Sunday, July 31, 2011

Really? Really?

First the truck went out.

Now the AC in my car is out, and it's going to cost twice as much as the truck. It'll be 110 on Tuesday. Which is not particularly survivable.

So I guess we are getting the truck fixed.

But the universe is now on notice:


Thank you. You may return to your activities.

(in other headlines: Had one nice day with the horses. Smokey was fab. Lily has kicked off a shoe. Mireya is nine as of Friday. The tarantula gave me a heart attack. Sierra is singing up a storm. Trainer wants me to do an endurance race in October. I'm thinking she's crazy.)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Are you game?

It's pretty hot here. In fact we are a testing site for scientists who are attempting to find a way to get a snowball to survive temperatures in hades.

So far they are having about the same success rate as the debt negotiations.

Anywho, I'm not up for any long adventures in this heat. Then the oil pump went out in our truck, so we aren't going anywhere for a while since apparently oil pumps require the removal of the ENGINE.

I tell you what, Detroit would be doing a lot better if they'd build cars we could still work on in our driveways. But I digress.

I've been admiring the journey Lisa is making with Apache and have been getting bored with my self imposed exile to the arena. While you can always do things in an arena, I just felt like I wasn't really doing anything. And I certainly can be working on cantering, but frankly it's too darn hot to get the horses hotter.

So I decided today to do a little game. I love doing games on horseback, but since I'm usually riding alone these days (sensible people are staying inside), I've been thinking of what games I can pull off.

Today we did the blue bag games. Basically I put random items in a blue bag and distributed them around the arena, on horseback, then rearranged them.

Interestingly, after one minor reaction from Smokey, he was all for it. So much so that he grabbed every item HIMSELF.

You never know. Some times there are cookies.

We don't do cookies for you. You're too lippy.

Mistakes can happen, ya know.

Riiight. So after Smokey flung about
the blue bag, his halter, Lily's boot, and
the crib sheet, we got to work rearranging them
in the arena. We even cantered a few straight
lines to make it more exciting.

I always make it exciting!

Generally by refusing to turn.

Hey, exciting is exciting.

Then it was Lily's turn. She was, well, less than enthusiastic.

I don't know where you get
these ridiculous ideas.
Here's a game for you -
Fill the Hay bag!

Again? I filled it 10 minutes ago.

Any way, Lily nearly came out of her
horseshoes, startling at everything.

Hey! Exaggeration!
I was fine with the halter and lead rope.

True. But how about the bag?

It was moving.

It was the breeze.

It was an unnatural color.

It's the same color as your saddle blanket.

And your point would be...

Then we had significant
issues getting in position to pick up items.

You wanted to get way too close to those
things. I was merely keeping you at a safe distance.

As you can see, she's sort of over protective. It was a fun session.

Fun? Fun is extra grain. Fun is a filled
hay bag. Fun is alfalfa in the
barn aisle. That was crazy.

Just wait! Next week we'll work on log dragging.
From the ground first. Then I want to place some
of these things on the trail and work on it there.
It'll give me something to focus on, and hopefully end my exile sooner.

Like the trail isn't scary enough.
Frankly, I don't understand what you
have against the arena. It's
perfectly safe and certainly
within the site of the herd.
What more could you ask for?

As you can see, Lily is still not sold on the concept...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Better. Getting Better

Just a quick update: I rode both Lily and Smokey Saturday and Sunday and both did wonderfully. Smokey is coming around on his canter to the right, his canters to the left are solid. Did just the local trails with a friend at the barn on Sunday, and got Lily another five yards down the road past her comfort zone during a solo ride.

Keeping two horses ridden is wearing me out! But it certainly does seem to work wonders with everyone's attitude.

My next goal is to find us a job to do. Have a great week, everybody, and see you soon...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Buck, the trail, and the loose horses

I came home from a business trip and hooked up with Trail Rider and watched Buck. It was a great movie, and I came home looking forward to my day off to go ride my horses.

I had been struck how much Buck B. was like Mark Rashid in energy and demeanor. We all know that most of these trainers in the Ray Hunt, Tom Dorrance, style of training do much of the same things - gentle consistent firm work with flags, rope halters, a sharp eye for detail. There are many scenes in the movie that linger, many I wish I hadn't seen, frankly.

But reality is like that, isn't it?

I came away renewed and ready to work. There's a scene where students are working cows and Buck talks about horses (and people) needing to have work to do.

I have a day off from the kids and Dad as well as the office today, so headed out early to ride. Lily and I just mounted up and did trail work, made it through a few balks, widened our circle of riding to down the road alone. It was good.

The trainer insisted we ride next door on the ranch. I didn't want to. I just wanted to have a nice day, not confront my issues. Work on a few things in the arena, do the little trails. Part of it is I could see Smokey was hot today, very up. When he had come into eat, tossing his head like a little mustang, I knew what space he was in and didn't really want to have to deal with it on my one day off in months.

We rode in round pen to warm up. Cantering to the right he threw a fit. We worked through it, but this was not a horse I felt like dealing with on the trail.

She insisted. I should have declined. I didn't. "He needs this," she said. "And you do too."


We had a few arguments on the trail, Smokey and I, and I did win them all. Then we heard the sound of animals running. A herd of five horses was running loose, having broken through some fences. I elected to dismount. This was not an argument I wanted to have with Smokey in the saddle.

We kept trying to chase the herd off, they kept trying to enlarge their herd by two horses. The trainer would attempt to shoo them off, but it wasn't working at all. Smokey did well, just a little prancy, but respected my space after a quick reminder, and settled, looking to me.

The herd kept tailing us, chasing after us as we tried to walk off. At one point they surrounded the trainer on her horse and I had to toss rocks at them to drive them off. Still they returned.

I finally got fed up. I poured my anger out at them full bore, yelling, and tossed a few rocks, hitting flanks here and there. They got the message. They took off and this time stayed gone.

People. Don't tick me off. I'm like a crazy woman.

I got back in the saddle and we rode home.

The ride home Smokey was up. He needed to run out some energy from that whole loose horse episode, and I didn't have it in me. We worked on trot walk transitions and trot halts. It was ugly. I didn't want to end on that note.

When we got back to our familiar trails I just hit those alone with Smokey and bushwacked around. Much better. Then Smokey and I worked on standing still.

Sometimes, I told Smokey, your job is to stand still. It took a bit, but he got it.

I think we are at a place where we need a job to get through this. I think of Cactus Jack Splash and his DOR and I think, a job would be good for us.

So I'm going to think about it. Maybe if we had something else to focus on other than each other this would be fun again.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cell Phone Scenes from horsetime

Hanging out at the salad bar

Note to self: Stunning sunsets do not get captured by cell phones.
Blissful horses, however...

Soft, listening, willing. I must remind myself of this.

I ain't scerd of no shower curtain thingy.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

I Did It. But Not Without SERIOUS Trepidation...

We went on a trail ride today, and I have to say it wasn't really fun, per se. But it was something I needed to get out of the way.

I haven't been out on anything more than our immediate trail area since the entire "Do I Even Want to HAVE a Horse" episode. And when my friend and trainer arranged for us to ride the big ranch next door I wondered if I could or should.

I very nearly chickened out.

Smokey and I had several "conversations" on the trail. He was a bit up, but I knew I was significantly contributing to it with my anxiety and tried to get myself in a better frame of mind. I was only somewhat successful, but we did get some training done and made some progress.

Frankly I think *I* need some desensitization. I need some successful trail rides with him. I need to do some WTC rides in settings where I feel comfortable.

It's going to be a longer road back than I had hoped, but I did expect it.

So I plan on trying to mix in some travel to friend's places, to arenas, to just get out and about but not just trails.

I'm on the road back, but to be the leader I need to be on the trail, I need more wet saddle blankets too.

But at least today I got one. A tough one.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

It's working

her.There's something about this last decision, this decision to be the same person in the saddle as I am in the round pen, that has really pulled so many things together.

It reminds me of that moment when you are sewing something made of many different parts and the first time you pin it together it finally looks like what you are trying to make.

Today I asked the trainer to ride Smokey to see if I was doing something wrong at the canter in the arena. I was somewhat relieved to see he did the same thing with her as he had with me - worse in some spots, better in others.

He has gotten out of shape and balance at the canter, and it'll take some more time in the round pen before he's ready for the arena. But she commented on how solid his trot is and how he's progressing on his neck reining.

Then I cantered around the arena with Lily and it was effortless, my balance was there, my cues soft enough, and we made our circles without bowing out in any direction.

Of course Lily has about 11 years on Smokey, and this wasn't about her being better at the canter. It was about my improvement in the saddle, my new posture being more balanced. Her confidence has grown too, and nearly all the tiny spooks were gone.

Tomorrow we may go on a trail ride. I'm a bit hesitant to be honest. But a combination of things should make me more confident. Smokey is getting turned out in a big pasture every day and getting to run off energy. His manners are vastly improved. My attitude is in the right place.

So we shall see.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Vulnerability - In more ways than one

I found this video in the last week, and it seems to echo many themes running around on the equine blogosphere of late.

It's long, but worth your time.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Up to my ankles

A great joy filled me when I saw that Lisa was reconnected with her mare, Apache.

I admire her, and Val, who recently got back on board after a terrible fall from her steady eddie horse.

This is this silly, crazy horse life. We decide to ride, we who are relatively fragile compared to the animals we ride, who have people around us who depend on us to be here.

I was talking to Trail Rider about his new colt who has some health issues he's grappling with. As a doctor his brain is filled with complications possible as he weighs whether to return the horse, or keep him and risk it.

Over and over again it comes down to these risks. These crazy odds we play in this horse life.

A day or so ago I took one more step on my horse work, one I recognized later in a video I watched. Julie Goodnight was walking someone through proper round penning technique. I was comfortable to see that it was all old hat to me, so I could watch for other things, more subtle things other than what she was talking about. I noted the way she walked in the arena, held her head, signaled.

Then it hit me. My new attitude is about being the same person in the saddle that I am in the round pen.

Bringing Lily back from being basically unrideable to her old self has shown me that there is a connection between the work I do on the ground and the saddle. Some of it was just getter her mind focused.

But part of it, and no small part, was me. And that woman in the round pen? She hasn't been the one riding. If the woman I was in the saddle was the same one in the center of the round pen, that horse would be walking all over her.

Hmm. Darn obvious now.

So I've been working on being the same person in the saddle.

And what do you know. It's working.

My attention and focus is sharper, my confidence high, my sense of fairness is on track so I respond appropriately and in time. With Lily I work on speed and control. Today we did our longest solo trail ride, her first one out since we've been working. She had two balks, very small, and we went right through them. Riding in a halter. (I have ridden her in a bit, just to be sure she understands that in my hands a bit is not a bad thing).

With Smokey we are working on my faith in him through control exercises in the arena. WTC transitions and neck reining to give me a chance to teach him something. Then, during one of our arena times, we had one of those moments that I haven't appropriately checked before. Caught it, checked it appropriately, not losing my confidence, not questioning if it was the right response.

Because I DO know what to do. I just need to do it earlier, and more consistently. I'm finding the spot where I'm not supporting him, not giving him direction. He plays with the bit because he is testing boundaries, finding big gaps, and the gray is too gray, too wide. I can see it now, and I'm calmer and more confident about what I do know. But I know what I don't know, and am working on getting those aspects better through practice and discovery on Lily.

I feel close to the spot I was before the bolt, and yet, in a strange way, well past it. I am playing the odds again because in my life, in my mind, in my heart, the risks of this horse life remain worth it.

Ride on, my friends.