August 30, 2010

Thinking about Braiding

I've never braided a horses mane before, the one time I was in a horse show way back when I was 12 (I think I was 12) the horses I rode already had the simple hunter type braiding done.  Hunter braids are probably the most common braids seen in the show ring but require a shorter mane from my understanding.  Not something I would ever want since I love a long flowing mane but the braids do look sharp.

I have seen some horses with braids that haven't been "balled up" and sewn like the ones above.  I don't know if there is a technical term but they are simple to do with any length mane to keep the mane tidy and from getting into knots I guess.  I think a lot of endurance riders use this so they don't have to fuss with the mane on a long ride.  Of course anytime a horse has a braid in they need to be tended to regularly or else the mane can turn into a big knot or the horse could inadvertently rip out a big section of mane while they are itching on a fence post.

With Arabians, Andalusians, Lusitanos or other horses kept with a long mane and tail, the most common approach is the running braid.  I think it can look quite elegant but seems a bit tricky to do, kind of like the French braid for women's hairstyles.  I doubt I would use it for a trail/endurance horse but to maintain a long mane and keep it nice for the dressage show ring this would be a nice style to perfect.

My all time favorite style of braiding, though it's not a braid at all is the diamond pattern.  The first picture shows how to do this, it looks pretty simple, just time consuming but the end result is absolutely stunning!

Sometimes though, horse hairstyles can go a little far!  Check out this guy below.  Wow!

So that's my little post for today, talking about braiding.  I'm not really interested in showing but love seeing the fancy things people do with horses manes and tails....I mean, didn't we all have My Little Ponies as little girls and practiced braiding way back when?  Still the most striking beauty is a horse with a free flowing mane and tail that floats in the wind.


August 29, 2010

Itchy is the Word of the Day

I visited Willy on Sunday as usual.  I was a little disappointed that my friend Jessica who was visiting us this weekend had hurt her foot, therefore she could not join me to ride.  We had been excited to have her ride Riddle or some other horse and go riding together.  I think last time we rode together was in early high school!  Alas, she and her husbanded headed to their Air force posted home in Wyoming and then I came out to see Willy.  I was still pretty tired so I figured I wouldn't ride too long. 

View from the indoor riding ring towards the south and Willy's pen

It was nice to get Willy and groom him, the whole barn was vacant and I left the radio off so it was just the sound of wind blowing and the methodical sound of the curry comb that I was listening to.  Willy was particularly dusty today, each curry brought up more dirt on his coat.  I worked extra hard with the flick brush, going over the coat multiple times trying to get the dirt out of his hair.  I undid the braids in his mane, he had what looked like the remnants of a running braid that was beginning to turn into knots.  I got out the comb and tried to comb through some sections but decided that with the breeze going through the ring it was a losing battle.  I finished tacking him up and then led him out to the smaller outdoor ring.

We walked and trotted a little in the ring.  Willy wasn't really wanting to move forward much and I was too tired to keep my leg on him with any force so I led him out of the ring into the area around the arena in hopes that we could walk around the arena with a little more momentum.  It worked.  We mainly walked and trotted and I continued to work on halts with him.  It really is a struggle but as we continued he got quicker and quicker in his stop response.  I then had him canter up the slopes a few time, I think we both enjoyed that!  The canter is certainly my favorite gait but I think it's most peoples.  Of course Willy is not very collected so it's not as smooth and balanced as it could be but I'm not a horse trainer and don't know how to work on him with collection issues.  Most Sundays I just want to hang around a horse and have fun.

Itchy, itchy, itchy!

Ah yes, right it!

After riding for a bit I took him into the indoor ring and rubbed him down, gave him a couple carrots and led him back to his run.  He did his usual scratching motions, twisting around to reach his rear legs like a dog would.  I laughed at him and told him the Native Americans were accurate in calling horses big dogs, since they didn't have a word for horse.  Willy was so cute, in between scratches he came over to sniff at me as I squatted down to get a better vantage point of his antics.

I wandered over to the grooming area near Riddle's stall, said hi to him of course since his little ears pricked up under his ear bonnet.  I also went over to the dark bay/black Arabian of the next door neighbors.  He was beautiful so I talked with him and stroked his soft face.  He seemed to soak in the attention with great splendor.  After some time I had to get back and get my tack sorted, plus I wanted to bring the carrots over to Willy and his two run mates; Two Socks another light bay and Silver (I think) a grey horse.  Willy was very grabby with the carrots, so I ended up putting a bunch in the hay bin and then gave some to Two socks and Silver in peace.  I then hugged on Willy as he went back to his hay, went to gather my tack up and headed home to crash...well shower first then crash.

The Mystery Horse

I love how worries and even tiredness go away when I'm with a horse. A sweet soft muzzle touches my hand and I am transported to a simple world of hay, leather and warmth. Even when the ride is not "perfect" a day with a horse beats any day without one.

Of Flies and Railings...

I had my lesson on Divine this week, after missing last Friday I felt like I had been away from the stable for a really long time.  I rode on Saturday at 4:30pm, a completely new time for me but I had been at a conference for work on Friday.  I went into the arena to get Divine, as usual Pstar was the first mare to approach and greet me.  She is such a sweetheart, I wish I could just take her home with me!  I headed over to Divine, stroking her neck and rubbing her chest as I asked her how she'd been and told her I missed her.  She had a small wound on her chest, smaller than a quarter but I figured I'd ask Laurie when I saw her what I could put on it. 
Divine getting ready to be groomed and tacked up
I was working on grooming her and tacking her up when Laurie showed up with a truck full of fresh hay.  Silly me I didn't quite greet her as I should have, one of the first things out of my mouth was what to put on Divine's chest.  It wasn't an emergency, I laugh now at myself (How rude!), what must Laurie think!  Laurie had new fly spray so she sprayed down Divine, the insects were particularly pesty today.  When there weren't many others sounds to hear I swear I could hear a general hum of buzzing flies, evil insects.

Divine watching Laurie and Legs
My lesson was a bit frustrating.  I was pretty tired from having a really long day on Friday and my mind stayed a bit preoccupied.  I ended up in the arena railing several times, obviously my thought was "Why is Divine doing this to me?" but truth be told I was turning her neck hard away from the railing but that essentially pushed her into it. I was apparently asking for leg yielding, unbeknownst to me!  I was getting so frustrated!  Divine also had some irritations with what Laurie suspected were some micro gnats.  Divine seemed to have an irritation in her ears and was shaking her head a lot.  After a good scratching session with Laurie she seemed a bit better.  The lesson progressed, getting much better with some pretty nice trots down the long ends of the ring and trying to stay in a straight line (very difficult) at the same time.  I'm sure Divine realized I was not quite with it so took a little advantage but overall was a very good girl.  I was riding with my mind elsewhere, which is not a good idea.  It was a good lesson though, certainly not the really difficult lessons I have had in the past, just more of a Murphy's law situation (If I think about not wanting to hit the fence I will drive the horse into the fence, go figure).  We did end on a good note with Divine very collected and responsive and a nearly perfect halt, top hats off to us!
Pstar looking at what Laurie was doing with the hay in the truck
After I groomed Divine down and set her in the paddock I greeted the other mares in their stalls, with carrots of course!  Pstar was very elegant with her swan neck and tapered head.  Brownie (Mystic Magic) was cute as ever with her welcoming ears and big blaze and Sala was ever majestic with her head over the stall waiting patiently for her carrot and pat.  Psylk was in one of the outdoor stalls, I had run out of carrots but went to go pet her.  She kind of put her head over my shoulder like she was going to scratch my "withers" for me.  It was very cute.  I then walked out to view Divine and the stallions.  The light was at a nice angle, really making me wish I had my nice SLR camera with me to shoot some photos of such a wonderful subject.  I took a few pictures with my point and shoot of Divine and Gadiel, the darker grey stallion.  Then Laurie and I were watching Legs (Legacy of Roses) cantering, galloping and bucking in his paddock.  He was agitated at flies so Laurie decided to go get some fly spray; even though he was running because of flies he was still beautiful with his heels kicked up and his flag tail waving out behind him in the golden light.
Hi Brownie!!

Little Psylk

Laurie started taking the rest of the mares to the arena so I asked to help and went to get Brownie.  Apparently Pstar made a sudden move that bumped Laurie's glasses off.  She must have had some small gnats in her ears so Laurie told me to be cautious.  Brownie was fine but I saw Pstar acting irritated in the arena and then when Sala and Psylk were led out it was same thing.  Flies are mean!  Laurie got some spray and fly masks to appease the agitated mares.  I really feel for them but am thankful we aren't back east.  When I lived in Virginia the insects where 10 times as plentiful.  The mares settled down and then I headed home to relax.  I was planning on seeing some friends but after my long day on Friday I was still very tired and just wanted to veg....or stay at the stable and watch the mares in the fading sunlight munching on the fresh smelling hay.  Pastoral bliss!


Cute Divine nose- she has the cutest and softest muzzle

August 24, 2010

Monthly Installments of Horsies!

I finally recieved the horse magazines I subscribed to a couple months ago!!!  I recieved three issues of Equus and two of Dressage Today!

The awesomest thing is that in two of the issues there are articles about picking snaffle bits and how to use them properly.  This comes at a perfect time since I really want to get a nicer snaffle bit for the bridle I use on Willy.  Well, gotta go get my horsie-learn on!

August 23, 2010

Husbands, Horses and Barking Dogs

My husband Steve came with me to go riding today! Steve has only been on a horse when we've gone on one of those western tourist-type trail rides. He plans to take lessons as we get closer to owning a horse, hopefully I can get him more involved sooner than that.... When we got to the stable we went over to get Riddle, the tall former steeplechase horse, whom he was to ride. I thought Riddle was a pretty big horse and he is but more like 16 hands. I'm just used to smaller horses, and I prefer them too! Both Steve and I are short at 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 4 inches. We got Riddle out of his run and Steve followed me to pick up Willy. We then led both horses to the indoor arena to groom and tack them up.

I taught Steve how to curry comb, then stiff brush the dirt off the coat. While he worked on each step I went back to Willy to work on him. Once we got to the hooves I showed Steve how to pick the front and back hoof, Willy did his normal resistance for the hind leg. As I reached Willy's far side I noticed Steve was still trying to get ahold of the first leg. Riddle was definitely testing Steve. So I stroked Riddle and ran my hand down his leg and up his foot went. I think Steve was just feeling a little odd not being as comfortable with horses as I am, though he would not admit that! I picked all of Riddles feet and then we got the saddle; I instructed Steve where the saddle should lay on the horses back. Riddle needed two pads, at least per Susan’s instructions so we followed suit. I looked over to Willy; there he was with his back foot resting, his head lowered and his lower lip drooping....what a cute boy! I went over and finished tacking him up except the bridle. I went over to Riddle to bridle him but had quite a time of it, we was a "head tosser" and being such a big horse that head reached up really high! It was a relief to bridle Willy who was quick and easy.

I then helped Steve up onto Riddle, since he was so tall Steve wanted to use the mounting block. Once he was on I tightened the girth again, I was a little concerned that the extra padding would cause the girth to be a little looser than it would normally. I then hopped up on Willy; asked Steve if he was ready and then we were off down the drive to the road. Riddle plodded along very slowly and meandered over to the grass and grabbed a huge mouthful. Steve was clucking and laughing at the same time trying to get Riddle to move on. Willy and I had moved down the road a ways but I saw that Riddle wasn't going anywhere so we headed back to encourage him to follow us. The same plastic that was on the ground my past couple of rides was, alas, still there.  Willy did his usual skirting around the object while Riddle seemed perfectly fine right until he was on top of the plastic. His neck stretched down and he stared at the plastic. Poor Steve was trying to get him to move on, I clucked at Riddle trying to encourage him. Eventually he moved on.

Later during our ride we encountered a little terrier barking that made Willy start. Riddle just plodded along, he dragged his hind legs; you can see a distinct worn area on the front of his hooves. The four beat sounds were more of a slip-clop, slip-clop sound. I did some trotting up the hills with Willy, he was very spunky today; I guess he was excited to have another horse with him. When we were heading back two labs came running out of a yard towards the horses but neither animals seemed to be bothered by the other. Then Willy and I trotted up another hill and he kept going faster and into a canter. I encouraged him and rode swiftly up the hill with the wind in what little hair I had hanging out of my helmet. I then walked back to Steve and Riddle as they clopped up the hill. We were then accosted by two more labs that wiggled out of their fenced yard, and came running and barking at us. Willy had the chocolate lab at his heels but all he did was move his ears back and forth in their direction, following their movements. Then the dogs ran off to three other dogs that were in their fenced yard and the whole group ran up and down the fence line barking at each other with little regard for the two humans on equines wandering past.

On our way back into the stable yard Riddle walked Steve right into the dangling branches of a tree. I was mean and laughed but at least Steve was laughing too. We untacked the horses; I was so proud of Steve who very easily picked all four of Riddles hooves. When we returned the horses to their runs Steve decided to muck out some of the Riddles stall. The whole run had areas of wet mud and dried manure spread over its entirety. We both wondered how the stall got in this condition, maybe Susan has too many horses and not enough help. I returned Willy to his cleaner run and gave him the remainder of the carrots; he kept searching my hands and “pockets” after all the treats were gone. Then Steve and I went to collect the tack. A neighbor’s Arab came over to see what I was doing, sniffing the polo wraps as I rolled them. He was very pretty and had a more refined head than Willy. We gathered our gear and headed home, Steve was quite sore but happy after having a good horsie time!

August 15, 2010

"Hey, I was Listening to That!"

As I drove to the stable the clouds clung to the ground, in areas light broke through and in others I could see the feathery textured clouds whirling as if they were the steam above a witches cauldron.  It was very peaceful driving out to the stable.  I had contacted Susan about seeing who Riddle was, a horse that I can lease for the day at times when my husband Steve wants to come riding with me.  You know how that goes, meeting Susan...I gave her a time range but didn't expect much.  She was at the stable when I arrived doing some work with hay...well actually talking to the two guys moving the hay bales.  She said once she was done she'd talk to me about Riddle.

I decided not to wait and went to get Willy started up.  Since it had been raining a little Willy had mud splattered legs and damp ears.  I worked slowly in the indoor ring as I let him dry off a little bit, shining up his coat until it glowed like cherry chocolate.  He sure does shine when he's clean.  I love that about colored horses, they can really show off the light in a nice healthy shimmer.  I do like grey horses but their "white" coats don't quite have that shiny glow that bays, blacks or chestnuts have, although a flea bitten grey can be quite striking or a well groomed almost all white grey horse!  Once I had Willy tacked up I looked outside for Susan, gone, go figure.  Oh well I decided I'd work in the indoor ring for a little while since I didn't want to get too cold and wet in the misty outdoors. 

Willy had issues of starting to walk while I mounted so I tried to work on him with that by getting on and off a few times.  We also continued working on stops or shall I say eventual stops.  Not surprisingly he's always better after I've worked with him for a bit but he's still not responsive like Divine.  Working to get him up to a trot is also a chore anymore, just a squeeze for Divine equates to a squeeze, SQUEEZE, kick, KICK, with Willy but again he got better as the ride went on.  Once I did get Willy trotting we went in circles and I alternated between sitting trot and posting.  I nearly died laughing when "I've had the time of my life" started wafting over the radio station just as I was thinking about Patrick Swayze moves and the sitting trot!  Timing is everything they say!  I wish I could get Willy collected, his trot is still pretty stiff and he stumbles more than other horses but that's age and most likely collection but he does good with what he's got!  I do think as it gets into the fall I'll be looking for another horse to lease, I like the responsiveness of Divine and would like to find a horse younger than Willy to lease.  Though she's frustrated me at times I feel I have learned a lot and have become a better horse person because of her.  Don't get me wrong I love Willy but even in a lease horse you need to have a good match between rider and horse.

Willy's cute hind hooves, see the dot and the darker "stripe" on the hoof below?
Susan finally did come into the indoor ring, the sitting area that is, looking for something.  My guess her cell phone was lost again.  I said hi and asked about Riddle to remind her about our "appointment".  She walked over to the radio and changed the channel then came back over to me.  How rude!  I was listening to that!  It wasn't like I was blaring "Parental Advisory" songs, I was listening to an oldies channel!  What ever happened to this lady saying that I could change the radio to whatever I wanted when I was working in there?  I shrugged it off, figuring I'd turn it back once she left.  She told me Riddle was the big horse over by the smaller riding ring.  I asked if he was that big dark bay....she said no, the brown isn't that what dark bay is, although a more specific and educated label for horse colors?  I had to laugh to myself, every time I deal with this woman she never ceases to amaze me, LOL.  I led Willy out of the ring to follow her and see Riddle.  Yeah he was dark bay, almost black.  Bays are a brown color horse with black points (mane, tail and lower legs).  He had a lot darker brown hence the term dark bay, I'll show a good picture of him sometime.  Obviously if he didn't show brown on his face or body he would be considered black....but horse color comes in grades and variations, sometimes for certain horses it's hard to draw the line between certain colors.  I just know I've never seen a BROWN horse.  Chestnut, bays...yes, brown, NO!

After I got Willy untacked and back in his pen with his hay, I walked into Riddles pen.  He was huge!  My guess he was 16.3 almost 17 hands!  He had his blanket and fly mask on so I couldn't see much of his coloration but he seems to have pretty big pointy hips, Susan said she was still trying to get weight on him.  I hope he will do well for Steve; my hubby will be looking down from the clouds at me and my tiny 15 hand horse! Steve is planning on coming to ride next Sunday, I'll post pictures!
One of the little mini's who Willy used to have as a roomate

August 14, 2010

Silly Horse Lips

I had a fantastic lesson on Divine!  We were very in sync!  I barely had to do much to keep her nice and collected, a few times I had to work her onto the bit but for the most part she just went along perfectly.  Laurie had me work the whole riding ring and ride into the corners of the arena but do a nice arc into the corners without breaking stride.  We were doing pretty good aside from one corner since it was after one long stretch of straight rail, I had my mind on the idea of not wanting to hit the fence with my leg so I was a bit distracted.  Divine and I then crossed the arena in the middle to work on the circle again but this time she ignored my one leg (or I didn't use it hard enough) so we veered left instead of right.

Because of that Laurie had us work on lateral movements, where I was walking Divine forward but turning her head slightly left and pressing with my left leg while keeping her collected.  This made her cross over to the right in a lateral pass.  It was a work out for sure!   Not too much else to report except that I felt really great, my hands were doing what they should, and I felt pretty secure in the seat though I lost my stirrups a few times at the trot (still trying to relax into the longer length).  I love it when lessons go like that!

Before the lesson while I was tacking up Divine she was really cute with the baby wipes I use to clean out her nostrils.  Divine kept lifting her upper lip trying to grab a hold of the cloth, it was just too silly!  It really doesn't matter how regal a horse is, their breed or breeding...when they make silly faces like that they are just too cute for words!  I completely forgot to bring a camera with me, I've realized that the pictures I have of Divine are from winter time when she was still pretty fuzzy from the cold.  I need to get some more recent pictures of her!

Another silly horse lip event occurred when I was untacking and grooming Divine after the lesson.  I heard Laurie laughing from outside the barn.  She brought Silk into the barn and cupped her hand on her muzzle.  Psylk wiggled her upper lip from side to side.  I can't explain how funny it was to watch her cute soft muzzle wrinkle up and wiggle back and forth.  Horses can be so ridiculous sometimes!  I can't wait to have one of my own that I can get to know all their idiosyncrasies.  After releasing Divine I went into the arena to love on the mares at their respective pile of hay.  I snuggled Pstar, then Sala, Divine and then Psylky.  Poor Brownie was in the barn since she had a slight fever and a dribble-ridden nose that Laurie was trying to determine the treatment for or I guess whether it warranted a vet visit.  I went back into the barn to grab my purse and gave Brownie a goodbye stroke on her soft neck.  I told her I hoped she felt better soon, having a cold is no fun.  I could have stayed so much longer but I had to meet Steve, my hubby, and some of his colleagues from work.  Sorry no pictures this time but check out Laurie's web page with the new pictures and video she took of Eksodus!  What a beauty!

August 08, 2010

View Between Two Bay Ears

I arrived at the stable to see Willy earlier than I have lately.  It was nice to arrive and not see a line of cars parked and a horde of children running about the stalls, don't get me wrong the kids at this stable are well behaved and for the most part, pretty horse smart.  I just enjoy my alone time with Willy and if people are at the stable I'd prefer adult conversation to talking with the children, I'm not really comfortable around kids I don't know.  Steve and I are not going to have any children of our own, just dogs, cats, horses, donkeys and a bunch of goats! 

Anyways, I arrive at the stable and end up having to search for Willy again.  He's no longer with the cute mini ponies but is over at the south end of the property with another bay, and a grey.  I wish I knew all the horses names but I just go with my usual greeting of  "Hi sweetie" whether I know the horse or not.  Willy was content eating his hay but walked off after I made a move towards him with the halter off my shoulder.  I catch him and then bring him into the indoor ring to get groomed up.  This past week my new groom bag arrived in the mail!  It's very nice with one large pocket in the middle, kinda like a bucket and then several smaller pockets around the perimeter.  I've been toting my grooming gear in a Whole Foods grocery bag, the fabric one, so it's nice to have a heavy duty easy to use bag.  Each brush had it's own pocket, the hoof pick was separated to prevent ickifying the brushes and then in the big pocket I stored the four leg wraps, fly spray and baby wipes.

Enjoying his brunch

New grooming bag!
 I mounted up and then Willy and I headed down the driveway to go for a ride in the nearby neighborhood.   Willy reacted a little nervous around the same plastic sheet that was on the ground, still.  He did much better than the previous time we rode out.  We walked onto Eggar Road and started to trot.  I continued the work I had done in the arena, the walk trot transitions to hopefully get him at a nice comfortable pace trotting without hollowing his back.  A couple times he hollowed his back and threw up his head but I brought him back to walk, then back into the trot.  He seemed to understand what I was trying to accomplish and began to more consistently trot at a slower speed with a less tension in his back.  As I was riding up the hill three dogs came flying down from a house barking at Willy and I.  Willy moved a little to the right away from the dogs slightly into the road, I held him steady with my leg pressing him back and reassured him.  A truck was passing on the right side of the road so I didn't want Willy to interfere with them either. 

The view between two bay ears
As we came to Eggar Court a young girl, I would say high school age, was riding a nice chestnut horse with roan splashes towards us.  She was bareback in jeans, a tank and no such a situation I think a helmet is even more warranted!  We smiled at each other stating it was a nice day for a ride.  I wondered if she lived in the neighborhood, lucky.  I rode up the Eggar Court, near the top of the culdesac Willy and I heard some whinnying of horses and a man yelling something incoherent.  I couldn't see him but Willy was a little anxious at the sound.  As we turned around the culdesac and headed back down the road we heard the yelling again but this time saw this man chasing a dog out of his horse pasture.  Willy stopped and flicked his ears about but I encouraged him to move forwards, nothing to harm him here.  Just then about twenty feet in front of us a Honda backed out of a drive, oblivious and not looking in any direction, turned and drove off.  I had stopped Willy and stood while watching the person negotiate their car, never turning to look in the direction in which Willy and I stood.  Luckily we were a defensive rider and horse and not an unaware car or a child on a bicycle!

Cute goat at the stable
We continued on the road doing walks and trots.  As we headed back down the road to the stable I noticed the paddock with the donkey and a nice paint horse.  I saw the lady I had seen a few weeks ago and asked her if that was her donkey, I had no idea where property lines were.  She said yes, and had I seen the baby.  I turned quickly to look for a baby donkey but she was talking about a chestnut foal lying in the grass by the paint mare.  I hadn't seen him!  He was so cute! 

Willy and I made it back to the stable where I untacked him and groomed him down.  I brought carrots this time with me and he was very happy to have this treat!  When I moved on to pick his hooves there was an equine muzzle checking my rear end for any tidbits of carrots.  He didn't nibble or anything, just checked me out!  What a cutie!  I returned him to his paddock and rested my arms and head on his back as I looked up at the blue sky.  The clouds have been pretty amazing today, big cumulus clouds have floated about but nothing looked too threatening.  I wish I could see Willy more than once a week, I think.  I gave him a hug and headed home to the hubby and weekend errands, it's Sunday after all and time to start the new work week.

Arcs and Wallops

I arrived at Laurie's around 8:30am and got Divine in from the arena.  The boys were in the stalls as I led her into the grooming area.  Eksodus had his head over the stall looking at me, almost pleading to be mine.  After I got Divine hooked up to the cross ties I went over to Eksodus and tried to pet him on the neck, he kept eyeballing me and then moving his muzzle over to nibble me.  I kept saying no, and then went on petting him on his neck until he did it again.  I don't know how to handle young horses, pretty as he is I definitely think he needs someone who knows what they are doing with a young horse.  I grabbed the grooming kit and started working on Divine.  I got her saddle on and then stood for a bit loving on her, I hadn't seen Laurie or her daughters at all this morning.  I wanted to go to the house to see if they were about but I couldn't leave Divine cross-tied and I didn't know the best place to tie her here, plus I'm not too comfortable with the quick release tie.  So, I took Divine up to the front door and rang.  Ashleigh was at the door and said "Oh!" rather surprised and went to get Laurie.  As I walked back to the barn I wondered if I had missed an email or something. 

Once Laurie got to the barn I found out she had thought I wasn't coming since I had a doctor's appointment.  I kind of scratched my head trying to remember my wording in the last email I sent.  I felt so bad but Laurie was very cool about it, we had a good laugh.  I helped bring in the mares by taking in Brownie (aka Mystic Magic).  She's a sweet mare.  I had a bit of difficulty with Divine and the bridle but I think I was a little nervous with everyone moving about the barn, kind of like when I'm typing and someone comes up to my desk I can't seem to type without multiple typos!  It's one of those things I guess!

I honestly don't know what to write for my lesson on Divine this past Friday.  Things started well enough, she was responding to my aids and doing what I asked.  Then it seemed toward the last third of the lesson she began drifting out to the gate or the railing, out of my circle again.  I tried to remember the proper aids but old habits die hard.  I kept lifting the outer rein and pulling the inner rein too much.  A couple times Laurie told me to smack her on the side with my leg, I tried but Laurie said if I was doing it hard enough to correct Divine she should be able to hear it.  She stated that often times she drops the stirrup to get a good swing.  So next time, I tried that and what a wallop of a sound!  I was pretty satisfied with myself, Laurie has been trying to get me to be more bossy, so the mare doesn't get bossy.  I haven't used my leg to the extent I did today and now that I know how it works I can do that again if I need to.  Eventually I got Divine to listen to me and do what I asked, I just wish the first part of the lesson could have continued on without the difficulty.  My problem is that I don't correct hard enough when problems are small, I think I'm trying to correct but I don't think I'm doing it strong enough and Divine takes advantage, she wants to be boss. 
Silly Psylk muzzle from when I was trying to get a picture of Pstar's hooves, you can only see Pstar's chest here. Those two mares are so silly!
Laurie had me to do some counter arcs with Divine.  For those that don't know, I being in that group of not knowing, a counter arch is when a horse is circling to the right lets say, but their body arcs to the left.  It helps in flexibility and leg yielding, anyone correct me if I'm wrong or fill me in on the technique if you will.  I was having some issues with it but eventually succeeded.  Laurie got on Divine after my lesson to do some training on her since she felt she wasn't quite up to par with that technique which might have been some of the problem.  I stayed for a little but had to leave since I did have a doc appointment to get ready for in a couple hours.  I said goodbye to Psylk and Pstar, and headed home....I definitely missed staying for a bit to love on the horses for more than just a farewell pat.  Oh well some days other priorities take place over horsing around but I think next Friday I should be able to stay longer and love on them to my complete content.  I'd love to take some pictures of the horses with my Canon SLR camera, particularly the horses she's trying to find a home for.  She said she got some video of Eksodus this past week, that would be neat to see, I'll have to check out the webpage!

August 03, 2010


There's an issue in the riding world that can really heat people up, an issue that shouldn't even be an issue in my opinion.  It's the issue of helmets.  Since I've been riding I've worn a helmet whenever riding horses....wait let me correct this a bit, not always.  I like, many other riders, sometimes opted not to wear a helmet for certain situations, such as when going on one of those wrangler led western trail rides.  I scold myself now the more I think about it.  Whenever you are on a horse you should wear a helmet, I don't care if it's a slow-pokie-walkie western trail ride or a Grand Prix dressage test!  Anything can happen on horseback whether you've ridden for a week or ridden for 30 years.  Courtney King-Dye was a Grand Prix dressage rider and earlier this year fell off a horse she was riding when he tripped....anyone ever been on a horse that tripped while walking?  Um yeah...hello!  She cracked her skull, went into a coma and has now just been released as an outpatient.  She is undergoing therapies of all kinds, has seizures and other issues...remember brain injuries don't mend like a broken bone! 

I've read and heard a lot of statements as to why someone wouldn't wear a helmet, "I don't intend to fall off, I'm an experienced rider, it makes me hot, it messes up my hair, I look dorky in a helmet, blah, blah, blah".  Courtney was a Grand Prix rider!  A sad argument I've read about (that just makes me mad!) is that some show judges may score you lower if you wear a helmet for certain disciplines!!! Show judges who think a rider, who rides perfectly well in the ring, is actually inferior because they are wearing a helmet should, to put it bluntly, get their heads out of their as**** and realize that safety is ALWAYS a priority over fashion or tradition!

He's wearing a helmet and the brim helmet shade makes it look more "traditional" Genius!!!
Way back in time, when many of our riding disciplines were in their infancy, helmets did not exist.  Derby's were worn in English country pleasure because gentlemen in their finest would ride their horses over their homestead/plantation/whatever you call it in England etc.  Top hats were traditional for dressage, cowboy hats for western riders.  Which brings me on a tangent here.  I've read some arguments for and against  western riders wearing helmets.  First off the traditional attire included a cowboy hat, to protect the cowboy from the elements and sun, gloves to protect their hands, chaps to protect their legs from the leather of the saddle, boots to protect their see where I am going here?  They wore these items to PROTECT themselves.  This was before the helmet, so why now that the helmet exists and has for a long time do cowboys not want to continue to increase their protection like they have traditionally?  Vanity and tradition are quite apparent in all riding disciplines from Dressage, English Country Pleasure, Western Pleasure to Cutting.  Many of these disciplines can be fast paced....barrel racers rarely wear a helmet yet they are running at top speeds.  Most English eventers wear helmets and some even wear those protective vests!  But alas some people will ride their horse over a course of jumps without a helmet!
I bet at least one of the many thoughts in this rider's head was "Man I'm glad I have my helmet on!"

So to convince you some more that wearing a helmet isn't showing others that you are a wimp or worried that you will fall but that you are smart and intelligent and thus want to protect that noggin which makes you that way, here are some facts I found online.  Take them or leave them:

18% of equestrian related injuries have a head injury component.  The human skull is shattered by a direct impact of only 5 miles per hour.  The average walk pace of a horse is 3-4 miles per hour, trot 8-10 mph, canter 10-17, gallop 30-40 mph depending on breed, fitness etc.  3 out of 5 horse related accidents are due to head injuries.  1 in 5 patients with a head injury from a horse accident result in long term disability (basically if you fall without a helmet you have a higher chance of injuring your head and if you injure your head you have a 20% chance of having long term issues!!!)  Make sure to use an equestrian helmet since they are specifically designed for falling off a horse.  Your head is falling from about 8 feet, that's a lot higher than a bicycle or roller blades.  Lastly various helmets cost between $25-$200, the average medical cost for head related injuries.....$89,000!!  Which sounds better to you?

We need to learn that helmets just make sense, no matter what pace you are riding, what discipline you are riding, how experienced you are or how "good" your horse is.  A Grand Prix rider fell because her horse had nothing to do with her being a bad rider or inexperienced or that her horse was a badly trained horse, she and the horse were at the Grand Prix level!  Horses can trip, spook or you CAN lose your balance.  Hitting your head on an arena post, a rock on the trail or even a soft grassy field (my last fall when I was 16!) can cause lifelong damage that is often irreversible.  I am glad I had a helmet during my falls off a horse!  Don't take the risk!  I know I will never be lax about this topic again, even on a tourist slow-pok-tail-to-nose trail ride...on goes the helmet!  When I have a horse, I will never let anyone on them without a noggin protector that's for sure.  I don't let people ride in my car without a seat belt either!

Just as handsome as a top hat!
Well I hope this wasn't too much of a soapbox post, I've just had this on my mind for a while now!  Safe riding everyone!

August 02, 2010

Walk-Trot-Walk-Trot....La De Da!

When I arrived to see Willy the place was pretty hopping, I’ve been showing up later and later during the day so more and more people have been at the barn. I got Willy out of his stall but as I was leading him out this little girl, I would say 6-7 years old was right by the gate; actually she was kind of in the way of my leading Willy out. I said excuse me and she backed up. She asked if I was going to buy him, I told her no, I was just leasing him on Sundays. She followed me to the indoor arena where I like tack up Willy. She stated that she was having a lesson today and usually rode Willy. I asked her who her instructor was, that maybe she should talk to her and find out which horse she’d be riding since Willy is leased on Sundays. I didn’t know what else to say to her, it’s like she almost expected me to get Willy ready and hand him over. I felt bad, like I was taking horse time away from her. I paid to lease him though, so I shouldn’t feel bad! Finally her grandpa came in and the two went and brought her sisters horse in. She was a beautiful flea bitten grey Arabian mare. She and her grandpa got to work on grooming the mare and I was left in peace with Willy.

By the way, I went by the Big R and purchased a hunter green halter for Willy (have a mentioned that before?) since I don’t feel I tie those rope halters correctly and am afraid one day I’d have a lose Willy on my hands! Um, that sentence sounded bad, but bare in mind Willy is his name ….I was talking about the horse! I’ve gotten a lot of flack from friends about the horse named Willy that I lease. Can we say immature? LOL

Willy is so handsome in his new halter!

I am starting to get the hang of wrapping his back legs, I’m required to wrap all four at this stable. Laurie only has me wrap Divine’s front legs, which make sense since that is where they carry the most weight. I’ve read good and bad about wraps, with what I do on Willy I wonder if they are really necessary, they just seem to make his legs really sweaty, I would love a little more insight as to when to use them and when not to. During my one ride out on the "trail" he came back with seeds and burrs on the wraps, what a pain to clean! I know they are supposed to support the tendons and protect against inner leg striking or brushing but I’ve never used them in the past, just been introduced to them this year. Still, Willy looks snazzy in his hunter green digs and black tack!

I decided to work in the arena today to work on turning left, amongst other things. Well I didn’t have any issues with Willy going where I wanted to but that’s no surprise. If I compared him and Divine he would be a mini van with really stiff shocks and Divine would be a Porsche with smooth handling and quick responses. She’s definitely more sensitive to my body whereas I really have to tell Willy what I want. Sometimes my legs ache after I ride him from squeezing to keep him at a decent walk or to get him up into the trot. It could be age, it could be breeding, training or just life use, Willy was an endurance horse that is maybe pooped out and Divine is a pampered broodmare well trained in dressage style riding. Either way I like them both, I think my ideal horse would be somewhere in between the two, a responsive horse but one who isn’t too responsive to every little mistake I make. Perhaps the longer I get back into riding I won’t make as many mistakes and I’ll desire a sensitive horse like Divine, only time will tell.

I worked Willy at the trot, he doesn’t really trot at a consistent pace which certainly isn’t helped by the arena being on a slope. I worked him on walk-trot transitions, I only let him trot 10 paces before I asked for the walk. Then I’d walk about 10 paces and ask for the trot. I extended the length of the trot until the pace was pretty consistent, not perfect but much better. I am proud to say I was able to sit the trot much better on him than I have to this date! Now I have to work on trotting pace while posting….it seems when I started posting the pace increases, perhaps I’m squeezing him and not realizing? If I could collect him perhaps he’d be smoother and more consistent in his gaits.

I’ll have to ask Laurie sometime about collection, how to get this old man to collect. The normal contact on the reins, a one-two-one-two signal makes him stick his nose strait out, I’m not sure if I should learn to lunge (actually I know I want to learn that) but I would like to know if that work can help with collection. After the ride I untacked Willy and rubbed him down. He always seems relieved to have the saddle and leg wraps come off, I don’t blame him in this heat. I brought him to his pen, put his fly mask on and scratched the base of his mane as he contorted around to scratch his legs and then scratch his face with his back hoof, just like a dog! Speaking of dogs…I need to take a picture of the miniature horses he shares a pen with, they are like big dogs coming up to me when I walk in there, I’m nervous they’d do the "typical dog greeting" but luckily they don’t! Hehehe! They are just so cute! Until next time!

Zoolander and Riding horses....I Can't Turn Left!

My lesson on Divine was very frustrating. I was doing figure eights with her and things seemed to be going fine. Then she started drifting out of the circle when I turned left and went towards the gate. I could not figure out what I was doing that was causing this. Laurie said I was using my inside leg which was pushing her out, then too much inside rein and lifting of the outside rein making her essentially side step out of the circle. I applied my outside leg but to no avail. After awhile Divine seemed to be testing me, doing what she was before but with fewer incorrect aids from me; this was after I was corrected and worked through with Laurie, also after getting a crop in hand which I still don’t think fast enough to use as a correction. I just can’t seem to feel that I have my inside leg on her, I don’t realize it and yet I start all these problems with Divine.

Laurie sidetracked us to teach me the “turn on the tail” whereby you pull one of the reins through your hand, loosening the other and press with the same leg thus causing the horse to essentially spin on their hunches to get them to go in the direction you require. This is a good maneuver for troubled situations, like a galloping horse approaching a cliff at 12 o' clock, turn on the tail, now the horse is still galloping but not headed for danger. I didn’t release the opposite rein as much as I should have and just ended up making Divine go in tight circles, at least it accomplished her not going in the direction I didn’t want her to go! Once we played around with that and I got the hang of it a bit we went back to circling left. Divine was still going out towards the gate, I don’t know if it was her being a pain or my leg work, I tried to keep my inside leg off her. I was getting really frustrated because I felt like I didn’t have any control over my own legs and thus my horse. We eventually made it around the circle turning left with minimal issues but I still felt like I didn’t accomplish much. I can’t really feel that I’m giving aids I’m not intending and thus causing Divine this confusion. Eventually it will work out, I have to keep telling myself that.

After the ride I groomed Divine, hugged her and released her to the arena; then I went to love on the other mares. Pstar is my favorite, her sweet personality is charismatic. She was in the larger outdoor run with Psylk.  Those two together are the cutest pair of curious equine muzzles ever! The two seemed to be “fighting” over who got to stand closest to my stroking hand. Pstar would bump Psylk out of the way to get love but around Pstar’s back end, into the crevice between Pstar and the gate came Psylk. Then it was Pstar's turn to do a round-about and push Psylk out of the way. They were too cute! I was ready to take one or both of them in my pocket and take them home! Laurie wouldn’t notice would she?
The dreamy boy Eksodus
I started talking with Laurie about horses and owners etc. We got on the topic of Eksodus, the yearling colt I find so beautiful. She really needs to find him a home, along with Mystic Magic and Eksmisha. She suggested payments for me to buy Eksodus and a really good deal on boarding him there. It made me think about the possibility of buying him. I’d certainly have to get to know him better, I only really pet him through the fencing and that makes it hard to prevent his little mouth from nibbling on me. I asked her several questions about keeping a young horse. After keeping her for so long I headed home, the ride home was filled with visions of jogging with the colt, taking him on camping trips and leading him on trails to get him used to new places…..of course I’d need a truck and trailer to do that. Then I thought about my debt. I pay $700 in debt each month, this isn’t counting my mortgage. It just counts student loans, grad and undergrad, my car, credit card, other loans etc. Sure, I’m taking home more money now with my new job but the smart thing is to take that extra money and work a debt snowball and pay off as much as I can. In about a year and a half I could pay off all but my student loans, be able to increase payments on those and still have money to save and then eventually keep a horse on. The prospect of owning Eksodus has many pluses. He has great breeding, I know his background and he is a very excellent prospect for endurance. On the downside I wouldn’t be able to ride him for 2-3 years, I’d be paying to maintain a horse that I couldn’t really use. I wouldn’t be able to lease a riding horse if I owned one so my riding time would be cut down by half…but I’d own a horse. My ability to get out from under my heap of debt would be reduced since I would be paying for horse care. I also would be hard pressed to save up for a truck and trailer to haul him to all the places I’d want to. I would be pretty stuck I think.
But, honestly the prospect got me really excited since I saw that I could afford it in a round about way. In another, realistically, if I’m still in debt, even if I’m able to pay all the minimums, and pay for a horse I still really can’t afford it, not with the debt over my head (Dave Ramsey!). I have to be responsible. The sooner I’m free of debt the more free I’ll be with my money. I’ll be able to pay for a horse and not stress and also have more money to put into retirement and of course fun things like vacations. It’s just not in the cards right now, even with the extra income. I have to be smart, pay my dues first, so to speak, before I can have play money.

In a couple years I will be in the position to buy a horse and that day will be grand. I would love to help Laurie and buy one of her horses, I just can’t right now. I doubt she’d part with Pstar or Psylk, she has breeding plans for those mares. Eksodus will have hopefully already found a great home. My horse is somewhere, I’m guessing between 2-4 years old right now, since I’ll want to purchase a 4-6 year old in a couple years. Either way, I can’t wait to offer a forever home to a beautiful mare or gelding. Now it’s time to buckle down and put my hard earned cash to work, freeing my income to make the financial side of horse ownership stress-free.