Tuesday, July 27, 2010

On second thought, maybe it's OK that dinner time is the most exciting thing that happens around here

Yesterday's post title may have indicated that sometimes things aren't exciting enough around here. I meant nothing of the sort - something interesting is ALWAYS happening around here. And the most interesting things happen when the hubby is out of town, or better yet, out of the country. You may recall that last time he was gone, the shed roof collapsed. He's in France for the first half of this week, so I was just waiting to see what the surprise would be.

As it turns out, there was an extra pony when I went out to feed this morning.

Cute little guy, a buckskin that lives three houses down. We always see him when we head out on trail rides, as we pass by his fenceline (albeit at a distance) and he usually comes over to see us. Poor thing lives by himself, so I'm sure he's lonely for company.

I briefly contemplated keeping him (he is a super-cute little booger), but decided he was too short to do me much good. So after feeding the boys and refilling water, I grabbed a halter and lead, plus the feed scoop with some grain in it, and hopped over the back fence to halter him and take him home.

The first challenge was getting the halter ON him. He wasn't overly interested in being caught, so I did the usual trick: turn your back, look at the ground, then slowly back toward them while rattling the feed (Red and Saga watched this process with much interest). Worked like a charm - he was eating out of my hand when I slipped the rope over his neck and the halter over his nose.

The next challenge was getting him home. I figured this would be mostly easy, except that I had to tromp through two large fields of thigh-high wet grass to get to his house from behind my fence. No problem, it was a fairly straight line... except that it turns out there's a fence between the field and his driveway. Awesome. So I tromped back through the grass, down the path to the road, then down the road and over to his driveway.

Unfortunately, once we hit the pavement, he pretty much decided he'd had enough. He wasn't shod, although his feet were in good condition, and it was clear that he was uncomfortable on the pavement. So I sort of ended up dragging him down the road to his driveway. And the driveway was even worse - caliche with rocks. He dug his heels in, and I grabbed his halter and pulled. About that time I was starting to be glad that he was smaller than Red, because had he been Saga-sized, we never would have gotten back to his house.

So we make it to his gate, where I let us in, and then I try to find the front door to the house. And... there isn't one. So I'm traipsing around the house in my sexy oversized t-shirt, yoga pants, and colorful rain boots (did I mention I hadn't brushed my hair before going out to feed? Or my teeth, for that matter?) at 7 a.m. (because it's now taken me 45 minutes to walk this damn horse home), trying to figure out how to attract someone's attention. Finally, through the window I see a guy sitting on a couch watching TV, and I start waving madly. He comes out, frowns at the horse, and says:

"Well, I'll be. Where'd you find him? I didn't even know he was missing!"

I explained about our little adventure that morning and how, while walking him home, I'd noticed that the barb wire fence (GASP!) was maybe a foot off the ground near the front of the pasture. I suggested that Wrangler (as I learned that was his name) had simply stepped over it and come for a neighborly visit. To which the erstwhile horse owner responded:

"Well, I'll be. Horse has been in that pasture for 20 years, and never had anything happen like this."

$20 says it'll happen again if that fence doesn't get fixed. Not that I mind having a cute pony show up to visit, but the 45 minute trek through the mud and wet grass, in 99% humidity at 6:15 a.m. is not something I'd care to repeat anytime soon.

Just sayin'.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Because sometimes the most exciting thing that happens around here is dinnertime

Not much going on riding-wise, as I've been really busy with the house. I've been doing a lot of thinking though, and working on a couple of posts that require some research, but they may be some time in the future.

In the meantime, the most exciting thing that happens around here sometimes is dinner time (not that I'm complaining... there's plenty of excitement around here usually). What can I say...

You'll note that Saga is wearing a nose bag. We tried feeding the boys separately, since Red steals Saga's food, but Saga tends to dribble and fling grain everywhere, wasting about 1/3 of it. Yes, I've had his teeth floated and consulted the vet, and this simply seems to be the way he eats. Since I want him to get ALL of his grain, I went to the nose bag. Not only do I not have to worry about Red pushing Saga off his dinner, but I also know that Saga gets all of his food. And as you can see, it's also portable... sort of like fast food for horses, I guess!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Ride on Taran

Last night, I went to see FuzzyPony's extremely shiny new trailer (droooool) and ride her boy, Taran.

Taran's got great basics. FuzzyPony has done a wonderful job with him, and the correct training really shows. However, he tends to be stiff in his jaw to the left, fall out on his right shoulder, and overbend to the right. The saddle can also feel like it's falling constantly to the right. What it comes down to is that he's stronger on one side than the other (the saddle fitter helped FuzzyPony figure this out), and helping him to be even in his body is very, very difficult.

A lot of the work when I ride him is to get him to bend in his jaw, poll, and neck - otherwise, he'll break at the shoulder and tip his head to the inside, but his neck is still straight (it's hard to describe but I wish I had a picture from the saddle). But I also have to make sure I don't lose the right shoulder, all the while keeping the impulsion from behind. He's also not strong in his topline and tends to fall on the forehand, so there are a lot of pieces to keep track of as we're riding.

His walk work is really coming along - this is the third time I've ridden him in as many weeks, and he's much more responsive to half-halts and requests for bend. He's also taking the reins from my hands (nicely, while keeping the contact) when I ask him to stretch down and out, a sure sign that he's coming over his back. However, tonight we were really having issues at the trot - I simply could not get him to stay forward while bending laterally, even a fraction. I got frustrated and didn't ride very well, neglecting my body position more than I should have. Finally, I ended up on a 20 m circle where I was practically asking for shoulder in on the circle, and you know what? That worked! It's not the greatest trot work ever, but what I like about this video is that a) it's a HUGE improvement on when we started the ride, and b) you can really see that when his head goes up, he loses impulsion behind - the steps taken by the hind legs get smaller and shorter. Conversely, when I leg him on and soften my hand, he engages more and comes through his topline, and his head relaxes into "frame". Notice that when I use too much inside rein, I force him to lose the connection and everything falls apart.

Eeek! Inside hand has dropped, inside leg is not supporting enough. This is probably the moment before everything really fell apart, since he's only just begun to disengage behind. See how his inside hind foot isn't stepping under as much as in the picture below?

Softer with my hands and more forward means even more hind end engagement and coming through the topline. You can see the difference between this picture and the one above. I need to let the energy flow even more, though, because now he's behind the vertical.


This video really illustrates how Taran's hind end disengages when I ask for too much bend and lose the impulsion. Notice the short steps he takes when his back is hollow and his head is up? Contrast that to the big, swinging steps he takes when I ride more softly and ask him to come forward. There are moments of brilliance, well interspersed with moments I'm embarrassed about. Oh well, it will come in time.

The video also illustrates a bad habit that I have of riding with my hands too far apart and being too active with my inside rein. And breaking my wrist. Well, without eyes on the ground constantly reminding me what to do (or not to do!), video is a great way to self-critique. Something to think about during my next ride!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Shiny dressage pony

On our ride yesterday, MC did a little dressage work with Reddums. Good thing too since it's been months since I've put any work into him.

Nicely forward and stepping out. MC rides Red really well!

Red was ridden in a 7 inch shanked bit when we got him, so he tends to get stuck behind the vertical. He needs to be ridden with super-soft hands, using mostly seat and leg cues to keep him happy. It's really quite a challenge, but oh-so-rewarding when you get him going well!

After our ride, we did a spa day. Since I don't have a proper wash rack (yet), we alternated with who was holding the horses and who was hosing. The boys got baths with shampoo, and we scrubbed and conditioned manes and tails.

MC spent about 30 minutes carefully combing out Red's tail.

Just gorgeous. Why, oh why, can't Saga have a tail like this? It's not faaaair!

And why, oh why, can't Saga be this nice and shiny? And plump?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Hock action == floating

This morning, MC and I went for a trail ride. We also spent some time riding in the field that I rode in the other day, where I got the fantastic floating trot.

I think I have figured out where the amazing trot came from: hock action! Check this out:

Sproing!

For 2+ months off, not bad! Yeah, I know his butt's in the next county, but his back is longer than a school bus so engagement is challenging at the best of times.

What I like about my ride that's shown in these pictures is that he's forward (even though it was at the end of the ride and he wasn't nearly as forward as when we started), relaxed through his body, neck, poll, and jaw, and was supple on the bending. Ok, so I need to remember to ride his outside shoulder to prevent him falling to the outside, which you can see me not doing in the following video:

video

We tried canter both ways and um... yeah. We need LOTS of strengthening work. I think I got about a dozen strides to the right, after asking 3 times. To the left the departure was much better, and we got maybe half a circle before I asked him to come back to trot. It was an unbalanced wreck. I think we'll start doing canter work on the trails - at least he can get moving there.

After the ride, Saga got a bath... with shampoo. I even washed, conditioned, and combed out his tail. I just had to take a picture of him looking all shiny afterward!

Yes, his mane is loooong. I've decided to leave it that way for now, since it's affording him some protection from the bugs. I'll pull it when we get back to show season.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Proof

This picture is from a few weeks ago, when MC was out for a trail ride. This was her first ride after hip replacement surgery.

Photographic proof that MC rode Red!

She's coming out tomorrow morning for an early trail ride, and then will be helping me with spa day. The boys haven't had baths WITH SOAP yet this year (how embarrassing), and they need manes and tails trimmed and ears cleaned. Pictures from our morning adventures will be forthcoming, I'm sure. I'm even hoping to con her into taking some video of Saga in hopes that we can duplicate our trot work from the other night!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Just... wow

Tonight I had a ride I totally did not deserve to have.

It's the first time I've really ridden Saga in more than two months. We've been out on a few trail rides, sure, and out on the road a few times when it was too wet to go in the woods, but tonight is really the first time he's been out in a long time away from Red (the horrors!) and was asked to work. He had every reason to pitch a fit and be really nasty, but somehow, we ended up with a totally amazing ride - interspersed by a few moments of sheer panic, but never mind that.

Things started out poorly enough. While tacking up, Red and Saga called to each other, and then Saga was a bit of a pill walking away from the house. At one point he stopped dead and refused to go on (Red was running up and down the fenceline), but fortunately gave in when I gave him a bit of a kick. He then proceeded to spook at the deer, the rabbits, and some birds, and conveniently ran me into a mesquite tree overhanging the path (if you're not familiar with mesquite, the bloody things have thorns. Lots of really big thorns). Eventually he settled down into a nice swinging walk, even if he was very alert and called occasionally to Red.

After about 15 minutes on the trail, we came to a vacant property that's been turned into green space by the city. It used to be a horse property with a barn and a house, but it was all torn down about 4 months ago. Now, the bottom half of the land is a nice flat open field, and despite not being mown recently, the grass isnt' too tall. We started out just walking, and I asked for a little bend and moving away from my leg. Saga's attention wandered, but he remembered all the cues and did as asked, more or less.

Then I moved on to trot. And OMG, did he trot. At first it was a bit flat and hollow, but I closed my leg, half-halted with my body, and asked him to move on, and as we trotted across the field, his back just came up underneath me and he started to float. I have never felt that much power under me before; it was absolutely amazing. I'm not sure if it was the taller grass that encouraged him to engage so much or what, but wow, what a feeling! And he kept it, through the turns and changes of direction. We got unbalanced at times, yes, and rushed a bit, and of course there were plenty of times when we lost the bend as he was looking around at the goats and the donkey (see below), but as soon as I got him back together, relaxed and let him flow, it would happen. I cannot tell you how much I wish I had video of that, it was like nothing I've ever ridden. Now I know what to aim for when I ride!

OMG! Skeery donkey! And to the right (not in the picture, but obviously the focus of Saga's attention), skeery horse-eating GOATS! OMG!!!

We didn't work too long, perhaps 15 minutes total - it was hot and he's out of shape. We headed back home on a nice loose rein, and only had one minor mishap - he decided that a trash can (that we had, BTW, passed on the way out) was going to eat him, and spun and bolted. I got him under control pretty quickly, and we turned around and went past it without mishap. Red was MOST glad to see us when we got home. :)

I swear, sometimes I don't deserve how good my horse is to me. Of course, on our next ride he'll probably be an absolute nutscase, so I suppose I'll take the good while I can!

This one's for you, MC!

I know, I know, it's been AGES since I've posted anything to this blog. Suffice it to say that the boys are fine, fat, and happy, but I haven't been riding much. Plus a lot of the horse-related posts have gone over to the house blog, but it's been suggested that I post them over here instead and keep this blog alive.

So, without further ado...

Today I was cleaning up files on my computer and came across some old pictures of me jumping Cute Little Reddums. I think these were from February 2009 and were taken by Foxfire, and I thought I'd share them because they're actually kinda nice.

Left behind much? Poor pony, he's trying hard and I just can't keep it together!

Better on this one. Red's in fine form - and that fence is 2'6, the highest I think I'd jumped him at the time.

We seem to mostly have it together. Of course, these were only the *good* pictures... :)

Red is actually an adorable little jumper, but he's not all that scopey (although, looking at these pictures, I wonder...). Because he can get a little unbalanced and gait in front of a fence, it's best to canter him instead of trying to trot in, but even then, his canter can be pacey if he gets tired. He's a challenge to keep forward without gaiting, but he seems to have a natural ability to see a spot (certainly he's better at it than I am!) It's also a little hard to ride lines that are set up for bigger horses because he's only 14.2 and his canter stride isn't very adjustable. Still, he's a totally game little guy when it comes to jumping and I always have a blast with him.

Which reminds me, I should take him out jumping more often. Of course, I should probably just ride more often... but pictures like these encourage me to take the boys out!