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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Ground training update

This week has been fun. I’m learning more about this little pony every day, and I’ve been pretty impressed with the brain she has.

I put together some ‘scary’ objects to introduce to Joy. One is a feed bag I filled with twine and then tied a rope around the top so I could toss or swing the bag around. The first time I showed it to her I just let her “chase it” while I slowly dragged it away. The next day I worked on swinging it, tossing it, and dragging it under/over/around her. It was a little scary to her at first, but then she just wanted to step on it and make it crinkle.

She was putting her nose on the bag, and then moving her top lip back and forth quickly against the bag. Either to make it make noise (which it made quite a bit), or it smelled like grain, or she liked the texture… I’m not sure. When I tried to pull the bag away she stomped her foot on it and wouldn’t let me have it. Ha!

The other day I walked Joy to my neighbors house. I’m trying to build up my confidence to start trail riding Joy. I thought hand walking her over to the neighbors would be a good test of how she’ll react. I worried a bit over whether to bring a chain with me or not. I also debated using the rope halter instead of her regular halter. I finally just said f’ it.. if she twirls around me like a circus freak then so be it. We set off to the neighbors with her plain halter and lead.

There was a bit of a tense moment when Joy thought she’d be safer if she put her feet on top of mine while going up the super steep, yet very small, incline. Joy’s getting much better about respecting my space though, and after a small reminder she decided she could probably walk up it herself. The rest of the walk went well. There are some objects down the path that used to make Ava nervous, yet Joy didn’t seem to care much.

At the neighbors, I took her up to the “bridge” (basically a wooden platform). Joy normally jumps shadows or odd patches of dirt, so I expected her to balk at the bridge. Nope. She clamored onto it like it was routine. We walked over it, and also backed off it, several times. No issues. We tried the poles. No issues. I let her loose in the paddock next to my neighbors horses. Joy sniffed around, sniffed the other horses noses, then pestered my neighbor for scratchies. I walked Joy back home. Again… she was excited, but sane and respectful. There was slack in the lead rope.

What else.. oh, I loaded her in the trailer for the first time since the “disastrous trailer ride” home. I was nervous. Joy didn’t give a shit. She hopped on. I gave her a bit of grain.

I didn’t close the dividers or rear doors this time. I thought I’d let her get used to the noises and smells a few times first.

I just want to say… all of my previous horses were self-loaders. I taught them to be that way. But Ava… ugh. Nothing I tried ever convinced her that a trailer was worth getting on. And trust me, I tried it all. The point being, my confidence in training a horse to self-load has been thoroughly shaken. So, we’ll see with Joy. I’ve got time, and more importantly, living with my horses means I can work on it multiple times a day for as many weeks or months as needed.

I would really like to have a horse again that just hops on the trailer and rides nicely. It’s makes life so much nicer.

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I went for a long trail ride with Ava and my neighbors today. We had a lot of fun. Ava was sassy today too. She’s fun when she’s sassy.

I cantered her for the first time in 8-9 months. I did get a tad nervous for a minute when Ava snaked her neck down. She sure seemed like she was thinking that a good, rollicking buckfest might be in order. Luckily she didn’t.

God, she felt like the old Ava today. She didn’t feel lame at all. We were trotting and all I had to do was tighten my core and she’d float.

It felt like… like heaven.

Hopefully I didn’t over do it on her today. Some days, when she’s feeling good, she’ll move like nothing in the world is wrong.

My trail riding partners today:
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This pic (below) is a more accurate depiction of personalities (don’t tell them I posted this 😉 ):
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I think the combined age of these two horses is about 46. Ava and I can’t keep up with the cute little Arab mare. Such a spitfire. I hope Ava is as spry at that age.

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I was sneaking a peek at the horses one evening when I heard this loud buzzing sound. I immediately panic (we’ve been inundated with bee’s), and when I turn to look, I see this little guy hanging out.
Hummingbird, if you can’t see it:
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I’m working on a post with Joy’s riding training. I should have something posted in the next day or two. I’m having problems. Green beans are so frustrating.

Update on Ava’s Training

I haven’t been very motivated to blog lately. Work has been killing me. Very stressful lately, and I’m so exhausted.

Recap of training:

Last month I had a lesson with Rosalind Kinstler to work on different exercises to get Ava more honest over her back and to increase engagment. This was about a month after my clinic with Pam Goodrich, so we had more forward at the trot by this point. The canter started out lacking forward and any time I took my leg off Ava dropped out of it. Roz quickly had it corrected and we were able to work on some different things that will build Ava’s canter up.

Roz had me do 10 meter circles at the trot in the corners, and as we came out of the 10m circle to push her haunches out (towards the wall). Think leg yield, but mainly just the haunches. This allowed Ava to really bring her inside hind up under her body. We had several periods of big, floaty trot coming out of the 10 meter circles. It felt really cool.

The canter work was not good, so Roz suggested we work on lots of supplying and engaging exercises. Roz talked me through what to look for in the haunches-in and shoulder-in and tips and techniques for aids while riding each. The main thing I took from that is to be less stagnant as a rider. Lightly pulse the leg aid in time with the stride to help the horse keep rhythm and so the horse doesn’t tune you out. Use my half-halts in time with the canter footfalls (I think it was when the front leg was on the ground but just picking up). I could feel when, but I’m still not great on where exactly the legs are.

After we got home from the clinic I had a week where I wasn’t able to ride very much (Ava had owies where the saddle goes). Then another week where I was able to ride, but every exercise I tried went horrendously. I couldn’t even get the 10m trot circle anymore. By the third week I was starting to get some progression in engagement and supplyness in trot and canter.

Last week I moved Ava to the new barn, and we were able to get in a few good rides. I’ve been focusing on the canter exercises to try to build more “jump” in the canter.

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At new barn

Two Saturday’s from now we go back to Roz’s for another lesson. Last week i was having a really difficult time getting any kind of bend in the haunches-in left at the canter. And then on Friday Ava’s left rear leg swelled up substantially.  She wasn’t lame on it, no heat that I could detect. She seemed fine…. except with a swollen leg. I’m concerned because I believe it’s connected with the reason why the haunches in left is so difficult to attain. On Sunday her leg was just the tiniest bit puffy, and still no signs of lamness that I could detect. I’ll check her again after work today and possibly work her if I feel it’s safe to do so.

I wanted to make some massive progress this month in the canter work and I just don’t feel I’ve been able to. I’m kind of dissappointed. Roz is only here for summers so my time is limited with her. I wanted to capitalize on her expertise as much as possible while I could. We’ll see though… I know this stuff takes time, and I’d rather decrease the difficulty for Ava if it means she’s healthy and happy. Any other goals are secondary to Ava’s well being.