Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Summer is here

The flies are out, the grass is growing, and the ponies are fat, shiny and happy!

And I also finally have time to do things like... you know... RIDE!! including getting Bijou out almost every day over the last week or two (time has a different meaning during summer, days of the week are unimportant, weeks and months are way too complicated).

We've been taking baby steps. I've done a lot of research over the last few weeks of being laid up and I'm trying to use what I've found and move forward. I tried side reins, partially because that's what I have, and partially because that's what I've always done. She really didn't seem to figure it out. She'll put her head down for half a second as more of a 'shoo fly' movement to rid herself of the pressure than actually stretch into the contact. I'm afraid if I make them any shorter she'll just end up behind the bit, and that's not a habit (or muscles) that I want to be developing.

I feel like my baby steps are so small compared to what I'm reading about on other blogs (for example, the whole bitless journey at Science Vs. Tradition or the path to barefooted-ness with Andrea) but I know that when I was looking for blogs I loved to hear about all those people who were right where I was, or one or two steps ahead so I'll continue on for you phantom readers. The normal day consists of walking the eight million miles to the FURTHEST pasture they could put my horse in (but whatever, she's on grass 24/7 so I'm ok with it) and walking up to her as she walks up to me - Improvement #1 - since it used to take me 20 minutes to catch her. I can't tell if the carrots or the neck and belly scritches did it.

I have been working on dragging her over to the trailer. She's pretty not enthusiastic about leaving her friends to go hang out with me, to the tune of tiptoeing her way slowly forward as I keep even pressure on the lead... not ok. Today I stood only at her shoulder, didn't let her get behind, and every time she'd get extra sluggish I'd take the end of the lead and flick it at her rump. Boy did that speed her up! All of a sudden she's so much happier to be following along :D. Then I park her near the trailer somewhere, tell her to "whoa!" and brush off the dusty dirties. She gets her saddle pad, with no flinching now, and her saddle, with only one or two steps to the sides rather than 10-15 like it used to be. Improvement #2 - I can tack up my horse without fearing a loss of toe, finger or both!

Depending on if she's been out the day before, I'll lunge or not lunge. Usually over a pole in the small arena. I don't know why but she does better in smaller spaces. Or maybe I'm just a wounded shrimp who's lost all her chutzpa? The big arena still scares me/us. We're putting that on the to-do list for a day I feel brave, in addition to walking the outer loop around the pastures where there are stinky cows! Lunging has become a non-ordeal - Improvement #3 - I can lunge in many surroundings and over obstacles!

Riding consists of a lot of head in the air and impressions of a giraffe. She'll happily walk over poles, although with much care taken to EXACTLY where she puts her feet. I'm glad she's careful because hopefully that translates to clean jumper rounds long down the road? My current sequence of thought goes something like:

"squeeze for a walk, Good girlie! now sponge the inside hand, hold outside steady. Use alternating leg taps to swing the barrel and keep her forward, sponge more inside hand, more more more there! Good GIRL!!"

"squeeze.... squuuueeeeze...... trot yay! keep hands steady against all the jostling around between her imbalance and mine, no really, steady hands! ok yay there was a moment of give at the poll! sponge inside hand, both hands steady, inside leg, inside leg, inside reign, outside rein supporting... awesome giraffe impression... then two steps of brilliance"

"sit, outside leg to canter, bumpity along for a moment while she thinks about which direction and hopefully picks up the right lead?! yay we have the right lead! Light in the saddle, following motion with the hands, must steady that lower leg that's swinging everywhere, little more contact, beautiful!!"

reverse, rinse, repeat. Her canter work is somehow stronger than trot work? She seems to get the being on the bit more. I'm wondering if it's a contact thing, I can keep contact better at a canter.

Overall, many important improvements with only more to come! I'd really love to hear what people are thinking the moment they ask for a trot, or when they finally get roundness from their horse. I feel like the thought process will give me clues to the series of perfect cues I'm supposed to be giving.

I'm happy with baby steps for now, its tough because I want to be progressing so fast, but muscles don't grow in a day, and neither does either of our patience. I'm happy it's summer time and I get to spend all the time in the world (after I'm off work of course :P) loving on my beautiful girl!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Back in the saddle again

I got on the other (slightly more sane) mare that I have access to today for the first time in 6 weeks!! She was only slightly naughty, but being able to figure it out gave me the sense that I could still hold my own even against a silly moment or two. I think Bijou would actually be easy compared to her because this mare is so bouncy and flighty. Bijou would be harder because she is more liable to spook, but less likely to take off. At least with the other mare I knew when she was going to get uppity.

Bijou did the sweetest, kindest, lovingest thing today. I went out into the pasture to grab the other mare, but I thought I'd get some scritchin' in on Joujou first. I walked about 30 ft into the pasture and Bijou met me halfway! Today is the first day she's walked up to me (other than the one day after I thought I'd ruined her face) since I've got her. She walked right up, and presented her shoulder (one of her most favorite itchy spots) and I gladly obliged. It's days like today when I feel like she and I will make progress eventually. I'm jealous of all those people who's horses are naturally just easy going, but I know that I need a little pep for when I get where I want to go: the eventing world.

Speaking of eventing... I need to buy new reins... and has these adorable 'ice lavender' reins for a really good deal. They're rubber reins, which I like for x-country anyway, but then I got looking and they have the same brand bell boots, and the same color saddle pad!!! I'm such a dork, especially because I know that my eventing days are going to be a long ways from now (I'm still debating on whether I'll be able to do w/t and 18" in October at Twin Rivers) but I could be SO SPIFFY if I went all decked out.... We'll see.

It feels a little useless going out to lunge and only lunge, but I keep telling myself that it's good for us to build a bond (which definitely has grown) and that she needs to get out somehow. The trainer that I had coming out to ride had an old injury flare up, so she's out of the picture for probably as long as I am.

Lately I've been using lots of ground poles. It worries me that every day the ground pole is still something to be startled by. She's gotten better, but I'm worried about when I take her somewhere new and she has never seen the fences before and we're expected to have no refusals. It's so hard to think about jumping her because I know I'm a long way off from it, and especially from training a youngster because my left leg will just get run through every time. I try to set up interesting distances to make her think about her feet, and she's gotten pretty good at it. I think she's got a nice balance between getting excited over fences, and just lolligagging around them. I still want to set up some bigger stuff, but I don't think it'll really work out in the small round pen. Anyone have any good ideas of teaching them to jump stuff... even when you can't be on them?

Goals: get to the gym because I'm out of shape! Ride the other mare more to get my equine legs back, brush out the snarly tail...