather is alright so we don't have to postpone.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Peppermint Magic

We had a small surprise break in the weather yesterday afternoon. With another storm front moving in to wash away Monday and part of Tuesday, the intelligent thing to do was obviously to hop in the truck and get out to the barn for a ride.

I picked up a special order on the way - more of the horse crack  peppermint horse treats my two go absolutely crazy for. I've been trying to order them for months but for whatever reason the truck driver delivery guy seemed to always leave them behind at the distributor and just bring the big bags of grain. This sort of thing went on for so long the transport company eventually got fired, and a new company was hired to deliver the feed to our area. That's the power and importance of the peppermint treats, everyone - you don't get between them and the horses craving them!

Ginger and Bridget were suitably enthralled with my offerings, and smelt them before I even admitted to having them. I think it's safe to say we're all besties at the moment. Because they love me, obviously...the treats have nothing to do with it, right? ;)

I quickly tacked up Bridget and ventured out up the road. As with our ride on Thursday, I only had to ask for the trot and she happily obliged and maintained her own pace without nagging. Let's hope someone has finally learned I'm not going to babysit her forever.
My pony awaits. My  mounting block is also literally a block of wood lol



When we got to the ring, I spent a little bit of time getting her to bend properly, particularly on the right rein, She was a bit up and looky. I hate the looky part because that only leads to trouble, so we increased the difficulty and added in some serpentines and poles. Focus is a good thing for baby ponies!
Probably had to see, but someone left this pole set up and it was pretty handy.

Since pony was being quite good about looking after herself and keeping herself where I put her, I got the rare treat of being able to focus on my own riding and really tried to stay quiet and centered with my shoulders back and my core strong. I've developed a bad habit of 'helping' her by leaning all over the place, which isn't helpful at all! She's a smart girl, so lets hope she puts two and two together and realizes it's easier for everyone if she just does her job.

After a few minutes, I asked for a right lead canter depart and got it with minimal fuss, although she did have to scramble a little and get organized and broke to a trot before the corner after the long side.

Left lead was fabulous and we got not one, but two laps around the ring! After 7 months of riding and cantering this pony I should be embarrassed to be excited about that but I'm totally not. It's a small (20x40m) ring and baby pony is not the most balanced or athletic. Cantering those tight turns is a big win for her, and doing it twice around is a big breakthrough. She still leans and get rushy and breaks if I don't remind her to slow down and use her body in the corners, but for her to actually have the strength and balance to let me use my reminders is huge. I could literally feel her confidence increasing with every turn, and made sure to quit while we were ahead.

I went back to right rein canter and had a more muddled depart and the sucked back, head tossing of old. I went back to a 20m circle and got her balanced up and paid more attention to myself. She offered up a much nicer depart and with a little encouragement, did an entire lap of the ring. She finds one corner especially hard, so I was careful to set her up well for it and she made it through in canter for the first time ever. As a reward, I brought her back to walk then and there and called the day a huge success. I also told her how wonderful she is, of course. Perhaps the power of the peppermints still at work, but more likely months of work finally paying off in a measurable way!
'Yeah, I've got this"

I find it funny that it's always after some especially horrible rides that the small breakthroughs happen. Right when I really start doubting yourself, and am super low. I know part of it is just training and babies needing time and testing the limits and all that, but I think part of it is rider mental game too...how else can I explain getting to the point where I almost don't even care anymore and am resigned to more months of strength building outside the ring, then 'magically' getting a decent canter out of the pony the next ride?

Just in case though, treats will be a pre-ride ritual from now on :)




Sunday, 29 March 2015

March Recap/April Goals

Lessons are rained out this morning, so it seems as good a time as any to go over my monthly goals!


Pics from yesterday to break up the text - no riding this weekend, the rain has been incredible yet again



March:
Self:
-Eat well. Yep. Can always be better though
-Exercise 5x a week. Walk min 10k/day on varied terrain or run/walk 5k. Nope. I exercised 5 days a week for sure, but the trails from our house were blocked due to logging and time/convenience became an issue -I didn't meet my distance goals consistently
-Ride min 5x a week.  Done
-Be proactive about tackling my remaining hang ups re: riding Ginger - expand the comfort zone! Meh. I rode her on the trails, I rode in a new 'scary' arena, but I chickened out on riding her in the clinic and never felt great about the other stuff.
-Remember to be patient. Nope
-Try to think more positively and confidently about myself and my riding skills. Recognize the negative self talk. Was a yes until the bad clinic weekend put me into a bit of a tailspin 
-Housekeeping - budget for new boots (ordered them today!), sign up for remaining club memberships for summer riding activities and shows. Done

Bridget:
-Weekly lessons. Done
-Improve canter departs and distance she can hold the canter. YES!
-Related to above, continue to work on pony`s overall fitness and willingness. Yes
-Tame the mane. It's better
-More trail rides, less ring work. (Find her happy place) Nope, did the opposite and pissed her off
-Front shoes? Not yet, but not needed
-Better trailer loading. She`s fine, but not as confident as she could be. Way better right now, trailered her out a few times this month with zero issues

Ginger:
-Weekly lessons. Nope, missed the last one
-Survive clinic mid month. Nope. Took Bridget because lame pony and scaredy cat owner
-Tame mane, beard, and tail. Yes
-Get her out and about (for the clinic plus trail rides)Counting this as a yes because we did get out quite a bit and she came to the clinic even though I didn't ride
-More tools to address lack of focus/spookiness/confidence. Some, but not enough
-On that note, sign her up for the extreme trail cowboy clinic in April. Signed up for clinic, but they might not have the spooky horse/desensitizing stuff due to lack of interest. May end up riding Bridget in a shared lesson re: getting a better canter
-Unhappy with her feet again - I need to be strong/assertive and discuss necessary changes with farrier at next visit. Or use Bridget`s farrier. Who does a really good job, but Ginger hates. And who isn`t `the barn`farrier. Sigh...so much drama. Discussed and I have the OK to trim her myself between visits or use other farrier now and then.

Looks like the ponies held up their ends of the bargain, but I fell short on getting a better handle on my emotions (confidence, focus, patience) and some of the related goals suffered. Always a work in progress :)

The field doesn't look bad at a distance, but the reality is we're drowning in mud and water!
April Goals:

-Continue with March goals that weren't completed
-but, Be realistic re: goals with Ginger and plans for her. Have a good chat with S and vet about plan heading forward
-Get Bridget more confident/enthusiastic about cantering in the ring. Better transitions and more than one 20m circle at a time :) 
-Continue building up canter distance on the trails to help with above
-Clinic third week of April - try to ensure it's a confidence booster/fun time for us both
-Mock show Easter weekend. Pick a couple of dressage tests to run through and schedule some lessons then as well. Get organized for camping out at show grounds and make it fun for Bridget!
-Trailer to big arena and put together a small jump course with lots of room to build momentum. See if that helps Bridget find a purpose!
-Make it to at least one Backcountry Horsemen ride and educational meeting.
-Need to shop for a new helmet.


Friday, 27 March 2015

Sweet, Itchy Ginger

Our warm weather and early spring means the big mare has already been doing the scratchy dance and rubbing her tail and belly a little bit. Poor thing, looks like the insects are already tormenting her.

And she only just grew her mane back to a reasonable length. Pic is from last week I think - I need new ones, her summer coat is coming in and she's a super dark shiny bay at the moment. So pretty


 (As a side note, when I explained to G that Ginger has sweet itch and is allergic to midges he thought I meant The Midge aka Bridget and was thoroughly confused for a day or two before he asked me to clarify lol)
Don't worry Ginger, it's the other midges that you're allergic to.

I know in the past people have been interested in what exactly we're doing to manage her sweet itch. Last year was the first year it was really bad and not kept mostly in check with fly spray along with some Swat on her midline and around her udder. She did alright until the fall, when we got a bit caught out when the bugs got bad for a week or so and I was away. I really think the trick with sweet itch is to be proactive and keep a handle on it. If you fall behind and your horse has a bad day or two and itches themselves silly, the whole situation seems to blow up and nothing helps anymore -- the next thing you know your horse has raw spots and sections of mane missing. Ask me how I know.

I consulted with the vet last fall, so this year, we do have the vet ready to prescribe a steroid injection should things get out of hand again. For now though, with his blessing, we're doing the 'wait and see' approach. Here's our normal line up of preventative products:

Diaper rash zinc cream. My secret weapon for her belly and udder area and what I use almost daily. Cheap and effective because the bugs don't bite through it and it' soothes itchy, broken skin. The negative? It attracts dirt and I have a mucky mess to clean up before reapplying. Probably not the best to use on certain areas if your horse doesn't like you touching them there, since you will have to clean it off eventually.

This is handy for the same reasons as above, with the added bonus of containing bug repellent. The downside? It's a small container and the $ add up. Also, it attracts dirt and needs cleaning up now and then, although not as badly as the zinc cream. I tend to use a minimal amount of this mostly for the repellent aspect - I like the idea of it 'sticking' on and being harder to rube/wipe off than sprays. I use more if there is a spot she's rubbed raw and I want the extra insurance it won't spread.

The powder for her mane and tail, the lotion for her belly. I use this if/when she gets itchy and the zinc cream isn't enough.  The lotion is a lot lighter and less greasy than the swat or zinc cream, so it's great for daily applications without the mess. Again though, for daily applications on a horse, this could be $$ and I only use it if I see she's been scratching a certain place and it's not an open wound. Best to be smart about your fly sprays and management and not rely completely on anti itch products

Of course, I also use a ton of fly spray. We've tried natural (tea tree or citronella, marigold, chrysanthemum) and we've tried the 'nasty' stuff with little difference in results. Nothing seems to last more than a couple of hours. This year we're switching to a spot on treatment:


Management wise, we leave her in later in the morning and bring her in before the bugs get bad in the evening. I opt not to use a fly sheet, since she really gets bothered under her belly/between her hind legs where a sheet can't protect. The barn owners are awesome and did some further drainage work last fall in hopes of there being less standing water this spring to attract the bugs. A nice gesture, but our climate is a tough one. The upcoming 200 mm of rain over the next 3 days will probably overwhelm even the best drainage!

Since I am at the barn every day grooming and visiting anyways, it's not a huge deal for me to apply these products as needed. If I was busier or Ginger had a bigger issue, I'd be going with the vet injections or prescription antihistamines for sure (and I still will if I feel my prevention measures aren't working). We'll see how we fare this summer, here's hoping we keep it under control and pony has a mane left next fall.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Choose Your Own Adventure


The clinician the other weekend made several comments re: Bridget's lack of willingness and me being too tolerant/forgiving of it. There were also a few comments saying I should be riding at a higher level than the Midge can get me to. Rather than give us exercises to work on or tools to get us on the same page, I felt like she was saying Bridget just isn't worth the effort and I should be riding something else. I could brush that off since I had my own thoughts about the clinican and also no big dreams of being a dressage star with Midge. Then, some other people in my life were there and took that as their opening to weigh in re: the pony as well. It was kind of awful. Ever since, I've been thinking about each and every comment. I know everyone means well, after all. Life really would be easier if I owned a pony that could do it all (and wanted to do it all!). Of course it would be nice to own a horse who really wants to please it's rider and found things easier. Yes, horses are too expensive and time consuming to 'waste' your time on the wrong one. Of course I wouldn't mind something I could take to a show tomorrow. Maybe I do deserve better. Maybe I should sell her and suck it up and ride Ginger instead if I want to show. And most shamefully, hmm yes it would be nice to not always have the horse every one else is saying "thank goodness it's you and not me riding that"!

So today, I saddled up my little Bridget mare and didn't invite anyone else along. I needed an hour or two on  my own with the pony without all that external feedback and second guessing. We went for a nice walk down the road, then diverted to a forest trail that takes you out to a logging road that sort of loops back around to the road again. It's about an hour and a half loop if you walk/trot it.
Trotting on down the road



The first trail portion ended up being extremely mucky and basically submerged in water in a lot of places. My plan for some relaxed thinking time was quickly shelved. Midge was unsure about some of the deeper sections, but found a safe way through without getting panicky. She was also spooky about a couple of the wooden bridges, since it seems like someone's been in there working and it looks a bit different. She went when I asked though and got a big pat. We ended up having to jump the final crossing, but again she was careful and sure footed, even with a muddy approach and landing and some tree trunks waiting to catch my knees. I did this same trail with Ginger a couple of weeks ago and it was a lot more 'exciting' even though the footing and water situation was way better then. Midge gets the gold star for extreme off roading.
One of the nicer sections.

Our little adventure just reaffirmed for me how great this horse is, and all the uncertainty over being competitive and showing was gone. I was back to plan A and had S's homework in mind - namely, cantering on the trail as much as possible to build up Bridget's strength and confidence. We popped out on the old logging road and Bridget was immediately thinking we should trot. I took her up on that and off we went at a nice clip, even through the big puddles and over the rockier sections. I focused on not nagging her, just reminding her now and then to stay straight on my contact and keep the pace. When I asked for canter, it was so immediate and forward I was surprised and got slightly left behind. Yay for better transitions :) We spent the remainder of our side road loop doing trot/canter transitions and Bridget was totally 'on'. We walked the last little bit on the busy road home on a loose rein and just enjoyed the sunshine and saying hi to all the neighbouring horses in their fields. All in all, a good ride - she was pretty spooky and 'up' but this was also the first time where I've really felt like she's been consistently taking me along with no encouragement, even at the canter. It's nice to feel like there is always more gas in the tank and another gear there waiting should you ask!

About a second after I took this picture, I asked Bridget "Are those your canter ears?" And she obediently cantered off  part way through the word canter. And I nearly bit it since I was unprepared and my hands were busy putting my phone away in my jacket. My question wasn't as funny/sarcastic as I thought.
Final thoughts. Bridget is a keeper, of course. You'd have to pry this pony from my cold dead hands. I wouldn't want anything hotter or more forward than I had today. I wouldn't want anything less surefooted. I certainly don't want anything more spooky! It's nice she's not herdbound. Wonderful that she needs no shoes and is generally very easy to care for. I love that she's essentially fearless. I've never, ever owned another horse I would happily tack up and take out for a random trail ride on my own through tricky terrain and along busy roads at W/T/C.

Sure, I could go buy a great hunter or dressage project and go out showing with my friends and maybe even win some ribbons. That would be fun too and something I'd really love to do. But my current reality is that I live in the middle of nowhere and have a 15 min hack on a busy road to the nearest ring. I don't yet own a trailer. I'm on a budget,  I board and it's fairly rustic. There is no local vet, nor much in the way of local instruction. Most of my friends want to trail ride. I can struggle with my confidence. For all her supposed faults, Bridget fits my current needs very, very well. Maybe we won't amount to much by traditional standards, and maybe our flat work is going to be a lot more time and effort than is 'worth it', but I'd like to think we're still going to have a whole fun finding our own way to wherever we're headed.


On a more humorous note - G is Bridget's biggest fan and when told about the naysayers, asked "What's wrong with her? She's awesome! She's like having a big dog. Don't listen to those people! If you want faster or fancier, I'll buy you a fast car. Slow and safe is good on horses. Just let her walk everywhere if that's what she wants, and be happy!" :)






Monday, 23 March 2015

Schooling

Bridget goes to school! Really - the indoor riding arena we trailer to was built as part of a program for school kids and lesson horses. They're on spring break so Bridget gets to go to school instead :)
 For someone feeling a bit burnt out, I've done a surprising amount of riding over the past few days. After my fun ride on Saturday, my lesson on Sunday was back to behind the leg, slow Bridget and not worth a detailed recap. Such is life with baby ponies. Today's ride in the indoor was slightly better, but not by much...we still had a LOT of moments that felt like this:

Outtake from Saturday - I'm like :Go pony go! (missing hand may or may not contain a dressage whip) And pony is like NO, I will invert myself and pretend I wear concrete boots instead. While getting up out of the saddle has certainly helped get her thinking GO, I still really don't have many pictures of her cantering truly forward with any sort of pleasant expression - she's usually waiting for any excuse to stop (and in the right mood, she quite literally will come to a sudden complete stop if you let off your driving aids. It sucks).


It's a case of one step forward and then two or more back. Just when I think we've solved something we're back to struggling with the basics. I've never owned a pony who is less interested in pleasing her rider - just like when she is in the herd she is super independent and confident her way is the best way. Such confidence in herself is a fabulous thing out on the trail or in new situations where she is interested, but is a doubled edged sword when it comes to actually training the little beastie or when she gets bored or tired of the program. She definitely keeps you thinking. It's a vicious cycle because she tests and pushes you into having to correct her, then gets wildly offended that you did so. Under normal circumstances, I'd expect her to be the alpha mare in the field, but since she seems to march to her own drum she sort of hangs out on her own and the other horses just kind of ignore her when they're not getting after her for being pushy. In a way it's nice to see I'm not the only one who she constantly pushes at and annoys! Thank goodness she's so cute.



Still sulking post ride today because she forgot her manners and crowded me and got a talking to. Or maybe she simply objects to Ginger's extra large hand me down cooler. Hard to say :)
I have another couple of clinics coming up in April. Fingers crossed for some good breakthroughs and fun times!

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Fair Weather Rider

After last weekend, I'm ashamed to admit I've been in a bit of a funk. Partly due to just being tired, partly due to some of the clinic comments/feedback regarding my little Bridget mare, partly due to the meltdown Ginger had, some feedback there (and of course her current lameness). I needed a little horsey time out, so after my ride on Tuesday when the weather changed to icky rain and wind it was a bit of a relief. I used the weather as a great excuse to hide in the house and watch Netflix with the baby kitty and forget riding for a few days.

When the sun briefly popped out today, G suggested a barn trip. Going to the barn is rarely his idea, so I have a feeling it was his quiet way of doing a horsey intervention and getting me back at it.
This might have to be a blog banner or something

I didn't really have a plan for today's ride, I just knew we all needed to have fun. With that in mind, I set up a small cross rail against the wall on each long side, and some trot poles up the center. It's a set up I might repeat in our little ring, since it provided a nice visual 'wall' across the center of the ring and kept the pony from bulging through the shoulder on her 20m circles on either end (and me arguing with her over it). Mostly though, after the awful canter exercises we did in the clinic that ended in her basically shutting down and offering zero forward, I wanted to give her a fun exercise to encourage her to move out and enjoy herself. In previous lessons, she's got the idea of taking me to the jumps and through poles at the trot. I hoped the same set up would also prove effective with the canter and give her a visual goal to keep her forward and motivated.
Going through a pole at trot first

It totally worked! She actually caught me a little off guard by happily cantering her first baby fence with zero hesitation. Go Midget! A couple of more goes on the left rein and she was picking up the canter immediately when asked and maintaining it with very little nagging. I was so pleased! Greg was so surprised and excited by Bridget's mad skills he forgot to take pictures, instead opting to bump up the jumps a bit. (Spoiler alert - he never did manage to take a picture of us actually jumping anything beyond an awkward landing shot the world doesn't need to see) He was so excited it was a bit motivating, and we cantered the 'big' (about 24" lol) vertical without issue as well. Come time for right rein (her harder direction, we literally got two strides of right lead canter last weekend in an hour of trying) and I asked him to put everything back down to ground poles to keep it easy for her. Our first transition sucked and we needed to go back to a trot, but surprise, surprise she picked it up immediately after that and off we went and cantered some ground poles. It wasn't a fluke either, because she picked up the right lead consistently a few more times for me. It's certainly her harder side, but I think I'm starting to get a handle on how I need to set her up for it and I think she's getting the idea of what I'm asking. I'm pleased there are no lasting effects from last week's meltdowns. She still can't canter an entire circle on the right lead, but we're getting there. I need to be more aware of using the right lead when we are out on the road and trails too so she can build up strength- if I don't think about it I will always ask for the left one since we ride on the left hand side of the road and I seem to feel more comfortable with pony slightly bent to the road center rather than leading leg towards the ditch! I suspect with me being left sided/handed as well I'm the biggest part of the problem.
She looks so fierce all locked on to the jump :)

Right lead canter proof

All in all, exactly the ride I was looking for - short and sweet, and almost entirely fun. I didn't ask her to come on the bit or even bend overly properly - I just wanted a happy, forward pony and that's exactly what I had. Something to think about as well - without me attempting to keep an even contact and balance her up, our departs were still immediate, pretty balanced, and way less argumentative or sucked back. Maybe that's where we need to be at the moment, just letting her figure out where her feet need to be and saving my input for a little later down the training process. It's the exact opposite to the 'ride every stride' concept I was encouraged to embrace last weekend, but it's working so I might have to rebel for now. We'll see what S thinks.


No clue what I'm doing once again but pony is adorably trotting around on her loose rein so it's a keeper.

Good pony!!

Tomorrow is lesson day with S. She came to watch my rides at the clinic so I'm interested to hear what her take aways were and whether she changes our plans a bit moving forward.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Here's Johnny!

So, our tack room door is some kind of antique door that came with the barn. It previously had some sort of glass insert. that has obviously been removed in the name of safety. We are left with an oddly shaped hole above the doorknob. Bridget loves to peek through there any time she's in the barn and you're on the other side of the door.
Cute, right?
Except, sometimes it gets a little out of hand and feels like she's coming through the door. And all I can think of is that scene from 'The Shining':

Ahhhhh! Not cute at all!


Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Gonna Be All Right

Midge had Monday off, while Ginger had a farrier appointment. Ginger was the best ever for the farrier, even coming up from the pasture when I called and letting me halter her with the farrier and truck in full sight! She stood quietly and was the least stressed I've ever seen her for the farrier. Maybe her recent week of exile has made her reconsider things - she's probably thinking the farrier really isn't so bad in the grand scheme of horsey activities! Unfortunately, she trotted back out the the pasture fairly unsound in her hind end again. I was worried about that, with all the fence running and antics she was up to this past week. Fingers crossed she returns to normal shortly! If not it's time for her spring vet visit for her sweet itch anyways and I'm sure he won't mind taking another $$$$$ look at whatever is troubling her back there. My poor high maintenance girl!

Today, I took Midge out for a quick ride. My immediate impression as soon as I got in the saddle was that my quiet, happy pony is back. Yay! I took her for a quick spin to the ring, and she was pretty good. In the ring I do feel like there is a bunch of residual anxiety and tension in the form of being too quick and bracing (particularly to the right) but at least I did not have to nag for forward. There were many good moments once she started to realize I wasn't going to chase or nag her (or make her trot counterbent - oh my was she ready for a meltdown on my first right rein trot circle!). We had a lovely left rein canter, then reversed and played a bit with suppling on the right rein, before I asked (and immediately got) a right lead canter. Who says I can't get it done? :) I told her what a fantastic pony she is and she seemed to be proud of herself - she offered a lot more than she normally does! I met her halfway and rode it a little more before asking her to transition down just before we got an entire 20 m circle. We repeated that a couple of times, doing a circle or two of working trot to rebalance, then a canter. Right lead is still the more difficult one but I feel like she's catching on to what I'm looking for. Her work ethic seemed much improved so perhaps our awful weekend did come with a positive.
Happy ears in the ring


We finished with a really nice hack home. Even if we currently fail at this dressage thing, we win at having fun. We trotted and cantered along the nice grassy side of the road and it was wonderful. The weather was warm and sunny, and you know that feeling when your horse is carrying you along and is totally with you - neither pulling nor needing to be kicked on? I just had one hand on the reins and she went along on a loose rein with her ears up at whatever pace I chose - one of those moments of perfection!

I'm going to schedule an extra lesson this week with S so I can a bit more help dealing with the confidence beating the pony and I took this past weekend. While I'm pleased Bridget seems to think we're in this together, I do think her confidence in what she's doing is not as high as it once was, and my confidence in my abilities to train the little beastie is in shambles. At least after our ride today though, I'm feeling a lot more positive. If nothing else the pony and I still have each other's backs!

Monday, 16 March 2015

Insanity

Sunday's clinic ride just kind of stunk in general. I was really not on my A game, and have to admit I went into the morning with kind of a negative attitude based on the previous day's experience.

I really need to listen to my instincts, because they were bang on regarding Bridget. If you remember, she tried her heart out on day 1, but I felt like a lot of the exercises and expectations were too big of an ask for her, and I was lucky she was willing to try so hard and humor me and that riding her like that was not a sustainable prospect at this point in time. I was right in thinking that, since she came into the lesson just mentally 'done' with the whole thing. We rode in the outdoor today, so there were a few more distractions, but I don't feel like that was the problem. Pony was more just like 'What more do you want? What more can I possibly give you that I haven't already?' and just kind of gave up. She was right of course, because horses never lie to us. She really had nothing left to give or prove. I was a better person I would have just given her the day off.


Just some recent random pics to break the text wall. I didn't get any photos from the weekend. (yes, pony's lead rope isn't tied - she ground ties so I get lazy about leaving it under her feet once in a while)
I told the instructor that I felt like pony was tired mentally and physically from the previous day, so we agreed to run through some of the walk trot tests to give me practice without doing anything too taxing for the baby pony. Sounds good!...oh, but after we get that right lead canter depart again. Hmmm. OK, I guess. (Here is where I should have just stuck to my guns and said NO ) So for the next 45 minutes or so, we did the same exercise over and over and over again. (10m counterbent circle to a canter depart and continue on the circle in canter) At first Bridget was like "I don't understand" and then I was like "this is much too complicated" and then we both were like "We can't do this, we give up, this is stupid and we hate life". And we both ended up frustrated with the situation. I kid you not, in all that we got exactly two strides of right lead canter. It just wasn't working for either of us, yet for whatever reason I kept being a robot and blindly interpreting the instructions the best I could. I'll admit to probably being all wrong and sucking at the interpretation too. My pony is a saint. I deserved to be left in the dirt. Pony shut down mentally and we lost the steering, we lost the forward, we lost any attempt at having any contact. I'm hoping I will be forgiven when I ride next and we didn't just take a huge step back.

After my ride, a friend came up and before any other comments asked "How does that saying go about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?' I love her, she summed it up best. Insanity, pure and simple.

While I did pick up a ton of tips and useful information, I don't feel like this particular clinician's teaching style suits me or Bridget and I likely won't be back for the next clinic in June. It's a shame because she's a contemporary of one of my favorite trainers ever (they even studied under the same rider for many years). Personalities are such a huge thing - she seems like a nice person, but she's very assertive as a coach. I get a bit weird about people shouting or running me or my horse down as a coaching style...rather than making me more motivated, or even really emotional at all, I just kind of shut down mentally and don't take the person overly seriously, which is unfortunate. I can handle fair criticism, but there has to be some positives or encouragement now and then for me to benefit. She wasn't as harsh with others, so I am left wondering a bit what the problem was. I don't want to sound at all like "oh poor me, I got picked on" because I don't overly care about that, more I just don't understand the motivation behind it or what the clinician was really looking for me to do differently.


We trailered both ponies home last night and they were SO happy to get off the trailer and be at home. When we let them out to the pasture there was a big happy reunion and lots of running around. Except Bridget - she did a courtesy circle with her pals and came running back to me and stood by my side and watched the antics until I had to leave. Guys, I seriously cried then. Maybe I read too much into it, but I feel like in her mind we must still be partners, even after such an awful week. I have no idea how horses can be so forgiving.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Undecided

Hi guys, these are just my clinic notes for day 1, and may not make a ton of sense or be completely coherent - I'm just writing my first impressions and thoughts before they flee my brain completely. No pictures either, sorry, so feel free to skip this one if you want something lighter :)

Day 1 of the clinic started out super windy and rainy and the poor horses were going nuts this morning when I got to the barn. Neither would eat or drink and they are both just generally looking stressed. I've been mixing their grain with tons of water so they drink a bit more, but they've definitely dropped a little weight and aren't cleaning up their meals. At least they had some weight to spare and we head back home tomorrow to their happy home barn!


My day 1 lesson recap:

The instructor was very, very, very picky.  I don't mind having my riding picked apart, but I feel like some of the expectations for Bridget were a little much. She really wants you to ride with a lot of contact, which was new for Ms Bridget,  and poor pony was never allowed to have her head above or below vertical for a second. That alone is a huge ask for a baby pony who only started to be somewhat consistent about being on the bit a week or so ago! We did a ton of transitions, again focusing on having the pony on the bit throughout (even into the canter), some spirals, some bigger and smaller trots, and a bunch of serpentines. Nothing out of the ordinary as far as exercises go, but what struck me was that she really expected perfection in every single stride. I`m on the fence about that because while I get that only perfect practice is going to make perfect, on the other hand this a green pony, and I like to encourage the small things and keep it fun for her too! Even a momentary bobble on an up or down transistion meant we had to do it again. And I mean momentary - minute changes in balance. Midge tried her heart out today, and the results were by all accounts impressive, but I`m unsure whether she`d want to play along at that intensity level in the long term, Mentally and physically I feel like that would be way too much for her at this point. The only 'gimme' Bridget got was a loose rein walk break for one 20 m circle 'because she is a baby'

As for me? I need to focus more on where my seatbones are. I like to weight my inside stirrup a bit too much. I am too generous with my reins in general as well, particularly the right one. I need to remember to look up, shoulders back, as always. I take too long to find my trot diagonal when posting - she wants me to be rising a stride or so into the exercise, not 3 or 4 or whenever I think about it. Dressage reins bight is on the right always - it's not a flat class where you keep them to the outside! Switch diagonals not always at the centerline, but whereever you change the bend.  Overall, she said a lot of the little things I am lazy about make the first impression of my riding not the best, when I am actually a decent rider. I don't know whether I should be happy about the decent part or embarrassed at the lazy part - this lady wasn't big on compliments or positives so the comment came across more as 'you look bad - smarten up!' lol :) This is all homework I am expected to be better at by tomorrow - I sense failure in my future :)

Where I'm left a little confused is that she was SUPER picky and fussy with me and one other horse/rider combo. Everyone else got a free pass or a quick reminder on a lot of the things listed above, particularly the horses - many of whom are much more experienced than mine. While it was nice to get so much attention and advice, I was a little taken aback that she seemed to take us quite so seriously as a 'dressage' combo when I had only asked for help with balance and canter transitions because 'my pony is green and can't canter on a circle with a rider yet'. I do believe I mentioned I mostly trail ride and want to event one day - seriously, I tried my hardest to not fall under the DQ train, but I got crushed and spat out in a little less than an hour :)

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Incredible

So, I understand the concept of riders wanting a hot, sensitive horse. All that forward, all that responsiveness, and that 'look at me' vibe. The harder part for me is how on earth they take that horse and warm up to get all the amazingness* and very little of the explosiveness when it matters. Such a fine line and one I seem to miss frequently - either pony is an explosive basket case or tired and dull.

You'll be relieved to know that after all my whining over the past couple of days, I had the most incredible lesson tonight. Ginger is still a basket case and Bridget isn't much better, so I was totally at my wits end. I tacked up Bridget, thinking at least she's smaller to fall from :)

Once again, her mind was completely blown the minute we ventured off the property. So odd, but this time I was prepared and pony got to do all the lateral work down the road. She was pissed and was already quite sweaty just from the stress of walking that little way. I arrived at the arena a bit early and thought I might let her hand graze and chill out, but she was bargey and pushy and not overly interested. Instead, I took her to the outdoor and longed her a bit in a bid to remind her of her manners. Guess what? Pony can canter circles on a longe in both directions, no problem. She can scream the whole time too, and counterbend if you let her. She just can't walk apparently. She's been lying to us!
Save me from myself

When S showed up at the appointed time, we moved to the indoor. And baby pony instantly got her mind back. I wonder if it's because it's enclosed and 'safe', or maybe the mirrors led her to believe she had a cute friend. Maybe my longing took the edge off. No clue, but the difference in her demeanor was instant.

S hopped on and immediately was like "This is amazing! It's like riding a different horse!"I had told her Bridget's anxiety had led to a ton of forward but I'm not sure she believed me :) She rode around with a huge grin on her face, and I couldn't help but be amazed that my little Bridget pony was looking so FANCY. I hopped on and had the best lesson I think I may have ever had. Maybe it's because the contrast between the awfulness of even an hour before was so strong, but I don't think so. I think this lesson is a standout in any context. Pony used all that drama she's been full of and funneled it so we had all the forwards. And when you have all the forwards, everything is easy! We successfully added haunches in at the trot, we did zig zags, shoulder in, and spirals. We tried out a medium trot across the diagonal, and there were a few strides of legit awesomeness. So rewarding to feel all those things we've been picking away at come together. We played for a bit like that, but rather than nit pick things continually, we just encouraged her to move out at the trot on various patterns. I think the cloverleaf is my new favorite - lots of room for pony to move out, but she needs to bend and stay off the rail too. We did some great canter transitions and I was very proud of her. When she started to tire a bit, we called it good in hopes of keeping her feeling like she had fun. I looked at the clock and a full hour had gone by, and pony still had lots in the tank. I've been selling myself short on the pony fitness front!

So, I got my wish of a Ginger/Bridget hybrid ride. All the forward and work ethic without the spooky silliness. And it was as incredible as I hoped. Even if I can never recreate the amount of impulsion and attitude baby pony came with today, I will just appreciate this one ride. I can remain inspired :)
How I wish I had pictures of my ride tonight. Instead, I have a picture of Ginger eating and drinking, which is probably better given her recent hunger strike.

*Yes, 'amazingness' isn't a real word according to spell check, but the only suggested substitute is 'manginess' so I'm keeping it as is.

All The Drama

Getting ready to go out on the big mare. It was pouring rain!
Yesterday, I took Ginger out and had another not so great ride. She was REALLY being inattentive and silly, which is super frustrating and makes me feel very unsafe - I hate not having any pony brain present. She`s not herd bound at least when I take her out alone, but the focus in general is always an issue. She did eventually come back down to earth and try, and as soon as we found a happy place we quit the arena work, even though that meant a lot of walk circles and lateral work and only a bit of trot. She's like a border collie in that you can't tire her out - the normal longing or trot/canter stuff you might use normally to burn off steam only gets her more excitable and anxious. So slow and steady but keeping her mind busy it is. Rather than go straight home, she got to visit the trails in order to head up her most hated mountain and burn off some steam safely. My little plan backfired, because I let her trot it and Ginger adrenalin is strong and there is a super steep downhill on the way back to the barn and that's no fun on a panicky, bolty pony. She`s funny in that she respects her rider or handler in the moment, but the focus is totally lacking and panic sets in any time you aren`t telling her exactly what to do or where to put her feet. So she bolts off for a few feet, I react, she stops, I ride a few strides, then give her her head in an attempt to let her chose her path on the tricky slope, and she scoots off again. It`s the same issue I have in the ring - I find it exhausting to ride every second of every ride, and the minute I get distracted and let her make a decision chances are she will make a very poor one! At one point I let out a big sigh, more of despair than anything, but the big intake of breath made her spook. I forgot her thing about sneezing/coughing/sniffling/sighing if you're not already making noise or talking. It's ridiculous and something I do every ride. Oh well, at least she settled on the last stretch and we had a decent end to the ride (or maybe she just knew we were heading home)
Ginger ears on the trail headed home

I'm really reevaluating whether I want to keep Ginger in any kind of serious work. I love her, but I am simply not having much fun or feeling like I am making any progress. When it goes right, she`s amazing, but the rest of the time (vast majority) it just feels like a job I have to do. I am getting more confident, but pony brain remains incredibly fragile and unreliable and that little voice in the back of my head is telling me it's only a matter of time before one of the silly antics results in another bad fall for yours truly. Also, I hate to sound like an even bigger whiner, but I really want to be able to show and do clinics and go on rides with friends. And I do have Bridget. For this particular clinic, I`ve been riding regularly with a trainer, I brought a friend for Ginger, didn't trailer in last minute, and even stabled her at her old barn and chose a clinic at our old riding club. I don't know how to make it any easier for her! I had a conversation with S the other day and her opinion wasn't overly positive re: the quality of this particular pony's brain,  so maybe I'm just feeling a bit down on things. She`s not the first trainer to mention it (in fact she was the only one that hadn`t ha ha), so I`m not offended, at least - more just disappointed that even with her maturing a bit and having a bit better mindset these days there are still a lot of things that maybe are just `her`and can`t be trained out. I have tended to think it`s me and my riding that`s partly the issue, so when I hear people way better than I can hope to be express concerns about her general sanity it feels a bit hopeless.  I am nothing if not stubborn and persistent though, so don`t count this as my official notice quite yet.
Rain, not sweat! Picture of Ginny`s bum to show a baby step. See that dirt mark on to top of her hindquarters? For the first time ever that when I dismounted and accidently touched her with my boot she didn't lose her mind. (and yes, we've done all the sacking out and all that, but the first time you touch her anywhere and she doesn't expect it she still panics - after that you're good to go)

I booked a couple of lessons tonight, so keep your fingers crossed for a positive update...I`ve had my fill of pony drama lately and am wishing for a week in the sun with some margaritas sans horses of any sort :)

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

(Almost) Rock Bottom

Adding the almost to the title since no one has been injured or worse and obviously I'd hate to tempt fate and really get to explore rock bottom!

Moving both the girls together seemed like a super good idea at the time, but it's seriously coming back to bite me in a big way. I think it helped Ginger initially, since she did settle in and eat/drink right away, which never happens. But the past two days both horses have been seriously herd bound to one another and giant PITA's. I had to switch their paddocks around this morning because I just couldn't handle it anymore. They can still see/hear each other, but there are a couple of horses/paddocks between them. At last check, Ginger is still screaming, running the fence line, and refusing to eat or drink. I'm trying to not panic that she's going to colic or run through a fence or really hurt her (sometimes stiff) back end or something. I think perhaps a clean break would have been better! Neither of them have ever been particularly herd bound before, especially to each other, so this is a new thing and on a level I haven't seen before, particularly when they are sharing fence lines with other (calm, friendly) horses who I'm sure wouldn't mind being friends. I put a raincoat on her since I'm pretty sure she won't use her shelter, and it's pouring rain, so of course now I am also having flashbacks to the time she got tangled in her blanket and wouldn't let anyone rescue her. (Seriously, they had to call me to come free her so she had to wait for me to get away from work and ended up with that funny white mark on her neck from the tangled blanket giving her a pressure sore)
Random pic of the baby kitty to keep things happier.
What's even more surprising is that Bridget has lost her little mind as well. I was unprepared for that since she is always the rock steady one and she's even been to this particular place and arena before and been just fine (actually they both have, but at least with Ginger we expect she'll be upset her routine has changed). Bridget has of course moved around and been out to other barns plenty, so the last thing I expected yesterday when I rode was to have one of the more difficult rides of my life. I was so unprepared I didn't even think to bring a longe line so I was stuck riding through it. She called to Ginger a couple of times on the way out of the barn, which isn't like her, but Ginger was kicking up such a fuss I ignored it. Once I got on at the ring though, it was apparent the baby pony was gearing up for a huge meltdown. I feel like I handled it very well, since I've been there plenty with babies when I was younger and braver and just sort of went on autopilot with the bendy circles and one rein stops where necessary. Still, not a nice feeling to know my 'steady eddy' has quite so many nasty moves. My legs are still a bit tired today (and my back, oh boy, the prancy giraffe trot and crowhop canters are for younger people than me) ! Bridget doesn't intimidate me at all, at least, and we know her status quo is normally chill and lazy, so I am sure we'll work through this shortly.

SOMEONE HEEELLLLLPPPP, I am alone in the desert!!!!!! Only pic you get, needed both hands on the wheel :)

I'm really wishing I had just brought Bridget or Ginger alone - both of them together is competely overwhelming at the moment and I may go deaf from all the screaming. So much drama. This was supposed to be fun! I'll do a recap on Ginger's outing tomorrow, since I don't think I can put much more negativity and whining paranoia into one post. I'll explode the internet or something.

On the plus side, when I went to the tack store this morning to replace a broken halter and some stolen tack (told you it's been a bad week), I saw these awesome blue full seats in the super clearance bin and they were my size! I'm choosing to believe the universe was sending me a sign that I've not been completely forsaken - after all, it was only hours after publicly admitting my desire for some blue breeches on Lauren's happy blue breech post. Also, I'm pretty sure full seats are going to be neccessary this week, so double win! (And yes, I think I've just admitted that I'm almost OK with my tack getting stolen and my horses trying to kill me - apparently all it took was a pair of blue breeches in the clearance bin to make me believe the world is still on my side lol)


Monday, 9 March 2015

All Moved

Into our temporary accommodations for the week! Fingers crossed, they settled in just fine. Ginger even remembers the area and seems happy to visit the old 'hood.

In keeping with our drama theme this week, there were questions over who was trailering who (and with who and when) so I opted to stay out of it and find my own way. It's only about 8 miles barn to barn  through a fairly direct hydro easement, so not a huge ride really, when one has the time. I was planning to ride one and pony the other, but G wanted to come along for the walk and I felt mean riding while he walked, so we both ended up just walking the horses over. I would sound so dedicated if I said I walked my horses for 3 hours to get to a clinic, but seriously it was a beautiful day, the trails were dry, and we were all happy to get out for some exercise. I'm extra glad I didn't book any trailering!

It was a nice afternoon well spent. We made Bridget pack lunch and stopped lakeside for a picnic. When we arrived at the barn we're staying at, there were two big side by side paddocks available for the girls. They happily settled in for dinner and seemed really relaxed - no running or calling even when the resident horses got a little excited about the newcomers. Trailering them over would have certainly been more time efficient and better practice for an away show, but call me crazy, I'd walk them again anytime.

Actual riding and pictures tomorrow, I promise.

Worst Case?

Today's lesson was...interesting, and I think my 'worst case' scenario for the lovely Ms Ginger. I don't know if I mentioned the circumstances behind the last bad fall I had, but essentially someone ran their horse (at a gallop) right up Ginger's butt - she bolted and kind of dove in sideways at the same time and I met the ground hard enough to get a concussion (yes I had my helmet on) and a very sore tailbone. This isn't going to be a rant pointing fingers - I really think when you're sharing a public arena, stuff like that is bound to happen eventually (and one day it might be me inadvertently causing someone else an issue). We've spent a bit of time since getting Ginger less reactive to the other horses around her. Still, she's Ginger, and pretty sensitive and aware of her surroundings and I was in no way confident she'd keep a lid on things if the same situation presented itself. I'll admit to really enjoying my quiet little ring partly for that very reason!
Ginger gives us a dramatic reenactment of the results of other ponies getting too close to her bum

Thank goodness S got on Ginger first, because we had company today, and long story short, the same exact scenario played out again. This time, S was in the saddle and handled it very quietly and efficently. The other rider fell off after her horse ran into Ginger and there was a bit of commotion. Ginger was immediately back to being really intimidated and panicky by having another horse in the ring - even Bridget :( S wisely opted to keep Ginger in the center and watch the other horse and rider (who got back on and was oblivious - I guess we could have said something, but as S said, it's also an issue with Ginger we need to work through anyways, might as well turn it into training opportunity!) Over the next 15 minutes or so, she was able to get Ginger closer and closer to the rider cantering around, and just let her stand and chill out when she was relaxed enough. I rode Bridget around her too until she visibly relaxed. I'll call it a win. Although she's back to not being overly trusting of other riders in the ring, it was good for me to see someone work her through it quietly and safely. More tools in the belt, right? I didn't ride because Ginger was mentally just done by the time S got off, but surprisingly I didn't feel overly worried or intimidated by the inadvertent 'worst ride' flashback.

Happy girls from a couple of days ago
On the plus side, I had a decent ride on Bridget. Also, because S is the best, I get another lesson this week with Ginger to make up for the non ride I had today and to get us more confident for the clinic. She's getting paid regardless - I can't even describe how much I appreciate her and other riders in a public arena aren't her problem!  S also got a job riding the 'scary' horse from today - so she's single handedly making our local riding scene a little bit better all the time lol

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Times Two

We're continuing to enjoy completely unseasonal weather. Warm temps and sunshine means everyone is out mowing their lawns and the crocuses and cherry trees are blooming. I seriously need to get the garden started, but of course with weather like this I'm more apt to spend my days in the saddle than anywhere else!

Today, I was going to take Ginger out solo, but Midge barged her way into the barn behind us. I've mentioned before she's impossible to shoo out once she gets in, so by the time I got a halter on her I decided I might as well brush her too, which led to just dragging her along with us, which of course led to me riding her as well. Midge loves attention, so rather than the outing acting as a deterrant, I expect I only reinforced her desire to get into the barn!

Dual rock star poses! They're funny, they both park where I put them and make saddle swapping easy.
Ginger was good, although quite reactive. I think I didn't ride her as well as a couple of days ago...she wanted to give me some nice work but I don't think I gave her enough rein to start and she got a little fussy and stiff. I adjusted myself and got her going better, even though the left bend was not great. To address that, we did some modified figure eights at a trot - I kept her on the circle, spiralling in and out until she gave me a nice bend, then the reward was to switch to her 'good' side for a circle or two. We took a walk break with some leg yields and haunches in alternating with shoulder in because she finds that easy. We finished with some serpentines at a walk and trot. I didn't brave a canter today beyond a few strides down each long side.

Bridget was really good. Since she is opposite to Ginger in every way, her right side is the difficult side. We did the same exercises as with Ginger, although I kept the workload to a bare minimum and quit as soon as she offered what I wanted. We spent an additional ten minutes or so doing canter transitions. She's been quite tense about them again, so I'm back to asking for a nice transition, then a few strides and going back to trot - making it more about the transition rather than 'going fast' or 'doing a whole circle' or whatever's going on in pony brain to make her uptight :)
Big mare sadly lacking in the muscle tone category. Also, my saddle looks minature on her!

The big win of the day? I ponied Ginger back to the barn off of Bridget and they were wonderful. I won't lie - it feels pretty darn cool to ride one handed all western style with my second pony along for the ride. Midge doesn't quite neck rein, but she moves off my legs and seat well enough to easily steer and do a good job of being the pony horse. I just need to break out my western saddle to look truly legit ;)