Intermittent Riding

Had a fun ride on Ava the other day. It’s always an eye opener to ride your own horse after riding someone else’s.  I think I become more aware of the things I’ve let slide,  the defects,  the little things I’d grown accustomed to that shouldn’t be there. 

I’ve been having issues convincing Ava to go forward in the tiny arena. She has plenty of forward if I take her to the field behind the house. However, I want to work on bending and suppling exercises and everything in the field is straight lines (path is straight). I can work bending and suppling in the arena, but she sucks back and becomes ornery in the arena. She only wants to offer the slowest of jog trots.

So I got after her right off the bat about forward, and after an initial “I don’t wanna”,  we finally got some forward! Yay!

Even had a few moments of decent engagement this ride.

Ava Canter LeftAva Canter RightAva Trot

Now if only the rain would stay away.  Seems like 6 out of the 7 days of every week have been rain.  We are water logged. 

Ironically,  I would rather ride in snow.  Ava HATES rain. Hates it!  If one drop touches her nose,  she pulls her chin to her chest and will refuse to budge. Doesn’t matter if in the field,  being ridden,  or being led.  She is not kidding around about her intense dislike of rain. 

Joy doesn’t care though.  Best pony ever. 

We were supposed to do our first test haul tonight (around the block) with Joy.  It’s postponed until the rain lets up.  The end of the drive is too soggy at the moment.  

However,  I’m feeling more optimistic about how it’ll go.  I can load Joy in the trailer and jump up and down to rock it,  and Joy doesn’t care.  I bang things,  no response.  Today there was a flappy tarp right behind the trailer (and behind Joy),  and after a 5 second “What the heck is that?!?”  scare,  Joy was fine with it.  Stood in the trailer eating hay while the tarp flapped right behind her. 

(not sure if the vid will work) 

So,  if the hauling goes well, then i want to test taking her somewhere and then getting her back in the trailer to go home again.   I think I’m going to ask my neighbor if I can do a trial run at her house. 

If all goes well,  lessons are in my immediate future! Yay!! 

Inconsistent

I had to force myself to ride yesterday.  I’m always glad I rode when I’m done,  but getting geared up to go is sometimes a massive battle of willpower.  It’s difficult to want to ride when you can’t feel your fingers.

We were almost out of daylight by the time I got to Joy, so only a really short ride for her.

They were not the most productive rides.  A few trot circles in the “arena”  and done.  I would not call this “dressage training”.  This is what I call “survival” riding.

I have to say, I was very impressed with Joy. I haven’t actually ridden her in a month. I’ve lunged her some, and we’ve done some desensitization training, but no riding. I really expected a spazzed out, flighty pony on my hands. Instead, it was actually quite relaxing and pleasant. I was super impressed.

It snowed and snowed and snowed yesterday…

Ava was waiting on her treat.

I’m having a hard time riding consistently.  Between my lack of energy and the the bad weather/footing, I haven’t been able to do more then one or two rides a week (and those were short rides).

I can’t express how badly I envy people with indoor arenas right now.

. . .

My farrier was out last week to trim the mares.  Ava is a badly behaved,  evil beast when anyone unfamiliar is in the barn.  This time she was charging the stall door when the farrier was near it,  and then turning and double barrel kicking at him.  It’s not specific to him.  She does it to the vet,  the dentist,  pretty much anyone except my husband and I. She’s an indiscriminate a-hole.

Anyway… Farrier went after her (with my blessing). I gave him my whip and when she charged the door he burst into the stall and scared the bejesus out of her (he didn’t touch her,  just scared her).  I need to pay him more.  Poor guy.  Has to discipline my horses for me.  *sigh*

She used to do the same to me when I was handling Joy or Jessie, but after several “come to Jesus”  moments,  she no longer even thinks about it.  I think the issue now is that she knows I won’t get after her when strangers are around.  It’s hard to hold a horse for the vet and charge into a stall to put the fear of God into a horse.

She sure makes Joy seem like the happiest,  best behaved pony in the world.  🙂

2016 Year in Review

I’ve been trying to figure out what to write as the”year in review” type of post that I normally do. I don’t feel like we made any progress toward anything. Not riding, not trailering, not showing, not toward lessons…

I was so gung-ho this spring. I had it all planned out. I was going to take lessons, start hauling Joy to new venues, hit a couple of shows…  but then it came to a grinding halt when she mysteriously came up lame in May. It took nearly three months to resolve that. After that, it was like starting over. I had a butter ball pony that had regressed back to a scaredy cat anywhere off the immediate property (even on the next-door neighbors property).

I spent the remainder of the year in a “Screw it” mentality. No expectations, no pressure, no goals that would drive me insane when I didn’t hit them. I focused on increasing Joy’s suppleness, attempted to get that hind end directly behind her instead of off to the left, and help her find a better balance.

I spent more time with Ava. Ava’s feet were finally grown out enough from the bout of laminitis that I could start working her again. I put my time into increasing Ava’s fitness to see if I could get her back into some semblance of “dressage” shape. And even if dressage wasn’t possible, we were still having fun crashing through trails and galloping around the fields.

Things were going swimmingly with Ava. She was getting more and more fit. She went from barely able to trot more than 100 yards in early spring, to galloping the entire length of the field by end of fall.

December hit and Ava went lame again. I thought it was laminitis, again… that weird stance.. but by day two it seemed to oddly be affecting only one leg.

Abscess.

 

So, overall, a rather unproductive year with lots of annoying problems. And I have the dubious honor of experiencing my first abscess. So there’s that.

Here’s hoping 2017 is a bit more productive!!

Joy’s Year in Review Video Recap (6:33 mins long):

 

Goals for 2017

  1. Lessons
    1. I have a line on a local instructor who has agreed to (try to) help me this spring.
    2. I’m going to go watch a friend take a few lessons this winter (better than nothing until I can haul the pony there).
  2. Fitness
    1. I’m going to work on increasing my overall fitness and decrease my weight.
    2. I need at least 30 minutes of cardio 5x a week.
    3. I need to increase my flexibility and symmetry (greatly) so that I stop falling to the right.
  3. Get Out and About
    1. Get Joy hauling safely.
    2. Start hauling Joy off property
    3. Start taking Joy to lessons.
    4. Take Joy to at least one small show
    5. Take Ava to one of the state parks for a group trail ride with friends.
  4. Tack Room
    1. Figure out how to prevent all my tack from molding!!!
  5. Arena
    1. Increase length of arena
    2. Continue work on making it somewhat level

Super Awesome Day

Yesterday my work day was going terrible.  Nothing worked.  My computer was slogging away at simple tasks,  people were yelling wanting me to work faster,  I couldn’t get anything to work.. It was terrible.  A thoroughly wretched Monday. 

I get home and hubby is sitting in the garage with the dogs waiting for me (which always brightens up my day).  I give him a peck on the cheek and run inside to change into riding pants,  then outside to the barn.  I figured I’d ride Ava while I had some daylight left,  then clean stalls (since the barn has lights). 

But when I got into the barn. . . . 

ALL OF THE STALLS ARE CLEAN!!! 

Hubby cleaned the stalls,  turned Ava out into the big pasture,  swept the barn,  and dumped the poop! 

I have the most amazing hubby ever!! 

Not one to pass up a gift,  I grabbed Ava,  tacked up,  and we headed off to the fields behind us.  

I had a blast! 

We trotted through the twisty,  winding trails in the pine trees.  We watched two deer run beside us.  We galloped through the field and raced up the hills.  

It was AWESOME!! 

Ava seemed to enjoy it also.  Her normal “I don’t wanna go above a walk” sulky behavior dissappeared and was replaced with a high energy,  raring to go mare! She was responsive,  light,  and full of pep! 

Best day in a long time! 
All thanks to my wonderful husband! 

I swear,  there’s no amount of stress a good gallop can’t get rid of. 

No Stirrups November,  or Too Lazy to Use a Saddle

It’s suddenly November,  it’s beautiful out,  I have no time,  and I have a bareback pad.  

The perfect excuse for not using a saddle fell into my lap…   No Stirrup November! 

Nearly everyday I hop on either Ava or Joy using the bareback pad.  Not both.  My thighs can’t last through 2 rides a day.  I can barely walk after one ride.  

First day,  I hop on Ava after not riding for 2 weeks (work got in the way).  A crazy deer and amped up horse had me desperately clinging to mane as we jumped/bolted down a steep hill.  I have no idea how I stayed on.  It was close,  one more hop and I would’ve been a goner.  

Next day i ride Joy AFTER I lunged her.  No canter work.  We’re working on 1/4 walk pirouttes.  Just playing around.  I have to get the left shoulder under her to be able to stand her up right. Once straighter she is a dream to ride. I pushed my hands out in front,  she met them,  and we flowed.  It was sweet for a moment. A moment here,  a moment there.  Most of the inbetween is crap still.  Did a few steps of bastardized half steps.  She’s learning not to get so stressed when pressured. 

Following day,  ride Ava.  Every other day.  Tried to walk past scary deer encounter spot (with bareback pad,  no saddle)  and Ava is AMPED!!  Scared me.  We made it past,  but I haven’t gone that route since then.  ‘Cause I’m a chicken.  

Joy ride following day.  No expectations,  just testing straightness,  half halts,  go forward off light aid.  She’s so incredibly easy to sit the trot on. She spoils me. 
Ava is so horrifyingly bouncy.  I can sit it with some modicum of elegance for about 10 strides.  After that I’m grabbing mane and begging Ava to walk before I fall off.  If I get her super straight and connected,  then her trot smooths out.  It is still an ab workout from hell.  When her head jerks up and her back hollows,  its like riding a jack hammer.  It hurts! 

Take Ava out to back field for ride with bareback pad.  Trotting down the path like a boss! Walking toward the big hill and Ava’s head shoots up and she slams the breaks on.  Sometimes a short looky-loo and she’ll get over it.  Nope.  She spins to go the opposite direction.  I pull her back.  She zigs left,  zags right.  I push her forward.  I’m starting to get scared,  so i sing… loud and completely off key,  with made up nonsense.  But,  she settled and we made it to the top of the hill without any histrionics!  Yay! 

I hope the deer hunters are entertained. 

Every ride in the bareback pad,  and I can barely walk afterward.  Legs like jello.  I don’t feel stronger yet.  I really need to do no stirrups with saddle. It would be far more beneficially,  but…  I have to put my riding pants on and saddling takes at least a whole 5 minutes. 😉 

I’m so lazy! 

Jessie injured herself while I was away for work.  She’s such a good old gal.  I wanted to make sure she ate the antibotic laced grain fully every meal,  so she got to hang out in the middle of the barn and eat.  She’d finish and calmly walk back into her stall.  Love this mare! 


Midway through November and the temps are starting to dip into freezing at night.  It’s not as warm during the day.  

I don’t want winter to come!  

Ava and I did some walk half-pass. We haven’t attempted that in 2 years.   I also realized if i just pretend to put my legs on (but don’t touch her)  and put my weight where it needs to be,  she automatically takes whatever shape I was going for (i.e. Haunches in).  She’s definitely a less is more horse.  Less leg,  less rein,  and she becomes more responsive. I always forget and have to relearn this every week or two,  but then i use it on Joy afterward and we always make progress when I employ the less is more approach. Why I keep forgetting this is beyond me…

I hope your No Stirrups November is going well!  Leave me a comment with your experience,  or goals,  for this month! 

#NoStirrupsNovember

Mishmash of Things

I got a new bit for Joy. I’ve only ridden her once in it, and all we did was walk. I didn’t notice a huge difference. I was hoping she’d find it significantly more comfortable, and therefore have a quieter mouth… but she chomped it as much as the other.

This requires more study. I’ll report back on results as they come.

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This spot in the yard used to scare the bejesus out of Joy at this time last year. She would turn into a horse shaped kite every time. Now, meh… Clover!

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Successfully loading on multiple occasions, while staying calm. Yay!

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Ava is weirdly shiny for a horse that hasn’t been bathed in 2 years. Wish the rest of my horses looked this shiny. Joy eats the exact same diet, and although she’s shiny, she’s not blind you shiny like Ava is. Must be a Friesian thing…

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(She’s wet in this pic.) I think she’s looking much fitter and healthier this spring.

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Our trail rides have been fun. This is our cool down lane. I drop the reins and do rider exercises through here (arms over head, to the sides, hit my hand on a passing tree, lift arms back up, back to the side and rotate 90 degree’s before I hit a hand on the next tree, etc).

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Mr. Stumpy has a hard life of sleeping, eating, and terrorizing feet.

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We have kittens again. This one is my fav. He’s the sole survivor of his litter (dead beat mom). Hubby had to sequester mom and kitten in a room to get her to finally nurse him. Now he’s a healthy, nearly weaned, biting machine.

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He has a hard life.

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Spiders…. I killed this giant beast today.

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This is really how big he was.

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I had so much fun on Ava tonight. We hand galloped through the field. Then I sat up, Ava collected under me, and we did this perfect 10m circle around our riding buddy. I probably broke Ava doing that. Tomorrow I’ll go out, and Ava will be 3 legged, hobbling around.. her left hind laying somewhere out in the pasture.

She’s been going like a top though. I haven’t asked anything of her but forward in straight lines while connected. She’s getting fitter. She doesn’t feel off to me.  Occasionally a bobble on the front end, but the back end feels even to me. She willingly, and easily picks up either canter lead and it feels even (whereas before she would balk at picking up the left, and once in it she felt like there wasn’t any strength there).

I should get her re-tested by the vet, but man, it was over $800 last time.  Even after that, they never did definitively find the problem. It was a diagnoses based on elimination. I hate those diagnosis’. There’s nothing to verify if the base issue is healed completely. I can’t just have them xray “the spot” and give me a verdict, because nothing ever showed up to begin with.

I’ll keep slowly upping her work load. If she even hints at having an issue with that stifle, I’ll back off. My fall back plan for Ava now is Xtreme Trail Riding! All she really has to do is walk over, around, through stuff. I think she can handle that.

And, one step backward

I tried getting the same feeling of connection with Joy out in the field the following ride. it didn’t go so well. I did get a few steps at the end that felt sort of connected and more relaxed in the contact. It wasn’t as solid as it had been yesterday.  I’m positive the issue was the straightness, but I couldn’t identify exactly why she wasn’t straight… only that she didn’t feel straight.

However, Ava… holy cow that horse is awesome! We’re out in the field doing trot work and I half halted her to set her up for a small downward slope in the trail… and Ava floated. That big, lofty trot she used to do. It feels so neat. There’s so much space between foot falls that it really does feel like you’re floating above the ground.

Ironically, I got tired before Ava did. Staying centered and balanced on a big trot takes a lot of strength. I end up feeling like I got a cardio workout when we’re done.

 

First Quarter 2016 Update

I’ve been trying to ride both Ava and Joy at least 4 times a week. It’s good for me because I need the saddle time to work on my strength, position, and riding.  I’m exhausted after riding both of them. I don’t know how people who ride more than 2 a day do it. Times like these, I’m glad I’m an Adult Ammy.

Ava:

Approximately three weeks of riding 2 to 5 times a week. We’re doing straight lines and a few small hills.  I’m only incorporating small amounts of trot work still. Mostly walk for 30 minutes with one minute of trotting, twice during the 30 mins. When we first started, she was hitchy at the trot. I could feel it when I posted off the right diagonal. The last couple of rides she’s felt smooth and even between the two diagonals.

It seems like this is working well for Ava. Not only does she move better already, but she seems happier and more relaxed in general too. She’s almost back to her lovable, happy self again.

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April 12th – The left hind doesn’t step as far forward as, nor does it articulate as much as, the right hind.

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Joy:

I’m really focused on canter work this spring. I left off last year with being happy if she even fell into a canter at some point. This spring we’re working on balance, promptness, and understanding the canter aids. I’ve started carrying a whip to encourage a more prompt response to the aid. We’re currently crow hopping into the canter, but at least she’s picking it up promptly.

She’s also just starting to allow me to rebalance her once we’re in the canter. We aren’t flying around the arena pell-mell as much, or feeling like we’re going to fall or trip at any moment. I’m actually getting a positive response when I half-halt with my seat. She still loses her balance a lot, but we’re getting a couple strides here and there where we can exist in a semblance of balance. It’s a huge improvement for her!

We’re also starting to be able to pick up the right lead canter with right bend. Not every time, and not elegantly, but it’s improving bit by bit.

I’ve taken Joy on a few solo trail rides this spring. We passed deer, dogs, construction, etc. She’s been nervous, but sane. Yesterday I took her for a trail ride with my neighbors. I was able to ride her on the buckle almost the entire ride. I feel like this year she’s finally developing her own confidence in herself and her rider. She seems more sure of herself, more confident, this year.

And last for Joy, we’re still working on the trailer. I’m dreading closing the stall partitions and then trying a first haul. It makes me so nervous, and Joy is really good at picking up on that. However, I so badly want to start taking her to new locations, take lessons, and start showing. Right now she’s comfortable in the trailer as long as there isn’t something really loud going on outside.

Farm Update:

Hubby has dubbed the place “Poopy Farms”. Unfortunately, the name seems to be sticking. I’m going to have to make up t-shirts with a farm logo for Poopy Farms.

Hubby cut down the remaining scrub pine tree’s in the pasture. These were the major cause of so many cuts, puncture wounds, and scraps that they had to go. The picture below is about half of the line of pine tree’s hubby cut down and hauled out.

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Joy thought she’d lend a helping hand.
(all of the stumps were cut to ground level after we hauled the tops to the burn pile.)

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The newly pine free pasture!  Yay!

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Side Note:

Joy was snoozing in the pasture the other day, laying down. She let me walk right up to her and scratch her withers for a good 5 minutes. I have never, to this day, been able to walk up to Ava while she’s laying down (not unless she’s really sick. As in, it’s a bad sign if you can do that to Ava). But Joy, she was happy as a clam to snooze and get wither scratches! I really love this pony!

Craziness

Yesterday the mares spent the day resting up for their grand shenanigans.

sleeping

Joy, who is normally a very sane and reliable pony, was the embodiment of a fire breathing dragon last night. I had forgone lunging due to how well she’s been the past two weeks, and was arrogantly sliding a leg over her when things first started to get out of hand. First we’re bolting off, then comes the mini-rearing, then bolting, then up and down, and forward with slamming stops. I get her back in line and proceed to try every trick I know to relax her and get her to focus. Slowly, it starts working. Very slowly… She’s  starting to relax. She’s starting to bend and release her body bit by bit.

That is when a not particularly loud car goes by…

And… we’re in the air, we’re bolting forward, we’re leaping around like a wild cat has attached itself to her ass and she must free herself or perish.

I jump off at that point, went and grabbed the lunge line and had a heart to heart with Joy about her station in life. She was not particularly happy with me.

After the little lunge lesson, I hopped back on. I was attempting to work on some connection at the trot, but she was still tense and when Joy gets tense she curls. So instead, we went for a trail ride. Alone. Probably stupid considering how energetic she had just been, but she seemed to have regained her brain and I wasn’t going to get anything accomplished in the arena that evening anyway.

She’s not quite relaxed by herself on trail rides yet, but she’s (usually) very sensible about things that scare her.  We walked all the way out to the far edge of the back field, past the new house they’re building with all of it’s equipment and building supplies, down toward the brush line and then back up along it. Finished up with a jiggy walk down Fellah’s lane to get home, so we did a little more work in the arena (to reiterate that we don’t rush home for dinner).  I was really happy with how well the trail ride went considering last year at this time I was still working on steering/stopping and we hadn’t left the confines of our fenced in pasture. Now we’re trail blazing by ourselves! It was fun.

Then I rode Ava. Far less drama than Joy’s ride, thankfully.  I was tired, and I wasn’t sure how much more tossing about I could handle. I did get the usual head flipping, “I don’t wanna”, “are you sure I can’t bolt back to the barn now” behaviors from Ava, but nothing overly crazy. We’re basically just walking up and down the middle of the pasture. Then we trot up and down the middle of the pasture a few times. Then walk some more. Trying to keep it straight lines. The vet said she has to lose a bit more weight before she’s at a healthy level, and exercise is the best option. It’s either this or the $125/month medication which I can’t afford. I still think that left hind is bothering her.

 

But then I see her in the field doing crazy stuff like this:

She doesn’t seem bothered by it in the pasture. She’ll barrel down the entire length of the pasture and come screeching to a halt in the stall.

Spring Excitement

Yesterday, I was leading Ava, and the footing was uneven so my whole upper body went rigid in an attempt to stabilize myself. The second my upper body went stiff, Ava reared, wide eyed, throwing her head around.

I had to consciously relax my body and pretend I was a wet noodle before she would quietly walk next to me again.

Horses… way to perceptive.

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I have finally started riding again after nearly 4 months off.

I am floppy.

I’m amazed at how much Joy has retained training wise. It’s all still there. She’s still a bit out of shape, but the buttons are there.

Last Sunday was the first time I’ve been on Joy’s back since Dec 26th. That Sunday I lunged her first. I hopped on expecting the worst! The only time Joy bounced around a little was when the cats decided to jump on top of the metal pile and make it crash and clang next to us. Joy gave a short hop, but that was it.

Next day, I hopped on Joy without lunging first. She was a doll. We w/t/c around. Even got the correct lead both ways.
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Yesterday, we did a bit of short trot/canter work. Got both leads again. Would’ve gotten the right one with bend on strike off, but I messed it up… I was impressed she offered it. That lead is always going to be tough for her.

We have absolutely no balance in the canter. I can only hope that the quality improves as balance improves. I think it will, but the other half of me is like “What did I get myself in to?!?!”

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Funny thing yesterday, after we got done with the arena work, we went for a short trail ride (by ourselves). Joy hasn’t been out since maybe early Nov. It’s been a long while.  We get 10 feet from the barn and there’s a dark patch of dirt we have to walk over. Joy gets one foot on it, brakes hard, and starts back-peddling manically. I could not convince her to walk over it, so I finally hopped off and had to show her it was just dirt. She very cautiously followed me over it. Rest of the trail ride went smoothly. We didn’t go far, she was hyped, but sane.  Coming back, we have to cross the black dirt again… Joy takes a sniff, and walks over it like it’s nothing. Yay!

Ava had a tough winter:

  • She had two boughts of laminitis,
  • her feet look horrible,
  • she got a nasty case of thrush that no over the counter medication was killing,
  • vet diagnosed her as IR (insulin resistant).

On the plus side:

  • She’s lost a lot of weight,
  • she’s sound again,
  • thrush is nearly knocked out,
  • she does not have cushings,
  • vet says IR can be managed without medication at this point,
  • she’s back to her old bossy self again

I forgot how much fun Ava is to ride.  Joy feels like a race car, Ava is a muscle car.  I started riding Ava in the pasture since the previous time I rode her she tried to toss me off. We walk/trotted a couple of small laps around the pasture, then headed outside for a short walk loop around the back field.

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Ava March 2016.jpg

 

I haven’t seen any detrimental effects from riding Ava. Hoping it stays that way.

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