Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Amazing way to end the year!

The weather couldn't have been better. It was warm, the air was calm and I had a license from the hubby for a horse day. I wanted to finish my Online taping and get it to the ISC immediately as the assessment format changes with the new year. We had an online tape made from the other day, but I really thought our sideways could be a little better. And Steve was willing to play cameraman.

First, I agreed to help my boarder show her horse. I've been playing with Nina a little and giving her groundwork manners, teaching her the 7 games and just generally playing with her. The owner decided to sell her recently so I was going to show the prospective buyer what Nina and I have developed. She's an amazing Trakener/Hanoverian with a ton of confidence built in. If I could afford her, she'd be mine. She's about 2 1/2 now and full of energy and play drive. I started showing some things online and then went to the play area and her over the bridges and into the tire. Then, we went for Liberty in the round pen - something we've never done. She was happy to play and show her athleticism! I was quite impressed with her physical ability. She went straight up in the air several times, spun with amazing ability, trotted in to me and stopped with ease before overstepping her bounds. It was all quite cool and I think Loma started to reconsider selling that mare. I hope she does and I hope she'll let me help her if she keeps her. Not sure how I could help, but I'd certainly be willing to try.

Then, I went back out and got Mrs. Z. Time to film. We went through the whole thing - Online tasks 1-9. I feel pretty good about it. She wanted to gallop instead of canter on the obstacle course task, which was interesting. Not sure if she just felt good or if she was emotional. I'm watching the video to read her and see what I think. Otherwise, it was a good representation of where we are at this point.

Then, I took Cowboy out, did a little ground work and then took him into the arena for some passenger lesson. He was great. He cantered on the 12' line in my arena - surprisingly. He stood nicely for mounting, he practiced lateral flexion with me and showed nice improvement and then we did passenger riding at the walk and trot. We did more walk than trot as I'm trying to bring him along slowly and keep his confidence protected. I'm also trying to allow myself time to build up trust with him. I really like Cowboy. My dogs like to hang around while I ride and he is showing extreme cowiness by keeping them out of the arena! I've never ridden a horse that interested in pushing animals around. We'll have to develop cow-working together in the future. He's so cool.

I had 12 more hours of horse time in me, but alas, the day was closing down and I really needed to get ready for the New Years Eve festivities. I love my life.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Lesson with Kime

Had another great lesson with Kime. We started out with my saddle and did a saddle fitting. She changed my shim setup and added a 3rd set to the pad. My saddle was then a little higher in the front and Z had more room for her shoulders. We also talked about riding without the wool pad underneath the Theraflex. I use the wool pad because of the rubbing the Therflex was doing on her sides. I'm going to use the wool pad only intermittently for a while so that I can watch for even sweat patterns. After the lesson, we checked out her back closely for signs of tightness in my body while riding. We found that there were some ruffled hairs directly under my seat, meaning my middle back is tight while riding. I'm not surprised.

We focused on freestyle riding. We used the figure 8 pattern and I played with transitioning up and down without reins. Our stop is getting much better and I'm learning how to be truly consistent with Z. We talked a lot about where I look while riding and where I want to look for turning. For now, I'm over-exaggerating where my eyes look because my head needs to be higher and I tend to look down. I've known that I needed to fix that, but it's the first time I've focused on that with an instructor.

Later, I practiced riding with 1 carrot stick only and transitioning through halt, walk and trot on the figure 8 pattern. Our transitions are so much nicer and Z really moves out with a tremendously better attitude. I'm simply bringing my life up to ask her to up transition and bringing my life down to transition down. I learned that pointing my toes up high helps me to bring my life down.

For the next 2 weeks, I'll practice the bridleless riding, turning with my body and good focus, transitioning up and down and transitioning while turning (wow, that's hard!!).

We talked about Cowboy and some things to work on with him to help him improve. She highly recommended passenger riding regularly. That's where we'll go next.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

L3 Online - finally ready to submit!

Had a great day! Took Kendall for a short ride, her on Rain and me on Z. Z was, once again, a nut. She was worried and jiggy and kind of like we've just taken a big step back with trail confidence. We only went a couple miles, but I hopped off and did some ground work at a very fast pace. She was better and I got back on and rode her home. We practiced stopping with no reins the rest of the way home and just generally getting her listening. Backing up, sidepassing, half-passing, haunches in, everything to get her paying attention and partnering up with me. Actually, I think I got some pretty things out of her. I was also not at all worried. She bucked a little at one point and I was surprised - but handled her with bending and lateral work.

Before the trail ride, I played a little with Cowboy. I tacked him up and rode him a bit. We played with the teeter-totter and he did great - no worries or concerns. I asked him to jump a few things and we played a little with sideways. I had him wear a bit the whole time and once I mounted, I focused on looking for quietness in his mouth. I waited for him to feel calm and confident and then I hopped off! It's not going to take much to bring him around and I have to say, today I felt like I'd rather develop him than Gemini - because I think he's more predictable to ride. Maybe Gem and I would just need a little time to develop the bucks away, but Cowboy doesn't seem to have a buck - which is nice. One less thing to deal with. I wanted to play with him longer, but Kendall was ready to ride and I wanted to have enough time to get the Online taping done. I'm excited about the possibilities with Cowboy.

Taping was a pretty good success. Z did everything I asked. She was a sweaty mess when we were done. She went into the trailer with gusto! She cantered almost non-stop on the 45. She jumped the 3' jump and she went sideways nicely. I hope they pass this submission. If not, it's ok - means we weren't quite ready. However, we did things the best we know how at this point. I'm pleased with both of us.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Wonderful Horse Day!

5 miles with Rain and Gemini - an excellent time with Gemini being the best pony horse of his entire time with me. Rain gaiting like a dream! A fantastic ride. Very obvious that without alfalfa, they are much more relaxed.

Grabbed Cowboy for about 45 mins of groundwork - he was just awesome. Cantering online, maintaining gate and direction, sideways coming together. Also did some amazing jumps over 2.5 ft with ease. Maybe he can be a jumper??

Gem in the round pen for stick to me and circle at Liberty.

I love my life.

L3 Online - Almost on Film

We were out there for a couple hours today, but the footing still isn't quite good enough. Z is not comfortable jumping 3 ft with a slippery ground. Steve was out there with me and we moved the jump to a flatter, somewhat drier place and I started asking her to give that a try. She was definitely better with the new jump location but it was slipper enough still that I decided to bail. We went to the round pen and captured the circle by the flank task.

She's moving into the trailer with such gusto! I have to be careful to make sure it doesn't appear that she's escaping into the trailer (how profound is that!). Our sideways is better than ever and I can feed her rope while she goes sideways now. She's pulling a little at the canter on the barn side of the circle, but I think we're still more than 75% soft and willing.

Cowboy is here and I want to get some time with him. I've been focused on getting these ground tasks assessed and done and the other horses need some time from me.

Also, got Nina trimmed by myself. I changed my attitude and gave her the time she needed and she did great. She was giving me a little trouble in the prior trim and I realize I had started getting a direct lined attitude. Good for me - I'm learning. Need to catch up Gem and Rains hind feet and then everyone has happy feet for a few weeks.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Practicing the Online Obstacle Course

Every day lately, I check the weather, check the footing, check my time and wonder if it's going to be the right day to film my L3 online. Today could have been that day. The footing was much better, the wind wasn't blowing, Z was ready to do what she needed to do and things were looking pretty good. The only thing that wasn't great was with her jumping the 3' jump. For some reason, she was lacking confidence about the jump. She was cantering into the trailer beautifully, the sideways looks pretty good, she's backing straight up the hill and trotting back into me easily. A lot of things feel pretty good and I'm proud of what we've developed.

She got pretty sweaty and with the cold and snow on the way, I was a little concerned about putting her back with the herd sweaty. She hung out in the barn and ate hay with a fleece cooler on for a bit. Then, I decided to double blanket her for the night.

We need to get our video made and move on.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Attempting to Tape L3 Online

My sister was willing to video L3 Online of Z and me. So, I got my act together, moved my trailer, gathered my horse, and went out to warm Z up. It was cooooold. However, my horse was very uncomfortable with the idea of cantering on the icy and snowy ground. She was slipping and doing her best regardless, I just couldn't ask for her best on crappy footing.

I was feeling disheartened and I sat on my front porch with my sisters while Z ate what's left of the landscaped grass. It was good undemanding time, but I got no video-taping done.

I'm struggling with my drive to finish this year. Maybe the audition won't suck that bad. If the ground doesn't change, I won't have a choice.

Taking Kris for a ride

Zarah was full of life! Was it the alfalfa? Trail was snowy and icy, a little nerve-wracking. My ankle hurt, too. It was great to be out, even with the cold, cold wind. We went about 5 miles. Zarah needed to go about 15 more. :-)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

L3 Online - Making sure we're ready

My job has been overbearing this week and the weather has been even worse. We had arctic temps and broke records that were 60 yrs old! One of the nights, it was 15 below, no wind, no snow, just butt-a** cold. I couldn't bear to ask my horses for anything in that!

So, today I found time to get out and practice our online routine. It's about time to tape it and I think we're close to ready. I couldn't do the obstacle course with Z because when I asked her canter she was slipping all over. No pulled muscles or tendons! So, I just asked for a nice, slow trot and just a small circle around me. We practiced a nice, calm change of direction, and then worked on getting sideways a little faster. We played yo-yo up the hill and I tried to help her understand to trot back to me. I asked for a lighter response to backing by the tail and by the hocks. Finally, I loaded her into the trailer from at least 30 ft multiple times. I timed the trailer loading when she was ready for a break from the other things so the trailer could feel like a really good place. She bounded into the trailer each time I asked.

I think we're really ready. Our circle by the flank is good to go, driving with the horsemans reins is solid, it's time to tape. I'm looking forward to focusing on riding... RIDING! Maybe I can have the riding assessed by summertime 2009.

I ride...

A Simple Statement~ I ride.

That seems like such a simple statement. However, as many women who ride know, it is really a complicated matter. It has to do with power and empowerment. Being able to do things you might have once considered out of reach or ability.

I have considered this as I shovel manure, fill water barrels in the cold rain, wait for the vet/farrier/electrician/hay delivery, change a tire on a horse trailer by the side of the freeway, or cool a gelding out before getting down to the business of drinking a cold beer after a long ride. The time, the money, the effort it takes to ride calls for dedication. At least I call it dedication. Both my ex-husbands call it 'the sickness.' It's a sickness I've had since I was a small girl bouncing my model horses and dreaming of the day I would ride a real horse . Most of the women I ride with understand the meaning of 'the sickness.' It's not a sport. It's not a hobby. It's what we do and, in some ways, who we are as women and human beings.

I ride.

I hook up my trailer and load my gelding. I haul to some trailhead somewhere, unload, saddle, whistle up my dog, and I ride. I breathe in the air, watch the sunlight filter through the trees and savor the movement of my horse. My shoulders relax. A smile rides my sunscreen smeared face. I pull my ball cap down and let the real world fade into the tracks my horse leaves in the dust. Time slows. Flying insects buzz loudly, looking like fairies. My gelding flicks his ears and moves down the trail. I can smell his sweat and it is perfume to my senses. Time slows. The rhythm of the walk and the movement of the leaves become my focus. My saddle creaks and the leather rein in my hand softens with the warmth. I consider the simple statement; I ride.

I think of all I do because I ride. Climb granite slabs, wade into a freezing lake, race a friend through the Manzanita all the while laughing and feeling my heart in my chest. Other days just the act of mounting and dismounting can be a real accomplishment. Still I ride. No matter how tired or how much my seat bones or any of the numerous horse related injuries hurt. I ride.

And I feel better for doing so. The beauty I've seen because I ride amazes me. I've ridden out to find lakes that remain for the most part, unseen. Caves, dark and cold beside rivers full and rolling are the scenes I see in my dreams. The Granite Stairway at Echo Summit, bald eagles on the wing and bobcats on the prowl add to the empowerment and joy in my heart. I think of the people, mostly women, I've met. I consider how competent they all are. Not a weenie amongst the bunch. We haul 40ft rigs. We back into tight spaces without clipping a tree. We set up camp. Tend the horses. We cook and keep safe. We understand and love our companions, the horse. We respect each other and those we encounter on the trail. We know that if you are out there riding, you also shovel, fill, wait, and doctor. Your hands are a little rough and you travel without makeup or hair gel.

You do without to afford the 'sickness' and probably, when you were a small girl, you bounced a model horse while you dreamed of riding a real one. Now you are there. I ride.

--Author Unknown--(although, many of us feel she is our sister)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Level 1 Riding... Revisiting Foundation

Spent an hour...

1) A better whoa!
2) A better GO!
3) following her shoulders
4) Worked up into the canter

Trying to build transitions in Freestyle. Been working hard on Finesse transitions.

Friday, December 12, 2008

3 Hours with Kime

Another great session!

1) Sideways - Push z3 more and keep rope hand steady
2) Lead by the flank - I was doing it wrong...
3) Driving - Pretend I'm riding and those are my reins!
4) My shoulders should move with my horse's, my hips with her hips
5) Down transition in phases: stop riding, look at the horn, lift reins straight up, then lift 1 up!
6) Up transitions: IN phases! life up in me, then squeeze, then slap myself, the her
7) Mounting - correctly!
8) You can only work on 2 out of 3 things at a time: distance, speed, straightness

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Leaving the first set of tracks

Took Rain and Gemini for 8 miles on the trail. Interesting points: no tracks in the snow but ours, Rain really worried over some changes on the trail (boat and camper), Gemini calling for home the last mile and getting off to ground work him. Rain wanting to MOVE! Me feeling a little less confidence (my ankle?).

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Darn these short days!

I gave a long lesson, got 1 horses feet soaked and trimmed, rode Z for a bit and helped Kendall ride the pony. Wanted to do more, but there went the sun.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Getting 2 Going Indoors

Tonight, I took Z and Gem to a good friend's indoor arena to get them exercised. The days are so freakin' short and I'm not accomplishing a lot lately, which is maddening. With the help of my friends indoor, I can play with horses after dark and maybe get back on track.

I played with Gemini and had planned to ride him. However, I ended up only playing with him on the ground. We advanced our circle game and he's getting much better at being responsible for maintaining gait. We worked some on squeeze and sideways as well. We've got to spend more time on sideways. He did quite well through the 3 hours I had him there and actually, he was happy to follow me around at Liberty. I'm surprised how quickly he's re-bonded to me now that I'm playing with him again.

Z and I did a little groundwork, but mostly rode. We worked on lead changes and transitions. I rode in my English saddle for the first time in ages and it was kind of cool. I like my western an awful lot, but I'd like to spend more time riding in both instead of the majority of my time in my western. I have great saddles - I'm lucky.

They weren't too sure about loading in the dark, but they did after a minute or two of requesting.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Passing Level 3 Liberty!!

I got some great news this morning. My Level 3 Liberty submission was good enough to pass! Yes! It feels good to have something passed in L3 since I've been working in this level for 1.5 years. I'm going to next submit OnLine and I think Z and I are ready to put a good video together. I have to practice a little with her loading on the 45' into the trailer and make sure her sideways is not forward. A pre-video session is probably all we need.

I'm re-motivated. And I'm super proud of my horse.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Squeezing some time in with Z

I'm so discouraged lately. With my broken ankle and my job, I've been moving forward at a snails pace with my horsemanship. My ankle is slowly getting better and I managed to get an hour of daylight after work today. Kendall came out with me, which is sometimes great but not when my time is limited. She wanted to ride Rain. So, I tacked up Z and Rain, did a little ground work with each of them and we went off to ride in the front pasture.

I wanted Kendall to work on transitions. She could really use the help with getting more control of Rain. Rain doesn't listen to her that well and worse lately than ever. Kendall gets very frustrated and Rain completely checks her out. I really should ride Rain more often myself, however she is a different horse when I ride her than when Kendall does.

Z had a lot of energy today, which I love. She was ready to go! I had Kendall, so I couldn't let her move out. Kendall got frustrated at one point because she and Rain weren't getting along so great and she gave up. I ponied the two of them back to the barn, tied Rain off, and took Z for a little bit of riding alone.

We rocked the teeter-totter, trotted over the cavalettis and then did some walk/trot transitions in the figure-8 pattern near my arena. She was quite soft today and had a tremendous backup. Her transition down was very in-tune with my body cues, as was her transition up. It felt really good to ride her. In the last 5 weeks, I've ridden about 3 times because of my ankle. However, I'm not quite ready - my ankle was sore during and after.