June 30, 2010

Trying Out the New Tack

I received my new saddle this week, on the same day I got offered a new job! There’s just something about owning my own horse stuff, it makes me feel more like a horse owner in a way. Just like the bridle, I applied the New Leather cleaner/conditioner to the saddle. It looked really nice I was just hoping it would work well with Willy and be comfortable too, I didn't want to spend too much money on my lease horse but I figured I’d most likely be staying with leasing Arabs so spending a little was fine for now. A cheaper saddle could mean less comfort but we’ll see. I headed to the stable around 1pm; it was late and looked like it was going to rain so I figured I’d spend the day in the indoor ring. The only tack I needed to borrow from Susan was a girth since the one that came with the saddle didn’t seem to be very hefty or comfortable for a horse, I wasn't even going to bother trying it out! 

Very handsome!  He looks good for a 20 year old!

As I arrived at the stable I saw Susan and she said she got my email about Willy’s eye and had been putting stuff on it for him. When I went to his stall I checked out the run-in shed, I’m happy to announce it only had a few piles of fresh manure! He seemed happy to see me and I stroked his neck while asking him how he was doing. I took off his fly mask and put on the rope halter. I’m so tempted to buy my own halter for him as well but I think I’ve gone a little overboard as it is; I’m already trucking grooming supplies and a saddle out here. The tack room was opened today but I had no need for any of it's contents.

I started grooming Willy who seemed less bothered by flies today. He also was really good about his back feet. When I’ve picked his back feet he seemed reluctant to lean on my leg with his while I worked. I guess most people that ride him are children so they can’t really support the leg like I can but he’s getting used to that at least. I had wipes this time so I used them on his eyes and nostrils. His far side eye was looking much better; I just wiped the corner of discharge. He didn’t seem to like the smell of the wipe and lifted his head up high and “flehmened”, which is basically lifting the upper lip and squishing the nostrils, it’s very funny looking! I talked softly and showed him I was being gentle, so he finally lowered his head to let me finish the job.
Someone kept following me as I stepped back to take his picture!
Bridling was easy and the saddle fit well on him. My new saddle pad and polo wraps matched being hunter green. Against his coat it looked great! Another thing about having your own tack, even for a lease horse, is being able to coordinate item.  Horses can have a fashion sense too right?  I’ve known people that do pinks or purples with their horse. I think it depends on the horse but I figure most horses should look good in green, and Willy sure did look handsome! I adjusted the stirrups and then mounted up. We walked and trotted, I tried to sit the trot on him but he seems to have a bouncier trot than my lesson horse Divine. So we posted and did figure eights, circles, all sorts of boring stuff but that’s where I am right now, trying to perfect something before moving on. We did a little riding outside around the bigger ring, uphill and downhill. The weather was getting nicer for a bit but then the sky turned pretty dark so I called it a day and took Willy in to untack, groom and put him away. I do have to wipe the saddle a bit more, it seems the stirrup leathers rubbed some black onto my jodhpurs but I’m sure just a little more work and they won’t do that again. The saddle was amazingly comfortable for the price! I know for the horse I buy, I’ll purchase good quality tack and make sure the fit is perfect but at this point in the game I just don’t want to spend that kind of money. For what I paid on eBay that saddle turned out to be pretty decent, in the future when I have my own horse at least I’ll have a saddle to start with and then a spare one once I have a nicer saddle to use regularly. Well actually I want two, an all purpose (or dressage) and an endurance saddle…but I’m getting ahead of myself!

My lesson on Divine is Friday, then I’m going to Estes Park to watch an Arabian horse show on Saturday and of course I ride Willy on Sunday. The next few days will be very horsey indeed!

June 27, 2010

Opinions of Mares

I’ve ridden many horses. Ponies, Quarter horses, Thoroughbreds, Appaloosas (I cannot even remember all the breeds and crosses!)  Obviously I've ridden Arabians now too. Love them! I’ve ridden mostly geldings and a few mares. There seems to be the opinion that mares are very testy, hormonal and act...well...“mareish”. I’ve had both sexes act up on me but my general opinion has been that I prefer geldings. Why? Cinnie was a mare in the first stable at which I rode. She would be pretty nasty when you tightened the girth, and try to reach around and bite you. The same thing occurred when you tried to mount her. I just chalked it up to being a mare or maybe mistreatment at the stable? I had no idea but I didn’t ride her that often anyways. Then again I was ten so I don't remember much about her, aside from the nippiness! I vaguely remember some mares from my various experiences riding and honestly can’t recall what I didn’t like about them. I do remember one at a trail riding company that was very sweet and had a nice trot, she was also blind in one eye and you couldn't really notice.

Perhaps I just have a propensity to like and acquire male animals? My dogs are male, my gerbil is male, I’ve had several male betas and then my goldfish that I have no idea what their actual sex is…well they “are male”. Why do I dislike my own sex, even in other species? I don’t really; I guess it’s just a stigma that society has for the females of any given species. Males are stronger and better able to perform more consistently, goes the sentiment.

My opinions for horse sex have definitely changed since riding Divine. She’s a very affectionate mare, and just like all females, a little sensitive. This can be a very positive feature though. She might have been sensitive to me brushing her rather quickly and acted accordingly….but heck, if I’m at the salon and someone is being brusque with my hair I’d be perturbed too! The sensitivity definitely comes into play while riding, she responds to subtle cues. This can be frustrating if one is still trying to iron out all the kinks in their riding, hence leading to confusion and “mare-like” behavior. Honestly this is not "mare-like" behavior, it’s a horse, which happens to be female, and it’s telling you it’s getting irritated at all the mixed messages. I’ve learned a lot from Divine, and I’m sure I’ll learn even more. She and the other horsie-gals at Laurie’s stable have made me see another side of what mares can be. Perhaps people are treating their mares the same as a gelding or stallion. A sensitive mare will act out to inform the human that they don’t said treatment. A silly human would just chalk that up to the horse being a mare and leave it at that. A good horse person would try to read the response and change how they approach the horse. As far as treatment goes I’m not discussing abuse, just mannerisms that often times the boys ignore and couldn’t care less about but that females pick up on and often react to if it’s not "proper", in their humble opinion.

My dream horse has always been a gelding (okay actually a black stallion but come on!)  Mares are coming into the picture as viable candidates and rightly so. Any mare can have hormonal imbalances just like humans that will make them act more “crazy” but that can be treated, same as in humans. In general, a horse is a horse…male or female if they work their way into my heart that’s all I ask for. I’m happy to have met Divine and the other mares. They have worked their way into my heart, that’s for sure, I feel I can easily throw out the sigma that many horse people have and just think of each horse as individual and not try to lump all mares in one stereotype and geldings in another. I’m glad to have met some really awesome mares before I buy my own horse, I feel open to either sex…but obviously stallions will always be out of the question except in my dreams!

I guess this latest blog didn’t really discuss much about my recent lesson. I worked on sitting trot and have to remember the Patrick Swayze dance moves from "Dirty Dancing" to help me follow the seat at the trot. That was a hilarious conversation on horseback with Laurie but hopefully I’ll get loosened up at the sitting trot as a result. Divine was also really easy to bridle today, my thumb was too short, so I just used my index finger to get her to open her mouth. Worked like a charm! Until next week!

June 21, 2010

Willy, the New Bridle and Grooming Brushes!!

The day was warm and windy out east. Dust blew around, clinging to my freshly lip balmed lips and gritting my eyes. Today would be the first time I used my new bridle on Willy. I also had a new set of grooming tools, a gift Steve got me when we drove up to Franktown to "Horse and Hound", a tack shop that sells mostly English gear. I found a pair of earrings I was planning on buying and then we were looking at brushes and he said he would buy it all for me. What a sweetheart!

Anyways, with my new grooming supplies and my bridle I went into the indoor arena, my secluded tacking area that keeps Willy and me out of the sun. I headed back to the tack room to grab some polo wraps, a halter and a saddle. I grabbed a blue rope halter; I really hate those things…and then saw that the room with the bridles, grooming supplies and polo wraps was locked. Okay….I thought. I looked on the desks to see if there was an obvious location for the key to be stowed. I was pretty glad to have the bridle and the brushes or else riding would not have happened today, I would have been, as they say, s*** out of luck! With the halter only, I left the tack room and headed to the saddle area. At least the saddles aren’t stored in the locked room. I grabbed the Wintec saddle, girth and pad and headed to the arena to drop off the gear.

My next duty was of course to get Willy. I went to his pen and opened the gate, I approached him, a little weary….it really didn’t look like Willy. A swish of the tail proved this was a mare! Very similar in looks to Willy!  She was sweet and came over to me, nuzzling the halter in my hand. I pet her and apologized for waking her from her nap and then set off in search of Willy. Why had he been moved? I circled the whole area of pens until I spied a horse that looked Willy-like, as I approached the gate he pricked his ears...it was Willy! I was relieved, honestly I worried something had happened to him and Susan had not let me know. You never know, he was only 20 but colic, getting out and hurting himself or some other malady could be the cause of his, um….I don’t even want to think about it!

I scratch my head as to what Susan is thinking when the tack room is locked and yet she specifically said I could use the tack and also that all horses MUST wear the polo wraps. I scratch my head even more as to why she wouldn’t shoot me an email to let me know my horse had been moved, instead of me having to search the property for him. Oh well, I pat Willy and lead him to the arena.

Willy was very fidgety today; it seems his skin was itchy with flies. He kept swishing his tail, stomping and scratching his legs with his nose. I need to add a good fly spray to my set of grooming utensils. I find some lying around the tack room so I spray it on his legs, I don’t have any sponge or towel to wipe it on his face and nowhere to wipe my hands after if I sprayed on my hands and then his face. I didn’t realize that leasing him from here meant I needed all these supplies when I figured the stable had them! Oh well, I’m independent, I feel better having my own stuff anyhow. I wished I’d had some baby wipes to wipe his eye, the far side eye, the one that had been injured, was a little weepy and he didn’t want to open it very wide. I made a mental note to let Susan know about it and find out what happened.

I held the bridle up to Willy to see what type of adjustments I’d need to make to it. Then I slid the bit into his mouth and placed the crown piece over his ears. I adjusted the cheek pieces for the bit and made sure it was set in his mouth properly. He looked so handsome in his new bridle!

I couldn’t seem to get the Wintec saddle tight enough. When I tried to mount but the saddle slide around.  Tightening it was a struggle but I finally got to the next hole in the billet. Up I went; we were using the smaller outdoor arena today. Willy and I did mainly walking and trotting today, he wasn’t feeling too good so I didn’t want to push him. I worked on his halts since he doesn’t seem to do them very well. Towards the end he was stopping pretty quickly after my cues.

I met a lady, Lorraine I think her name was. She came over to say hello and help me with the arena gate that kept coming open. We talked a little; I found out she was the proud owner of the two Friesians. They are gorgeous! She mentioned that she was supposed to meet with Susan but that she hadn’t shown up yet. I wanted to laugh and say something snide but I thought better of it; I guess Susan is just as flighty with everyone else as she is with me!

After I rode for a bit I took Willy indoors to untack and groom him. I wished I could do more for his eye but I don’t know a thing about that and I didn’t want to risk anything more than wipes, which I didn’t even have with me. I brought him to his pen and walked into the run in shed to see his new digs.  I don’t know how often they muck out here but it seemed like quite a lot of manure for only one day. I couldn’t leave him there to stand in the manure while he ate his hay. I grabbed a pitch fork and a wheelbarrow then set to work. I filled up the wheel barrow only to then notice the wheel was flat. It took a while to push the thing over to the manure pile; I kept stopping since without a good wheel the barrow part isn’t much for ease of use! I went back to say goodbye to Willy, happy to leave him with a clean and dry stall. I have a feeling that will be a chore I will attend to each Sunday; I can’t leave a horse in what I find to be a very dirty stall. I thought most people muck once a day?

This coming week my saddle pad, polo wraps and saddle shall arrive! I’ll have even less need of anything that the stable provides...although they "provide" the supplies, keeping them locked up helps nothing! Till next time!

June 20, 2010

Boss Mare

I had my riding lesson on Saturday this weekend since Friday I woke up with a horrible headache, great idea to go to Rock Bottom Liz! LOL. Divine had been ridden a couple of times that day so she was pretty calm for grooming and tacking up. I don’t want to say she isn’t “calm” she just moves a little bit and occasionally paws with her front legs, mainly because she wants to get going. Bridling was slow again as per her usually way but I think I’ve found that my thumb is too short to be effective at getting her mouth open, if I use my pointer finger it can go in her mouth deeper and she’s more inclined to open. I’ll have to try that first the next time I bridle her and see if that is the trick.
Psylk Noir
The lesson tired me out today; I was working on sitting trot and circling, again, and trying to sit straight. Things went pretty well but towards the end I was getting tired trying to squeeze my legs and keep her going, and collected. She was getting tired I think so kept trying to get back to the walk….it was a lose, lose, situation so we ended with just a few nice circles at the walk.

After my lesson I talked with Laurie for a while about horse names and renaming horses. Some horses have an odd name that I couldn’t imagine keeping (Hey Girlfriend, Strike a Pose, Special Forces, to name a few!)  I wondered about how one could change a name, whether you have to do it officially or not. It was interesting.  Laurie mentioned that most horses have a barn name anyways so I guess unless it was a terrible name the registry could keep whatever name the horse already had and you could "name" your horse whatever you desired.  There is just something special about naming your own horse!  After I groomed Divine and let her back out into the arena with the other mares I spent some time trying to give carrots to all of them.
Sala, the boss mare
Sala is the boss mare in the herd. She got most of the carrots and prevented me from giving some to the other horses. Pstar got a few, so did Divine but I wasn’t able to coax Brownie (Mystic Magic) or Psylk to come over for a carrot. I felt bad about that. Psylk is a very pretty black mare, she’s about two and since I’ve been riding there has gone through the odd growth spurts that make any “teenager” look awkward. I’m sure my colt friend Eksodus will go through some more; he’s only a yearling but still is very stunning in his looks. I spent a little time with him, giving him some carrots, stroking his neck, smacking his nose when he tried to nibble….seems he does that a lot and Laurie has told me to smack him and then praise him when he lets me pet him without any nipping. He’s not being mean, he’s just a mouthy baby and an orphan as well, and apparently that makes them even mouthier. He’s still a beauty to behold. Honestly all the horses are quite pretty and loveable. Not much else to report….love horses and can’t wait to have my very own!

June 16, 2010

The Bridle

I own a bridle!!!!!  I have not the horse but I own a bridle, one small step for a horse crazy gal, one giant leap towards owning a horse...I have no idea....!!!  There is a purpose to owning a bridle though, not sharing tack with a bunch of other people means that there are fewer adjustments you have to make in order to tack up your horse.
Conditioning my new tack!
The stable where I lease and ride Willy has mainly western tack, saddles, bridles....all western.  There was one bridle I could find that was a simple snaffle bit; the issue there that could arise is what would I do if that bridle was being used or no where to be found?  It would be difficult, I can't exactly ride English in a western curb, so I purchased a bridle...problem solved.  I can fit it to Willy's head and then all I have to do is put it on him, no adjustments to cheek pieces or the bit.  In a way it's like his own bridle, at least for now while I lease him.

Doesn't really fit Spencer that well.
The bridle is a simple black leather bridle with a raised nose band and brow band, meaning there are two layers of leather with a piece between to give a nice rounded look to those two parts.  Immediately upon receiving it I spent an hour taking it apart and applying a leather conditioner to help soften the new leather.  Regular use will help with that too but I wanted to make sure the leather was conditioned so it wouldn't dry out and crack.  I can't wait to put it on Willy and try it out!  There's just something about having YOUR tack to use rather than relying on someone else's tack that might not be your preference.  Either the color is off or the reins feel weird or there is fancy stitching that really makes the bridle look tacky...there can be any number of things about other peoples tack that just don't suit you.  I like to match my tack too, a black saddle and a Havana bridle just looks weird!  An oak bark saddle and a black bridle would look just as weird.  Owning my own tack is bringing me closer to horse ownership, the tack itself needs to be taken care of and worked with; bring on the responsibilities!  Stay tuned when I try out the new bridle on an unsuspecting Arab!

June 13, 2010

Leisurely Grooming and Saddle Issues

I headed out today with high hopes that Susan would be at the stable.  Low and behold she was!  I was feeling horrible though; I had a head cold and sounded awful when I talked.  We discussed the terms and she would only charge me the $75 for the rest of the month since I missed riding that one day.  I wrote the check and finished the paper work.  I only have to pay $100 a month to ride him all I want on Sundays!  Extra days during the week if I want to ride are just $25 a ride.  It's a timeshare on a horse, basically I'm paying for time to ride Willy. 

Willy, who reminds me of Jessie, a quarter horse I rode in high school, was very excited to see me but I think that was mainly because he was expecting his hay and thought I was bringing him a flake.  I gathered up the bridle and saddle I'd used last time riding him and his grooming supplies.  Then I fetched him from his run.  He and his partner Buttons were moving around a lot so it took some time to "catch" him.  The stable uses rope halters which really just seem like rope with a bunch of knots in it to me, so I had a little difficulty figuring out which part was which.  I finally got the halter on Willy and open the wonderful gate that Susan had installed on his run to take him to the indoor arena.  Susan brought a hay net and hooked it up so Willy would get some breakfast while I groomed him.  I figured I would take my time grooming him and let him eat his hay leisurely.

I started with the curry comb, which is a rubber round brush with nubbins on the grooming side, the ones supplied here are on the small side; for the children I guess.  In the near future I may invest in a few simple grooming tools that fit my hands better.  To curry a horse you work from the neck down in a circular motion to scruff up the hair and bring the dirt to the surface.  I curried very lightly on the upper legs, omitting the lower legs so as to not hurt the fragile tendons.  It's kind of a massage in a way unless done too harshly.  After I curried him I noticed his tail was braided but pretty knotty looking so I began to work out the braid and undo the knots at best I could, then I ran a brush through the silky strands; again, another tool I'd like to invest in since this one was a brush for a humans hair!  I had visions of little girls in pigtails combing a horses tail with the pink Barbie doll type brush!  I laughed a little and moved over to Willy's far side to work on his mane.  He has a nice thick mane.  I worked my finger through some knots and worked from the tips of the mane up to the base, working the tangles out.  I should probably include a nice horse mane detangler in my collection of grooming tools when I purchase them.  Once he was prettied up I grabbed a dandy brush, which is a stiff bristle brush used to flick the dirt picked up by the curry comb up and away from the horses coat.  His coat gleamed.  I used the dandy brush on the full length of his legs and inspected them for swelling, heat or cuts.  He has a cut on his near hind leg, I'll have to check it again next Sunday I think to myself.  It was just an abrasion and it looked old.  If he was my own horse I would apply some ointment to it but at this place I'm not sure of the protocol.  I picked his hooves and then moved onto tacking up as he is finished with breakfast.

I had a bit of a struggle with the saddle this time.  I put the same one on I had used before but noticed the billets, the straps that attach the girth to the saddle, had a large gap of area without holes.  I needed to tighten his girth more but where it was tight enough there was no hole to latch the buckles!  I finally readjusted the far side and got the saddle adequately tight and then bridled him.  He was a little more resistant to bridling but I think my mental foggy state may have caused me to be a little brusque with him, I'll do better next time.

I tried several times to mount him from the mounting block but each time he moved away from the block.  I was feeling very off anyhow.  I mounted from the ground and then walked him out into the indoor arena.  We did some walking and trotting.  Very early on I realized the saddle was not comfortable.  I'd worn jeans last time I used the saddle and that may have made the difference.  In jodphurs, this saddle was painful.  I dismounted, untacked him and then grabbed an older Wintec saddle.  Once that was in place I mounted up.  Much better!  I think investing in my own saddle will be well worth it, I won't have to readjust stirrups and I'll know the saddle fits me and is comfortable for horse and rider.

I could go on about the riding but we didn't do much.  I walked, trotted and cantered a bit, though Willy seemed to not want to canter in one direction...I'll have to work on that to see if maybe he isn't good on one lead or if that was just a fluke.  We did serpentines and circles.  He's very responsive to leg yielding even if he doesn't quite understand the vertical head line collection.  I'm not a trainer so as long as he responds to me I'm not going to worry about his head carriage; I'm not showing him so I really don't mind.

I'm not sure how long I rode but my throat was hurting, my head was hurting and I was ready to call it quits.  It was so hard to ride while sick, I probably shouldn't have at all but I feel I had fun and Willy seemed to enjoy it as well.  I dismounted, untacked and groomed him.  Then I returned him to his run with Buttons.  He went over to the hay bin and began munching away while I stroked his mane and gave him a nice big hug.  Horse hugs are the best!

I'll have to go and find a saddle that will work with Willy.  The bridle I ordered should be arriving this week so I can get the bridle to fit him well and not have to make adjustments.  I like having matching tack; black bridle and black saddle...or brown and brown.  At least I found a saddle at the ranch the is comfortable for me and works with Willy, I just worry about times when someone else is already using the saddle or bridle, hence why I bought the bridle. 

I guess that is enough for now.  Maybe next time I'll post some pictures of the grooming supplies or the tack, I should try to make this more interesting but honestly the blog is for me to help me learn as I progress towards owning horses.  Bye for now!

June 11, 2010

Off to the Races!

Danilla or Dance as she is called, is an Arabian/Mustang cross mare that this lady has for lease in black forest.  She had two other Arabs and does endurance trail riding.  Apparently Danilla is a very forward horse but since she's not using her for the endurance anymore, since she always got too excited for it, she wants to lease her to someone so at least she gets ridden a bit.  She was a nice dark bay about 15 hands or so.  Rather rotund but that was due to her not being ridden much.  I liked her but she seemed a bit uninterested in me.  I don't like having horses turn away when I go to pet them.  The lady, Margaret, groomed her and tacked her up. 

The saddle was western looking but it wasn't a western saddle.  It seemed to have the two panels on each side forming the tree with a bump at the front, not a horn and a more western styled cantle in the back.  The seat was a sheep skin fleece type.  The stirrups were the plastic trail stirrups and the leathers where a patent leather looking material.  Once I mounted I knew I hated that saddle, I hoped if I leased her I could use my own tack!  I walked and trotted her around the property while Margaret tacked up her Arab Chance.

We set off for the trail.  Margaret lives very close to Black Forest Park so that was a plus.  I love trail riding!  Danilla was not too interested in walking, she plodded along quite slowly and then would break into a trot without any aids given by me.  I would sit deep and signal her to go back to a walk but I really got the impression she only would walk when she wanted to.  Her trot was quite nice though, and easy to sit to.  A few times that I asked her to trot we went a ways at the trot which I found quite comfortable.  The first time we cantered up a hill on the trail I thought I would never get her to stop.  She just lurched forward and kept going, not minding the little bug on her back trying desperately to collect her and gain control of the gait.  When Chance started to catch up with us Danilla did a couple little bucking movements, she didn't want him to catch us or worse, pass us!  I was having a time with her deciding to leap into a trot when and where she wanted to and not listening to my aids to slow down or stay at a walk.  Funny though, there were times I wanted to trot for a bit and she didn't seem to have the desire. 

I liked her well enough but felt I wanted a horse that was more responsive.  Even though I've ridden for a while I'm still getting used to this riding thing again and don't need a horse that will make me feel out of control half the time!  When we untacked the horses back at the barn I told Margaret my reservations and she said she understood.  It was why she'd insisted on us going out for a trail ride so I could really get a feel for Danilla.  I told her I would sleep on it and let her know after Sunday. 

I'm still hoping Willy will work out.  He's a forward going horse but he's more responsive, I felt a lot more comfortable riding him.  Sure I'll need to work on his stops, he seems to take forever when he's walking to stop but I can work with him.  He responded to my aids for slowing down at the trot and speeding up at the walk.  He was consistent and I feel that is what I need right now.  Margaret's horses were beautiful, the purebred Chance was to die for gorgeous!  How lucky she is!

Riding Like a Pretzel

Today I had my lesson, we moved it up to 9am since it's getting warmer and 10am might be just a bit too hot.  Divine was in the arena turned out with her daughter Pstar, another mare named Psylk and Sala.  The mares are always really friendly when I walk in to get Divine.  Pstar is my favorite mare, I love Divine but Pstar always seems to come up to me and give me hugs and nuzzles.  I approached Divine talking to her softly but just then all the mares bolted off from what, I have no idea.  So I followed Divine to the other side of the arena, looped the lead rope around her neck and secured her halter.  I walked her to the stable to get her groomed and tacked up.  Nothing to exciting there, the process of grooming essentially is moving some of the dirt on the horse to the rider so they become a matching pair.  Hahaha!  The only troubles I had with Divine again were bridling and then her moving her front legs as I tried to wrap the polo wrap around her feet.  The near leg, which is the same as port side on a boat, was no problem, the far leg, starboard, she kept moving about as I worked.  After the third try I finally got her to stay still.  She's often fidgety to tack up but even more so when the stallions are being moved from the barn to the fields and the mares are being brought in from the arena so I can ride!

I worked on circles with Divine today.  Circles sound easy but they aren't.  Maintaining the perfect arc in the horse, and completing a circle that is not oval, a modified square or some type of egg shape can be challenging.  We also did figure eights.  Apparently as I was riding I felt like I was leaning right, into the turn but instead I was leaning left while using my left leg to push Divine into the circle and prevent her from dropping her shoulder.  Pressing with your left leg and not leaning towards the left is a bit difficult.  Same thing the other way just different sides.  I felt like a pretzel as Laurie told me to lean onto my inside seat bone as I pressed with the other leg to keep my seat "straight".  I couldn't understand why I felt I was leaning one way and yet she said I was leaning the other!  My seat leaned left but my upper body was leaning right....oh the poor horsey was confused!  But we got it all straightened out, literally and the lesson progressed.  I felt accomplished afterwards. 
Pstar and Eksodus
After I untacked and groomed Divine I released her into the arena with her carrot reward and went to love on the other horses.  Pstar is my favorite mare....did I say that already?  She has a beautiful head and a very sweet personality.  Eksodus is a yearling colt that Laurie is selling; I wish I could buy him but it would be a few years before I could ride him, so even if I could I probably wouldn't.  He's a sweet little boy, his neck is very graceful and archy.  His face and head are refined with a great sense of intelligence and playfulness in his eyes.  He was in the round pen as I left the stable.  I always have to give him a couple carrots and give him a few pats.  He's a gorgeous chestnut, my favorite horse color!  Oh to be so lucky to have acreage and several horses on it to love and ride any day you wanted to!  At least I get to come and enjoy these horses once a week!

June 10, 2010

The Willy Trial

I need to ride more often.  How does one do that when they don't own a horse?  They lease of course!  Most people not in the horsey world are unfamiliar with this term.  My good friend Jessica pretty much summed it up perfectly; "it's like time sharing a horse".  You pay the owner for a set number of days or hours where you have access to the horse to ride, and you go and ride, worry free.  Other types of leases, that I may be into down the rode are called free leases....now these are anything but free!  You don't pay anything for access to the horse but you have to board them, feed them, pay farrier fees and vet fees.  It's a lot like owning a horse but you can end the lease term and then walk away at the end.  I would lease a horse like this when it gets closer to buying my own horse to get used to the costs associated with keeping a horse but the important thing with these leases is that you get a vet to look over the horse since you will be liable for any vet bills.  I haven't looked into these since I just want to pay a set amount each month to go ride a horse for such and such a day and be done with it for now.

So that brings me to the idea of Willy.  Back in January I was thinking about leasing a thoroughbred mare named Indy.  I rode her and felt she was a nice mount but at the time I still felt really rusty in my riding and definitely a little insecure in my seat.  I declined to lease her and decided instead to take some lessons to get my confidence back.  The farm Indy was boarded at was a ranch that ran a Christian Horse camp and did horse rescue.  It was pretty nice and simple, many of the school horses were up for lease for a few days a week.  Recently I decided I really wanted some alone time riding to reflect on my lessons and to have more time playing around with a horse.  I contacted Susan, the owner of the facility, about coming out to see some of the horses.  I was particularly interested in meeting an Arabian by the name of Willy.

So one Saturday I headed out to the ranch to meet with her and see some of the horses.  She was no where to be found.  Apparently she had left a couple hours before to get some hay and should have been back by our 1pm meeting time.  About half an hour later she finally arrived, in a short cut Cotton dress and flip flops.  Without changing she takes me around to some of the horses, introducing me to warm blood and thoroughbred types.  They all were very sweet horses but I had my preference.  Gone are the days when I rode 16 to 17 hand horses (a hand is 4 inches and the height is measured at the withers, the top point on the back where the shoulders meet).  I really wanted to stick around my comfort zone of about 15 hands; the average size of Arabians.  I particularly wanted to lease an Arab to get to know the breed better; the more horses you ride the more you become familiar with the various quirks.  Willy happened to be an ex-endurance horse, which seems to be a good match for me since I want to get into endurance trail riding.  Endurance racing is a form of trail riding where you race against other horses over long distances.  The shortest being 25 miles but most being between 50 and 300 miles.  If you have ever seen Hidalgo that gives you an idea of what the rides are like.  I liked the idea of an Arabian horse that had that experience to see what type of temperament he had.

Susan took Willy out of his run which lacked a gate so she had to muscle the fencing open, and flip-flopped out with him.  He stood quietly but was too close to her so she started swinging the lead rope at him.  He flung his head up and stepped a little sideways and finally back.  The lady in flip-flops was insane!  Not only for the hour I spent there had she been sidetracked at least three times, with me having to re-ask several questions.  She also seemed a little too aggressive towards Willy in my opinion.  Willy had not moved since she swung the lead rope at him, she'd actually stepped closer to him and then swung the rope at him again to make him back up.  I really scratched my head, horses, particularly Arabs, are sensitive and often just need to be asked to do something one time.  Obviously if they don't listen a harsher signal may be needed but not right up front?  I'd learned with Divine that I had groomed and move around her a little too roughly.  Arabs are smart animals and with that comes a sensitivity that if treated correctly will turn out to be a great strength.  Divine has become a better mare to groom and tack since I've slowed things down and not been so brusque, amazing!  A quarter horse would just stand there half asleep but Divine, she was upset and stating to me, in her own way, "no, no, no, treat me like a queen and I'll do anything you ask.  Force me around and I'll stomp my feet".  I didn't understand this flip-flopping woman but in horse riding there are all types and all methods I guess.  Arabs are a special brand, I guess to those who use some harsher methods they seem really hyper.  I've learned if treated gently they can be a great and willing companion.

Susan showed me the tack room and grooming gear for Willy.  I got to work tacking him up and found him very willing and sweet, just as I had suspected.  I talked soothingly to him and he responded with such a soft demeanor, unlike his actions around flip-flop lady.  I often have to work with Divine at getting her to open her mouth and accept the bit.  Willy just opened up and let me bridle him in one try.  When I got on him I felt very comfortable.  He had nice gaits and responded willingly and quickly to my aids.  Since he was an endurance horse he had not been trained for the dressage head carriage which is more on the vertical.  That was fine with me, I don't recall ever riding a horse in that collected mode before Laurie's lessons but I was young and I rode hunt seat....maybe Laurie is just more awesome an instructor!  I told Susan I wanted to lease him and we agreed on Sunday to meet up and go over the terms.

Sunday came around and she was nowhere to be found.  I again had to find some random person to help me find her.  One lady gave her a call and found out she'd be back a little after 10am.  That really irritated me at that point since our meeting was 9am, why hadn't she called me to postpone the meeting?  The lady stated I could get Willy groomed and tacked up but I didn't feel comfortable considering we had not signed anything and I had not paid my lease cost.  So I waited.  By 10:30am I was fuming and had to leave the facility.  Even if she did come I didn't want to see her and I certainly didn't want to ride Willy and get him upset wondering about my anxious attitude.  So I've begun searching for other lease horses, one such mount that came up in my search is an Arab/Mustang cross in black forest but the lady said she had to use a curb type bit, not a snaffle since the mare tends to want to go to fast.  That's worrisome to me since I feel most horses, if trained properly should never need more than a snaffle or something is wrong.  We'll see, I meet her on Friday.   There is also a quarter horse off Baptist road that I may look at.  I received an email  from the ditsy lady at the ranch with Willy, she didn't exactly apologize but I figure once I get the paperwork done it will be just me and him.  I'll go there on Sunday and see what happens.  I just want to ride at least one more time a week, I wish I could do it everyday but that time will come soon enough. 

More to come!  I have my lesson tomorrow on Divine and I meet Danilla the Arab/mustang cross afterwards!  Hopefully after this weekend I'll have another horse to ride besides my lesson horse Divine.  Oh if only....my kingdom for a horse!

June 08, 2010

Lessons on Divine

I started riding at Laurie's, of Quintessential Arabians, in February to get back into the swing of things and have a critical eye help me get my seat back.  Position is everything in riding!  In a picture of someone riding from the side you should be able to draw a straight line from your ear to the back of your heel.  Having not ridden much except led western trail rides, which is barely riding since the horses all just follow the one ahead of them and plod along, I felt like a mermaid at the tip of a boats stern!  But my riding has slowly improved over the past months and I have felt much more comfortable.  The phrase "it's like riding a bike" means the same as "it's like riding a horse", it comes back fast.  I started reins-free on a lunge line; I think my first time ever being on a lunge line in a lesson.  Laurie had me work on seat position and the dreaded sitting trot, the hardest gait to sit.  English riders usually choose to post to the trot for comfort but if you can master the sitting trot they your seat is solid gold.

It's now June and the past few lessons I have had with Divine have been, well divine!  Let me take you back to a lesson I had that my mother came to watch. My toes were sticking out, my heels weren't down very well and Divine kept throwing her head up and not listening to my aids.  I think I was confused in general, things had not re clicked in my brain, I was frustrated and heart broken.  Quiet hands and legs, subtle aids...these were memories of the past that I couldn't grasp in the present.  I seriously wanted to cry.  I was always a "natural" rider and I felt I had lost that somewhere along the line.  That was in April, now in June I feel much more the horsey self I've been in the past, it's back!

I still have a ways to go in correct position but the wall I hit a couples months ago is behind me.  Divine and I are riding together quite well.  I am trying to keep my legs and hands quiet except when giving her aids.  It's amazing how much is transferred from the reins of the bridle to the horse.  Not just instructions and aids but anxiety, confusion as well as happiness and calmness.  Anyone can ride a horse but to truly ride and to ride well is to be in tune to the horse and the horse to be in tune with you.  Only then can the harmony of riding a horse reach a level that some may describe as spiritual.  So until next time...just keep riding!

June 03, 2010

Dreaming of Ponies Since Day One...

I remember as a child, playing show jumping in my basement.  I would run around and jump over grand prix jumps, a trash can on its side or the laundry basket full of dirty laundry, and I would win the blue ribbon with my handsome black Arabian stallion.  I played with plastic Breyer horses with my neighbor Jessica.  Each horse had a name and a history.  Essentially it turned into Barbies but with horses instead; it was a soap opera with some of the mares in the stable being a little "loose" and the other horses talking about them behind their backs. 

Chugaboom and I, I was about 9 years old
I started English riding lessons when I was 9.  My favorite mount was a little Chincoteague pony named Chug-a-Boom.  He was a sweetie!  Throughout my childhood into my high school years I rode horses weekly, with one riding instructor or another.  Moving from the crazy one who was charged with stealing horses to the FBI agent who taught lessons for fun.  Many horses I loved, Chug-a-Boom, Pumpkin, Witters, BC and Joker to ones that I often had issues with but still learned a lot from, Cinnie and Barney.  To delve into each of these school horses and the lessons I took would take up too many pages and the point of this blog is the present.  Horses have always been a "big deal" to me.  When other girls dreamt of getting married and having kids I dreamt of getting married and riding horses with my true love on the beach. 

I went off to college in hopes of being an equine vet only to realize that blood and I don't do well together.  So plan B....well I guess I'm still working on that one!  I have a Masters in Biology and have worked jobs I loved until a lot of changes at my work meant my job was now something to loath.  As it stands I am looking for work to one, pay me more, and two, make me feel like I am contributing to society again.  But I digress, back to horses.  Life has settled a little bit since I married Steve and I have decided that not only should I pursue some career dreams and goals I should also pursue one very big personal goal, to be a first time horse owner.  Financially I could probably afford a horse right now, I'm not talking about the cost of buying the horse but the all together more expensive part, the upkeep.  I want to be in a better place financially with more bills and such paid off, hence the part where I want to have a job where I earn more money!  Ah the joy of being an adult.  Just like having children, horses are a great responsibility and require a lot of time and money, perhaps less money than one child needs but still, money that must be spent on paper before I earn it to keep the horse healthy and sound.

I know it's only a few years away, when Steve and I will embark on the horse hunt.  That day will take a lot of self control, I don't want to fall in love with the first horse I see and buy him on impulse nor do I want to carry on and on looking for the dream horse that doesn't exist except in my childhood fantasies.  I have a couple years to get back in touch with my horse sense, as it were, getting used to what I like and don't like in a horse.  I know I love the responsiveness of Arabians, just a few months of lessons on one and I know that this is the right breed for me.  But like all animals, every horse is an individual and there are so many bloodlines to consider.  I cannot get too far ahead of myself, I have to take it step by step, so this blog will mark my horsie outings, my experiences with getting back into the horse world, riding lessons, leasing horses and eventually that fateful day when I will finally meet my very own mount.