Thursday, December 21, 2017

It's that time of year again...

When show series start posting their dates for the upcoming season and I get my calendar out with a sharpie.

The local dressage schooling show series just posted all of their dates including their year end championship. I'm hoping they'll allow competitors to show out of trailers this year. Financially it is way better for me, when it's just 20 minutes away. Otherwise, my costs double with the requirement to get a stall for the weekend on top of class fees. I'd prefer a smaller, grounds fee if they need something else.

Since I'm now taking lessons I want to commit to the show series. It's once a month, technically two shows a weekend (Saturday and Sunday). I'm hoping to do once a month. I'm hopeful that with lessons our canter won't be embarrassing.

Other show dates I'm excitedly waiting to drop are the combined trials at Hunters Run and all the endurance rides. There's a lot to look forward to in 2018. I've even joined AERC for the first time as an incentive to get out and do the LDs enough to make the membership worthwhile. I've even joined the Green Bean team. I'm not sure I'm going to be doing the Distance Derby again this year. I haven't seen any mention of it being redone for 2018 as I think the organizer is too busy running the Midwest Mounted Archery group. And I haven't been able to get involved in that as much as I'd originally wanted.

What are you looking forward to in 2018?

And for my Northern Hemisphere friends, Happy Solstice to you and the return of lengthening days!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Earning Her Keep

So we've had a few days of snow now, and something that I've wanted to do, and that Eric has been wanting, is for Gwyn to help plow the driveway. I have a skijoring harness that should be fine for our homemade plow and today we did a couple test runs and a short training session.

I think it was pretty successful. We've got a while to go before she could do the whole driveway, but little experiences are important. Exposure is important.

The first attempt neither Eric nor I were prepared, really. And we probably jumped the gun.

I did make sure that we had a quick release system in place. Eric held the ropes that were threaded through the harness and would drop them on my command.  This way, if Gwyn freaked out, she wouldn't have a giant wooden plow racketing along behind her.

She did get away the first time and then I had to trudge around in a foot of snow to catch her and she was having a blast, tail flagged over her back as she pranced around the pasture.

Third attempt I think? I finally started to document it.

Pause for praise and love from an increasingly tired and cold Hazel. Plus proof that Eric pets the horses.

Gwyn kisses Hazel

Kisses for me

And selfies

Final attempt.

You can kind of see her opinion of the whole matter.

After we had her drag it a couple times (and she did!) I worked on some desensitization and she did really well.  See the video below!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Holiday Card photo shoot

I like having seasonal photos of Gwyn (and Saffron if she's in an amenable mood). So this past weekend was my chance! The farrier was coming out in the morning (Gwyn's abscess is finally grown out, huzzah) and it was -snowing-.

It was a lovely fluffy snow, tiny flakes, very dry, the kind that creates a thin mist on roads when the wind blows and hardly accumulates or sticks to anything. Very atmospheric.

Anyway, once the farrier was done, I left Saffron locked up in her stall with some hay and took Gwyn to the resting pasture (note to self, either find someone who can fix a leather halter, or buy a new leather halter, the crown buckle is broken)  I had a brand new Santa hat made just for horses that I got at the tack store on Black Friday (worth it!) and my camera. I was ready.

"Hey human. Get back here. DON'T LEAVE ME HERE, LADY."

"I see you, with that black contraption you keep on your face. I am not impressed."

"My nose looks smoochable, but you do not get to smooch me."

"Hey Mom, you didn't mention there was grass under the snow over here!"

*Mare faces*

"Hey Saffron? Where'd you go?"


And here was where I finally was able to get her to face me AND stand still. Because the action shots weren't really cutting it.

"Omnomnomnom, Mom!"

Once I was satisfied I had a decent photo, I went and grabbed Saffron, who was VERY eager to get to the pasture.  I let them both hang out until it started to get dark so they had a change of scenery for a bit.

I made that! With google's help.

Thank you! Blogger Gift Exchange!

Somehow, in the chaos that was this weekend, I missed a package arriving.

But when I started pulling out of the driveway this morning with the girls packed in the truck, I saw it and grabbed it before heading out. Once I dropped Kaylee at school I eagerly tore into the box, definitely making note that there was an envelope on the outside that I should open first before seeing the contents, lol. I hadn't even left the school parking lot yet.

Awww, smart and crafty? Thank you!  But now I'm also VERY intrigued. (Because I did listen and open the envelope first!)

YES! Wooohooo!

Okay, so, this is awesome. Because 1. I love purple everything. And 2. this has been a 'want' for a while, but not a justified need.

So I am VERY very excited to be even MORE coordinated when we're out on the trail and at endurance rides. Plus, it's the english style cantle bag that fits over the saddle which should be more secure  and stay in place better.

Regardless of reasons, THANK YOU, Laura! I most definitely love it and I can't wait to use it. In the short term I'll probably stow hand warmers and hot chocolate, lol.

Pop on over to visit her blog here!  And many thanks to the Printable Pony, who organized the gift exchange, now in its fifth year!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Rider Forms the Horsee

Back when I started riding with Jim in Washington, he gave me a book to read. It was pretty dry, but ended up being very informative of the theory behind the lessons I got from him. I regret not blogging more thoroughly about my lessons with him, as he was an excellent teacher. After we all left the first barn and I moved north and he moved south with horses, it became harder to get him to me for a lesson and very expensive with travel compensation thrown in.

Anyway, he liked to say that the rider forms the horse. Everything we do as a rider is conveyed to the movement of the horse in some way. The trainer that I'm working with now has the same philosophy. I had my second lesson today and I'm hoping this marks the start of a breakthrough.

Some history:
I have had a recurring issue with Gwyn. She does not like to turn left and the faster we're traveling, the more she resists the bend. Not so much on the trail, but enough that when I attempted a dressage test that involved cantering, we ended up outside the ring on our counter clockwise canter circle. It was a disaster. This one issue is why I haven't attempted to really do serious showing because what's the point until I fix our left turning problem? When she spooks, she spooks to the right. If we're turning on a jump course, she doesn't want to go left. She drops her shoulder a lot when we do left circles. You get the picture.

At first I thought it was somehow related to her snakebite or eye damage (all on the left side of her face). Then I thought it was because I wasn't strong enough creating wall with my right leg. But nothing I could think of was fixing it. And so until I could get us both back in regular riding and budget in regular lessons, we focused on trail stuff where turning left really isn't that big of an issue when your horse is willing to follow a trail regardless.

Today, I traveled to the trainer's place. There is a $25 difference to trailer to her versus having her come to me. I live maybe 2 minutes away. It's worth the $25 savings. Eventually I will ride to her, which she says is possible. I decided to make sure that loading would be stress free and set up a temporary pen around the trailer. Gwyn has always loaded really well when I provide a barrier like that. She did balk briefly but I brought her around again walked her up to the entrance to the trailer and the damn mare self loaded like a pro. I made sure Saffron had some hay to munch on while we were gone since I was keeping her in the dry lot, which is harder to escape from, and off we went.

Fluff Mare is groomed and ready to hop on the trailer. Well, not hop. It's got a ramp, there's no hopping needed. 

Winter fuzzies. 24/7 turnout for the win. Surprisingly, today was pleasantly warm! Perfect winter riding weather.

Getting ready at Trainer's. There were lots of new horses to see and hear!
I got there as her previous lesson was finishing (which I knew about).  Gwyn was very up and alert. I tacked her up without issue and went back to their winter riding area for the lesson. Trainer does have an outdoor sand ring but waits for the ground to freeze before using it so that there aren't a ridiculous amount of ruts and potholes.

Trainer started with groundwork and reinforcing the giving to pressure and standing quietly as a reward and release. Every time Gwyn wanted to get 'up' and giraffey about the other horses she had to move her feet. Within a few minutes she was standing very still, head low and foot cocked when she wasn't being asked to move. Then it was my turn. I need to remember palm down and release. I'm in the habit of getting into a battle of strength with her and I shouldn't be.

Then it was time to hop on and we worked on having Gwyn stand still after I mount, which is admittedly, a bad habit that I've allowed for a while.  So I got on and off a few times. If I got on and she walked off, we immediately backed up and she had to stand still. Then we worked on me fiddling with my stirrups for a bit and making sure her feet didn't move until my feet were in the stirrups. This will be something I need to work on at home.

Then it was back to working on the 90degree turns and my position and I told her what I was practicing at home. I get very bracy which makes Gwyn really bracy and it's all a hot mess. I do really well looking where we're turning but instead of lifting my rein for turning, I open my hand and keep it low, which doesn't help Gwyn turn. This is slightly different from how Jim had me working with Gwyn, which was with that leading rein. I'm getting better results with the raised inside  rein.

My turns to the right were excellent, but to the left she was still dropping her shoulder and falling in. Then Trainer pointed out that when I look to the left, I actually look to the left and downward, where I look up and to the right. My left arm is also VERY sticky compared to my right and my left shoulder is 'up' compared to my right. When I focused on opening the distance between my shoulder and chin when looking left all of a FUCKING sudden Gwyn stopped dropping her shoulder and we got BEAUTIFUL light bending to the left.

So all those damn issues seem to stem from me. And goddamn if that isn't relieving, LOL. I can work on myself, I can do excercises to limber myself up and strengthen that left side.

And the rider forms the goddamn horse.

After that we worked on lightening the halt with a trot, halt, stand, back up, trot on exercise. My goal was to not haul on her mouth. I sit back well enough for the halt but I pull on her mouth too much. My goal is to be lifting my hands not pulling back. And you know, as soon as I started doing that I got light, on contact, square and nearly prompt halts from Gwyn.

We ended on a very good note with a light, responsive and balanced halt. I untacked and Gwyn self loaded once again. I'm hoping with these monthly lessons that the repetition of positive loading experiences will just cement in her and this will become consistent.

So yay!

Tuckered out (but only kinda)

Reindeer antlers for goofiness

I started mucking the runs only to realize that Gwyn had gone into her stall and couldn't be seen... She was helping herself to hay, the naughty creature.