July 25, 2010

Patrick Swayze Moves Plus More About Gaits and Gates with Willy

My riding lesson was moved to Saturday since I had to drive Steve to Denver Airport on Friday.  I rode Divine at 10am after Robin, she is another student of Laurie's.  She is quite tall, it was kind of hilarious how short I had to make my stirrups after she rode....I'm such a shorty!  Laurie had me work on the lunge line again, we worked on sitting trot and then posting trot.  Sitting trot went pretty well, I was working on relaxing my mid section and doing what we (Laurie and I) call the "Patrick Swayze move".  This move is referencing Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing and that hip motion he was so good at, drooooool,....hold on, let me take a second, mmm....sigh....okay I'm better!  This reference that came about with Ushi, Laurie and I discussing the sitting trot and Ushi mentioned a "cat sitting pulling its tail between its legs" movement; which of course caused us all some embarrassment and some hilarious laughter.....we'll not dive into that since the cat movement turned out to be much more risque then the sexy dances moves of Swayze in the 80's.  But anyways, the movement helps ones seat follow the motion of the saddle as a horse trots.  So I was trotting, doing the Patrick Swayze move and trying to keep my legs relaxed and stretched downwards to give my seat full security.  I have to mention here the immense loss to the Arabian horse world upon Swayze's death; he was an awesome horseman and a great person.  I wish I could have known him.

So we trotted around each direction then I took up the reins but stayed on the lunge line so I had some control but the security of the lunge line.  This concept worked really nicely since it seems once I work well on the lunge line at trot I tend to lose a little bit of it when 100 % on my own.  The lesson went really well!

After I untacked Divine and brought her back to her hay meal I visited the other mares in their stalls. Mystic Magic, known as Brownie, actually came up to me in her stall and let me pet her for a bit.  This was the first time she's done that, usually she doesn't seem too interested in getting love from me.  Pstar is the one who always comes up to me, her or Psylk.  Of course Sala is the boss mare so she always wants some love or carrots from me.  I enjoyed stroking Brownie's soft neck and cheek but eventually I had to head home.
Brownie (Mystic Magic)
Sunday I headed out to see Willy.  I was planning on taking him on a "trail ride" of sorts.  I got Willy and tacked him up and then mounted up to go on a nice ride in the neighborhood.  I wore jeans.  I'm not sure why, but I could barely get my leg up to the stirrup, the jeans prevented me from flexing my leg!  Never again, jodphurs are so much more comfortable to ride in!  We headed down the driveway of the stable to Meridian road.  I was going to take him down the road to Eggar and ride in that neighborhood to see how he and I did outside of a ring together.  He spooked a little at some plastic tangled up in the weeds.  He turned about and tried to head back to the stable, I calmed him down and tried to push him forward but he ended up going up the steep bank at the side of the road.  I tried to remain calm since I was a little nervous that he'd trip and fall down the bank, and subsequently on top of me.  We got down the bank, past the plastic and then made our left turn up Eggar.  I kept him at a walk for a while.  He was interested in a lot of the sights on the side of the road, a dog here, a donkey there....his ears were going every which direction.  I had to work him with my right leg a lot keep him over to the side of the road instead of the middle.  Luckily we only had three cars drive through the neighborhood.  Each was quite polite and gave us plenty of room.  Willy didn't seem too bothered by dogs running through a yard at him or sheep running around in a pasture. 

We did some trotting.  Willy trots very fast; even posting can be difficult since his stride is quite choppy.  I was having trouble with sitting the trot as well and then when I tried to bring him back to the walk, even with my alternating contact on the reins to slow him down he threw his head up in the air.  Aside from using a martingale I don't know what I can do to prevent the head tossing or to get him to slow down more fluidly and reduce the pace at the trot to something more reasonable.  I'll have to run that by Laurie, maybe she can teach me some things to help me work with him.  The ride went very well, I had a lot of fun seeing the neighborhood, I might be tempted to see what the price range is since the land is pretty horse-friendly; not that Steve and I want to sell our home any time soon but I think the next home we buy will need have acreage for our future horses.  The views were quite nice too, I could see the whole front range.  Some of the houses were very well built and well taken care of, it was a nicer neighborhood than I expected!

On the way back to the stable, I worked Willy in trot and walk transitions trying to get his gait a little more "collected" or at least slowed down to the pace of a "normal" trot.  Fast trots are just so bouncy I'd rather just go up into the canter but I'm determined to get the sitting trot down perfectly.  I'm did the Patrick Swayze move and tried to keep that image in my head when I rode; it seems to help me visualize what I need to do and release my core while in the saddle.  We neared Meridian and Willy picked up the pace but then stopped short for a second when he noticed a cute donkey approaching the fence line.  I wished Steve was with me since the donkey was so adorable he would have just died.  Steve wants a horse sure but once we get property and move our future boarded horses to it, a donkey will be the next pet to arrive.  He loves them!  Willy seemed a bit nervous at the flapping plastic again but didn't freak out quite as much as we passed this second time.  I reassured him and then praised him as we passed the evil entity.

Pyslk Noir

I rode Willy into the arena and tried to work on some circling at the sitting trot.  Willy didn't seem to want to trot, he wanted back in his pen but I was determined to at least get one round of sitting trot at a consistent gait.  We finally did a round and I felt like I wasn't bouncing too much and was really doing that "Dirty Dancing".  Then I walked Willy over to the gate and moved it open a bit, he barged right through and I rammed my left knee hard into the fence post....with a muttered curse word (I tend to have a potty mouth when in pain or fright!), I proclaimed my distaste but not at Willy, I obviously didn't have entire control over the situation.  I'll have to figure out how to open and close a gate while on horseback, never done that before and obviously I have no idea how to begin!  I gave Willy a nice grooming down and then brought him to his pen.  After I took his halter off he spent his time nibbling at his fetlocks, scratching his face with his back hoof and nipping his flank, he was an itchy boy.  Perhaps I should invest in a better fly spray?  I pet the two cute miniature ponies he shared residence with and then went back to Willy, resting my arms and head on his withers as he scratched his front leg.  I scratched his muzzle and said my goodbyes.  It was a fun day.  Lots to still learn as always, even though I've been doing the "horse thing" since I was 9, everyday there's something new.

I learned today that it's harder to keep my toes in on my left leg; something I was working on during the ride was my leg position and that leg wasn't quite as good as the other.  I learned I need to get a lesson on opening gates and perhaps what do do about Willy evading the bit by tossing his head upwards.  All in all though it was a lot of fun to get out of the riding rink.  I'll eventually expand my "trail ride" and go out towards Peyton but for now I'll keep to the neighborhoods.

July 22, 2010

Spooking a Horse and Riding with a "Mental" Crop

Today I figured I'd combine both blog topics into one.  I had my lesson on Divine on Friday and rode Willy on Sunday but I've been so busy...and subsequently tired at my new job (that I love by the way!) that I never got around to blogging...sorry!

I rode after Ushi, another student of Laurie's.  I've enjoyed the times I've met her and really hope to get to see her more, she's a fun person.  I think I may even suggest us, Ushi and I and maybe even Laurie if she can...go on a trail ride together.  Of course Willy is at Meridian and Garrett in Peyton and I don't have a trailer to take him anywhere but I do have the permission to take him on a trail ride nearby or to trailer him somewhere....I just need to figure out those logistics with Laurie and Ushi if they are ever interested....but I digress...that's a little bit premature since I haven't even mentioned my desire for a get together on Sunday.  Anyhow....

I rode Divine after Ushi.  We worked on serpentines.  Immediately after starting to ride Divine I realize how much more sensitive she is to my seat.  She may be a lesson horse but not to the extent that Willy is so she hasn't exactly built up that "tolerance" level....which is good.  She remains sensitive and is a great horse to learn on.  You know right away when you do something wrong or right.  With Willy I could be using my seat correctly but he's so used to lots of beginner riders, kids etc. that he has learned to be less sensitive, at least that's my take on their differences.  I did pretty well on the serpentines with Divine...it's a bit foggy now since it's been a week!  Laurie then suggested I work on the trot and two-point.  So out comes the lunge line. 

I've begun to really like this tool!  I get to ride a regular pace without worrying about many aids and can just work on the feel of my seat.  We were working on balance.  For the most part I feel I did well and began to relax my legs and not pinch as much in my knees, a bad habit I have!  There were some people sending off fireworks in the distance and one set really shocked me...I jumped and scared the bee-gee-bus out of Divine who jolted into a quick trot for a few steps, nearly unseating me, before realizing that I was being a silly, spooky human!  I felt so bad!  She was fine, I was the spooky one!  LOL.

On Sunday I rode Willy and had a mental image of a crop in my mind, something Laurie had suggested at my last lesson.  Willy can be a bit slow pokie; I mean he is twenty after all, so I was really using my legs and attitude to keep him trotting circles in the ring.  It worked pretty well, I haven't yet brought my crop with me riding, I never liked using it anyways....working on this "mental" crop thing sounds like a good deal for horse and rider! 

After doing a little work on serpentines and trotting circles at a consistent speed with Willy I walked him out around the big arena and went to visit Lorraine who was working with her Friesian mare on BACKING out of her shed.  Her two mares are very pretty and it's been fun to see her on Sundays lunging or playing with them.  I like walking around the riding ring since it's close to a trail ride feel.  I don't know where I can ride in this area so I've pretty much stayed on the property.  Susan was walking around the property....looking for her cell phone again!  I rode up to her and talked to her about trails.  She gave me some descriptions of one area I could ride to, it made sense but I figured I'd just do a ride around the neighborhood first before having to ride into "town" and cross an intersection at highway 24.  I want to take Willy out nearby first and see how he responds to me before getting into a situation where there is a bit more car traffic.

Note to self: I think I will pay more for boarding a horse that is very close to trails such as in the Black Forest or some other trail friendly place.  Granted I plan to have a truck and trailer before I buy a horse so it shouldn't be an issue.  It seems worth it to have trails within easy walking distance of the stable, especially since I will have to work "future horse" many times a week during endurance trail riding season to get the horse and ME into shape for meets!  Anyhow, I had a pretty uneventful ride on Willy.  He's a sweet horse, I'm glad I decided to lease him but I have the desire to ride during the week as well; though I get off at 6pm....I may have to look into leasing another horse with more available time to ride....we shall see!

Tomorrow I have my lesson on Divine, I'll try to be more thorough in writing up my blog on that!  Toodles!

July 15, 2010

Slanted Riding Ring

I didn't take any pictures the last time I rode Willy on Sunday July 11th.  I was pretty tired from being in Salida with Steve for a brew fest with his Home brew Club.  We had a lot of fun there, but that would be another blog all together!

Willy was moved again but this time back in his old run and was with a grey...mare? gelding? honestly I didn't look that closely because Willy was right at the gate looking at me, ready to go.  I decided to buy a halter, they are cheap and I loath those rope ones.  I worry I don't tie them right and with one swift move of Willy's head he could be halter free....not my idea of fun.  So I purchased a standard buckle halter....green of course, slipped it on him and lead him to the outside wash rack area since the indoor ring was occupied.  The only issue I had with him was the polo wraps.  I had three on and was working on the last hind leg.  He kept lifting up his leg and holding it there.  Not exactly easy to apply the polo!  I looked for a cut or bug bite that maybe was causing him irritation but I think he was just being a little pill!  I finally got those wraps on and proceeded with the saddle and bridle.

I decided that I would ride in the big ring today for fun.  We started out walking the entire edge of the ring and then I had Willy weave in and out of some cones that were left there and then walk over some ground poles.  Nothing too challenging!  I worked on spiraling in and out on a ciracle using one cone as the central point, not too bad!  Then we did some trotting, I just can't seem to sit the trot with him very well.  He was an endurance horse so maybe a slower trot is not in him?  I've tried and he may trot slowly for a few strides but then go into a walk.  I have to constantly get him started, slow him down but then he walks and then I try to get him trotting again...it gets frustrating and on Sundays I like to take it easy.  I like to practice a little but not worry too much about perfection, that type of goal is best when I have an instructor critiquing my riding!  So we just did posting trot, which was a little hard to keep consistent but then I realized it was most likely because the riding ring was on a hill.  As we went up the short side Willy picked up a little speed to get up the hill, on the other short side as we went downhill he seemed to slow down a bit...actually that was fine with me since trotting down a hill isn't very smooth to say the least!  Too bad the ring wasn't graded flat, that would actually not be too difficult.  Once I realized the ring was slanted I had Willy walk up and down the long sides across the grade of the arena.  That made riding the trot much more consistent. 

Willy's a cute old man.  I untacked him, groomed him and gave him his usual hugs before heading home.  It was Sunday afternoon and I was starting a new job on Monday!  Happy riding!

July 10, 2010

Running Stallions and Falling Frogs

I arrived at Laurie’s for my lesson, half an hour early to groom and tack up Divine. As I got out of my car Laurie was leading Eksodus to his round pen. I haven't pet him lately at her request since he's been getting nippy, her daughters aren't doing much with him either. Since he's been a bit ornery lately Laurie wanted to work with him. As she approached I asked if I could pet him and she said on the neck so I did. He was very soft and it was nice not having to evade his curious lips. I met Laurie's mom who was visiting as well.

As I walked towards the barn her mother was walking over to Gadiel's paddock, and for good reason. Gadiel had his tail up like a flag and was galloping full out in circles around his pasture. He looked like the wind with his mane flying, his head tossing and his ears pricked forward in pure delight. We stood and watched him a quite a while, the sound of the rhythmic hoof beats were exhilarating and calming at the same time! Legs was getting a little upset that Gadiel was getting all our attention so he started running in small circles near the gate of his pasture. He threw his head and kicked out his heels. He was so cute and beautiful! Then Eksodus seemed to join in on the attention getting show and ran in circles around his round pen, his flaxen mane sparkling in the sun and his red coat gleaming. Even though he's not as big and strong as the older stallions he was quite a sight to behold!

Finally I drifted back from fantasies of Arabian horses running free through the Saudi Desert and fetched Divine to begin tacking up. She was quite fidgety today, mostly excited from the sound of pounding hooves I assumed. I curried and brushed her, ridding her of dusty hay and bedding pieces....someone must have rolled on the ground for fun! I started picking out her hooves which were very packed with red clay/mud. I alerted Laurie to some chips of her outer hoof wall that were coming off. She stated she needed to get the farrier out this week. Then while picking one of her front hooves a big chunk of what seemed like frog dropped to the ground. The frog is the cushy part of the hoof. Anyhow the chunk fell off and I freaked out! Was Divine okay? I called Laurie over and she didn’t seem very worried. She said since Colorado is so dry their hooves react more when it actually rains. The frog normally gets trimmed by the farrier so what fell off was the “dead” part, kind of like our finger nail cuticles. I was relieved! I still have a lot to learn about horse health and care, so I tend to worry about a lot of little things, I guess that will subside as I get used to what's a problem and what's not as far as horse ailments go. I know there are some good texts out there that get really detailed and hopefully have pictures of diseases so you know what thrush looks like for example.  I'm glad Laurie is a good teacher of this subject too!

Anyhow I had a good ride on Divine and did a lot of leg work on the lunge line, ouch I'm sore. I love lessons with Laurie, she has a lot of patience and finds my weaknesses and helps me work on them. Trainers like that are worth so much to a rider like me! Well I guess that’s it for now. Happy riding!

July 05, 2010

Trial of the Girth

Tired and sunburned from the day before I was happy to go see Willy. Sundays are pretty quiet at the stable he’s at and holiday Sundays are even more quiet! I’ve normally been in the indoor ring, sometimes the small outer ring. Today I decided it was best to stay well out of the sun. Again, Willy was not in the same run he’d been in, he was back with Buttons…I think that’s he’s name! Willy was happy to see me with pricked ears and a gentle nuzzle. I had the new girth along with the rest of my tack, so I crossed my fingers that the girth would fit him.

Grooming is always a favorite time for me, I love going over the horses coat and making it gleam. He’s a bay so the shine really comes out in the sunlight! The only issue I had with him is that he fights with his hind legs, he wants to keep them up really high in the air and he struggles when I try to get his leg rested on my thigh for support. Oh well, at least it’s expected so I’m not caught off guard. Once I got to saddling I realized the girth was just a bit too short, so I ran to the tack room to borrow the white string and fleece one I borrowed last time. Mental note to self, a measuring tape is always a good thing to have easily accessible, perhaps I should keep one in my car…there are so many times I could use one, not just for horse related things either!

I put on Willy’s bridle, so happy now that I’ve realized my difficulty with Willy and Divine have been that my thumb is too short. There may be a proper way to hold the bridle but if I find a way that works for me, and my stubby fingers, and it doesn’t upset my horse by banging the bit on their teeth then so be it, that’s just how it has to fly! I tighten the girth a couple more holes and then mounted up.

Willy has been doing much better at being quick to respond for stopping. We worked again on circles and figure eights. I did trotting in both directions, trying to work on the sitting trot but honestly feeling like I was torturing myself and the horse so we eventually switched to posting trot. The figure eights were difficult, it seemed each time I changed diagonal Willy would start to slow down and try to walk. We’ll keep working on that! We also tried backing up; Willy is such a good boy! I also did some leg exercises, lifting both legs off the sides and balancing just on the seat.

After our ride he was much more relaxed with his hind legs and the hoof picking. One thing I love about him is that he’s very huggable. I returned him to his stall and put on the fly mask that was way too big for him, they have to have some that fit him! Then I returned the girth I borrowed after comparing its length to my other one, that way I’ll know what size to get at Equiline on Monday. I rolled up the four polo wraps, gathered my tack and then headed home to relax with the hubby. No fireworks this fourth of July for us, we were tired, I was sunburned and a night watching movies was just the ticket! Happy trails everyone!

July 04, 2010

Arabian Horse Show in Estes Park

Steve and I went to Estes park today to watch an Arabian Horse Association show.  We met up with my childhood (and adult LOL) friend Jessica and her husband Kevin up there.  It was fun to reminisce about horseback riding lessons as kids and try to determine which horses should place in each class.  We were about correct about fifty percent of the time.  Some classes we knew nothing about, aka Western Pleasure, and others, like Hunt seat we sort of knew about but not exactly what the judges were looking for.  It was a pretty nice day, sunny...yep very sunny, so sunny I look like a lobster now despite putting on sunscreen.  Uge.  Oh well, bye bye farmers tan at least! 

So, Without further ado, I figured this post will be mostly pictures of the pretty Arabs and part Arabs we saw.

What a sweet face!

Might we say Sabino gene? I would think so! I am starting to really like Sabino in a purebred Arab though there is debate about if it is truly a purebred. I think it's pretty and don't mind if my future horse is not "pure" that leg marking was quite neat!
Look, he's smiling!

Horse and rider so have the same facial expression here! Awesome!

Looks like a blinged out loose ring snaffle?
This horse won a lot of first places in western pleasure. I honestly don't get western pleasure since a lot of the gaits just look like "hobbling" to me. But he was a very pretty horse!
Awe again!

Never seen a western side saddle!  This was pretty cool!
So there's a few of the pics.  Fun show but certainly not as busy at the Scottsdale Arabian show Steve and I went to in 2007.  I so want to go back sometime to see that show again!  Anyhow, I think Steve and I will have to venture to some other shows, even if they aren't purely Arabian shows.  We missed the dressage and jumping that they had on Friday...we'll have to go to a more local show sometime that has those events.  Long day but full of pretty horses to google at and be in awe over.  A Saturday well spent I think!

July 02, 2010

Horses and Gaits, and Horses and Gates

Today I had a fairly tough ride on Divine. It started well with circling and figure eights that were on the money then it seemed that Divine was drifting further away from my aids. She wouldn’t circle she moved outwards and away. Apparently I was pulling her to the right with my hands but I was doing that leaning thing again with my ribs out to the left, so she went left. At times she did seem to just be dominating; Laurie got up on her and discovered that fact, so she worked her through some issues and then I got back on, struggled a little but ended on a good note. I still feel a bit beat.

Sometimes what I’m supposed to do just doesn’t make sense to me, if a horse is going left and I don’t want them to why do I need to pull the left rein? Something about getting that shoulder back but it’s not intuition for me yet, not natural and very hard to remember. I get confused. Divine is trained for a more vertical head carriage, when you squeeze with the left and then the right rein (a slight see-saw motion) gets her into position. I honestly don’t remember this ever in my lessons as a kid. I had to keep asking for her to relax her neck and collect. At the trot she kept trying to walk whenever I asked for her head and also had one spot in the arena she kept trying to get out of the circle. Honestly I don’t know what I’m doing wrong; I’m getting confused by Laurie. Maybe it’s this dressage type angle that is getting me confused, it’s so new and just seems to contradict what I thought I knew before. Honestly though, dressage should be a basis for all other disciplines, my hunt seat should not have been that different, perhaps I just don’t remember well. It could also be Divine is more sensitive and emotional than the other horses I rode so any mistakes I make are amplified. We might not really click and that could be it too. Oh well, I’ll keep trying.

After I untacked and groomed her Laurie asked me to put her in one of the outdoor stalls and then feed her some grain. The gate to the stall was a little odd and I couldn’t figure out the chains but finally managed to get it securely shut. It seems that most stables have different types of latching devices on their stalls or gates, it’s like a puzzle to figure each one out! Well apparently I didn’t figure it out because Divine was getting so upset being away from her friends that the gate came open and out cantered the mare. I rushed out of the stable to see her grazing in the area near the arena. Laurie told me to get her halter, and then I approached slowly from behind and patted her. Laurie haltered her calmly and we both took a sigh of relief. We walked back to the gate and Laurie showed me how the chains worked. They weren’t supposed to be attached together which is what I did. One loops over a slit in the gate, and then through a hole. The other just attaches to itself. I felt like a complete idiot. I’d finally figured out the arena gate and now with the heat it’s getting harder and harder to latch. Now this gate on the stall gives me issues and a horse gets loose. Uge!  Not a very good day for me.
Pstar hooves
I decided to go say hello to Pstardancer and take some pictures of her  striped hooves since they are so cute. That was really hard to do though since she seemed so interested in the camera that I couldn’t get her positioned right before she would try to sniff what was in my hand. Plus the dirt on her feet made it hard to see the stripes. She was really sweet which cheered me up from being a complete gate idiot. So, trouble keeping Divine in a steady trot gait with a relaxed neck and trouble figuring out all the various gate latches. Why can’t all the gate latches be the same?

Well tomorrow my hubby and I will head to an Arabian horse show in Estes Park! That should be fun!  So till then, tootles!