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It’s about time for an update

14 Aug

A lot has happened in my happy horse world over the last two weeks, and just when I thought things were under control!

First up – Amber. I had been riding Amber one evening and we had a fabulous ride. After we’d finished, I went to go and see TB to give her a progress update. We got chatting a bit and she asked me how my showing was going with Corona. I mentioned to her that my show season with him was over because I just didn’t think it was doing us any good. She then said, “Well, I’m sorry to hear that…actually I’m not really that sorry because I have a proposition for you! What if you took Amber instead?” I hadn’t ever really considered doing this, mostly because I only ride her once a week at the moment due to my Corona commitments. TB mentioned that she would give me free trailering, but I’d pay the entry fees. Seems fair to me. I told her I’d look at the schedule and see if there were any shows that might work.

She then proceeded to ask me what my plans were in the fall and about the details of my lease with Corona. I mentioned to her that Corona is pretty much like my own horse as I’m the only one who rides him, and that come the fall, the plan was that CG and I would take our horses from the Boss’ and they’d live out at CG’s hobby farm. Upon hearing this, she eluded to this foiling a plan that she was mulling over for me involving something with Amber. She wouldn’t tell me the details, apparently because she didn’t want to butt-in on my Corona plans. She then proceeded to tell me that at some point she wanted to give me a lesson on her horse (who is trained to 4th level dressage) as a thankyou for my work with Amber. Sweet! I’m still wondering what that proposition was though!

Murphy’s Law – Amber has been lame since this conversation. Horses! First TB thought it was an abscess, now it looks like maybe she had some stone bruising, so she got shoes on Monday. Hopefully she’ll recover quickly as I was planning on entering us in a show on September 2.

Next up – Corona.

I cannot say anything bad about Corona, he has been a wonderful and solid equine citizen. We’re still plugging away at our training and I’ve been allowed to take him up to the back hay field to work on our “hacking”. After I told the Boss about being done with showing for the year, a remarkable thing happened. She encouraged me to do one more show. I was somewhat dumbfounded as she normally looks for any excuse to try to get me to let her get rid of Corona. Don’t get me wrong, she still told me how he is an awful horse and I’m essentially wasting my time on an arsehole that gives me little in return, but at the same time, she encouraged me to try again. What has been even more interesting is that over the last week, she has given me suggestions about things I could try in the show ring if things start to go hairy. With this in mind, we’re going to another show on Saturday at the barn where Corona was born! I’m going there and looking at it as a training opportunity and nothing more. If Corona starts to melt down in the ring, I’m just going to stop him or do some transititions instead of trying to ride through it like I’ve been doing. I’m actually pretty excited about it to be honest.

Lastly – Plans thwarted.

CG told me last week that she and her husband are going to sell the farm. There are many valid reasons for this but I don’t want to post their business on here even if I only use code names! To be honest, part of me wondered if our plan was ever going to come to fruition, as I picked up on little red flags here and there along the way. CG also has decided that Roller is not the horse for her, but will ride him until a new home can be found for him. Oh – this reminds me – I don’t think I ever mentioned that as of about 6 weeks ago, SM gave up her lease on Ember and no longer rides.

I’m not quite sure what to make of all this. On one hand, I’ve very grateful CG & husband have had these realizations now before we set up shop at their place. On the other, I was looking forward to getting rid of the drama that comes with the Boss’ including the copius negative comments about Corona! As of right now, no decisions need to be made, we can carry on status quo, but I’m definitely going to think about what I want and how best to do that. Perfect scenario? I take Corona to TBs…her board is rather expensive however and I don’t think I’d be comfortable paying that much at the moment. I’ve been wondering if I could work something out with her, but I think I’ll sit tight for the moment and weigh my options.

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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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A photo shoot with Amber

19 Jun

Recall how back at the beginning of May I had that awful ride on Amber out at TB’s? Well, Monday was THE night that I got back in the saddle on Amber (I have been riding Quinn ever since). I was pretty excited to ride Amber again, mainly to see if the issues we experienced back in May could have been attributed to her being in a long and drawn out heat cycle.

Tacking her up we had no issues except for her trying to nab treats from someone’s bag. She was hesitant for any movement over her head, like when I would take off her halter or put on her bridle, but we got lots of practice since someone had borrowed her bridle so I had to put it on and take it off about 3 times to adjust it.

TB was there, along with her friend Anne who is a horse person and a professional photographer. As I was about to go into the arena, TB announced, “we’ll be right there, Anne is going to take some photos!” this was quickly followed by, “it may not be a good night for photos considering this horse hasn’t been ridden at all since the last time you rode her, but we’ll see how it goes!” My thoughts exactly.

Into the arena we went, where I mounted without issue and the warm up began, as did the photo shoot! Things were going really well but Amber was still quite fussy in the bridle. She flips her bottom lip when being ridden until she relaxes which can take anywhere from 10 minutes to half an hour or more. TB had a brilliant idea of seeing whether letting her canter might assist her in her relaxation – in particular since she’s an OTTB and at the track this is how they warm up. Given my one previous experience of attempting to canter her, my initial thought was, “oh sh&t!” but then I figured what the heck. I got up in two point (as much as I could with long dressage leg position) and asked for a canter. Superb! She was quick but extremely responsive so I just focussed on not getting in her way. We changed reins and I asked again, excellent! Then we tried it in full seat just to see how she would respond – the answer – with tension…so we’ll work on that. I asked for trot and TB’s brilliant idea turned out to be an “ah ha!” moment, Amber was SO much more relaxed. I could even put my right leg on her a bit stronger without her kicking out at it.

Anyways, I’ve uploaded some photographic evidence of our wonderful ride. You can see her flipping her lip in a couple of them and my leg in a funny position in a couple of them (avoiding putting it on her). You will also notice that I’m grinning like a fool in most – it was an excellent ride and this smile was not for the camera!

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One of “those” rides – the sequel!

7 May

I’ve been holding back writing this ride report…I think in part because I don’t enjoy re-living the horror!

It was a dark and stormy day and the wind was howling like a pack of wolves…not! It was a beautiful spring day that was calm and zen-like, until I started tacking up Amber. I put her in the aisle on x-ties and started grooming her and all was going well, when all of a sudden she took a notion to back up in a panic to the end of the x-ties, and then have a complete meltdown in the aisle, yanking the x-ties down and scaring herself silly! TB and a boarder were around and heard the commotion and asked what happened…didn’t even know what to say, I was shocked! I wasn’t even touching her at the time (so it’s not like I hit a sore spot while grooming), it literally seemed to have come out of the blue. We calmed Amber down and TB declared, “no more x-ties for Amber!” As we were talking about it, I then found out that there used to be a girl who rode Amber there who was asked not to come back, I’m not clear on why, but there was an “incident” that was eluded to and apparently since then, Amber has occasionally freaked on x-ties! I felt really bad because had I known this, maybe I could have prevented it. I was never told not to x-tie her, and the first time I rode her, TB was with me when I tacked her up and we had her on x-ties. The positive – Amber doesn’t need x-ties to stand like an angel – Corona could learn from her!

Putting on the bridle was another cause for concern. I guess she was still a bit panicky over the x-ties, that when I put the reins over her head, she started to get on edge again and started backing up. I decided to take the reins back over her head so that was nothing to restrict her (it was like she was claustrophobic) and then of course I couldn’t get them back over her head without her getting antsy. A solid 15 minutes later with lots of calm praise and slow movements, and I had the bridle on her and she was relaxed.

Oh wait, I forgot the other incident…while I was tacking her up, the boarder put her young green mare in the (other set) of x-ties in the aisle. I needed to get past to get to the tack room so I talked to the horse, put my hand on her as I went by and just as I was at her hip, she kicked out at me!!!! It missed me by an inch, and it wasn’t a little cow kick, it was a full on karate kid kick. I stopped dead in my tracks, looked at the owner who saw the whole thing and all I could say was, “is she better on the other side?”

Back to Amber…got on her no problem, we started riding with the boarder and her horse-that-hates-me. I was warming Amber up with lots of walking patterns and then TB comes in to watch us. ***Spoiler Alert It turned into the most horrific ride yet and I just wanted to crawl under a rock. ***

Amber was agitated and nervous in general, looking back, it’s safe to say that I was probably nervous too. TB wanted me to try cantering Amber because she has a wonderful “lope-like” canter. I haven’t been cantering her because a) I wanted to build a solid relaxed/calm state of walk/trot before moving on to canter and right now, it’s not consistent enough for my liking and b) I also haven’t been too certain how to best ask her to canter because of her funny issues with leg (i.e.: that if you use leg, she kicks) so I wanted to wait until TB was there to watch. I guess this was the day. I asked whether I should adjust my normal “ask” to accommodate Amber’s leg issues, and TB said no….so I asked…we took off around the arena full tilt with lots of kicks and bucks thrown in for good measure. Of course, boarder and horse-that-hates-me were standing in the middle of the arena watching this unfold (thank god they saw where this was headed and quit for the day). As this was happening, all I could call out was, “is she better in half-seat???!!!” Nope. We came back to walk and tried again. Nope. Tried the other direction. Nope. You know it’s not going well when all that’s said is, “well, you’re going to have a really strong seat by the end of this!” and, “Turn her nose to your toe!! More!!! More!!!”

It finally ended…I got some nice trots after the “canter” and called it quits. The kicker was when TB said, “maybe you should ride Quinn next time so that you can get your confidence back.”

Uuugggghhhh….

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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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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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