Archive | May, 2013

C is for Contentment

30 May

Yep, those eyes are closed! Have I mentioned how much I love Corona?!?!

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Quinn-tastic!

29 May

Since I haven’t written about my adventures with the foster horses in a few weeks so I thought I’d devote a post to them.

I haven’t been back on Amber since that terrible ride I wrote about here https://pacesandtails.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/one-of-those-rides-the-sequel/. Originally I was planning on just riding Quinn once, but then we had such a nice ride that I rode him again last week, and then again on Monday. Also, the vet was coming out last week to give Amber a look over to see if there was any medical reason for her odd behaviour so I wanted to wait until I heard the results just incase. The good news, is that there’s nothing wrong with her! The vet thinks that maybe she released a large egg this cycle and it caused her some discomfort (forgive my terminology, I’m used to geldings!).

As I’ve mentioned before, after my show with Corona on May 19, I was having a bit of a pity party for myself and feeling a bit down about my riding capabilities based on his behaviour in the ring. I wasn’t really looking forward to riding Quinn the next day, but I felt obliged to go out since I hadn’t been able to get out there the previous week. I tacked Quinn up and took him to one of the outdoor rings for the first time. The ring is right at the front of TB’s property, directly in front of her front porch, but there’s lots of trees and bushes hiding the front porch so it’s not terribly obvious if someone is sitting outside watching you. I was having a great ride, doing lots of figures, working on flexion, leg yields and transitions and Quinn was being fabulous. Out of the bushes I heard TB yell, “he looks great! Very springy! Are you going to canter him?” I guess she had been watching the entire time and I didn’t even know. We cantered left and did a couple laps of the ring and some circles, but I couldn’t get him to pick up his right lead no matter what I tried. This is now my mission with him – right lead canter. I actually don’t think anyone has got it with him based on my understanding from TB but she assures me that she’s seen him canter right in his field so he can do it.

After I’d finished up, TB came over and reiterated how good Quinn looked and how my aids were bang on the entire time and how impressed she was. I would have been flattered on a good day, but I think with the self-doubt that had crept up from the show the day before, this was exactly the kind of pep-talk I needed!

As a cool down, I took Quinn up to the big field at the back of TB’s property where she has some x-country jumps and galloping track. We had to negotiate some horse-eating monsters (haying equipment), but it was a nice change of scenery. It was really humid that day and the track went by the forest so the bugs were insane. We had to turn back early because both Quinn and I were absolutely covered in mosquitos despite our bug spray.

I rode Quinn again on Monday night and we had another fantastic ride. He was feeling pretty good and was full of beans compared to his normal self. We have some more training to do at the “mounting block” as it took about 5 minutes of positioning and repositioning before I could get on. In the outdoor rings, there aren’t “real” mounting blocks the way there are in the arena. I was trying to use an upside down milk crate so I think that had something to do with it. Every time I’d move the crate beside him, Quinn would step away with his hind end or back up. I thought maybe he needed some time to investigate the crate, so I let him have a good sniff and mouth it. Eventually, I was able to get on and I decided to include some standing still work into our lesson.

After our ride, TB asked me if it would be ok for her to take some photos next time I rode Quinn. She wants to get on with marketing him to his forever home as he really is ready. It would be sad to see him go, but also a happy occasion and what the whole point of this is. I know that he could make someone a wonderful partner, and also it would mean another horse in need could then come to TB’s.

A shining moment of accomplishment

23 May

I am a gushing horse-mama, I am so proud of Corona!!

I went to the barn last night after work. By the time I arrived, the horses had been turned out for the night. I walked over to the field where Corona and Roller get turned out and they were both at the opposite end grazing to their heart’s content. I whistled at the gate and they both looked up and ignored me, the delicious grass was clearly more appealing than I was. I started to open the gate to go into the field and at that moment Corona decided to abandon his grass-guzzling frenzy and he cantered over to me! I’ve never had him canter over to me – ever. There have been a couple times when he’s mooched over or trotted over, but last night he came over so eagerly that it really was something else to behold.

I brought him into his stall and put on his rope halter as we were going to do some groundwork a) because I love groundwork, b) because he was caked in wet mud and there was defintely not going to be any riding going on and c) to switch things up after our focus on preparing for the dressage tests of last weekend.

We went into the coverall and started with some friendly game, followed by the porcupine and driving games, then the yo-yo and then circling. I was getting some really nice responses but I definitely have to do some DVD-review to up our games. For the first time, I also introduced the sideways game and I was completely shocked at how quickly Corona seemed to get it. We played around the mounting block as well, as I’d like to start working on mounting from both sides. There is some definitely hesitation from Corona to have someone standing on the mounting block on his right side. Right now, he won’t stand square and tends to walk forwards or move his hindquarters over. After a few attempts however, I was able to stand on the mounting block and lean on his back from the right side.

Over the last few months, I’ve been putting Corona on x-ties in the barn when I’ve been working around him (previously I’d work on him in his stall but that stopped when he began being aggressive). He’s pretty well behaved on x-ties, but he has this habit of tossing his head up and down – it’s like a nervous tick and he’s done it since he arrived. The previous owner told us about it and said how they tried a variety of things to try to get him to stop, but were unsuccessful. I’ve never liked that he’s done it, because I know that he does it out of stress, but I have noticed that he has improved a bit since first arriving, and he tends to do it less after being worked. To be honest, I somewhat just accepted that it’s one of his quirks and hoped that with time, he’s just do it less and less until it stopped. Over the last few weeks, when I’ve been finished with him on the x-ties, I’ve been unclipping him and asking him to stand still for a few minutes at a time before turning him out. He’s done quite well and has responded to my corrections (ie: backing him up using the porcupine game when he walks forward).

Last night, I decided that I wasn’t going to put him on x-ties at all. I was going to take this “standing still” game up a notch and do it while I brushed him. This horse blew my mind. He stood like a gentleman the entire time and I hardly had to correct him at all. I couldn’t believe it. At first, I held the rope, but he was doing so well that I lay the rope over his back. I brushed him and brushed him and brushed him…then I picked out all of his feet and he didn’t move an inch! To say I was elated would be an understatement, I couldn’t believe how polite he was being….and…there was NO head tossing. None. Not even a shake! He was so relaxed…yawning, resting a hind leg, he was really just happily standing while I worked around him. Even when I fiddling with equipment beside him and not touching him, he was totally complacent. I gave him some carrots – no problem, no pushiness, no rude head butts, just standing still, happily embracing whatever I was doing.

I love this horse. A lot.

I took photos too…and have been staring at them with pride ever since!

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The first show of the season

22 May

The first show of the year has come and gone, and while there were some issues, there were also quite a few triumphs. Here’s a breakdown of the good, the great, the bad and the ugly! Warning – long post…

After I hit up the walk-in clinic on Saturday morning (no strep, no bronchitis, thank goodness!), I headed out to the barn. Corona, once again, was a gem to ride and I was really pleased with him. He got a nice bath, followed by more turnout as I got our stuff loaded in the trailer for the next day. I braided his mane, told him to be good and not rub it on anything and that was that.

Sunday morning I arrived at the barn by 6:45am, fed the horses and turned out the horses with the exception of Corona and Roller. Luckily the braids still looked good and I only had to pick out a few pieces of wood shavings. My first test was at 10:17am, so I wanted to leave the Boss’ by 8am to allow plenty of travel time and warm up time. Once we did a final check that everything was packed, we decided to load the horses. At this point the Boss tells us that we should load Corona first because Roller was not fond of her trailer the last time he had to ride in it (i.e.: when she brought him from his old home back in the fall). Corona isn’t a bad loader, but he can take some coaxing, and in the past we have always loaded him last because it helps to have another horse on board to coax him in. I brought him out on a long cotton line and up the ramp we went…and then stopped, and then pulled back. We did a small circle and tried again, same thing, except this time the bugger turned away from me on the ramp and decided to trot 180 degrees away from me, I held on as long as I could and had to let go…and he was off…galloping full tilt around the track, lead line trailing behind him. He did a lap, then was on his way back to our end when he cut through the space between the outfield and the grass ring so that we couldn’t catch him, then turned right so that he was coming towards us. Luckily he had slowed down at this point, but quickly dodged between CG, myself and the Boss on his way over to his field…only to find the gate was closed. Off he came towards us again and stopped. I caught him. The Boss was fuming and decreed, “Put the chain over his nose!” which I don’t like doing but decided to keep my mouth shut. We tried again and I didn’t realize that the Boss had tied the lunge line to the trailer so that they could rope it around his butt once he was part way in…had I known this I would have told her not to as I knew it would spook him….I was right…as soon as he stepped halfway into the trailer the 3rd time, they put the lunge around his butt. He was off the trailer like a shot, this time with the chain over his nose (hence why I don’t like having a chain over their nose!). Thank goodness he stopped about 20 ft. away and let me approach him. Fourth time was the charm and he loaded like a star. I stayed with him in the trailer while CG got Roller. After a bit of coaxing, Roller got in the trailer, but the Boss is unable to get the ramp up herself, so as I handed Corona’s lead to CG so that I could help her, Roller decided he was done and he started backing out. Roller is built like a tank. He pulled back and CG has the sliced up hand and rope burn to prove it. I think it was 2 more times before he loaded…at least Corona wasn’t the only naughty one…

It was now 8:25am and my Zen outlook of the day was starting to fade. I hate being rushed in horse-related things and I was determined to set myself up for success. Luckily, it didn’t take us as long as we thought to get to the show, and we arrived just after 9am. Zen outlook returned! CG and I checked in, unloaded our tack and then unloaded the horses. We were a bit worried that the horses were going to rush off the trailer after the loading experience, but they were nice and calm and we couldn’t have asked for more from either of them.

We got tacked up and headed to the warm-up ring. Corona was amazing again! There were about 4 horses in the ring at that time, along with their respective coaches/handlers/onlookers. I took my time and focussed on warming up using the same exercises we’d do at home and letting him have a good look around. He was responding willingly and only had a few minor spooks. 10:17 came and went but nobody came to tell me I was up, so I just kept riding. Then, a woman came over to me and said I was up…10 minutes ago! I think the people around me were equally as confused because normally there’s a whipper-in at shows who tells riders when to go to the ring / who is on standby etc. Regardless, I went to the ring, began walking around the outside and said hello to the judges. And here’s where it got ugly – Corona apparently did not like anything about that ring. I think we had at least 3 spooks just going around the outside then the judges rang the bell for us to enter and it all went to hell in a hand-basket. Our halt at X was non-existent, it was more of a halt-turned-backup-turned-side pass. Trotting towards C and turning left turned into a side pass down the long-side. Our 20 meter circles were more crescent-shaped than anything, our flexion was to the outside for 50% of the test because it was all I could do to keep Corona from veering into the middle of the ring. At one point as we were doing a canter to trot transition at K, I was certain we were going to jump the little white fence. Once the test was done, I actually felt the need to apologize to the judge for having to witness the atrocity, and luckily she laughed it off and said, “don’t worry about it, I see you have two more tests today.”

As if I didn’t feel shitty enough, the Boss made it worse. She asked me where my spurs were and I told her they were in the trailer. I haven’t been riding with spurs all year because I haven’t felt the need for them. The only reason I brought them to the show was because I knew the Boss would tell me to wear them. I told her that I haven’t been wearing them and the look on her face was that of disgust and disbelief, but all she said was, “you need them, you’ve tried being nice and now it’s time to get serious.” Me putting on spurs would not have remedied the issues of this test, and frankly why on earth would I put spurs on when I haven’t been riding him in spurs at all for the last year. She then told me that she’s never quite seen anything so terrible. Awesome, thanks Boss. I was biting my lip at this point because I thought I was going to burst into tears…I’m not stupid, I obviously knew the test wasn’t good, but I really didn’t appreciate anything about that conversation. In particular, and to add to my rant, I really don’t think the Boss should be telling me how to ride this horse considering that she’s watched me ride him all of 20 minutes in the last year.

My next test was at 11:10am so I went back into the warm-up ring. Once again, Corona was a dream. He didn’t spook at all, and he was going really well for me. Surprisingly, a whipper-in was now in attendance (where was she before?!) and I was told I was on-deck. The second test essentially went the same way as the first, but to less of an extreme. Corona was still spooky at the entire ring, but he was more attentive and I was able to get him back quicker after each spook. I noticed an improvement in his flexion and his response to my aids and we got our halts in this test. Definitely an improvement, which is really all I could have asked for after the first test.

There was a 2 hour break before my last test, so we let the horses graze by the trailer. The results from the first two tests were out so CG and I headed to the tents to see the damage. Not surprisingly, I ended up with a 52.92% in the first test and then a 56.25% in the second. Being a small schooling show, my 52% earned me 3rd place (out of 3), but my 56% earned me 3rd place out of 4! At least we improved from the first to the second test.

After our break, I tacked up Corona again but CG decided to wait a bit longer before getting Roller ready. I decided to venture to the warm-up ring solo and my lovely Corona didn’t put up a fuss at all. I was very proud of him, because this is the sort of silly thing that he would normally take issue with. We warmed up again and he was going the best he’d gone all day. He was relaxed and attentive, responsive and willingly did everything I asked of him. I was very happy to see that the Boss, and her ex-husband PM, were watching and they actually commented on how good he looked.

It was time for us to head to the ring for our last test and I was feeling really good about things. I wish I could say that we had a stellar performance, but unfortunately the same issues arose as the first two tests. Spook after spook after spook! Running around like a giraffe! The test called for a 20 meter canter circle at B, followed by a change of rein from HXF with a trot transition at X. Well, the circle was ok, but as we cantered by the judges booth at C, Corona had the biggest spook of the day (I have no idea what he saw), swerved to the inside, and I lost my left stirrup. At this point we had already crossed the centreline so I decided to track left again at M to set myself up for the change of rein at H. This lost me 2 points as I technically went off course. Funnily enough, as this was happening, I literally had a mental picture of being on the Canadian Equestrian Show Jumping Team in the gold medal Olympic jump-off, where the success of my team depended on me fixing this…I guess it worked because I kept him cantering the entire time while scrambling for my stirrup and I felt super secure in the saddle and ready for the next move.

We ended up getting a 51.6% in the last test…earning me 5th place out of 5! At least I improved from Test 1 to Test 2…

We packed up our things and loaded the horses, without incident, and headed home.

Overall I have mixed feelings about the day. I know that I was as prepared as I could have been for the riding portion of the day. I am at a loss as to what else I could have done, or what else I can do in the future, to remedy these freak-outs in the ring that Corona seems to have. I’ve considered bringing him as a spectator to shows, but it’s not a matter of him being nervous at shows in general because he’s cool as a cucumber everywhere except the show ring. At one point we were standing about 50 ft. away from the ring and he was having a snooze! The way I see it, the best thing I can do is to keep doing what I’m doing in hopes that eventually things will click and he’ll relax. We’ve had some good shows in the past, but there’s always been a bit of an issue with the rings. I’ve tried making the ring at the Boss’ more “show-like” but that doesn’t seem to make a difference either. As for the trailer issue – I’m going to work on loading so that it becomes a non-issue. Keeping in mind that this was the first time we’ve gone anywhere since last summer, I feel like some grace has to be allowed in these areas and we’ll see what happens at our next show on June 15th.

Suggestions are welcome…I’ve included a couple of photos from the day, including our super pimpin’ ribbons that make it look like we won some provincial championships or something!

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Being sick sucks.

18 May

In the true sense of inconvenience, here I am, the day before the show, sitting in a walk-in doctor’s clinic, that is supposed to open at 8am except the doctor hasn’t arrived yet.

Braiding actually seems fun right now.

I’ve had this “cold” for almost two weeks now and it’s getting worse instead of better. It’s the May long weekend so places are closed and all day yesterday, all I heard from people was, “whoa, you don’t look good!”

Super.

I believe the doctor has just arrived. It’s 8:21am.

So handsome!

17 May

He is so dashingly handsome in his new red halter!

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I know I can…

15 May

What a busy time this is – with the arrival of the nice weather, I was happily taking full advantage until a horrid cold slapped me silly last week! I’m still doing my best to take full advantage (as coincidentally my cold seems to disappear when I’m with horses!), but I did miss a ride on the weekend.

Just a quick update from my last entry – I rode Quinn last week, he was good, it was nice, we didn’t have any terrible moments. I haven’t been able to get out to TB’s this week as I’ve been too busy focussing on Corona as well as battling this cold. I will be riding Quinn again on Monday and then I plan on getting back on Amber until I need my next confidence booster.

Last Thursday was an off night with Corona. I’m not sure exactly why but I think it was due in part to the onslaught of mosquitos that were eating us both alive. He was agitated from the moment I got on and while he wasn’t misbehaving, he just wasn’t himself. We schooled in the ring and things were going fairly well until SM arrived and began filling old feed bags with manure for her garden. Apparently, Corona does not appreciate large white bags flapping around within 50 feet of him. The Boss was watching this unfold and then decided to come out and watch more intently. I did what I could to keep Corona focussed on me and he did calm down, but it was one of those things where he was just not going to get over it fully until the white bags were gone. I didn’t hold it against him, like I said, it was an off night.

Redemption came on Saturday when I rode with CG and SM. The mares have been moved from their normal field, to the in-field in the middle of the track. The Boss had re-seeded the riding ring so we had to ride on the track, which was fine. Several of the mares are in heat, so they were prancing around the fence line oogling at Corona and Roller and I’m pleased to say that Corona couldn’t have cared less! In fact, he was the best behaved out of the three of them! We had a really fun ride and practiced all sorts of transitions. What further impressed me was that Corona and I were often behind Roller and Ember; Corona prefers being the lead horse when out in a group and this has caused issues in the past with him getting over agitated when he’s in behind. On Saturday, he didn’t seem overly concerned for the most part so that was great and I’m hoping that we’ve had a breakthrough.

Last night, CG and I rode in the ring (don’t tell the Boss). We really needed to get some solid practice in for our first show which is coming up on Sunday! Once again, Corona proved to me what an awesome horse he is. Our halts were fantastic, our transitions were solid, he remained calm and relaxed and stayed straight, he even was consistent in his stretching forward and downward. I can’t get too ahead of myself because the issue that we have at shows is that he gets super wound-up and goes around like a giraffe in the show ring, but at least I’m confident that we are prepared in theory! The other good thing is that this show has three tests offered at Training level, whereas most shows only offer two. With it being our first show, I think this extra test will be beneficial in the sense that by test #3, Corona should be relaxed enough that we end the day on a positive note – of course, I’m aiming for all three tests to be relaxed, but what’s that saying, “hope for the best, but prepare for the worst”. In my rides, I’ve really tried to focus on what I can do to help the horse stay calm. I’ve been focussing on taking deep breaths and not being tense as well as rewarding him when he goes forward in a relaxed fashion. I know we can do an amazing dressage test, and I really want to be able to take what we can do at home, to an outside environment. I was watching some videos of our tests last year and the one thing that really stood out was that I tried to compensate for Corona’s tension by holding him back too much. I really have concentrate on keeping him going forward so that he doesn’t feel claustrophobic which exacerbates the tension. With that said, my goals for Sunday are as follows:

1) Keep horse moving forward with rhythm;

2) Stay calm, breathe, and smile;

3) I would like to achieve a minimum of 60% in each of the tests.

4) No injuries – I feel I need to say this one because the last show of last summer, I ended up with a broken finger! The summer before that, it was a fractured heel. So seriously, no injuries for me or the horse!

I’m planning on riding again tomorrow night and Saturday and will be further working on maintaining forward and rhythmic gates as well as cultivating the wonderful and relaxed horse that I know I have. I know I can, I know I can, I know I can…

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