February 29, 2012

School and horses

I did fail to post about how my lesson, actually let me rephrase that, GROUP lesson on Monday went! Well it was great! I got to ride a level 2 dressage horse (Jealousy) which was interesting. Acutally, I rode Mr P for the first half of the lesson, mostly because of what happened this weekend:

Long story short, we had a Pony Club Retreat going on this past weekend. I was called into work on short notice (mostly because I am the only college student that would be up at 7 on a weekend). I went to work with the idea that I would hold Mr P while someone from the Pony Club gave a quick lesson on a horse's skeleton. He was painted on one half of his body, waited for the paint to dry, and off to the arena we went. As soon as the garage door opened I knew this wasn't going to be easy. The Pony Club had 2 vaulting pomels and very colorful mats in the arena, and also some miscellanous things at the far end. Mr P caught sight of the vaulting pomels and just forze! Eyes wide open, ears as straight as can be and just the "Oh my gosh it's going to eat me!" look on his face. I carefully coaxed him forward and tried to get him to walk on the outside of the arena before I asked him to go near the horse eating monsters. Oh did I mention that there was 100+ people in the arena who didn't really bother to be quiet, but hey they are kids I guess.

Finally I was able to get him into the arena, and he is near to have a mental breakdown, but boss lady and vet lady wanted to still try to see if we could do it. Well it got to the point where boss lady didn't think I could handle him and took him from me, and she said that I would handle the tours.

I had 2 groups to give a tour, and each group consisted of 26 people. Overal it was fun though and the kids really enjoyed themselves! After the first tour I got back to the arena and see that Jealousy was in the arena, and not Mr P. I finally got the chance to ask boss lady what was up, and according to her Mr P knocked her down and just lost his mind, so they got Jealousy who did perfect and didn't even give a second look to the vaualting pomels.

So fast forward to the lesson.

Saddie wanted me on Mr P because she had already seen that I can stay on when he decides that the world is out to get him and Syd was on Jealousy. Eventually we switched and I rode Jealousy. This was an interesting experience but a frustrating one. Jealousy is so well trained that if you aren't doing everything perfectly she will just ignore you. I realize this means that the problems we ran into were mostly my fault, but it was still frustrating. To top it off Jealousy had (or has?) gastric ulcers, so you can't kick her and if you do she backs up. To me a horse that is backing up without you asking for it is much more scarier than a bucking horse. When she was backing up ears all pinned I could only imagine her rearing and coming down on top of me. Thankfully, that didn't happen, and I did learn many things that I was able to transfer over to when I ride Mr P.

Unlike last week, it took me about 30 minutes before my calf got tired and decided that it was best for my heel to stay up. I try not to be hard on myself and say I am improving because before it was more like 10 minutes, but I still get frustrated with it. I ordered a elastic band similar to what they use in physical therapy in order to work on strengthening my calves since I don't have stairs.

Thanks for reading!

February 21, 2012

What a week (or two)

These past two weeks have been super hectic, mostly due to work and school so I really didn't get the time to post about how my lesson last week went. It was an interesting lesson based around shapes that could be used to help horse and rider. First Sadie had me tackle 20m circles, which I have done before so it was pretty straight forward. It was great because I can easily fit 3, 20m circles in the arena that I ride in now. Next I tried some 15m circles, which in theory shouldn't be much harder than the 20m but I found myself leaning in more than I should. I went from circles to serpentines which was much more challenging than I would have imagined. Mostly because the arena was so big that instead of doing a 3 loop serpentine I naturally tried doing a 4, but with some more work I learned that staying on the wall (or the loop part of the shape) would allow me to do a correct 3 loop serpentine. With this I was able to comprehend the correct aids to use when Mr P decides that it would be fun to bend into a 'C' shape in order to get closer to the gate that would lead him back to his pasture, hay, and friends.

I cannot remember how my riding went last Tuesday, but I do remember that I didn't fall off, so that is a plus!

Yesterday's lesson went very well and I had a great "ah-ha!" moment!! All the other times that I have posted while trotting I felt like I was doing it wrong, and I knew that I was going a too far forward and really not enough "up". Sadie had me her close contact saddle last week, which really helped my leg position, even though the saddle was a tad too small for me. I also believe that it helped me actually "figure out" posting. On Monday I started to post and it just felt, right. That is the best I can explain it. I didn't feel like I was flailing everywhere and my legs felt good. Mr P still wasn't liking the idea of doing circles at the opposite end of the arena and fought me almost every time we did a cricle, but eventually I learned to anticipate what he was going to do. On top of actually feeling like I was doing things correctly I also got to canter!

I have cantered only a handful of times, and I haven't cantered in...5 months and it was great. I stayed nice and balanced and stayed composed even after Mr P decided to rush towards the gate instead of doing a circle. Me and that boy are going to have a conversation about that.

My riding has improved immensely and it makes me so happy to know that one day I might be jumping, or even better doing a cross country course. There is one factor of my riding that I wish I had improved more by now, but it seems lagging. My right foot/heel/calf. While riding my right foot always falls out of the stirrup or slides too far into the stirrup. I realize that it is because I am not putting enough weight in my heel and that my calf is week. My calf is flexible, even more so than my left, but it still doesn't seem to stay in place and it frustrates me to no end. I realize that the 5 surgeries I have had on my right foot might have some things to do with it but I am bound and determined to fix this. To start I bought a resistance band on ebay to use to stretch more and also to hopefully strengthen my calf.

On a sadder note, a horse at the barn passed away over this weekend. It wasn't one of the horses that I work with, but it was a We Can Ride horse (a program of therapy horses that are used with children with disabilities), his name was Babe and he was 31 years old. He had a colic and due to his age, doing surgery really wasn't an option, so they decided to put him down. He was a sweet horse to the people, but a pain in the butt for the other horses. I always saw him giving the other horses a hard time and acting like a typical boy. It is still so hard to believe that he is gone. So with a sadden heart I say rest in peace Babe, you were a wonderful horse and helped so many children in your life time.

Thank you for reading.

February 16, 2012

Question: Slow moving horse

I have a quick question. Dessi has been coming along training wise, and she is a very intelligent horse, one thing that I have noticed is that when asking her to back up (on the ground) she is so dang slugish! And I am not exaggerating it's -think- bring one foot back, -think- bring the other foot back. What can I do to make her backing up a little faster? I realize that there is a limit about how fast a horse can back up, but we have an arthritic 9 year old who backs up five times faster than Dessi.


February 12, 2012

Trip to the Equine Center

Last night Miranda (my room-mate) told me that she wanted to see the Equine Center. Miranda has never been around horses except for dropping off some kids that she babysat at riding lessons once in a while. I jumped at the oppertunity to show Miranda what I do and to show off the kids.

Here are some photos from our day.

February 9, 2012

Can't Catch A Break.

Have you ever felt like life is always just trying to wear you down, and that you can't catch a break?

Over the last 6 years, starting in my freshman year in high school, I have had a total of 6 surgeries on my feet. I got new orthodics molded for me and have been wearing them since January 18th, or roughly around that time. I was stocked that finally this whole ordeal was over. But, here comes life with a hammer, boink-ing me on the head as if to say "no stay down".

At first I related it to my increased riding and/or to my new orthodics, but this pain started before my riding increased and before I got the new orthodics, but since December 18th roughly, I have had this on and off hip pain. Like my Mom, I have hip displacia (which is where your socket of your hip is too shallow for your ball of your hip). I'm not sure if that is what is causing my pain, but something is. Last night I decided that I will try stretching at least once a day to see if it makes a difference, but I don't plan on stopping my riding, not when I'm finally getting decent.

So on a lighter, less complaining note, I need some advice from my readers! At the barn there is a 9 year old QH named Legend. Usually Legend is a great boy and very personable but lately he has gotten very crabby and has attempted to bit me and other people numerous times, and one time he got a chunk of my thigh. Boss lady and S believe that it's because no one is working with him. S tried riding him because she thought he would make an awesome lesson horse, but she hopped on and he wouldn't go forward, no matter how much she enticed, squeezed, or smacked with the whip. He just took it like it was dust landing on him. He would only move forward if someone was on the ground leading him. So, riding is really out of the list to do for now. The main problem is that he is supposedly arthritic. My experience with him? I haven't expienced much arthritic behaviors. He is the one that is always bucking in the pasture and running around like a little colt. Boss lady also says not to back him up too much because his hind end is weak...well in my experience he backs up better than he walks forward. He backs up with such ease and with just a slight touch of the finger (on good days), so I'm not sure where all these awful symtoms are. But anyways back to the point, I offered to work with him Monday-Thursday, but he can't lunge and can really only do things in straight lines. Do you have any ideas of what I could do with him? S said that I could trot/walk him over ground poles, but just make it 1 or 2 at first. He is really already obediant, but I would love to teach him to ground tie which I guess is a job in itself. But, do you have any more ideas of what I could do?

Thanks for reading!

February 6, 2012

Exit -stage left-

I have three exams this week, that I should be studying for. But nope I find myself sitting at my laptop just dying to write about my lesson today. I know I won't get any studying, or productive studying in, until I do so.

For the past week we have had GORGEOUS weather here in Minnesota. I cannot believe it, I am almost scared to see what is going to happen on later in the month. We'll probably get dumped with 4 feet of snow in April. It was so nice that I found myself almost skipping to the barn for my lesson.

I arrived to the barn to see a bunch of horses who are also very happy about the sunny and 40 degree weather we are having. Ears all perked up, lots of whinnying, and some playful fun with each other. I walk into our herd paddock and grab Mr P for the lesson. He seemed very against going inside "But but it's NICE out I don't WANT to work, I want to be outside!" Ears all loppy and just a pitiful look on his face. Scratching his neck I promised that he could come out after the lesson, we won't be too long.

Major kuds and credit goes to the new trainer S at the stables, and also to all of the workers. Before Christmas vacation it was almost impossible to groom Mr P inside a stall by himself. He would pace and pay no attention to you and just be a big butt head, but now it's almost a 180. I believe it's with some training and he is also being consistently ridden and worked that has helped him settle down. I also try to make a point to have all the horses in the barn for 5 minutes or so by themselves so they learn that it is okay to be in the big scary barn, and that they will make it out alive.

Grooming and tacking went great. Mr P got a little upset when a fjord named Ole left the barn, but he got over it quick enough, and with that many "good boy!" and scratches. S brought one of her saddles to try on Mr P, hoping that it might fit him a little better then the other tack. It fit good in the front, but was questionable in the back, but with a fluffy saddle pad we made it work.

In the arena I did the normal starting ground work. Walk-halt-walk-halt, halt, HALT I said!-back up-walk-halt *Good boy!*, rinse rather and repeat. Fixed my stirrups, tight tightened the girth, and hopped on. S told me to be a little more conscious during the warm up since Mr P had new tack, and he seems to be very particular about tack fitting him. Nothing seemed to bother him so I warmed him up and worked on my positioning. It felt a lot different going from a dressage saddle to a hunter saddle, but I made do. S had me do some trotting around half of the arena and made some comments about my posting. I need to lean back more, and go up more than forward. I also told her that I generally loose my stirrups when I'm posting and not sure why, but I told her that I thought it was because I wasn't putting enough weight in them. She agreed with my thoughts, so now I know what to work on.

S wanted to put Mr P on a lunge line while I was riding him, to see how he would do, since I have proven that I can stay on if he decides to do some bucking. But, it went well!! I just had to coax him to not go in towards S but other than that he was, well, perfect. S had me tie the reins in a knot and drop them and just post with no reins. This made me a little worried because I thought for sure I'd flop everywhere and fall off while trotting. I walked him around the circle a few times and S told me whenever I was ready to ask him to trot off. I asked him to trot, secretly held my breath, and...it went very good! I didn't fall off and I didn't loose my balance, maybe a stirrup once or twice but not my balance. I never used the reins for balance before so I'm not sure why I was that worried about it. After working on posting, I worked on my sitting trot (which was FUNNY!) I felt like an idiot, sitting well for a few strides then *bump bump bump flop* I was looking like a rag doll in the saddle haha! I realize that it is because my hips "lock up" when I'm riding, and when sitting the trot I don't allow them to just go with the horse, I also arch my back which I am trying REALLY hard to work on.

After going around both ways, S had me trot around half of the arena. While going around someone opened the big garage doors at the far other end to bring a horse in, and -EXIT STAGE LEFT-, Mr P thought that was his cue to leave the arena, so he quickly bucked and turned left and bolted for the garage door. Instinctly I sat deep in the saddle and pulled on my left rein for a one rein stop, turned him around, and had him walk away from the door. I walked him around half the arena and did some walk-halt transitions to get him paying attention again.  He did calm down and realized that he will leave when I say it's time to leave.

Today's lesson was nice because it brought up a lot of things that I was aware that I had problems with. I told S right up front about my sloppy trot to walk transitions and how I can't seem to keep the stirrups in the correct spot when trotting. Tomorrow I hope to work on these problems a little bit more.

Thanks for reading :)

February 4, 2012

Helping a fellow blogger

I can never deny helping a fellow blogger.

Make Mine a Draft is a blog that I have recently been following. The lady, her horse's name is Gail, seems like a very nice person. She has entered a contest to win a saddle pad and needs some people to "like" her submission here

Also if you could spread the word that would be fantastic!!

Thanks, and spread the help!

February 3, 2012

2/1/12 Ride

I was able to start off the month of February (which I did not know it was February 1st at the time) riding. After classes I went to the barn and rode Mr P.

* Work on my balance by standing up in the saddle at the walk for at least the whole long end of the arena
* Focus on looking ahead and not at the horses head
* Work on keeping the correct riding position
* Do some walk/halt transitions and try to gain a balanced and precise halt.
* Work on holding the correct posture