Felt Like The First time

Yesterday I rode Joy over to the neighbors so we could go for a trail ride. 

Let me back up a minute…

I weedled,  begged,  and harrassed my neighbors until they caved and agreed to go for a trail ride with me (they are not winter riders) . It took me a few days,  and a guilt trip,  but I finally had them tacking up and ready to go.

I haven’t taken Joy on a trail ride in nearly a year.  Last time I walked her off the property,  Joy freaked and I barely had enough control to get her home again.  

But, she’s been so well-behaved,  and such a solid citizen under saddle the past few months that I felt we could do this confidently. 

I made sure to get on about 30 minutes prior to get Joy focused on me,  and resolve any tension if any existed.  But when I hopped on,  I had a very calm,  very wonderful pony beneath me.  We did some basic supplying exercises and then headed over to the neighbors. 

Everything was going great! Joy was relaxed,  the weather was nice,  the footing was decent (for winter) . 

We climbed the last small section of hill and as we climbed Joy became more and more tense.  By the time we crested the rise,  Joy was doing a spectacular rendition of passage.  Every fiber of her body felt like a live wire. 

We got to the neighbors barn and I slid off Joy.  She nervously circled around me,  her muscles shaking.

When the neighbors came out,  I asked if I could use their little dry lot to ride Joy in before we headed out.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to get back on the keg of dynamite I was holding. She was literally vibrating. 

I lead her into the paddock.  I tried getting on her,  but within seconds she’s rearing and bolting and whirling around me like an idiot.  I let her whirl for a short bit, and futilely tried to lead her around some.  Then I remembered a trick a trainer taught me about getting a nervous horse to cross their back legs to settle them down.  So while Joy circled around me,  I made her move her haunches out so she had to cross her hind legs.  

Took maybe 30 seconds,  and suddenly I had my Joy back! 

Took her back outside,  hopped on,  and we had a great,  very relaxed,  trail ride.  

I love that Joy is able to find her brain fairly quickly even when she’s hyped.  It’s like she needs 5 minutes to just get it out,  and then her brain comes back.  

After the trail ride I dropped the neighbors back at their barn,  and Joy and I rode home all by ourselves,  on a loose rein.  Whew!  Ended much better than I feared it was going to when I got there!! 

A few more of those,  and I think we’ll be good to tackle trails on our own again. 

Then next step is off property to a totally new location!

I’ve gotta get this pony out and about,  or all hopes of ever showing or going to clinics are pointless.  

We will conquer this! 

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. 

Crossing Hurdles

We’re on the cusp of June, and I still don’t have Joy hauling yet. I’m disappointed in myself and my lack of progress. It’s my fault. I’m scared/nervous to take that next step (actually haul her). Joy’s ready, I just need to make that leap.

So disappointed in myself.

 

New goal… take Joy on trailer ride around the block this weekend.

I’m already anxiety riddled!!

….

This next part is probably not interesting, but I wanted to write it down for my own benefit.

…..

I’ve been riding Joy rather consistently, but I’m not sure how to recap it.  I had hubby take video the end of April, and video a week or two into May, and I realized I had turned Joy into a nervous ball of tension by focusing on canter and canter departs so much. So I backed off on that. I’m working on bending and trying to get her equally bearing weight on all 4 legs (instead of loading the left more than the right). A lot of leg yield to the right with oomphf to get her to evenly distribute the weight. But mainly bending. I’m having a heck of a time with the bending. I don’t know if it’s because she’s so compact, or so crooked in her body, or her rider suckers (probably that one), but wow.. it’s a long, slow slog, Every Single Ride, to get her to loosen up and bend through that short little back of hers.

Because of this, I reintegrated Shoulder-In and Haunches-In to the program. Still at the walk. These seem to really help her overall. Not only does it make her think about what she’s doing (she’s got an active mind), but it also seems to relax her while focusing her.

I also introduced Shoulder-In to Renver at the walk. And by golly, she got it after the third attempt. I thought it would blow her mind, but nope… she handled it like a pro. That one seemed to really help her suppleness through her body. Her walk afterward was much bigger and more swingy.

I’ve just started introducing SI/HI in trot again the last two rides. I played with it a bit last year, and earlier this spring, but it was not good. Last ride though, she gave me a few nice strides both directions. It felt like it was easier for her, like she could hold the bend and the forward better. It wasn’t as stilted. Nothing I’d want to show anyone yet, but it’s getting better.

I did notice that in Haunches-In to the right she was tilting her head (both walk and trot) quite dramatically at times. She doesn’t seem to do this going left. After trying everything I could think of to fix it, I finally stumbled on counter flexing her just slightly, and that seemed to help. Then we went back to true flexion and her head stayed fairly straight. I’m not sure if it was a symptom of losing her outside shoulder some, or if she just needed to release her poll a bit, or maybe counter flexing caused me to release the death grip I had on the inside rein. Not sure…

The other thing I tried with some success was when going to the right, I was circling Joy in every corner and her left shoulder kept escaping (sometimes a lot, sometimes a little). So I tried a fellow bloggers idea of holding that outside rein a bit stronger, really steady, and then really pushing her into the left rein with the inside leg. We struggled with that for a few corners, I was about to junk the idea and move on when suddenly it worked. She bent! The shoulder stayed under her, she quieted her chomping, and she navigated the circle smoothly. We moved on to something else after that, but I’m hoping I can duplicate the results again next ride. I’m worried about using this technique again though because I’m not entirely sure I understand the why of it. I’ll have to research it some more. I can get too strong, and this technique could totally play into my need to death grip the reins.

All of this bending work helps Joy’s trot. We start off pretty pathetic, but towards the end her trot feels a lot nicer. A bit more impulsion, she’s not rushing, she feels more balanced and like she’s finding it easier to carry me. Oh, and she’s able to respond quicker to the seat/leg aids. Which, duh! but, sometimes I have to crawl my way to the answers…

Having said all of that… I still really need to get that canter tuned up, refined. Heck, I’d settle for sort of balanced half the time. I keep hoping that the stronger and more supple I can make her, the easier that canter will get for her. But the other half of me is like “Canter will only get better if you canter!!”. Yet, cantering really gets Joy nervous. I don’t blame her. The arena is up/down and on a slope, she’s not balanced, we’ve no room to go straight at any point in the arena… it’s really hard for her. I may have to bite the bullet and take her out back to the field to canter on a straight line. The main issue is that *I* get nervous out there, by ourselves, cantering next to the woods where the deer like to crash through the brush and send Joy skittering in the opposite direction.

Oh, I almost forgot… we’ve also been playing with walk pirouette. Sometimes we get a few steps that are nice. Most of the time I bungle it. She gets the idea of it, but we lose momentum because she’s not really in front of my aids yet. I was happy that she understood the idea of what I was asking for. She tried, and she didn’t get frustrated or upset about it. So that was good. I can’t find a good happy point of being “in front of the aids” and relaxed. We’re either FORWARD to the max and super tense, or no go button but relaxed.

Other than that… we’ve been a few trail rides. Joy surprised me one particular day by throwing a mini-tantrum when I asked her to leave the other horses (to go home). She literally jumped straight up into the air with all four feet. The neighbor who saw this said we got about a foot off the ground. I figure if the pony can toss herself and my fat ass into the air that high, then she might make a decent dressage pony yet. Of course, after that we couldn’t just go home and quit, so I took her back out to the field behind the neighbors house and worked on a big forward trot with connection (which surprisingly she gave me), then I took her home and worked her a bit more in the arena trying to find that sweet spot of long and low yet connected (still super iffy on this. Not going so well). Our following trail ride was a very calm experience, and Joy had no issues leaving her buddies once it was time to head home.

Last thought…  Joy is deathly afraid of the big, black muddy puddle on the edge of the neighbors property. Not that I blame her, but it’s not like I asked her to walk through it.. I just wanted to walk PAST it. Instead, she threw herself backwards at light speed and we almost crashed down the embankment behind us. I think she’s afraid of the water. I already know she hates black earth, but combine black earth with water and Joy loses her shit. So yesterday, we had a dark, water logged, muddy puddle in the yard and I made Joy walk through it several times. It took me jumping around in it like an idiot for a few minutes before Joy joined me, but she finally did. Not sure Eventing Pony is in Joy’s future….maybe… we’ll see.

 

 

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.

image

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!

image

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

image

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…

image

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

image

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).

image

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

image

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.

image

He has a hard life.

image

Spiders…. I killed this giant beast today.

image

This is really how big he was.

image

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.

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.

image

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

image

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.

image

 

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.)

image

 

The newly pine free pasture!  Yay!

image

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!

Escalating Issues & Popped Shoulders

I’ve had some time to think about the ride I had on Monday, and how poorly it went. These issues have been escalating the past few rides. Monday was the worst, and I felt rather defeated and unsettled by the ride.

Joy is hollow on the right, stiff on the left.  Up until lately I could bend her to the right without her popping her shoulder out too much. I felt I had control of her outside. However, the past few rides, that shoulder pop’s left bad. No matter how hard I kick with the left leg she ignores it, half-halting the outside doesn’t help, and dragging her right doesn’t help (heh).

Here’s the video from the 2nd (Monday):

You can see the overly bent neck and popped shoulder in the video (above) at 43 and 53 seconds (etc).

Here’s the video from the 5th (Thursday). This is with a whip to back up the left leg aid:

I’ve also been working on my position more, although it’s not going so well. My arms have developed a life of their own. I’m riding around pleasantly when all of a sudden I realize my hands are in my face. How did they get there?!  It’s embarrassing!

Feel free to chime in with what you see (I’m a little hesitant to say that because I know it looks horrible, but give it to me straight!).

 

In other news:

Joy saw her first deer this week under saddle. I know she’s seen them in the pasture numerous times (the deer like to cut through my pasture), but I’ve noticed that for some reason if a horse is under saddle then wild animals are FEARSOME CREATURES that are intent on killing all horses. Joy did pretty well with it. The first one we saw was standing about 15 feet from us, Joy and I were alone, and I was praying it wouldn’t move as we passed it. It didn’t. The second and third time they were much further away and we were with another horse, so it wasn’t as scary. The third time (alone again) we only heard the deer crashing through the woods, and although Joy got a bit snorty and prancy at first, she stayed level headed about it and settled down quickly (Win!).

We also had our first car pass us (not close). Joy shot forward like the hounds of hades were on her tail. I ran her up the butt of the gelding that was with us.  Who doesn’t love a stoic, wise gelding? Best horse to have with us that day.  Joy regained her composure a bit after realizing the steady eddy wasn’t scared, but she still jumped and shook horribly when the second car passed us. I was very happy that she improved with the second car. I don’t think it’ll take her much time to realize the cars aren’t scary.

The other thing I was proud of Joy for… I was riding up to the neighbors barn, her horses were in the pasture which borders the path I take to her barn. Her horses come up to the fence and start to follow us. Then they get a mad hair up their butts and they just take off! Madly galloping around, bucking, farting, the works. Joy immediately wants to bolt off too. After an initial “Eeeeekkkk! I’m going to die!” I got Joy back and we did bendy lines at a walk all the way to the neighbors barn. She actually came back really quickly. I mean, she was still a wound up ball of tension, but she listened! And once we got to their barn she just stood there calmly while I chatted with the neighbor. Yay!!

Thursday, Joy and took our first solo ride around the back field. It has some pretty scary things going on back there. There’s a house and a pole barn being built in two different areas, and lots of weird things to hear and see (hammering, saws, flappy things, tractors, and weird soil to walk over). Joy was tense, but she kept her composure. That was the furthest we’ve gone without having another horse with us, and overall I thought it was a big success. It wasn’t calm, but she was well behaved and listening.

We’re going to be curtailed in our trail riding soon (hunting season), so I’m trying to get in as much as I can before the 15th.

Beautiful fall day means trail riding!

I took Joy out on a trail ride with my new saddle yesterday. I am pleasantly surprised by how comfortable the saddle was, even though the seat is smaller than I should have.

That saddle was a life saver though. There’s a small sandy hill the neighbors like to canter up, and Joy gets rather rambunctious about it. Not only does she think this hill is built for leaping around on, but she detests being left behind. Which means pulling her up while everyone else is cantering on ahead is difficult (nearly impossible).

With my new saddle strapped on (and all protective gear securely fastened), we cantered up the hill.

It started out ok. Joy cantered… but pretty soon the strides got bigger, and the back got bouncier, and then the front got alternating bouncier, until we’re leaping and jumping up the hill.

It felt like:

 

I grabbed mane, sat up straight, and we made it to the top without me falling off. Guy behind us said it looked like a bouncy ride. Haha

That saddle is awesome though. I felt totally secure. It might also be the fact that I just spent several months riding in a bareback pad, so knee rolls and stirrups seem like a luxury now.

I wanted to test whether the little bronc bouncing was just that hill, or cantering on sand, or what… so after catching our breathes we cantered down the path quite a ways on our own while the other 2 riders hung back. Joy was a saint. Not only did she leave the group without issue, she didn’t spook, didn’t crow hop, allowed me to rate her speed and she stayed with me the whole time. It was actually really, really fun.

image

 

Trail ride – short video:

 

Second Trail Ride

Joy and I went on our second trail ride this evening.

This is hands down the easiest pony ever. She didn’t care about anything. She wasn’t quite brave enough to lead, but she was happy to follow her favorite gelding. The only thing that kind of made her hesitate was the horse eating rock. But all Joy did was march over and give it a good sniff.
** so proud **

We even trotted on the trail some.

Oh, and she even listened to me when I asked her to leg yield and bend! I was super proud of that. I wasn’t sure she’d respond to leg pressure the same in a new environment. She did. We did some mini leg yields down the trails whenever she got a bit nervous, and that brought her back to paying attention to me. Worked great.

She only got nervous twice though.

For the most part I held on to mane and gave Joy a long rein. I have to say… having a pony is fantastic. We were too short to need to duck under branches, we fit through the technical sections with ease, and the lead rider got hit with all the cobwebs. Haha. Normally on Ava, I spend 90% of a ride draped over her neck, or eating cobwebs. This was a very pleasant experience sitting upright the majority of the ride.

….

I’ve been trying, for the past month-ish, to wrap Joy’s hind legs. She gets… jerky about her hind legs being wrapped. But my problem is my back starts hurting after a few minutes, and she’s jerking her leg around, and I end up giving up trying to wrap the backs. So today, I decided we were going to do this come hell or high water.

We did have a stern talk on the first leg, but she quickly decided it was easier to let me fuss around with her legs.
image

I think she looks very dressage-y in her white polo wraps.

She also looks tubby… definitely not a hard keeper. She barely gets any grain.

I don’t normally wrap. Usually, I’m in agony after hoof picking so I skip bandaging (my back just isn’t what it used to be). However, I want Joy comfortable enough with things on her hinds in case she needs bandages for wounds, or for shipping boots, etc.
You know… normal horse stuff.

Anyway, she forgot about them as soon as we walked out of the barn. No big deal. Mainly, I just wanted to ensure I could do it instead of waiting until it was a “had to” situation.

Next step is clippers….

And I still need to work on trailering. I dread working on trailering. I find that so nerve wracking.

But… if all goes well, then she should be ready for her show debut come next spring, or early summer.

Maybe….

I haven’t been without an indoor arena before, so we’ll see how it goes….

Do you want to go Riding?

Joy and I took our first trail ride together last week. I was very, very nervous. I still don’t have a saddle that fits Joy (lack of money), so I was riding her in the bareback pad.  I’m not confident in my stick-ability even with a saddle, let alone without a saddle. I didn’t know what to expect from Joy. And I’m not confident that if she decided to bolt that I could stop her (or stay on).

She did freaking amazing! I went with my neighbors on their two geldings. At one point we passed a house where the husband was mowing and their dog was ferociously barking. Joy didn’t care. She was very intrigued by the scene, but wasn’t scared.

FirstTrailRide

 

We walked around the outside of the field behind the houses, and then through a grove of pine tree’s. The only time Joy spooked was when the lead gelding spooked, but she came right back and proceeded on like nothing happened. We even led for a very short bit.

I was so proud of her!

That was a week ago. Today I jumped on her for the first time in a week, and rode her in the side yard for a bit. Then I rode her over to the neighbors house alone to see if the neighbor wanted to go trail riding tonight. Joy was a little trooper. I’ve only hand walked Joy down this path three or four times, and every time I get to the edge of our property she gets really nervous and balks about going over the sandy spot that separates my property from the neighbors. Today, I was riding her, and she balked at the sandy spot. It was at that moment a cat crashed through the brushes next to us and scared the crap out of Joy – who jumped sideways and then stood stone still.

I was sitting there wondering how I was still on the pony, just catching my breath a moment, when Joy decided that she really wanted to walk over to the neighbors house. It was like she made up her mind that we were heading over there, and she marched off over the sandy area like she was on a mission.

She walked past the scary dark hole, the really weird looking manure pile, the metal hay rack, etc. Not one issue the entire ride over.  All by ourselves!!

Once we got to the neighbors barn I walked her around (I was trying to get my neighbor to come outside). She didn’t care about the horse trailer, wagon, or anything else… she just wanted to see her new boyfriend (who she is madly in love with).

I finally tracked down my neighbor, who I then bombarded with “Let’s go trail riding!!!!”

I feel like Anna on Frozen.

“Do you wanna go riding?
Come on, lets ride the trails!
I never see you anymore
saddle up your horse
ride the trails with me”

hehe

She said she’d go with me later tonight…  I probably drive that poor woman nuts.

The only problem came when I tried to get Joy to leave. She wouldn’t. I had to get off and lead her home because no amount of kicking was getting her to budge from her new man.

smh.

Mares….

Anyway… the neighbors horses ran, bucking and jumping, next to us as I led Joy home and Joy didn’t care. Once I got home, I jumped back on and rode her around the side yard for a short bit just to re-solidify that putting my leg on means forward.

I’m not sure she’s convinced that “leg on” means forward. She still thinks she has a say in that.

Now I’m waiting until it’s time to meet up with the neighbors to trail ride….

I can’t believe how lucky I am to have a pony like Joy. She makes everything so easy.