Archive | July, 2013

Ah- ha moment?

22 Jul

I’ve just returned from a mini- vacation from New York City where, aside from being a tourist, I have come to horse-related “ah-ha!” moment with respect to Corona.

It began last Sunday (July 14th) in Corona and my 3rd show of the season. We had been to the venue the past 2 years and never had any big issues, so I took the opportunity to enter us in our normal Training Level classes, and then also enter us in our first ever First Level class. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try something new considering that all of our schooling has been going beautifully and the fact that he has been to the venue previously.

He loaded into the trailer like the little champion he is – and for the first time ever he didn’t even hesitate at all. He didn’t need any incentive, he just said, “sure mom!” That, in itself was a winning moment.

It was stinking hot – like the rest of the east coast of the States and Canada, we were in the depths of a heat wave. With the humidex, it was 39 degrees Celsius.

We arrived with plenty of time to spare as CG was riding in two classes before Corona and I even got started. Corona was a gem and stood like a gentleman under the trees and we watched the other riders compete in their classes.

I eventually tacked him up and took him to the warm up ring to prepare for our first test. Things were going well until Roller (now finished his classes) began to call for Corona. There was whinnying back-and-forth and it was getting more and more difficult to keep Corona’s attention on me. I could feel him getting more and more tense and our nice relaxed trots were turning into the runaway freight train variety with plenty of spooks thrown in for good measure. I tried to ride him through it and then tried a different approach. I walked him, I asked him to stretch long and low for me and did a lot of flexion exercises at the walk. This seemed to work wonders and I could feel him begin to come back to me. After about 10 minutes, I asked him to pick up trot again – it was beautiful. I asked for a canter – wonderful. I asked for another trot and asked him to stretch long and low on a 20 meter circle – phenomenal. We were told we were on deck so I brought him closer to the ring and we continued our relaxed walk figures.

When it was our turn to head to the ring, the runaway freight train returned instantly. The footing around the outside of the ring was horrible – despite it not having rained in about 2 weeks, one side was about 5 inches of mud. As we were going around the outside of the ring waiting for the bell to ring, Corona was not a happy horse. There was a monster at A (no idea what) that was going to eat Corona. As we approached the judges booth, I was told they were going to take a quick break because the previous rider had complained about a big rock in the ring at B. Off the stewards went into the ring to dig up this rock. They couldn’t get it. Out came a crow-bar, the rock wouldn’t budge. All of this commotion was doing nothing to help me settle freight-train-horse so I did a big circle that was between the show ring and the warm up area. He began to settle. Then out came the tractor to try and dig up this rock-turned-boulder. The tractor didn’t bother Corona but the clanging of the metal on rock was not of benefit to us. After about 10 minutes, they freed the rock and we were back in business. They didn’t move the rock away, so the judges asked me if I’d like to ride past it. I said yes. Corona didn’t care about the rock, but he definitely still had not forgotten about the monster at A.

The bell rang and we picked up our trot and as we turned into the ring at A, Corona bolted forwards, head up, like a firecracker. I was quite pleased at my ability to keep him straight, and we halted at X. Our test continued and it was the worst test I’ve ever ridden. Corona was mentally checked out for 95% of it, he wouldn’t go near A and we were doing side pass at the canter across the short side anytime we had to go by A. I had one good trot circle where he was relaxed and at the exact moment I thought to myself, “excellent!” the bull in the china shop returned. At one point, a truck with the hay delivery arrived up the lane right beside the ring. This added to the chaos in the ring and I just felt absolutely terrible for Corona because this really was the icing on the cake. We finished our test and as we passed the judge, she said to me, “you both survived – that was well ridden, but…you know”. We scored a 47.5%.

I untacked Corona since we had about an hour and a half before our next two classes. I put a fly sheet on him and we hung out by the ring again. All of a sudden, Corona began kicking out – a wasp (or something) had somehow got under his fly sheet and I’m pretty sure he was stung. I pulled his sheet off but there was no calming him. He continued kicking up at his stifle and no amount of rubbing or soothing was helping. I walked him around as that seemed to help relax him but it was of little help. Nobody could see any welt or anything, but I can’t think of anything else that would cause such a reaction. Since we had to wait for CG to ride her final class, we kept walking and I decided to scratch Corona from our last 2 classes. I felt like a complete failure but given the big picture, I don’t think it would have been a good idea to continue. I’ve been working so hard to keep him relaxed that I didn’t want to jeopardize the progress we had made even further by asking him to go into the ring again when he was so mentally checked out and clearly was uncomfortable.

We had to wait around for the final scores to be posted from CGs last class so by the time we left, Corona was back to his old self. He loaded again without issue and was perfectly relaxed when we got home. I checked again to see if I could see any welts, and there was nothing.

I was talking to my parents afterwards (they are not horse-people in the slightest) and my mom said something to me that gave me this “ah-ha” moment, she said, “I just don’t think Corona likes going to shows”.

This has made me reconsider things. The only reason I show is because it’s (normally) a fun outing and gives me something to work towards. However, this year, 2/3 shows have been absolute disasters. Last year I had 1/3 that were disastrous, same as the previous year. The disastrous label always comes as a result of the exact same issue – Corona freaking out in the ring. Could it be that he just doesn’t enjoy it? I feel like I’ve put in a good effort with him re: shows but maybe we won’t ever get to the point where he will be relaxed. I know I shouldn’t compare us to others, but you get to know other riders/horses on the circuit and I can honestly say that I’ve never noticed any others with this issue. Sure, some people have an off day here and there, but maybe they earn a score of 58% instead of their normal 65% and it’s a one-time thing, and they score lower because their halt isn’t square or they picked up the wrong lead. This isn’t the case with Corona and I.

I realize I’ve mentioned the bad footing, the whinnying from Roller, the rock, the hay truck, as factors that contributed to this, but this sort of thing has happened multiple times before when none of these things were factors. Then there are times where there are things like whinnying, wind, rain, dogs, etc where he is perfectly fine.

I’m contemplating the idea of taking the money I was going to use for shows and putting it towards lessons instead. I think it may be more beneficial to Corona and I than the shows are. Part of me feels like I’m quitting, but the other part of me wonders if I’m making things worse by taking him to these shows and putting him in an environment where he freaks out so badly. Food for thought!


Liebster Blog Award!

10 Jul

Now that I finally have some time to work on this, I’m thrilled to say that I was nominated twice for a Liebster Blog Award! Thankyou to Emily at From the Horse’s Mouth and to Brianna at Journey of a Dressage Student for the nominations!

As part of the award, I’m supposed to list 11 random facts about myself, so here’s what I’ve come up with:

1. I’ve been vegetarian for the last 6 years.

2. I love travelling and in 2007 climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, and in 2010 hiked the Inca Trail in Peru.

3. I lived in rural Kenya for three months (complete with no electricity and a toilet hole!) while participating in an environmental internship.

4. I have 2 cats, one which I adopted from the Humane Society (Simba) and the other who was dumped at the side of the road at the barn (Sunshine).

5. My boyfriend and I are in the process of shacking up (haha) and he will be adding his cat (Sadie) to the mix!

6. I live in the suburbs and have a birdfeeder in my backyard, which gets frequented by an array of birds, my favourite being a pair of ducks.

7. I love watching the Real Housewives series…like, a lot.

8. I also love watching the Millionaire Matchmaker.

9. I was accepted into the environmental science and fine arts programs at university, I chose environmental science.

10. Cream in coffee makes me nauseous, although I love all things creamy.

11. I have no idea how to properly use WordPress, notice how the photos are always at the bottom of the post?!

Here are my answers to Emily’s questions:

1. What are your colors for you and your horse?

Either royal blue, or red…I wanted it to be orange but I couldn’t find any nice orange saddle pads.

2. Do you have any random talents?

My shoulders/arms are pretty flexible, makes for a good party trick sometimes!

3. What is your biggest pet peeve?

People who don’t say “excuse me” when they want past you, and people who don’t hold the door for you.

4. Who is your equestrian idol?

Pat Parelli

5. Do you like to read? If so, what was the last good book you read?

I like to read, but never seem to have time to do it. I read a book called “Desire and Ice” which is about a guy climbing Mt. Denali and loved it.

6. What is your most embarrassing horse moment?

Probably my recent episodes at TB’s with Amber freaking out, TB seeing it all unfold and me standing there like a dummy.

7. Do you have any random obsessions?

I love buying toilet paper on sale…I literally have 72 double rolls stockpiled in my house. The sales are so amazing on TP that I cannot fathom ever buying it when it’s not on sale.

8. If you could be friends with anyone famous, who would it be?

Pat Parelli!

9. Favorite song at the moment?

I don’t know who sings it, but there’s an acoustic version of “Somewhere over the rainbow” that I’ve heard a couple times and LOVE.

10. What is your horse’s favorite treat?

I made home-made treats for him at xmas and he flipped over them.

11. Post your favorite picture of your horse .

Posted below.

And here are my answers to Brianna’s questions:

1. How do you manage to fit riding into your life?

Schedule, schedule, schedule!

2. If you could train with anyone for one year, who would it be and why?

Pat Parelli.

3. What is your dream job (horse related or otherwise)?

Being a horse trainer of troubled horses who were getting their last chance with a success rate of 100%

4. What has been your biggest disappointment when riding?

Having Corona blow his mind at shows and run around like a giraffe on speed.

5. What has been the happiest achievement in your riding?

Pretty much when I think of how obnoxious Corona was when he first arrived to where he is now – everything from his new found relaxation, to him standing still for more than 3 seconds, to him happily stretching.

6. Tell me about your favorite horse.

I have a horse-loving problem, I just love them all. I will honour Jackpot (RIP) in this answer though. He was a 10-yr old Standardbred ex-pacer who had won over $300k for during his lifetime. His sire was in the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame and actually attended his own entrance celebration. He was the first horse I rode at the Boss’ and he was the go-to for any friends that arrived at the barn. He was never truly sound but he was happy. Last fall I arrived at the barn and he was gone, he had been sent for meat to make a quick buck off his life. I’m sickened every time I think about it.

7. Does your family support your riding and if so, how and if not, how do you deal with it?

They are supportive, but they don’t understand the obsession and are terrified of horses themselves. I deal with it by picking and choosing which details I share with them. They do howeve, always come out to competitions to show their support!

8. Tell me about your biggest “aha” moment.

When I realized that horse people can be just as full of sh*t as everyone else and that in 90% of cases, “facts” are merely “opinions”.

9. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I have no idea – I love Ottawa but could do without such an extended winter!

10. Describe your dream horse (price is no object).

I’ve always loved Oldenburgs, but I also love paints – an oldenburg x paint cross gelding with one blue eye and a bald face that is 16.3hh and is super affectionate and follows me around like a puppy but is also very happy on his own.

11. What is your favorite horse items (tack or apparel)?

I love my summer riding tights (Elation brand).

I’m also supposed to nominate 11 bloggers and ask them 11 questions, but I’m way late to this game and all the blogs I read have already been nominated!


The past 2 weeks!

9 Jul

Long time, no write!

It’s probably easiest if I just put things into bullet format in an effort to keep the babbling to a minimum!

Amber (1):

· Had a rather awkward Amber moment last week out at TB’s. As I’ve mentioned previously, Amber has a bit of a pulling back issue so she cannot be tied. No problem, she stands like a dream without being tied.

· Last week I was taking her out to the dressage ring to ride and TB was opening the series of gates while I ran down my stirrups etc. I saw that TB had missed the main ring gate, so I took Amber over to it (still not mounted). I have no idea what happened to startle her, but she flipped out and pulled backwards, seemingly out of nowhere. I was caught by surprise so my first reaction was to hold her and say “whoooaaa”, which did nothing. She continued to back up so I just let go because I actually thought she might strike out at me with her front feet. She took off and bucked like mad, reins flipped over her head, and all I could think of was a) what the eff happened to warrant this? and b) oh shit, what if she damages TB’s gazillion-dollar saddle and c) I’m pretty sure I will be asked not to come back here.

· After about 30 seconds, she stopped, so I walked over to her calmly, took her reins and walked her around a bit.

· TB saw the whole thing and said to me, “what do you do when a horse pulls back like that?!” I looked at her, somewhat stunned and said..” I’m not really sure…let her go?” I was then informed that I should have kept a hold of her and kept moving backwards with her so that she didn’t feel any resistance. Fair enough, I’ll know for next time.

· I felt really terrible about it because TB was clearly upset – you know when you can tell someone is holding back because their voice trembles? Yep, that’s what I was faced with. She then walked away for a few minutes while I got on.

· I don’t really know TB very well so I’m not sure how to take her sometimes. Fair – I didn’t do what I should have in that situation, however I have never been in a situation like that before either and it all happened so fast that my first reaction is just instinct. In retrospect, I don’t think TB was upset with me per se, I think she was upset that the horse freaked out and was upset because her horse was upset.

· Surprisingly, Amber and I had a really great ride that day and she was extremely relaxed.

· I made a point of apologizing to TB afterwards and she told me that it was okay and that we all have to learn that lesson some time, she had to learn it too.

· I cried the entire way home.

Amber (2):

· I rode her again last night and she was incredibly relaxed, probably one of the best rides I’ve had on her yet.

· She offered to go long-and-low for me within about 15 mins, which is incredible given that it normally takes her about 15 minutes to settle.

· Murphy’s Law struck and of course TB was not around to see any of this, but two of the boarders were so I know I’m not crazy.

· TB texted me later to see how things went and I told her of our successes and she was really pleased saying that we should have another photo and video session soon.

Corona (1):

· I don’t think I’ve mentioned before about the hacking situation at the barn. There is a nice quiet road to hack on fairly close to the barn, but in order to get there, you have to go down a busier country road. I hate going down this road for two main reasons, 1) there are some real asshole drivers who do not slow down or give you extra room, 2) and the end of the road, there are some rather “trailer trashy” type houses that have so much junk in their yards and who don’t think not to turn on their chainsaws/rev their engines/throw garbage around while you ride by. It’s not a matter of them not seeing you, I make an effort to say hello when I go by, they just don’t realize/or care.

· I sucked it up for a long time, but it got so bad that I’m actually terrified to go down this road and haven’t hacked down there for at least a year. The thought of it makes me sick to my stomach. I can’t help but think that Corona will spook at something and jump into traffic and we will get hurt.

· I should note here that Corona is actually very good with traffic, even when people come a bit too close for my liking he is well behaved.

· Corona is not 100% good when it comes to motorcycles (loud, roaring engines, even when they slow down) or bikes, and he does look and/or spook at the yards filled with Christmas ornaments in July / dogs lunging on their chains / wood being thrown around / etc.

· The problem arises when the non-horse-friendly drivers occur at the same time as the spooks.

· I’ve wanted to work on our confidence up the road for a while now, but it literally makes me nauseous. On Sunday, CG and I decided to start the process. My goal was to get about 200m up the road. We did this no problem and conveniently the neighbour decided this was an excellent time to get on his ride-on lawnmower as well, the horses looked and were hesitant but were good about it. Once we got to our “target” we crossed the road, heading towards home. We decided to go past the Boss’ driveway and walk another 150m or so. No problem. I wanted to do the circuit again so off we went. As we were heading back to the Boss’s, I saw that a cyclist was coming. Excellent timing as we were just arriving at the Boss’s driveway. We stopped the horses and turned and faced the cyclist. Corona became a giraffe, but I stayed calm and talked to him, said hello to the cyclist in hopes that Corona would realize there was a human on that bike, and that was that, no spook. He got lots of praise. We did another circuit. As we were heading towards home, there was a truck coming towards us, no problem. I kept checking distances and saw that 2 motorcycles had passed the truck and were approaching us from behind travelling rather quickly. I had hoped that we would have made it back to the Boss’ driveway but they were coming on too fast. Neither slowed down AT ALL and both Corona and Roller jumped out of their skins. We settled them down and asked for another circuit. We made sure to end on a good note.

Corona (2):

· It’s official – we both love the loose-ring French link bit. Why didn’t I switch sooner?!

· Our 3rd show is this coming Sunday.

· In addition to the normal training level classes, I’ve also entered us in our 1st first level class!

· The first level test requires lengthening at the trot and canter, as well as 10m half circles, and 15m canter circles.

· I think the trickiest part of the test is that there is less time between movements – I’m really going to have to work to keep Corona’s attention and focus.

· CG has offered to call the test for me on show day, so that makes me less nervous about forgetting the sequences.

Corona (3):

· I just love him .


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