May is Here

The start of the show season, the end of the snow, the beginnings of a new summer of possibilities!20170428_230511

I love May!

I’m taking Joy to her very first show May 6th. This is a local, open show. Not a dressage show.

This will be “the test”. She did well with hauling to the neighbors house. How will she do in a completely new environment? I have no idea.

 

Side note: I haven’t taken a horse to a show since 2014. Three years! Guess how many of my show breeches fit?

That’s right, NONE!!

Tubby rider definitely needs to lose weight.

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Then, on May 13th, I have my VERY FIRST LESSON in three (3) years!!

Count them… THREE YEARS!!

WOO HOO!

I’m so excited.

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I am such a massive chicken

The plan was to haul Joy to the neighbors house,  ride around,  and haul home.  

I hadn’t even gotten Joy to the trailer and I was a nervous wreck.  Rapid heart beat,  sweaty palms,  can’t catch my breath…

Joy walks right in the trailer,  but then won’t stay in the trailer.  I work with her for a while and finally she’s at least stopping instead of bolting out the back. 

Hubby walks by to ask what’s the hang up.  

I tell him maybe we should call it off.  Forget the whole thing…. 

He calls me a wuss and tells me to get the pony in there and go.  

I clip Joy in. 

No one dies. 

Pony is secured, and doors are shut. 

We headed off around the block and then to the neighbors house.  Joy was riding calmly in the trailer.  

We parked in the neighbors driveway while her horses screamed and ran around right next to the trailer.  Joy hollered back.  She seemed very tense. I was very tense. 

Actually, I was a nervous wreck.  

I unloaded Joy (she was very good).  

I tied her to the trailer (she was excellent). 

No problems tacking up.  No issues bridling her.  She was fantastic.  

I rode her out to the back field by herself. Did some trot work.  We even cantered a short bit.  

Joy was awesome! 

 Got back to the trailer and tied Joy up for a bit.  She stood calmly while we talked to the neighbor. 

And then we loaded Joy up again,  drove around the block,  and went home. 

Whew! 

That went so much better than i had hoped.  

So,  next goal..  local open show in two weeks.  We’ll take Joy and see how she handles that.  

Progress!  Woot! 

Owner needs to get a grip. ūüėā ūüėā 

Our First Haul

I have 2 versions of this story for you. 

My version: 

I was determined to get Joy in a moving trailer this weekend.  Here’s the post for our only other hauling experience together. 

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Joy. We’ve worked really hard to make Joy as comfortable and relaxed as possible in the trailer,  but…  I was nervous how she would react  

She loaded up easily,  as usual.   I clipped her in and closed the divider.  Normally I dont do this, but no problems. Joy stood patiently.  I shut the rear door,  which I’ve only done once before. Joy was a touch nervous,  but no major issues. A few half hearted, nervous,  paws and that was all. 

We jump in the truck and head out… 

The last haul with Joy,  the one where we brought her home and my only time hauling Joy… by the time we were half a mile down the road,  Joy was climbing the walls and attacking the window with her front feet.  

This haul,  I must’ve held my breath for at least 5 minutes just waiting for the explosion.  We drove…  Joy stood there curiously looking out the window.  We drove some more…  Joy looked almost comfortable.  Some shifting around and she was very alertly looking out the window, but absolutely no hysteonics.  All four feet on the ground.  No flinging herself against walls.  She rode almost like a seasoned veteran.  

Who’s horse is this?! 

I think I started breathing again at this point. 

We only went around the block with her.  A short ride.  Two large pick up trucks passed us,  and I could hear a bit of scramble behind but nothing major. 

When we pulled back into the yard,  Ava and Jessie were screaming their fool heads off and racing up and down the pasture.  I could hear Joy answering them,  but still no major freak outs.  Just yelling back to her friends.  

I opened the trailer up and unlatched Joy,  but asked her to stand in the trailer for a moment while I fed her carrots and made a fuss over her.  She complied.  Then I unloaded her,  which she did calmly,  and let her graze a moment. 

Then I asked her to load again..  I honestly didn’t expect she would,  but she hopped right back in.  

Woo Hoo!!! 

The pony trailers!!!!! 

We’re going for another haul tomorrow,  slightly longer,  to hopefully get another positive experience under her belt.  

Then i can start planning out where her first outing will be.  

I’m so relieved.  This went so much better than I feared it would go (I’m a worry-wort,  worst case scenario dreader.  She probably would’ve been fine long, long before this). 

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Grainy pic of our trailer cam. I circled Joy in red. Taking this picture broke the feed,  so we went sans video for half the trip. 


Hubby’s version:

Joy was so thankful to finally be leaving the evil “She Beast”,  Ava, that she didn’t care where she was going. Joy was just happy to be leaving. Joy knew anywhere the evil mare wasn’t at was a good place. 

When Joy realized that her trip had taken her right back to the pit of hell she thought she’d escaped,  she screamed “Nooooo!!”  over and over.  

Eventually her owner came and pulled her off the trailer.  Only to lead her back into the jaws of the evil black mare.  

The End

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!! 

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.

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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.

Trailer Update – Getting Closer!

Well, I finally loaded Joy in the trailer, tied her up, and closed the divider. Yay!

She handled it well. A tiny bit nervous, but no shenanigans. When I opened it back up, she calmly stood and waited. And when I untied her, she simply dropped her head to eat the hay on the floor.

I was so nervous though. Felt like my heart was going a million beats per minute. Eek!

I want to try locking her in one more time, and have her stand in there by herself for several minutes, before trying a short trailer ride around the block. I want to see if it is being alone in the trailer that triggers her to explode, or if it’s something else. I don’t know if it’s the noise outside the trailer, or movement of the trailer, or physically leaving her buddies that causes the rearing and bashing herself behavior.

We’re going to try to isolate the specific cause and then see if we can get her over it. If she handles a few minutes of standing quietly locked up, even with noises outside, then we’ll try a short trailer ride. If she doesn’t, then we’ll go back a step and get her used to more noises outside while not locked in.

Then again, maybe she won’t even bat an eye at it anymore. I don’t know why she freaked when we hauled her home. And I’m not sure when, or if, it will occur again. Maybe I’m fretting over nothing? Maybe all she needed was to get used to being in there and hauling won’t be an issue now? Maybe she’ll explode the second the trailer moves?

I don’t know. We’ll just keep plugging away at it until she figures out it’s not a bad thing.

Slow but steady Trailer Training

I had a few days where I lapsed on the trailer training a bit. Rainy, cold, tired… you know, the regular excuses.

Next session, I barely get the door open and Joy wants on. She barges in once I’ve got the rear door latched open, and dives into her grain. This has been somewhat par for the course. I’m not shocked. What did shock me was that after finishing her meager amount of grain, she started in on the hay on the floor. Previously, she would finish her grain and want out. This time, she stood quietly, munched her hay, didn’t care that Ava was calling to her.

I still don’t have the stall partition closed yet, but I jiggled it around and banged it against the wall several times to get her accustomed to the noises. She didn’t care. I jumped up and down in the trailer. I walked to her butt and scratched her. She ate her hay. That must’ve been some dang good hay.

I’ve also, finally, been able to get her to line up with the slant wall so that she’s in position where I could close the divider. Previously, the second I asked her to move her body parallel to the wall she wanted out of the trailer. So that was good progress. She stood there quietly for a good minute before I asked her to back out and come back in again (I’m trying not to let leaving be her choice).

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I’m not quite sure what the next step is though. I know I want to close the partition and get her used to that, but how to go about that? I’m a bit scared to try it…

Is there a baby step in between no divider and divider closed?

I’m a bit gun shy about the divider. Ava taught me all of the horrible ways that divider can be used against a human.

I don’t know how to do this next step… every other trailer I’ve ever owned has been a straight load. You attach the butt bar, the horse hits it, end of story. These dividers are too easy for a horse to crush me with.

Any ideas?

Day Three – Trailer Training

I’m in full bore mode for getting Joy accustomed to the trailer.  I didn’t do much work on it last year. A few walk in/back out sessions,  but that was all.  This year I have to have her trailering well.  And by well,  I mean hop on immediately with no issues, stand quietly while I latch all partitions,  and most importantly have her riding quietly whether we move or not. Not the throwing herself violently around that she did when we moved her here. That scared the crap outta me. 

I really want to get Joy so comfortable in the trailer that it’s like walking into her stall.  Where the bangs and creaks and sways are normal to her,  and no longer cause the panic attacks. 

I don’t know if I can do it though.  Way long ago,  I trained two geldings to trailer.  One I trained to self load and he was a saint in the trailer,  the other I was just training for a friend but within 30 days I had him loading and trailering well enough that he could be hauled safely.  And that was a horse that had never seen a trailer before.

But I’ve had such a hard time with Ava that I no longer trust that i know what I’m doing.  She really destroyed my faith in being able to train this successfully. 

The other part of me thinks I can do this.  I mean,  Ava is not normal…  I’ve gotten several people to help me train Ava to load,  and no matter what it all came down to whether Ava felt like going along with the puny humans plans that day. 

Joy is nothing like Ava.  Joy wants to go along with whatever I want,  she just gets nervous or uncertain about new things.  Joy’s a lot like a gelding in a lot of ways.  So I tend to think that with all the tricks I’ve learned with Ava,  that I can overcome pretty much anything Joy can try.

Plus,  every single other person on the planet can freaking haul their horses places.  And yet here I am,  freaking out about if.  It’s not that hard to do…  I make it too big of a deal.  It’s not that hard,  right?

But I’m still uncertain…  If I mess up then Joy will be a pain to trailer forever.  Or worse, Joy will seriously hurt herself (or me).

What if I mess this up???

I have all these things I want to do with Joy this year,  but they all depend on Joy trailering well.  I really,  really do not want to spend another year stuck at home because my pony won’t trailer well. I want to go to shows,  take lessons,  take clinics,  haul out to friends houses to ride. There’s this big,  fun world out there once you’re mobile.  I want to be a part of it.

Can I do it?  God I hope so…