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Corona goes French…

20 Jun

Tonight I decided to switch up Corona’s bit. Since he arrived, I’ve ridden him in a single jointed eggbutt snaffle. Tonight I switched him to a loose ring french link. My reasoning for switching was threefold:

1. If I were a horse with a bit in my mouth, I think I would appreciate a double jointed bit;

2. I’m hoping that having something that moves a bit more in his mouth will assist him in relaxing;

3. I’ve been wanting to switch for about a month now but wanted to see what the Boss thought, as I’m no bit expert. Then, the other day she suggested it after we were discussing Corona’s tendencies to “fiddle” with things while being ridden.

Tryout 1 went really well, he felt super soft and light in my hands and was much quieter than normal. I’m anxious to give it a few more goes before I determine whether it was coincidence or not….

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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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Show #2 is on the horizon

13 Jun

Corona and I are busy prepping for our second show of the season on Saturday. The ride times have now been finalized and they are very civilized (10:42 am and 1:19pm for me), the weather is supposed to be sunny and 26 degrees and I’m looking forward to getting out there with my noble steed!

I’ve continued to work on trailer loading and unloading with Corona, and he’s been super. We’ve also been having some really good rides and I’m confident that we’re show-ring ready. We’ve had a couple of rides where there have been quite a few distractions (riding with new horses, riding in the ring while others are being ridden on the track, dogs running around, people watching, etc) and he’s stayed calm and focussed 98% of the time. I’m hoping his calmness and attentiveness will carry forward into the ring on Saturday.

We’ve had quite a bit of rain here over the last week and each time I see Corona, he is absolutely covered head-to-tail in mud. Conveniently for CG, Corona’s turnout buddy Roller is always immaculate and shiny when he comes in…since the horses are turned out at night, needless to say I’ll be arriving to the barn early on Saturday morning to allow for a substantial amount of grooming time before we have to leave.

Added to the regular nerves I have about the show, there’s a chance that Corona’s old owner (CC) may be in attendance. She teaches at the barn that’s holding the show and I know that the Boss has told her that we’ll be there. CC is a very accomplished horseperson but to be honest, she is rather scary. I wouldn’t say she is mean (although others would argue this!) but she can be intimidating and no-nonsense. CC and the Boss go way back to when CC was a kid, and the Boss considers her like a daughter. For whatever reason, I think it would be amazing to show CC what a great horse Corona has become. He wasn’t a bad horse when he arrived, but he was super high strung, and he’s just so much more relaxed and happy now. I’d love to ride a good test in general, but it would be extra rewarding to ride a good test infront of CC.

All this being said, my fingers crossed for a Zen-filled Saturday. Once again I’m aiming for scores in the 60’s, no injuries for horse or human, and good behaviour throughout!

Success with my steed!

6 Jun

Corona and I have been having quite a bit of fun lately, and I feel like a breakthrough was made when I decided “no more x-ties!” I’m not swearing them off completely, as I’m sure there’ll be some instances where he’ll be on them (ex: for the blacksmith etc.), but I’m making a concerted effort to not use them at all right now. Up until last weekend, I’d never had to contend with having dogs/people around while working on this, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when more distractions / excitement/ dogs (Corona hates dogs) were added to the mix. Last weekend, CG came to the barn with her 2 dogs, Gus- who is quite well-mannered around the horses and who is terrified of Corona (but not the other horses) and Meesha – who is relatively new and can be considered non-horsified. Since their doggie friends were out to visit, the Boss also had her three dogs out. Of the dogs, only one is a small dog (sheltie), the other 4 are medium to large (German shepherd, lab/Burmese mix, springer spaniel and a border collie). When all five of them run around, it’s like a circus and they haven’t quite mastered the art of staying outside and not running though the barn like a pack of hooligans at any given moment.

I had Corona in the aisle and was grooming him while keeping a close eye out for any dog-attacking thoughts to enter his mind. I had wondered if all the excitement would make him dance around in the aisle, but he was so well-behaved!!! He gave stink eye a couple of times, and he had an indiscretion where he actually lunged at Meesha, however, a) she stood in front of him and barked at his face and b) after he surged forward, he jumped right back into place where he was supposed to be even before I had finished yelling, “no!”

Once we had tacked up, CG and I had a nice relaxing ride with both Gus and Meesha. It was really interesting because the entire time, Gus was trying to teach Meesha the proper riding etiquette. Any time she would get out of line (getting too close to the horses, trying to chase them etc.) he would pull rank on her and put her in her place. I think having a relaxed ride with both the horses and the dogs was a good idea as it let them get used to each other and allowed for any necessary corrections to be made a lot easier than if we had been having a more formal schooling session.

The past few rides, I’ve been taking Corona’s saddle off and riding bareback for our cool-down. He’s surprisingly comfortable even though he has a really high wither and isn’t the chunkiest of horses. He actually seems to enjoy it as well as I find he’s very eager to stretch down and just relax without a saddle. This has made me question whether his saddle isn’t comfortable, but I’m pretty sure it fits him correctly and I haven’t noticed any issues previously. Maybe my seat bones are like a nice massage on his back?!?

After our ride on Sunday, I convinced CG to give bareback a try on Roller and she reluctantly did it. Once she was on she was happy about it, but I think she had some reservations about even being able to get on him without the assistance of stirrups (he’s rather high). Once she was on, I then convinced her to try trotting and she collapsed in fit of laughter as Roller picked up the trot. It was quite funny to watch and I think CG has added “practice sitting trot” to her “to do” list.

I rode again last night, this time with one of the Boss’ friends (M) who trucks in her young horses to the Boss’ property sometimes. We had a good ride and I found it good to ride with unfamiliar horses as it allowed me to practice getting and holding Corona’s attention. He did very well and M even said how well-behaved he was, i.e.: “Did he even notice the new horse? All mine wanted to do was go and say hi and yours just ignored!” M said this in front of the Boss and I was beaming in my proud horse-mama fashion. M and the Boss were talking about how M’s horses don’t really stand still and run around giraffe-like sometimes since they’re so green…And then it happened. The Boss said, “Corona used to be like that, but now he’s good and will stand still”. WHAT????? A COMPLIMENT????? ABOUT CORONA???????? Sure it’s not like she said he should go in the Horse Hall of Fame, but it means a lot considering she wanted the horse put down 2 months ago and she only ever tells me what an @sshole he is. It didn’t even stop there. After M left, I was saying how well behaved Corona was and then the Boss said, “Yes, he was good.” Lightning struck twice in one night! Time for me to buy a lottery ticket!

And just to save the best for last – recall the trailer incident of 2 weeks ago – the one where Corona wouldn’t load and ended up galloping around the track? Well, I’ve been working on this in hopes that loading for the show on the 15th will be a bit less chaotic. On our way out to the field after our ride, I stopped by the trailer for some practice. Who loaded 3 times in a row with only 1 mild hesitation? That’s right, Corona – my vote for the next inductee into the Horse Hall of Fame!!!!!

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.

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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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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