Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Leaser option number 1

Today I had the first of now three potential leasers come out to try Bijou. I was expecting a ridiculous mess since Bijou really hadn't been worked (other than light lunging to check soundness) in 11 days! It rained, she slipped, and then I've been giving her some time... phew, that's a long time off!

So, #1 is a 4th year college student who hasn't ridden consistently for 5 years but when she stopped, she and her horse were competing at Training Level in 3-Day in Colorado. She is a super cool chick who seems really honest and down to earth. She kept saying how good it felt to be back in the saddle, how pretty/nice/cute/good Bijou was, and how she feels soooo out of shape. From what I saw, there was a rider in there who really knew what she was doing, but is very rusty, which is very understandable. I started off the ride with a bit of a long walk warmup, and then asked Shelly to watch as I picked up a trot. Bijou was a little stiff and protective all over, but I just popped into my two point and let her loosen up. As usual, when I'm expecting to be riding a doofus, I get an angel, and that was the case today too. She was really super good and mellow and just trotted around with a light contact on the bit, and then danced her way into a beautiful canter transition and went once around the ring nice and slow with her head just above vertical. I'm so happy that we seem to have made it over the cantering-is-really-exciting phase and are working towards the being-round-and-cantering phase. I called it good there since I didn't know how much #1 would want to do, and she nervously got on. They walked around for a while, and I left her pretty much alone while she reveled in being in the saddle again. She picked up the trot, her leg fell into chair position, and fumbled she fumbled around getting a little left behind, and then falling a little ahead. I asked her if she wanted me to give her a few tips and she said of course, so I helped her a little bit and saw major improvement in just a few minutes. Then someone tossed their crazy horse in the round pen and of course Bijou thought there was a horse eating dragon thrashing around just barely contained in there and decided to bolt away. #1 stayed on, got quite a bit tense, and then I told her to relax, and she let go of her death grip and Bijou relaxed. I let her work in the other half of the arena because she was definitely shaken up, and we went back to doing some exercises to get her leg under her and have her pick up the right amount of contact. Overall I think she did a good job, she passed the spooking test, and she said she'd love to have me around for the first few times she rode so that she could learn more about her and make sure I was comfortable with her riding on her own.

I really liked #1 just as a person, we hit it off for sure and she seems super cool. Bijou overall seemed to like her and not try to fight with her too much. #1 really liked Bijou, commenting on how responsive she was to the seat and how light she felt in the bridle. The jury's still out until we have seen #2 and #3, but if they royally suck, I think I can make #1 work.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Slippery slope

I went out to ride on Thursday and something was just not quite right. I ended up picking out two big rocks that got into her feet which I thought might have caused it, but then I got back on and something was still amiss. I ended up asking the girl who was in the arena with me to look at her as I trotted by and she said she looked off behind, which is when she remembered that Bijou had taken a mighty stumble while trying to skid to a halt in 2" deep slick mud while she was feeding over the weekend. I guess she skidded so bad that her hind feet slid in front of her front feet and she toppled over, I know if that were me, I'd be pretty sore. So this week I've been feeding and fattening her up which I think has been helping some. I feel like I've finally reached equilibrium and now I just need to keep it up until the grass starts growing again. I went out again on Friday and she seemed quite a bit better already, so we did a bunch of walking to get her limber and moving and then hand-grazed for a while. There's something so comforting about watching a horse eat... or maybe it's just me :P

I have made appointments with both potential leasers and I'll know after next week if I think either of them will work. I'll just have to double make sure they sign a release since the little Bee will probably be wound up a bit with having almost a week off.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

No more lessons

So I decided to fire my trainer. She's been consistently getting lazier. Like, I say "I want to do more jumping in my lessons" and she proceeds to sit on the mounting block eating her trail mix while I jump the half fallen jumps that were already set up in the arena instead of rearranging them into a specific exercise for us. I also decided that with my paychecks being smaller, I really couldn't afford to be taking lessons unless I felt like I was getting a lot out of them, which I didn't really anymore. She also was seeming to push the spurs/whip thing a lot with me. I don't like riding with spurs or a whip, I would rather rely on other things. I know sometimes they are necessary, but I'd rather try to work around them. Especially when my horse seems to lose her mind when I use a whip on her. She doesn't take punishment very well... better than she used to, but still it can turn her into a crazy horse for a bit if she doesn't understand. When I tried to use my whip on her in my last lesson she just seemed like she didn't get where it came from or why, and ran around in fear for 5 minutes.

Anyhow, long whip/spurs rant over... it rained pretty good over this weekend, so there hasn't been a whole lot of riding going on. I have started to give Bijou two buckets a day now, as her once a day meal of beet pulp and rice bran was exceeding the buckets limit. I also added alfalfa pellets and soybean oil in. So far she seems to like the taste of her feed better with the alfalfa, and the oil hasn't caused any runs yet, and I've already bumped up to 1/2 c. 2x per day. I had the urge to pull out my old Equine Nutrition text books, but then realized that I would probably get bogged down in them and trying to balance a ration. I'd rather spend my days feeding my horse something I know works than in the books trying to make it perfect.

I also put up an ad a while back on Craigslist to see if anyone would want to come out and ride the beast. I don't think I'll charge anything because she's not a schoolmaster who could teach someone a lot, and I'd really appreciate just having someone come out to help me get her out more. So far I have two candidates, after next week I'll have had both of them out so we'll see how that goes.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Keep on Keepin' on

Nothing all that spectacular to report... but feel like I should report even the little things because I know I like to read them later. Just put Bijou back into work yesterday. She was rushy and fussy and I didn't get the 'refreshed' horse I was looking for, but she wasn't a total spaz case either, so I'll call it a success.

Today we worked a lot on the things that were my homework for last week. We did lots of transitions. Bijou is great at upward transitions as long as she knows they're coming, but when I let her get into a lazy walk and then try to pick things up again she is pretty behind my leg. Cue #2 of our homework, start carrying a dressage whip. This took a little getting used to for both Bijou and I. I haven't carried a crop/whip in a long time, so it took some re-getting used to, and Bijou kept listening to the little thing fluttering at her side. I didn't use the whip, I just held it, because she has been a bit shy of it in the past. We also worked on halting without trying to rip the reins out of my hands, and then knowing the difference between halting and backing, and halting and then going forward again. We did lots of transitions from walk-trot then trot-collected-extended then walk-canter. We did one REALLY great walk/canter transition to the left, and then a few sloppy ones to the right. I also did some pretty tight circles at the canter mostly to slow the beast down without having to rip on her face, but also because I feel like she needs to learn to balance, and circles are a good idea! Then she was still being really rushy at the canter and kinda bolting down the long sides, so I decided to just two-point and get contact and circle until she decided to chill the eff out. Surprisingly, when I picked up into two point, she went round and much much lighter in my hands. She was still fast, but there were good moments of regular canter too. I think she's just not quite fit enough to be expecting real good canter all the time, but I just want to figure out how to get her to stop running away with me. I think I'll try doing lots of two-point canter (which will be good pre-gallop practice for me anyway) which hopefully will help her develop better muscling over time, which will allow her to carry me better in the future.

phew. That felt like it got really long winded, but oh well. I'm still so happy that I can canter without fear of being bucked off. I think I should make another resolution, to be thankful for where we are and reflect on where we've been while striving to be better at the same time, otherwise I can get stuck in the now, and feel like I'm sinking in the issues we're having. Yet another great reason for having a blog, I can look back and reflect on when I couldn't lunge my horse, or when I felt bad for riding her because she was so skinny... don't miss those days!

I've got another lesson on Saturday, so I'll do more practicing tomorrow and Friday :)