October 24, 2010

Fuzzy wuzzy was a horse

Willy is getting his winter coat in, and fast!  I often wonder if it occurs faster in an older horse.  So of the other horses at the farm are not at the level Willy is, he's looking more like a miniature mammoth than a horse!  Hahaha, not really!

When I got him from his paddock today he was covered in hay dust.  His head, face and half of his mane was flecked with bits of hay pieces.  He was a real mess!  I prettied him up, got him tacked up and decided to do some work in the smalled arena, the one that doesn't slope.  I mounted from the ground since I want to practice that more.  Lately I've used the mounting block, just cause.  I've been trying hard to mount with my foot pointed towards the horses head, parallel to their body, that way I don't poke them in the elbow with my toe as I mount up.  I've discovered that's what I've been doing so I'm trying to work on correcting that error.  It's almost like starting all over again learning how to mount but you don't get extra points for mounting with elegance at least!

Looking downhill at the larger/sloped arena
I worked a little on posting trot since I'd been working on that with Laurie on Friday.  I tried to feel where my feet were and occasionally glanced down to indeed see that I would point my toes down.  I worked hard keep my toes in and up.  At one point my right foot ached on the outer edge, not sure if it was from the work or the way the boot was hitting me.  It was odd.

Willy has been more reluctant to move forwards in the arena the last few times.  It takes a lot to ask him to trot and when he starts the trot it's with a slight toss of his head and a begrudging grunt.  He doesn't seem to be in pain or have a limp.  Is this an older horse thing?  We went around the ring in both directions and I feel that my posting and leg position eventually got to the place I wanted.  I then swung open the gate and rode around the outside of the bigger arena, trotting a few times and practicing a few halts.

Then I took Willy out to the Eggar road for a "trail" ride.  I wanted to see the mountains on this glorious day.  The sky was a cobalt blue and the clouds were pure white and wispy.  As we reached the crest of the road where we could see a nice view of the front range I sighed in contentment.  Oh to be fall and riding a horse, it can't get more perfect than this!  The clouds by the mountains were casting a shadow creating a dark purple/blue hue to enrich the hills.  It was breath taking.  On our way back to the stable we passed the field with the horses and donkey.  The donkey always seems to greet us as we pass and this time we got a close up look at the mare and her foal.  I need to bring a camera out next time!

Fuzzy and Sweaty Girth area
Once back at the stable I pulled off Willy's saddle and hopped up on bareback to walk around the stable yard while he cooled down and his girth area dried off.  Then I groomed him and led him back to his hay in his run.  I ran around to a couple different places in the yard where he had pood, he had to go a lot today!  I gave Willy a big hug rubbing his fuzzy coat.  Till next Sunday my silly Willy!

Wild and Crazy mares....ah, not really

Since I missed last weeks lesson I was happy to arrive at the stable and see the mares in the arena.  Little Psylk was the first one to greet me.  She has very soft eyes and is a sweetheart.  I was surprised that Pstar wasn't coming up to me but Sala was right there and since she's the boss mare that may have been why.  I greeted Divine and brought her in to groom.  She was wiggly as usual.  Seems right when I put her in the cross ties she starts to paw a little, she wants to get this over with and done so she can do other things I'm guessing. 

While Laurie and I awaited her girls bringing in the mares we got to enjoy the show of Brownie and Sala galloping around the arena in a mock panic.  Apparently they are usually the first to be brought into the stable and since they were the last left it was quite upsetting!  It is pretty impressive that the mares can run around with such gusto and spirit yet be caught and led away calmly by young girls.  Sala wasn't led into the stable with quite the calmness I describe, she pranced a bit with her head high and her tail arched.  Though she was prancing about she was 100% under control.  I love Arabs! 

Legacy of Roses aka Legs
My lesson was on the lungeline and Laurie had me working on posting trot.  I do lose my leg a bit while posting, and tend to put my toes down, so we worked on that.  I certainly felt the pull in my ankles as I tried to keep the toes pointed in and up with my heels being nice and down...of course all the while trying to remain relaxed with my knees like springs.

When I started off I wasn't do quite as well but eventually found my stride so to speak.  I just need to think about sinking into my heels and feeling the pull on the back of my calves, that helps to find the position.  I seemed to trot forever in lunge circle, as Laurie said building up my endurance.  I can't imagine how long I'll be posting the trot in an endurance race, even just the limited distance at 25 miles seem daunting to me!  I need to get in shape just as much as the horse!

After I groomed Divine I visited the other mares with carrots.  Brownie has soft gentle lips as does Sala.  For Sala it's amazing how gentle she is given she is HUGE for an Arabian.  She's 16 hands I think, I think I recall Laurie saying that but even though she's a big girl she is still a refined looking Arab.  That's what's nice about this breed.  Pstar and Psylk were in the outer stall together, so I was able to give my beloved Pstar a carrot and say hello since she oddly wasn't the first at the gate this morning.

October 17, 2010

Willy Feels Better

I am happy to report that Willy was doing much better today!  His nose was dry and he only coughed a couple times during the trot.  He's definitely getting very fuzzy.  His girth area had obviously dried funny from the previous ride, not sure if that was saturday or another day since I don't know his schedule.  It felt good to groom him and tack him up today.  His mane was nice and silky, no knots!

I mounted using the mounting block since I was wearing jeans and they are more restrictive than my jodphurs.  I figured it would be nice to just mount up easy today.  I worked him around the main ring, on the outside at first doing some posting trot.  Then I decided to go into the arena and play around in there, even though the big arena is sloped rather than graded flat.

No snot!  He feels much better!
I tried one gate and couldn't seem to get Willy in the position I wanted him to so I could reach the latch easily.  The second gate I tried I could reach fine but could not move the darn thing to save my life.  I feel silly on horseback getting into position for opening a gate but I feel even more so when the horse is in position and I can't open it!  Third times a charm, I finally got Willy where I needed him to be and opened the third and final gate.  I swung it open but didn't pay much attention to the overhead bar and sort of banged my head on it.  Yet another reason it's good to wear a helmet while riding!!

I started Willy on a trotting circle which he did quite well, including a figure eight where he didn't try to break his gait.  Then I did some walking serpentines down the arena.  Willy seems a bit more stiff turning in the right direction so I worked a little bit on some flexion movements with his neck and tight circles.  He didn't seem to like it so much but the poor boy needs to get more flexible! 

We cantered a few times with no goal in mind but to have the wind brush by.  I want to canter him more and work on my seat in the canter, it's my favorite gait since it's like a rocking horse or a playground swing.  The motion is so perfect!  I just wish I could see what it was like with a collected horse, Willy is stiff in most of his gaits so even though it's fun I'm sure it's more luxurious in a well collected horse.

After the shorter ride, since I was planning on meeting some friends for drinks later, I groomed him down.  His girth area was still wet so I took him to the arena with me and set him loose while I scooped out the poop piles.  He'd only gone once in the ring but the piles left from how many days from the other riders were still there so I decided to get all of those.  There are signs all over that in the tacking up areas and arenas all riders need to clean up after their horse.  It doesn't seem that many of them do since most times there are several piles in the indoor or outdoor arena when I arrive. 

Once I was done I brushed down the sweaty areas on Willy since he was now all dried off.  I took him back to his pen where his buddy Two Socks awaited.  I gave them both carrots and told Willy he was a sweet horse; oh yeah, you too Two Socks.  It was a nice ride but too short, I'll have to take my usual amount of time next week and get my full Willy, aka Sir William, fix.  I think he should be called Sir William, it has a very noble sound to it, plus my friends always make comments about Willy and Willy getting fuzzy. 
Apparently I know too many people who have their minds in the gutter!

Knots and Snot

Willy had a HUGE knot in his mane today!  Sometimes the kids here do a braid and then leave it.  If it's not maintained over the next couple days it turns into a rats nest!  Poor boy!  Steve came to ride with me so we grabbed Riddle as well, luckily his short mane doesn't have any tangle issues.

I spent a long time just working on Willy's mane, pulling out hairs one by one until it was loosened and I could finally brush it out.  I was worried that Steve would be all tacked up on Riddle before I even finished with Willy's mane!  Steve had a few issues with Riddle while grooming and picking his hooves but I was too busy with the knot that I figured Steve would get it all worked out.  Then heard this meow of horror, glanced over to Riddle and saw that the horse was standing calmly on the little gray tabby cats tail!  The poor thing was whacking at his fetlock and biting his leg to be released.  The cat was still a kitten so my thought is he still wasn't very "horse smart" and had decided to lay down a little too close to the horses hoof.  Finally he was released and he darted across the arena.  Steve went over to the kitty's resting spot to make sure his tail was alright, not broken or anything.  Luckily the sandiness of the arena probably had enough give in it that the tail was unharmed, though I'm sure he had some bruises and was sore for a few days after!  Poor little guy!

Steve grabbed the saddle, the older Wintec we'd used before and placed it on Riddle, a little too far back so I showed him the proper place to put the saddle and made an "air gap" into the pommel with the saddle pads.  We tried out too girths, both being too long so Steve went back to the tack room in search of another while I tacked up Willy.

Willy's nose was pretty runny and he coughed a bit, seemed he had a cold so I figured I'd take it easy on him.  I cleaned his eyes and face with a wipe to make him more comfortable.  When Steve came back with more girths it was apparent that we weren't going to have any luck with finding a tack fit.  Then Willy started coughing again, pretty hard and at the same time he farted really loud with each cough.  The sounds of farts and coughed echoed in the arena.  His nose was again covered in snot.  Today was not going to be a riding day.  I took off the saddle and unwrapped his legs, again more coughing and farting.  My poor little horse!  I know when I have a cold I don't want to do anything!

I rubbed him down a little and wiped his nose yet again.  We brought the horses back to their pens and gave them both a few carrots.  I hugged Willy and told him I hoped he'd get better, I'd send an email to Susan.  I'm sure she knew he was sick, a couple other horses seemed to have runny noses too but I figured I'd just send her a quick note.  Next to Willy's pen live the two miniature horses.  Steve wanted to go in and see them so we did.  Like me he loves things in miniature!  There were runny noses galore in the mini pony paddock as well.  Something must have been going around.  We gave the little ones some carrots too and then headed home to our warm house.  No riding today but at least I got to see my buddy.  Hopefully he'll get over his cold fast, it's not fun being sick whether you're a horse or a human!

Loving on Arabs

So it's been a week since I last rode at Laurie's, I rode on October 11th since I missed the Friday because of a painful arm (uge the tetanus shot!).  I could write a lot here about the lesson but the truth be told I can't remember much!  I have to write down at least the points of the lesson right afterwards or else I'm lost when it comes to blogging.  Oh well, you can't write about them all!

Father and Son
I rode Divine and had a few issues but rode her pretty well and Laurie commented that my seat and leg position seemed much stronger after the lessons on the lungeline....SWEET!  After my lesson I watched Ushi's lesson but left after Robin arrived.  I had some errands to run that day and as much as I wanted to stay and play with horses all day long I had to go.

Brownie is cute as ever!
So anyways I've decided to just post some pictures of the horses.  Eksodus and Gadiel were in stalls next to each other.  Gadiel is a magnificent stallion and the father of Eksodus.  They were playing with each other over the doors, Eksodus licking his lips and chewing his teeth in that baby way.  He's a cutie.

Legacy of Roses was in the barn to so I went to greet him.  I don't quite know what to do around the stallions, they seem nibbly and I would hate to do something I shouldn't and cause an issue. Better to just stay at a distance and admire!

Cavalia Oct 9, 2010

I purchased tickets for Steve and I to go see Cavalia that was touring.  The show was in Denver at the Pepsi center but in their own tents.  It was a pretty elaborate set up.  The seats were more comfortable than I thought they would be since it was set up like bleachers but they were like the nicer horse arena seating so it worked well.  We didn't get the top price tickets so we didn't get a tour of the stables to meet the horses but I wasn't quite willing to pay THAT much.  We had seats in a fairly center area, Row H so not very far back at all.  We had a great view for the show.

Cavalia started off as the story of man and horse, the history of man is accompanied by his ally the horse.  The opening scene was of a gorgeous stallion being spotted by a dancing girl who seems more fairy than human.  She danced around a "pond" and sent the horse galloping.  At times they were dancing and then she lifted her hands to his muzzle in a first touch.  Sure the horses are trained but the whole show was touching.  People don't realize the fragile connection that humans and horses have.  That bond can be broken and shattered, I'm sure people who work at rescue centers know that all too well.

There was trick riding and bareback riding.  There were scenes where one girl was in a herd of 7 horses, mostly stallions and was able to make them run in sync around the stage and step in harmony with each other.  It was eye candy for a horse lover.  I think even one who wasn't too enamour with horses would fall in love with there beauty.  Where else in the animal world can one find such a strong and spirited beast with a heart and eye so soft?  So grand and magnificent yet kind and gentle?  Words cannot even describe how amazing this show was!

There were several Arabians in the show, including some quarter horses, Percherons and Belgians but the show stealer's were definitely the baroque Lusitanos.  Templado, the most famous Lusitano in the show, had a mane that nearly touched the ground and a tail to boot.  Being able to grow a horses mane so long is an accomplishment, you'd be amazed at how easily a horse will rub there manes and break the hairs so it seems there hair never grows!  I was blown away!!!  You couldn't take pictures in the show so I took some of black and white banners that were in the "foyer" area of the tent.  I could see this show again....easily!

October 10, 2010

Clinton Anderson

I can see why people like him.  He's funny informative and entertaining at the same time.  Steve and I went to the Walkabout Tour that was being hosted up in Denver.  I'd received a complimentary invite to the event which included tickets to the Saturday and Sunday event.  I was skeptical it was actually free but we headed up anyways...what could it hurt?  We got in, and I received our two tickets for Saturday and Sunday.  Guess you do sometimes get things for free in life!!  I immediately called Laurie to see if she wanted to have the tickets for Sunday since I knew I wouldn't be heading up for it.  She sounded excited about the prospect, I regretted the last minute notice but that last thing I wanted to do was tell her she could have the Sunday free tickets and then realize when I got there Saturday that there was a big catch.

Anyways we arrived during a break so ended up walking around at the vendors.  The had a lot of tack and supplies, most looking western so not much interest to me.  Automatic waterers and feeders, so what I will invest in once Steve and I have property.  Then we saw a nice trailer that I got all excited about since I thought it was up for raffle.  Nope, the raffle was for some brake gauge for the trailer.  Well I don't have a trailer so no need entering that raffle.  We found some seats and got ready for the demonstrations.

The first demo was a mare that needed some work in round penning, she didn't like to move off and was difficult to catch.  Clinton went over some of the basics that you need when starting on ground work with a horse.  His main goal was to get the mares eyes on him rather than her heels facing him.  His first step was to get the mare's feet moving, so he kept working to get her at the canter.  Next he worked on changing directions, then consistently changing directions.  He then worked on getting the mare to turn into him...I really should have written this all down but it made sense.  I might have to purchase a book or two.

We had lunch and then went to find new seats since we were surrounded by people with little kids talking, playing video games or kicking the back of our seats.

The next horse was a handsome Quarter horse that Clinton worked on with manners.  The horse barged into his owners space all the time and wasn't good at keeping the pace she wanted...he jigged a lot more that walk or trot.  He worked him on the lunge and constantly changed directions with the horse to get him to start thinking.  Then he taught asked him to canter using just a hand signal but it took effort to get the message across.  He taught us that horses learn from the release of pressure.  He then worked with lead rope tossing over the horse, whips on the ground....basically desensitising the horse to these things to make them more steady.  It was really interesting.  Hopefully Laurie made it to the Sunday one with no problems.  I should read up on his books or view his videos sometime.  I'm having trouble remembering what he talked about since I didn't write it down but I'm not planning on training a horse anytime soon!

October 04, 2010

First Time Lunging Willy

Fall, the season when the days grow shorter and the crisp air is still penetrated by the warm sun. There is nothing more I love than to be warmed by that glowing orb and having a crisp cool breeze blow over me so I don’t get too hot. The sky always seems a darker shade of blue in the fall. This year the fall colors are slow to come; we might not have a brilliant leaf change since it’s been so dry but the sound of fallen leaves rustling in the breeze is still welcome.

Unfortunately fall brings wooly horses and burrs that cling to polo wraps. I spent 20 minutes before even leaving for the stable picking out seeds and burrs from the fleece leg wraps. If I had a choice I wouldn’t use the leg wraps when I went on a trail ride with Willy but it’s something Susan requires. Maybe I can lightly wrap the polos with vet wrap once they are on, that way the burrs won’t stick to the wrap and I can toss the seed encrusted outer layer. We’ll have to see.

Today I didn’t find Willy in his usual run so I again had to wander the stable yard looking for him but at least after being here a while I can narrow it down to a few runs that seem to be where the resident lesson horses reside most times. Willy was cute as I groomed his neck, he really leaned into the curry comb and showed how pleased he was that I was working on his itchy spot!

I worked with Willy in the round pen to start. I planned on lunging him and had a brand new lungeline that I purchased on Friday at Equiline. It’s purple, no green lines were available in the store and I didn’t want to wait to order online, oh well all my tack doesn’t have to match right? Besides, purple and green look nice together! I don’t know if Willy has ever been lunged, it doesn’t seem that way since he kept turning and following me as I walked towards him trying to cue him to walk on and trot in a circle around me. I ended up grabbing one of the lunge whips; it helped him realize what to do as I tapped the whip on the ground behind him. I had him walk and trot in both directions, his trot really does seem stiff but it’s not too bad. Once I feel that he really understands the lunging business I’ll work with side reins to start trying to encourage him to lower his neck and more fully engage his hindquarters; to collect. He still didn’t catch on to the halt that well and ended up turning into the circle as he halted. That’s not something you want when lunging a horse, they need to stay on the circle and halt. I’ll have to work on that with him.

Once we had our fun with lunging I put on Willy’s bridle and hopped up bareback again. I worked on relaxing my seat and letting my legs swing without pinching. We did a couple little bouts of trotting but I decided I wasn’t quite comfortable with the trot bareback to keep going very long. Eventually, after I had my fun with some leg exercises, I decided to put the saddle on.
Took this pic off the computer screen of a video, horrible I know!
I worked Willy in the round pen and then out in the stable yard. I mainly practiced posting trot and noticed how much easier it felt after my recent lesson with Laurie. I still felt a little left behind when going up the hill and Willy would start trotting really fast, with short steps. I had to work really hard to keep with his rhythm. I tried to slow him down and keep him at a nice medium trot, the short stepped trot isn’t that comfortable even while posting.

The older man with his daughter/granddaughter (I would assume she’s probably 8 or 9) was there with a photographer taking pictures her and the horse Silver. The photographer was also taking pictures of Willy and I, he asked first, and another girl (15 years old maybe) riding Ladybug. I watched the girl that was leasing Ladybug. She was in the main arena working over a couple jumps. She trotted the mare and then cantered her over the small cavalletis. It was effortless! It really makes me wish I didn’t have that big gap of time where I didn’t ride for years, I wouldn’t be feeling like I’m starting my riding all over from scratch. Ladybug moved like she was made of elastic. I love dear old Willy but there is a distinct difference in how he moves compared to Ladybug and of course Divine. Poor old man. He’s a good trail horse though, a great horse to have a good time with and he’s teaching me patience that’s for sure.
Cute Willy butt!

I trotted him some more and cantered up the slopes a few times. Willy stopped over by the Friesians as I said hello before realizing he was going for the huge bale of hay placed outside their run. Bad Willy! Bad, unobservant rider! I finished the ride and gave Willy a groom down and put him back in his run. Next week Steve is most likely coming out again to ride with us!

October 03, 2010

Patrick Swayze-Never knew how much he'd help me with my riding!

My lesson with Divine was again on the lungeline.  I saw Laurie holding the line in the arena as I headed back from my bathroom break...I always have to go right before I mount up, TMI I know.  My thought when I saw it was "I hope we get to do the relax type lesson again!"  And so we did.  She started me going the opposite way than we normally begin.  Let's see, let me think about this....we usually start going counter clockwise, the horses inside being the near side so I guess it just seems natural that we tend to start that way.  If I think about it that's probably the direction I start Willy out when I ride him.  It's something to think about, the direction of circling uses different muscles and creates different gravitational forces so I think it's a good idea to switch the one you "start out" on during a ride so as to get both sides worked when you and your horse are fresh.  To those that don't ride I'm sure you are scratching your heads here, sorry, if I can think of an equivalent in humans I would describe that here but right now I'm at a loss.  I'm sure there are tons of analogies I could use.

Anyways, Laurie had me ride in two point, and then transitioning to posting trot while trying to least affect my horses gait.  Several times she had me place my hands on my tummack, I mean stomach to feel the looseness that was needed there.  Aside from the jiggles I felt, I understood the sensation of relaxation needed in my core.  She also had me place my hands on the upper part of my rear to feel relaxation there as well.  It's amazing how when you place your hand on certain body parts you can better tell that part to relax and have that accomplished.  Alright, this has become a rather odd paragraph!  Moving on...

The posting trot work really helped me today.  The movement of the horses shoulder should be the movement that the seat follows in the upward motion of the post.  Here again comes the Patrick Swayze move, where he moved his pelvis back and forth trying to show Baby how to dance....love that movie.  This is indeed the motion needed, a tilt of the hips and pelvis forward as your rise from the seat and then move back to sit a step and rise again.  Laurie told me I needed to accentuate the break in my mid section so that my hips moved independently of my shoulders, therefore allowing my hands to be steady.  I've seen riders that look like they are using the reins to pull themselves up during the post, not good.  Really concentrating on the forward movement of the hips during the post is essential, it's not just an up and down movement; the SHAWING movement (or great now I'm incorporating Wayne's World!) is important to keep the rhythm and encourage the horse to continue at a steady pace forwards.

Well this post was not that great since I know other awesome things happened during the lesson but I didn't write down notes.  My lesson was Friday, and I headed home and took a nap that afternoon with a horrible headache I hoped to be fully rid of when I went out with friends for dinner (it never fully went away, darn it!) and I haven't attempted to write until Sunday evening....bad blogger!  I'll do better next time!!