Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving Eve!

Well... I'm here to tell myself that I'm a horrible horse mom. I haven't seen my horse in.... 5 days! and I won't see her for 4 more! That's NINE days with no pony. Blah!!! Things just keep popping up out of nowhere, or I'm too cold or too busy or something. I almost want to go out there right now in the dark and snuggle her. I hope she's nice and warm with her new sheet on, but I have no idea! It has been getting really cold (almost 20 degrees!) at night, and I've been looking around for a lining that I can stick in her blanket to keep her warm, but I haven't found anything yet.

It's been so wet so I can't ride, I guess it's just that time of year again. The clip I did is almost invisible now, which I guess is good so she stays warm now that it's finally cold. I'll have to see if it dries up for winter break, I'm really looking forward to it so that I can ride her, but who knows how things will pan out.

The last time I did ride was awesome! I took her out after 4 days of being a pasture puff, and expected her to be a tad frisky. I don't know if it was because we finally had the barn to ourselves or if she just felt good, but she was perfect. No looky loo, no fighting with me for the first ten minutes, just a calm easy going mare. I love her! We worked on a lot of things, and I got her bending really well to the right and left, then we worked on trot transitions, which were pretty awful at first, but she was very responsive to my leg, just tossing her head everywhere. So I went ahead and got her thinking about using herself by doing this little thing I thought up after taking a lesson with a friend. I basically just let whatever cue come into my head, and then do it. This includes turns, leg yields, transitions up or down, etc. I just create this random pattern that has no pattern and it really amps her up. So I tried a walk/canter transition, because I thought, what the heck? It won't hurt anything. It kinda failed. So I kept after her until she really felt like she was waiting and anticipating for me to ask anything of her, and asked again, it went really well!!

There was one x-rail in the arena and we popped over it with no hesitation! I think it's because it's the same one that's been there forever, but I'm still hopeful that she's getting used to the idea of just jumping things that are put in front of her.

I'm getting a kind of cabin fever since I didn't get out to see her today. I was really planning on it but then found out that I'm basically responsible for Thanskgiving dinner.... wooo hooo! I'm excited but scared that things won't go as planned, but oh well. That meant that I needed to do some shopping instead of going to see my beloved. I know she's fine, eating and playing out in pasture, but it doesn't mean I don't want to go see her :(

I'm consoling myself by going back to the barn I rode at in high school, Miwok Livery Stables. I'm so stoked to go back and maybe ride one of their horses. I think I might end up spending the whole day there, just chatting with everyone and petting all the horses again! I have a few favorites who I'm hoping are still around, Oprah the big grey percheron mare, Marker the strong willed and opinionated but very fancy warmblood, Rosebud the quirky paint mare, I can't wait to see them all again!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Late is better than never

I've been a horrible blogger lately! I can't seem to find time to put down all the things I want to say, and I can't open a new post without fully going through everything that's been happening.

Sunday November 14th was the one year anniversary of this blog, and of my owning Bijou!!! I didn't really have a ton of expectations at the get go, and I liked it that way, but I think I've overcome some huge stuff and I'm really proud of my little mare. My favorite thing about Bijou and I is that I feel like she's MY horse and I'm her one and only person. She really didn't trust me in the beginning, and it took me breaking my ankle, her getting a hole in her head, many days crying, many days laughing, and many more days of work to get her to understand that I'm her mom and she can trust me. I've never really worked with a seriously distrusting horse before. I'm glad I've gotten the experience and I am so much more thankful for the stuff I can do with her. I've just started riding her (halter and blanket as tack :P) back to her pasture. It's really adorable because I pretty much just get on and squeeze and she knows where her buddies are and just marches along, but there've been a few times where something scary comes up and I don't have steering really so I just hold on, and she gets it. She knows when I'm feeling off balance, and her ears flick back to make sure I'm still there, and then we go on our merry little way. I love those moments, because even just 2 months ago I would never have dreamed of doing that, and now it's no big deal.

I'm starting to see all the hard work pay off. This is where I knock on wood because every time I say that I take two steps back but I'm starting to get a horse that I can leave out in pasture for 4 days, pull her out, and have a really productive ride. That's saying something for a 6 yr old TB mare I feel like. It used to be that every new alternative of the same question was too overwhelming, now I can point at a x-rail, and it happens. Today I took her over 5 trot poles and instead of stopping and snorting at them, she processed and daintily tiptoed over them, just as if they were only trot poles, instead of the toe biting brightly colored monsters they were before.

I think another thing she's taught me is to appreciate the little things. I really do appreciate the days when she feels super sound and wants to bend and lift her back for me, even if it's only for a little bit. We don't have to accomplish a huge goal, just something small. Two steps of really good 'back', one really good long side worth of bend, one correct lead.

Then there's the big things, where she just wows me. Like the day I took her to Twin Rivers. That was amazing. I had so much fun and she was SOOO GOOD!!! And it's those days that I look back to when she's rooting her face to the ground only to put on her giraffe impression two seconds later all because I asked her to trot. It isn't perfect, but it's not who won or lost, it's how we play the game right?

Ok, enough self reflection, I want to plan ahead for next year! I want to have some real goals:

1) Compete in at least 3 shows from now until November 2011
2) Start schooling bigger fences, working our way up to 2'-2'6" (???)
3) Work on confronting scary things under saddle (cows, sheep, tarps, waves at the beach, etc)
4) Try Bitless to see what happens
5) Try Chiropractic to see what happens
6) Find a saddle that fits us both! (I'm hoping that my bates will when I find my other gullet... now where did it run off to)

There, better late than never...

Monday, November 8, 2010

New bit plus rain equals...

So I bought a rubber mullen mouth from Stateline because it was on sale. I've been fooling around with different bits just to see what happens and pretty much I've only found one that she really didn't like, it was this huuuge clunky full cheek snaffle that she couldn't stand. I've been riding her in a loose ring french link, but she liked to hollow out in her back rather than stretch into the contact, so I thought I'd try to give her something easier to grab onto.

So far there's a few differences in it. I certainly feel like I have less control on days when she is extra fresh, but not anything dangerous. I've also gotten my forward horse back. This could be because she has only been getting out once every other day or so or it could be that she was hiding from my other bit. Its hard to know if she's responding to the bit, or to more training, or to not getting out as much, or who knows what.

I found a new tack shop in town! We went to the Equine Expo that one of the vets put on every year, and the woman who owns it was there. Who knew? She has a Dr. Cooks Bitless that she'd be willing to let me buy and bring back if it really doesn't work out. I have to wait until Friday to get to her, because the store's only open until 3 :( I'm still really nervous about riding my 6 yr old TB mare in a bitless bridle, but I'm going to video it at least so that whatever may happen I will have evidence. I'm really a skeptic to the efficacy of something like this, but if it works then I might start using it.

The arena's been closed most days due to rain... which means I get very little riding done. If Jou's been out in the last few days then she's usually sensible enough to be taken out on the track around the property, but if not I'm liable to have a bronc on my hands especially because we have the neighbors sheep running amok around, hiding behind bushes, stampeding at odd intervals, and generally being nuisances.

MM is back this week, so hopefully I'll get some real workouts in with her and Jou. This last week the one time I was able to get out two days in a row I jumped a big (over18") crossrail! We had warmed up, and she was feeling really good off my aids and nice and forward without feeling rushed. I trotted her up to it, she stopped, walked over it, and trotted away. We trotted up again, she picked up a canter two strides out and jumped it like a pro. I was proud of her for finding her distance so nicely and being bold to the fence for once! Next time I jump her I am going to really emphasize that she jump it the first time. I also need to go to the dollar store or something and buy some fake flowers. I want to have her ready for all the little x-rail classes next spring! Speaking of jumping... I know a lot of people limit jump days to once or twice a week. Should that still be the practice with a young fit horse who's only doing 18" max for now? I feel like she needs more practice than that, but I don't want to stress anything too much. I will for sure only jump her once or twice a week once we start jumping over 2' but I'm not sure if limiting is necessary now.

One last thing... I just have to say how crazy it is that just a little less than a year ago my horse couldn't lunge, could barely canter, bending was out of the question, jumping was WAY too intimidating, she was at least 150 lbs lighter, had no idea what contact meant, and could barely stand still while I groomed and tacked her up. Now we've conquered all the above :D I'm going to do a 1 yr anniversary post soon, I can't believe it!