Archive | April, 2013

Redemption!

30 Apr

It seems as though Corona and I are back on track! We had a superb weekend of riding and groundwork that more than made up for our issues last week.

On Saturday, the weather was very “blah” – really grey and dreary with some rain. I did the barn work and decided that I’d focus on doing some groundwork with Corona. I had watched a portion of my Level 1 Parelli DVD and was feeling pretty inspired. Corona didn’t disappoint in the least. I have been focussing on games 1-3, but decided to add in games 4 and 5. Corona was a gem. In Parelli, you use an incremental set of requests when you’re playing with your horse. Level 1 is considered a suggestion, level 2 is a request, level 3 is to tell and level 4 is to follow through…they also explain it as adding pressure through the hair, skin, muscle, bone. Corona is normally pretty good at responding by level 3 (I’ve got level 1 and 2 before, but very inconsistently). On Saturday, he was consistently responding by level 2 once he figured out what I was requesting. It’s really great to watch him showing signs of relaxation and curiosity as well. I introduced a game called, “touch it” where you ask your horse to touch an object with the aim of encouraging their curiosity and play instincts which in turn supports their confidence. While my “driving aids” left quite a bit to be desired, Corona happily investigated the objects (large metal barrel, part of a wooden skid, pilon) and wasn’t spooky towards them at all.

After our groundwork I decided that I’d tack him up and take him for a walk around the track (and by the scary horse-eating corner). Off we went and, while there were no squirrels around, there were about 50 Canada geese in the same corner!! Just our luck. Corona was hesitant, and I can’t really blame him, but I tried to just coax him on….all was going relatively well and then the buggers took off!!!!!!! Off we went down the track snorting like a fire breathing dragon. He wasn’t as wound-up as he had been with the squirrel and I was able to get him moving more relaxed once we got to the other end of the track. I decided that instead of going back over to the geese, I would ride in the in-field (ie: the middle of the track). This way, we were about 50m from the geese – far enough away so that it wouldn’t cause a heart attack, but close enough that perhaps we could have a teaching moment.

The walk went so well, that I inevitably decided to trot…then that went so well that I asked for a canter. I’m so happy I did because we had a wonderful relaxed canter around part of the field with zero issues! I let him cool down after that and called it a day.

On Sunday, the awesomeness continued. I didn’t do any groundwork but rode with CG and Roller. Off we went around the track when I heard something…I turned around to see an ATV coming our way with a trailer on the back. Super…and where was this all happening?? Oh yes, in THE SCARY CORNER! The ATV passed us on the other side of the ditch (there’s a ditch with a few trees/bushes separating the Boss’ property from her neighbours), the driver got off and started throwing wood into the trailer! He looked at us, I thought he was going to offer to stop while we went passed, but no….he continued. The horses were AMAZING! They looked, Corona hesitated for a minute and needed some strong leg to move forward instead of spinning around, but after a bit of encouragement, he just walked by. We then decided to stay down at the other end as we didn’t want to jinx things. We decided to go and ride in the in-field again…and good thing we did because the guy then started up his chainsaw! I guess he decided it was a good day to clear brush and cut down a couple of trees.

Corona was excellent…and I don’t mean excellent “all things considered,” I mean he was truly outstanding. CG and I had lots of fun, and da-da-da…Corona and I cantered some large circles on a long rein while the chainsaw was going! I was grinning from ear to ear.

What made the day even better was that we officially declared it Spring at the barn – that means taking the blankets off the horses and watching them indulge in their newfound nakedness…it was rolls all around and I’m pretty sure I saw the horses smiling too.

Spring also means moving water troughs with help of two-legged and four-legged friends 🙂

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It was one of “those” rides

26 Apr

Must not get discouraged. Must not get discouraged. Must not get discouraged.

My ride last night on Corona was not the best ride we’ve ever had. It wasn’t the worst either, but if left much to be desired.

The weather was relatively nice out, but it was breezy. I didn’t think this would cause a problem because it’s been much windier lately and that hasn’t seemed to bother him too much, but I think it added to the issues we were having. He just wouldn’t relax at all. It was like riding a bracy giraffe and no matter what I did, I couldn’t get him to concentrate on me for more than a few strides. I tried doing transitions, I tried leg yielding, I tried circles and figure eights, nothing worked.

On top of all this, a squirrel (or some small animal) dashed through the long grass at the “scary” corner of the track. The horses are always iffy at this spot, and unfortunately this little critter further reinforced that. Corona spooked and shot forward, I got him back to a walk and thought I’d try and circle back immediately. We went past again but it was to no avail, Corona was checked out. I turned him round again and we merrily side-passed (note sarcasm) up the long side of the track with snorts flying and tails swishing. I asked for some circles at the other end of the track and he started to relax a bit. I eventually took him back up to the scary corner and we walked by with just a bit of hesitation. Trotting to the right was fine, but trotting to the left was not (this was the direction we were going when the incident occurred). I continued to try to the left with some transitions thrown in and it got a bit better. As soon as we were past the corner, he was fine in both directions.

We ended our ride with some trotting on a long rein where I asked him to stretch, and he obliged for the most part. Then as I was about to end our ride, he just sped up and up and up. It was horrid. Circling did nothing, he just plowed on, flexing didn’t work, nothing worked. I asked for a walk, took him around the outside of the ring once, and then called it quits.

I was nearly in tears during the circling incident, not sure if it was tears of frustration or doubt that this horse is ever going to be consistent. It was so discouraging.

I went home and watched my Parelli videos, I’m looking forward to getting out there again tomorrow and Sunday; I’ve decided not to audit the Cindy Ishoy clinic as I’m pretty sure it’s a better use of my time to work with my own horse.

To end on a positive note however, Corona was excellent while I groomed him and fiddled about with saddle fitting experiments.

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The beautiful Amber

25 Apr

I keep meaning to upload a photo of the lovely Amber…here she is in all her dashing glory!!

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2 weeks in summary

25 Apr

It’s been a busy few weeks in my horsey life as well as my non-horsey life (there is such a thing!)

In non-horsey news, I have become an auntie for the second time! My new nephew was born last Monday and is happy and healthy. While it is very exciting, it is also somewhat sad, as my brother and his wife moved to California in January so my parents and I are not able to get our hands on the little bundle of joy. It’s an odd feeling to only “know” someone through photos or skype and I don’t particularly like the feeling. While it sounds odd, the only thing that makes it somewhat okay is that we don’t really know what we’re missing…never met him, don’t REALLY know how cute he obviously is, so I can’t truly know what I’m missing out on. On the other hand however, I really miss my neice, who turned two just three days before my nephew was born. Since she lived here up until January, I unfortunately DO know what I’m missing with her, and it’s a horrible feeling. Skype is great, but it is no match for the in-person interactions.

Now for the horse-related updates…

Amber:

I’ve been riding her and loving it. She is quite a technical ride but I don’t mind at all, I’m learning a lot from her and find the experience very rewarding. We have still only walked and trotted because I don’t feel like we are ready to canter yet. I have found that we’re making progress with her stress level when I ride. I give her a very long warm up just at the walk which really seems to make a difference and put us on the right foot for our trot work. I’ve noticed that she’s extremely headshy when being ridden, but not so much on the ground…it’s a bit odd and I don’t really understand it. I only noticed it when I started riding with a dressage whip and I changed the hand I was holding it in. She would get tense and high-headed anytime it passed over her neck. Perhaps she was mis-treated in the past? I guess we’ll never know.

Corona:

I just love him. I’ve been steadily working him with a purpose and he is loving being back in action. We’ve done a fair amount of canter work around the outside of the ring but I’ve yet to let him canter around the track. I’m going riding after work tonight so perhaps if everything is quiet, tonight will be the night. I’d really like to let him do it, but I don’t want to sacrifice the relaxation we’ve established.

Learning:

I may be auditing a Cindy Ishoy clinic this weekend. She has competed in dressage in several Olympic and Pan Am Games. I’ve actually never audited a clinic before but think it would be really interesting. Originally, I thought the level of riding at the clinic was going to be far beyond my own level so I wasn’t sure how much I would realistically take away, however it appears that a number of ridings are at the same level as I am so this is added incentive to attend.

I found out about a Parelli Level 2-3 clinic that is happening here in May as well. While I’m definitely not at Level 2 yet, I think I may take advantage and audit this bad boy as well!

And speaking of Parelli…my DVD’s have finally arrived! I don’t think I mentioned it on here but I finally took the plunge and purchased the Levels 1-4 DVD’s back in March. You can sign up for a free 30-day membership trial on the Parelli website and during this trial you also get member pricing on items. Soooo instead of paying $500 for all the DVDs, I paid about $250! Conveniently (note sarcasm), the Level 1-2 was out of stock, as was Level 3, so I received the Level 4 first which was of little functional use. Don’t get me wrong, I watched it anyway to see what I was aiming for and I was actually pleasantly surprised because I could actually see myself getting there someday (ie: the horses were not jumping through hoops of fire while a dog was sitting on their heads).

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Sitting on a rocket

9 Apr

I’m pretty sure that Corona could win the Kentucky Derby if given the chance. This is quite the statement, but this horse is fast! I secretly wish I could rename him, “Rocket”, it suits him so well in so many different ways.

Saturday was a very fun ride – it was the first time I’ve really been able to let him actually work for any period of time without having to worry about the footing or about him acting up because other horses were around (I’ve mentioned that it’s the season of the Spring Sillies, for some reason these sillies are more pronounced when others are riding). It was a beautiful sunny day, 85% of the snow was melted, 95% of the puddles (lakes, really) had been absorbed back into the ground, and I was the only person riding. With Corona having been off for so long over the winter, we have only been doing small bouts of trotting, and I haven’t even tried cantering. Don’t get me wrong, we have cantered, but it wasn’t me who asked for it (Spring Sillies). Saturday graciously allowed us to do a few laps of trot around the track which I quickly realized was a bad idea – Corona looked more like a giraffe than a horse, and I looked more like…well, I’m not sure what I looked like, but I know it wasn’t pretty. Clearly the thought of a track was more than a Spring-Sillified-horse-just-getting-back-into-work could handle, so luckily his human had the brilliant idea of riding around the outside of the riding ring instead. To be honest, this only occurred to me after embarked down the longside of the track at a nice relaxed canter…canterallop…cangallop…full speed gallop with a nice airy buck thrown in for good measure. The rocket had launched!

Around the outside of the track, Corona relaxed and felt amazing once the initial, “oh my god, you’re really letting me TROT?!?” phase was complete. We did lots of transitions and flexion exercises and I made sure he was relaxed before asking him to change what he was doing. I even dared to ask for a few more short canters and he was brilliant. We had a fantastic ride and we both really enjoyed it. I think it’s safe to say that there are going to be a few more rocket launches in the cards before the Spring Sillies leave us, but realistically I can’t hold that against him.

We have a goal of attending our first schooling show on May 12, I wonder what the chances are of having the dressage show stewards announce, “and they’re off!” at the beginning of our class?! On second thought, that may not be a good thing…

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Don’t even try to hide the carrots!

5 Apr

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5 rides, 4 days!

2 Apr

The Easter Bunny came and delivered lots of horse-time this past weekend!

Friday:

I went out to the Boss’ only to find the Trainer there! I thought he was going to be gone…apparently not. He’s on his way out however, and that makes me happy. He wasn’t there any other day so I can’t really complain.

I continued with my groundwork on Corona and he was great. Like last time, there was no spooking at my stick & string and we seem to be learning the cues for hindquarter and forehand yields slowly but surely. His backing up is really improving and I even got to use it in a real-life uncontrolled scenario! Flash-forward to CG and I putting the horses out after our ride…I put Corona out first with Roller and CG was bringing out one of the racehorses. Rip charged through the gate (naughty!) but CG still had the lead on him, at the same time, Roller and Corona trotted up to him and chaos was about to ensue and the teeth were barred, butts were turning, and poor CG was not in a good place. I was standing at the gate and I yelled, “CORONA! BACK UP!!” and he actually listened to me! He backed up a couple of steps and didn’t lunge at Rip, I was so proud of him and this gave me warm fuzzies that our training is paying off.

Flash back to our ride – Corona was FRESH! All the horses have the springtime sillies right now. That, combined with the melting ice/snow that cracks under their feet on the track, makes for a bit of an uppity ride. CG was working with Grace, who was also super peppy, but since I had done groundwork with Corona first, she was almost done her ride by the time Corona and I started ours. Corona was good, we didn’t do too much due to the footing, but I have no complaints.

After the Boss’s, I headed over to TB’s to have another go on Amber. I’m pleased to report that I didn’t feel the need to apologize to the poor girl afterwards! Our ride was great – it started off a bit rough, but I worked on flexion and keeping her focussed on figures just at the walk, and then only when we were getting in tune with each other did I ask her for a trot. I was also fortunate enough to ride with a girl who leases TB’s fancy dressage show horse – he was second level champion and third level reserve champion this past season, so my jaw was on the floor as I watched him work. It was really inspiring to say the least. I was really chuffed afterwards as well as TB came to see us when we were done and Laura (the rider of fancy show horse) said that Amber and I looked fantastic out there. YES!!!!!!!!

Saturday

It was a horse-less day, went out of town to my bf’s family for Easter dinner…we did see lots of horses on our drive, but I have nothing to report about them…

Sunday

Started out the day at the Boss’ with CG. Continued groundwork with Corona and he was quite good considering the wind was howling and the horses in the paddocks were running around like maniacs. I managed to get some really nice hindquarter yields which made me very happy. I’m going to be focussing on the hindquarter yields as they are key to moving on to the exercises I have in store next J

After the groundwork, I tacked him up and we joined CG and Roller on the track. I focussed on getting Corona to pay attention to me at all times and we did lots of leg yielding, turns on the forehand, turns on the hindquarters, and shoulder-in. The footing was horrid – the snow and ice was melting, but it was just falling apart in chunks and literally collapsing from under us. I was so proud of Corona however, as a couple of times he as was walking about a foot from the edge of the “iceberg” and it just slumped down under him…the look on his face was priceless, he stopped dead in his tracks and just looked at his feet to see what the heck had just happened. No spooking! By this time, there were also quite a few puddles around, so I used them to my advantage and asked him to walk through them (he has been known to be finicky about water in the past), no problem!

I did a bit of trotting but the problem with the spring sillies is that it is contagious – when one horse has it, they all have it! We asked the horses to trot, Roller decided to canter, Corona subsequently thought he was a racehorse and that was the end of Zen-Horse. I settled him down and decided to go the opposite way of CG. Temper tantrum ensued with Corona squealing like a pig and launching himself in the air. Of course this was also the exact moment the Boss and her friend began watching us. Perfect. I managed to get a nice walk out of Corona and once he relaxed again, we called it a day.

After the Boss’s, I went to TB’s for a ride on Quinn. As always, he was a dream. He stood like a rock for me to get on and then once I was on, he began his moonwalk. I did a few corrections and once he stood still for a few seconds, I asked him to go forward. We had a great ride and worked on our canter. He is good at picking up his left lead, but won’t pick up his right. TB came in at the end of our lesson and got me to do an exercise where we pick up the left lead canter, canter the long diagonal, and then right before turning the corner, we trot and ask for the right lead. I still couldn’t get the lead, but this will be a good exercise to practice. On a very positive note, TB did comment about how my hands look much better and clearly I have been practicing!

Monday

I went out to the Boss’s again for some Corona time. The weather was horrible!!! The temperature had dropped to about -3 degrees and the wind was howling. There was debris flying around and even on the drive in, I could feel the wind blowing my car around. CG was there and we were going to ride, but then she had to leave early. I debated whether to ride, do groundwork or just have a spa day with Corona (he has the springtime muddies along with the springtime sillies)…I decided to ride because I wanted to see how calm Corona was in the bad weather with no other horses around. I’m glad I did, because he was great! There were a couple of spooks at a plastic feed bag blowing around, and a flock of crows, but otherwise he was pretty good. We did a bit of trot up the long side of the track where the footing was reasonable, and continued plodding through puddles which now covered one entire short side of the track. We were only out for about 30 mins, but I was frozen…my eyes were teary from the wind and it just wasn’t pleasant.

After our ride, I gave Corona a good grooming and he really seemed to love it. He was covered head to tail in mud, except for the parts his rain sheet covers. Before our ride, I had just brushed off the dry parts which luckily were where his girth lies. By the time we had ridden, most the mud was dry and Corona seemed to enjoy the pampering.

I’m pleased to report that there was no aggression on any of the 3 days…not for tacking up, not for untacking, not for brushing, not for anything! I wish every weekend could be four days long…only 4 days until the next one!

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