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!

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Craziness

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

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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.

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.

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Trail ride – short video:

 

Joy’s Update

I haven’t really been riding much. For a while there the temps were high and the humidity would drown you. All of the animals slogged through it, but no one wanted to do anything more than absolutely necessary to survive.

This week the temps were much more reasonable. I think it’d been two weeks since I’d ridden Joy, so I longed her first. I’m really glad I did. While longing I was wondering if I had the balls to actually get on her. This is the first time I’ve ever seen Joy have some spunk. And by some I mean, a lot. There was a lot of bucking, pogo bouncing, bolting, and a couple of full height rears thrown in for good measure (I wasn’t on her).

It took me a bit to get her listening to me, but she finally came to her senses. It probably had more to do with the fact Joy is a fat, tubby, out of shape, lard ball currently. She was winded after only a few minutes. Haha.

I hesitantly climbed on…..

She was fine. Hyped up, but she never did anything dangerous while I was on her, and she quickly settled down once we were moving.

This is probably bad to say, but I was secretly pleased to see she had some spunk to her. She’s been so laid back and quiet that I was starting to wonder if she had any real fire to her.

Yup. She does.

The past several rides have just been trail rides with the neighbors. No arena work. She’s been doing fantastic on the trails. She’ll lead or follow. Nothing really gets her upset. She’ll walk over or under anything. And boy is she sure-footed. She’s like a cat.

Today I did some arena work with her. I was pleasantly surprised with how she did (considering my balance isn’t the greatest, and the footing is uneven). We even cantered a little.

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I haven’t cantered her much. I was trying to get her balance better, and her brakes a bit better. I think we’re close enough to start addressing the canter now. She’s still not straight, nor is she using her back, but she’s a little more balanced now.

My next goal is to get Joy comfortable trail riding alone. Today we finished up our ride with a nice walk up Fellah’s Lane (a wooded path along the long side of the pasture) and back down the neighbors side to come home. It’s far enough that you can’t see home, or any other horses, but not so far I can’t walk home on foot if needed. Heh. Joy did well though. She was really nervous heading out, which made me nervous, so I sang stupid songs to keep me breathing. And after a minute Joy settled down and started enjoying the walk. Over all, it went fantastic, and I think she’ll be ready for longer trail rides by herself soon. Which is necessary, because the neighbors don’t ride in the winter, so she’ll have to go it alone if we want to see anything but the side yard for the next 6 months.

….

Lazy horses!!

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My husband and I were unloading hay this morning and this is what the horses were doing.

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This whole dressage thing is really starting to seem like an unattainable dream. I need lessons. I can’t afford them. At this point, my riding has deteriorated so badly that to even claim I’m a dressage rider seems like a misrepresentation.

We’re all over the map with issues to address. I don’t mess with the head except to ask for left or right flexion. She’ll either shove it against her chest or trot around like a giraffe.

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The above I don’t mind. At least she’s not behind the contact.

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The ducking behind the contact frustrates me!!

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She had a short moment where she almost seemed to meet the hand. But I lost it after a few strides. I still don’t like the neck curl there, but when I pushed my hands forward she stretched down briefly.

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We started shoulder-fore a little. She didn’t quite understand, and my balance was crappy. There were a lot of bobbles. She doesn’t bend very well. It’s better then it was, but still a long ways to go.

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Not sure what we’re doing here^^, but I’m making a face….

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Not quite bent around the inside leg here.

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Haunches in went well for two strides, then promptly fell apart. Haha.

On the plus side, she’s beginning to figure out the outside rein some. She isn’t immediately fighting me the second I use it, and occasionally she’ll let me rebalance her with it (if we’re not too off balance at that point).  She’s got “move off the leg” down pat for leg yields and I can straighten her some with the outside rein.  She’s sort of getting the idea of bend, and she tries to give me as much as she can.

Her transitions are getting better. She’s stopped fighting me about forward (as much). She balks less, takes less convincing, and we spend less time fighting about it.

Her transitions down are getting better. She stopped diving onto the bit and shoving her chin to the ground while bearing down on the bit. A few times today she let me push her into contact and she made the downward trans without fighting. A few times she curled. And a few times she balanced on the bit.

She’s still not very happy with the bit… I’m not sure whether to try a new bit, or give her some more time. The only time she opens her mouth, or chomps on the bit, is when I’m working on contact with her. Loose rein, or casually navigating turns, she never shows any issues with the bit. I may try to find a french link or something double jointed…  hmm.. not sure…

That’s the update. I should be further along in her training, but honestly, with the move and all the work both houses have needed (plus overtime at work), I’m shocked we’re getting anywhere at all.

The horses seem happy, so who cares. 🙂

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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.

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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.