Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hidden talents.

Amber was great today. Very quiet while I was tacking her up. Got a little impatient to get going towards the end. I could seriously almost hear her saying "Please hurry UP, mom! I'm ready to go have some FUN!"

She was great. We had a tiny space to work in because some of the footing was pretty slick. A little bit smaller than a large dressage arena. Which feels tiny now since I've been riding in the huge jumping ring. So we did the told tests...and she was excellent. Her 20m circles are almost perfect - she would have scored an 8 or 9 I am confident. Freewalk needs work. She isn't confident enough to really let herself stretch down. Further supports my theory that her previous owners thought head down meant ill intentions and they snatched on her face. Very clean transitions. Sharp, straight turns down centerline. I really, really think I have the beginnings of a talented little eventer. She really loves to jump, and I think she will be the kind to jump whatever you point her at. She's got energy and drive to power her through anything. I know she will have x100000 stamina when she gets more fit.

But the fact that she's already showing natural dressage talent is a plus - from what I have seen, most eventers really 'don't do dressage' so to speak. It's something they try to be the best they can be at, but it's not their thing. Too much tedious concentration, not enough speed and action.

We worked on some transitions as well and tighter turns at the canter. Obviously, jumping requires some sharp turns and I think working on the flat with those will really help us balance, pace ourselves, and not break gait or lean like a barrel racer. She did well. We had several really, really clean trot to canter transitions. Flying changes, not so much. I'm sure they will come back to her eventually. I didn't really have a lot of room to work with her on that anyway. The line was too short.

I just love her though. She's finally getting back to her normal self. Emma came up as we were finishing, and I was going to ride out to greet her...well, the rain had made the wood swell, and the gate has a wooden stick that goes through a hole in the post to latch, and it was stuck. I was trying to undo it without dismounting.

I found a hidden talent in Amber. I had to move her into all kind of positions to get hold of that bar. I ended up having to drop my reins, lean all the way down and pull up on the gate to twist the bar out and she was so still and patient. Oh yes. We'd clean up a trail class.

I'm just so pleased to see her happy though. She's enjoying her work again. She actually has a healthy social life within her group of pasture mates. She actually has a routine to follow, and doesn't have to deal with chaotic things going on around her.

At Andreas, she would pace the stall door, no matter if the other horses were in or out. Now, she sleeps under her fan while she's stalled, not the least bit bothered about being inside.

I think most importantly, she's figured out she doesn't have to worry about anything at this barn. I highly suspect Andrea skipped out on feedings some times. She also didn't keep a good schedule. And with letting the horses in all at once, I'm sure Amber had to fight with another horse for her own feed at some point. Now, she knows what time she gets fed at, and she knows that nobody else will be able to get to her feed. There's no more ear pinning and ill behavior when she's going in for dinner, or being brought hay/ect. She doesn't have to put up with 15 other horses that are so close to her with no way for her to go off to have alone time if she wants. Nor do her pasture mates go out of their way just to run her around.

Life is good for my main mare. She's spoiled. She's loved. And above all, she is just enjoying her cushy life as a prospective show horse.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Excellent Lesson!

I'm super tired, and had a very...well, crappy and long day after my ride. But I'd rather not elaborate on that.

Basically, I had a nearly impromptu lesson with Emma today around lunch. We worked on really getting her soft and listening, bending, and using her topline muscles. She was really really fantastic. Soft as butter, trying hard to stretch down and move out. Obviously she's out of shape and can't hold herself "in a frame" for that long, but the important thing is she's using the right muscles.

We did only a little canter work. She was pretty low and round as usual.

There were some hispanic men in the field next to us working - like a bunch. I guess seeding the field or something. Either way, it was funny, because Amber could NOT stop looking at them. Not in a spooky way, but she was so nosy! She was doing a lovely counterbend on the circle trying to watch them work. It was, although not very good for her attention span towards work, very cute.

She got a good hose off (with no kicking or threats to kick!) and some treats, and then went to her stall to take a nap with her neighboring mares.

Have I mentioned that she and two of her pasture mates, Darby and Deuce, are like the best of friends? Deuce is right beside her in the barn, and they stand beside the dividing wall all day, sniffing noses and being all friendly. And across the aisle to the side a bit is her other pasture mate, who always calls out a hello when I bring her back from work.

Except she doesn't at all get along with the Haflinger mare, Amber can just catch a glimpse of her and the ears go back. Definitely a hate-hate relationship. At least she gets along with the majority of the crowd. She does seem to love her mares. ;) And I'm super happy that she's actually found her place in a herd and has friends. She wasn't into being friends with any of the horses at Avalon. Period. I mean, let's face it. She waited at the gate trying to escape - she hated it. gloves "disappeared" this morning. Emma and I were like "?" because I knew I wouldn't have left them anywhere and nobody would have taken them out of my cubby. It was when we walked out to the arena I realized what had happened. When I hop off, I take my gloves off and stick them through one of the stirrups after I run them up. Well, Amber is a shaker. She likes to do a full body shake after her rider is off (and sometimes when they are ON, although rarely). She definitely shook my gloves off right by the gate. Luckily, they weren't mowed down! They were just inches from where Bob had driven the mower earlier. Unharmed. Will teach me to make my horse carry my things! ;)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Well, of course...

I am seriously considering making an appointment with an animal communicator. (Don't judge me! I have some friends who have had mind blowing experiences with some of them!)

I went out to the barn, despite the fact that I knew I would be by myself due to the horse show today. I set up some poles in the arena, randomly really, no big plan on them. I called my boyfriend and told him if I didn't call him by a certain time to have someone come check on me.

I pulled Amber out...she just stood there, didn't move a muscle. Kind of eye-balled the parked tractor when we went out to the arena, but was as chill as she usually is.

I had decent attention from her during our ride. A little forward in the canter, kind of wanted to clinch the bit and ignore me in a could of places, or just break to trot. In other words, fast or nothing. But I was able to collect her in places. What can I say? But she wasn't a spastic mess like yesterday.

She also stood very still in the wash pit when I hosed her off and didn't even think about trying to kick.

I'm starting to think that a huge factor here is consistency. She's a young horse and she needs an outlet for energy. Regular and routine exercise is a key for her. And I can't really expect to leave her alone for a week and then expect her not to be a challenge and be silly when I come back. Obviously it's not hard to re-focus her, but the stop and start could have some bad long term effects. So maybe it's just a matter of keeping her in a consistent work out plan to release the energy she has and also keep her in the mindset that she DOES indeed have to work.

Despite her willingness to work she still likes that gate. But I can tell she understands that working well for that 45 minutes to an hour means she gets done faster and gets lots of treats.

Still considering getting the ulcer meds - as suggested by Jean. Kind of putting the chiropractor as a first priority though because the one leg dragging more than the other isn't "just her", it isn't "just being lazy"...something's out of whack. And I could see in Katie working her yesterday that it's that right hind that's always off.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Dominant Horse.

So I went out and all the horses were still out...apparently Bob was just running late this morning. It was around 11. So not so bad. The QH mare out there finally got bred last night and then again this morning, which was why they had the barn clear.

I helped him bring everyone in. By that time it was too late for me to ride, which makes day 5 off for her, but I'm not worried about it. She hasn't lost condition that fast, and we will pick right back up.

I decided to just give her a bath. We need to work on her refusing to have her rump/tail washed.

I took the hose and shook it at her. I swiveled it all around her. No reaction. So at that point, I knew it wasn't the hose hanging up high that bothered her. She just didn't like the water for some reason. Sorry for her, it's not acceptable to get pissy at the human involved.

So I turned the water on and started to wet her down for her bath. She was pretty chill with her front half. So I gave her a treat and praised her. She was okay for the first few minutes of her hind end on the right side, and only a little agitated when I soaped her up. I rinsed her and switched sides. She was a bit worse on the left. As I started to get closer to her back end, she picked up the opposite leg and made a clear threat. I gave her a firm pop and told her no mam. She thought about that, and then tried again, and I gave her an even firmer pop and got louder. She then threatened with the leg CLOSEST to me. Oh hell no. I kicked her. Not abusively nasty or enough to REALLY hurt her, but enough so that she knew I was pissed. I reacted just like the leader in a herd would have if she had threatened them with a kick: I kicked first.

And she gave me the googly "Oh my god, I can't believe you did that!" eyes. And then we went back to washing. She thought about it a few more times, but she didn't DO anything. She let me wash her tail. Quietly.

Me - 1
Amber - 0

I'm really surprised at her about that. She's always had such polite ground manners I never would have imagined her to be a kicker in any situation - but just proves that horses are unpredictable and you never know. Expect the unexpected.

After she remembered that I'm her boss mare, I put her away to dry and cleaned up my tack cubby a little. It was super windy today so I left her stall window open and she dried uber fast.

I went and pulled her out again and brushed some loose hair off her, and brushed out her tail. I put some fly spray on her and trimmed up her leathers/legs. And applied some hoof conditioner. She's shedding her frogs. Also seeing some chips on the front, but her right hind has actually gotten BACK some of the white line. I know for a fact it was almost baffles me but good news. The fact that she drags one more than the other still bothers me, but the vet didn't see anything, so maybe it's just an issue of better direction.

Also, Katie is coming to visit Friday! I promise lots of pics. I haven't seen Katie in 2 years, so I'm super excited! Do you guys even remember her from the Gulliver days?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Majorly late post.

I forgot that I never posted about my awesome ride on Friday. Lots of canterwork. Still a little rushy on the long sides, but still very responsive to my half halts and A+ on circles.

Better on the ground poles, but starting to trip over them when she gets a little tired towards the end.

Also pretty sure her mane will forever be getting cut, not pulled, and I will just end up HAVING to braid for shows. It's thin enough that I CAN braid it when its cut, but I couldn't do without braiding for shows because I have to hide the ugly blunt look. She was getting generally upset when I tried to pull her mane. Even worse than Gulliver was. I really am sympathetic to horses who don't want their manes pulled. They might not have nerve endings in their manes, but there is SOME feeling there, and they must feel the pressure, and I don't think I would enjoy someone rip-rip-ripping my hair out. So I sympathize. Besides, I can get a can of hair spray, some brown rubber bands and a braiding comb and get her mane done in a jiff. Or I could roach it...well, neh. I like her mohawk. it suits her.

She pretty much lets me do whatever with her. Curry her face (with the soft side of my gel curry, of course). Clip her. Put conditioner on her feet. She's pretty chill, but start pulling her mane...the eyes start to roll and the head goes up. Don't blame her, I'm not going to push it. I know a lot of people would disagree with me and say that she just needs to be reprimanded and made to stand still, or even drugged, but my horse, my rules. She can just have a goofy mane.

Look at that cutie pie. The mohawk suits her, come on, look at that cuteness and tell me it doesn't!

Anyway. She had Saturday and Sunday off. Saturday we had that storm system with the tornados of death...literally...22 I believe people died. I was in the county hardest hit at the time. Greene County, at my boyfriend's house. One tornado went through just a couple of miles from there. One tornado was responsible for MUCH of the damage. It went for miles and miles. It picked one house up off the foundation and threw it almost into the street. My heart breaks for those whose loved ones died and those who lost their homes...

Sunday Jessie and I went to the air show, lasted most of the day. And today I intended to ride but I overslept. I was kind of pooped out from the air show and I stayed up too late.

Tomorrow its back to work for me AND Amber. I miss jumping so much, I'm so ready to hit up some jumps again. And Halcyon actually has a whole COURSE. So I can do more than just one jump back and forth. Yes, Andrea's barn only had one jump...sad story.

She had some "jumps" that were like this weird picket fence type stuff, but if the horse didn't clear it, it could be pretty bad, so I refused to jump those even though they were only like, 15".

Anyway. That was Friday. Looking forward to having more fun tomorrow!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Amberhaze Woman: Special Since 2004.

I put Amber's wraps on for our ride today. I've been too lazy to wrap her lately, but since we are cantering and doing a little bit more than just walk/trot, I decided it's time to start wrapping her up to protect those legs. Apparently they felt funny on her hind legs, and she kept picking them up and shaking them, looking at them. Not having a freak out about it, just giving me the "?" look.

She wasn't into lunging today. She threw a couple of tantrums and generally refused to do what I wanted her to. I'm not a great lunger, so I wasn't exactly wanting to fight with her. Besides, why push the envelope when there was a chance we could get good work elsewhere? No need to utterly piss her off to the point where she doesn't want to do anything at all.

I took her and took the sidereins and lunge off. She stood still and quiet like "Yessss! That was so boring mom, why do we have to do that again?"

I got on, and she waited for me to give her the okay to go. She was definitely just bored. She was a little forward in the walk, but not being silly. Just a little wiggly, but mostly just feeling her oats I think. She was excited to be out there. I was happy to see it.

I had fixed our trot poles again. This time, I was fortunate enough to find some of her hoof prints that were at a trot. I know they were hers. Only one of her back feet is really bad on the toes now. The other one still has the white line on the toe. I found the squared off toe pretty easy where the sand had been wet and it left good impressions. I measured with my own strides and counted out between poles.

I set one side up at two strides, the other at four. I will eventually set them to one stride only, but for now I want her to have to really think about pacing herself through them. And having to pace more than one stride between them does make her do that. Ideally, when we start jumping again, the work we are doing on this will help her learn how to judge distance and adjust her stride based on what speed I'm asking for on her own.

We warmed up, working on some bending and paying attention, and then I asked for a trot. She was READY. She wanted to be a little quick, but responded very, very well when I asked for a little less. She only "hopped" the poles a couple of times - we got real strides across today. I was able to give her her head over them instead of having to hold her back from cantering.

Just one time she took it upon herself to canter across them. Otherwise, she did awesome.

She started to get a little too excited after we had done the poles a few times. She was getting bored with them a bit, because she had figured out her strides, so I changed it up and took her around once and bent her and half halted, and she responded very quickly to what I was asking for. Then we cantered a couple of times around, very nice canter. A little quick on the long sides, BUT she responded to my half halts.

Now, what I was REALLY impressed with was the 25m canter circles she gave me. She was soooo good. Really deep and low. Beautiful bend and super soft and supple in my hands. Very relaxed. What I would describe as a perfect working canter. I can honestly say if we had been doing that in a dressage test, she'd have gotten an 8 or a 9 for it.

I let her be done on that note. She was such a good girl! We only worked 30 minutes under saddle...10 before that was just the lunging fail. But she worked hard and I was proud! Less toe dragging too, I might add. And she definitely knew I was proud. When I got off, she was like "OMG! OMG! I did it right! I did it!"

She was pretty sweaty so I hosed her off. She really hates the indoor wash pit though. She hates the hose for some reason, because it's on a hanger up in the air. I'm sure she will get used to it. I just have to be careful in the event she decides it would be a good idea to kick her owner for spraying her with the scary hose. ;) And she would learn too quickly that it is NOT a good idea. Ha.

So! I've been thinking as of late of changing her show name. When I came up with Evening Sunsong, I didn't know she was registered, and I thought we'd be a strictly dressage pair. She likes to jump, I like to jump...when we get in shape a little more, we will be jumping! And I hope eventing. I picked Evening Sunsong because it had a super-classy, classical sound to it. For hunter/jumpers and eventing...I think I'd prefer something with a little more "bite" to it. So to speak.

I really liked the name "Let It Burn". That would sound AWESOME being called out at a show. But...I looked it up on all breed pedigree and there is ANOTHER 7 year old, chestnut QH mare named Let It Burn. I just can't feel good about using that name on her, especially if it were one she'd start being associated with, being a registered QH as well.

Sooo. I have complied a list of names. A friend of mine helped me brainstorm. Let me know what you guys think! I've really got to give it some time to think on it myself, but opinions are welcome! And suggestions of course.

Easy A
Born This Way
Fire At Will
Girl I Know
Seeing Red
Plan A
Have A Nice Day
Stop And Stare
Better Luck Next Time
Sorry You're Not A Winner
Can't Touch This
No Doubt
Look Before You Leap
Just Better
Next Please
The Following Is Not A Test

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sheer joy and pride.

I woke up at 9am. It was a nice, sunny day, a mild 73 degrees. I didn't ride yesterday because when I woke up it was overcast, so I said screw that, and slept in.

So I said, wow, it's perfect for riding!

I got out to the barn...all the horses were already in because they've switched to night turnout for the summer now. So I didn't even have to walk down to the pasture to grab my beast mare.

She was in an excellent mood, so I tied her up and ran out to the arena to fix some trot poles. Okay, I'm a moron with spacing on poles. I can count strides, but I have never really set up my own poles before... so I guessed. I didn't want them too close so she's get short, but I didn't want them too far so they'd do no good.

I ran back in and Amber was just chillin'. One foot up, half asleep. Cool, she's in a good mood today. I loved on her and brushed her down and threw some tack on. We went out and lunged a few minutes...and then...RANDOM, I mean freaking RANDOM rain. That lasted maybe 1-2 minutes tops. Long enough for me to stop lunging her (because for some reason, the rain drops were freaking her out and she was dancing), and take off the sidereins lest she murder herself if she got away from me and ran off in her fear of the SCARY rain drops that were melting her.

And then, as we were about to run it, the rain stopped. I really, really wanted to ride, and Amber was chill now, so I said I'd give it a shot.

We got on and walked the poles, stretched, looked around at the scary woods, and then we trotted. She started off at a good tempo, but got a little quick and at first didn't respond to my half halt. We went over the trot poles. I had obviously spaced them wrong. After the first one she had to awkwardly hop the rest. Now, if she were a little fitter and had a better handle on timing her own strides and putting her feet in the right places, she'd have been able to adjust herself, but she is young and wasn't thinking about all that no-fun stuff.

She had a little easier time with the closer placed set...although that wasn't quite right either. About the third time we tried, she started to actually get a little rhythm to her awkward hopping. it was almost like she was doing teeny tiny gymnastics. She cantered the all the ones after the first because it was apparently easier. I let her keep the canter because when we got over the last pole it was nice and deep, good, quality canter that wasn't rushed. I let her go maybe 5 strides and took her down to trot and praised her. We took a break and went the other direction. Even worse luck on the poles that way.

We practiced more speed up/slow down. Half halts were sinking in pretty well. She was listening to me much, much more today and looking around less. Then, as we came out of the trot poles in the bad direction again, I asked for a little canter. We did half way around with nice, slow and easy, quality canter. She got a little speedy but LISTENED to the half halt, albeit I had to make it a little firm. She came down easy. I was hugging her and praising her before she even transitioned down. I was sooo proud of her. I'm so happy things are finally starting to sink in with her again.

Today was a huge milestone for us going forward. For a little while I was starting to doubt myself and my abilities to train a basic w/t/c greenie like Amber. Which is basically what I had when I got her, and what I'm back to now. Yeah, I've been riding 12 years, worked with some amazing trainers as of recent years...worked with a handful of very different and sometimes challenging horses. But things started to fall apart and I couldn't pinpoint what was causing our problems, wasn't sure what I should do to fix them, so I was basically doing nothing but trying to ride like normal, which made it worse. My own self doubt I'm sure confused Amber all that much more.

I think we are back in action though. If we can focus this energy, I bet we will be jumping again by the end of the summer.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Runaway mare likes to go fast!

I didn't post last night because I was TIRED as hell.

But I rode Amber yesterday evening. She was pretty ready to come in, actually. She looked kind of irritated with her other female pasture mates who were being...mares.

Anyway, we lunged for a few minutes, also on the scary side of the arena and she did really, really well.

Then we walked and trotted around. She was doing good. Wanted to be a little quick (I didn't lunge her as long as I had the first day, and it was cooler). But not to the degree she *was*. Then we tried come canter. That developed into super fast canter that she did not want to come down from. And then, I had a realization. She's full of freaking ENERGY. She's bored. She wants to let it out. I haven't REALLY worked her in a month. Things have been wonky all the way around.

So...maybe she just needs an outlet? Although careening around the arena isn't the best way for her to do so...

I'm thinking we need to re-establish what half halts mean. She has no trouble stopping, and I suppose she wasn't REALLY out of control. But when you increase the firmness of the half halt she just puts on full brakes. I mean, TO A FREAKING HALT.

So she's not trying to be bad, but she just knows she's a) full of energy, and b) you told her she could go faster, and c) when she feels pressure on her mouth, that means time to stop.

So much as I want to canter with her (admittedly, it's kind of fun going fast...I hate it and love it at the same time. I know she's not working properly, that part I hate, but the feeling is fantastic!) I'm going to set up some ground poles. We will use those to work on lengthening her stride. And to keep her from being bored. I have a feeling she's going to jump the ground poles, but at least she'll be having fun and perhaps start to look forward to real work again.

Big, big part of the work will be suppling, listening to my leg and practicing half halts at the trot. Lots of praise ready and waiting to go when it clicks. I need to start using my freaking leg on her again. I've been avoiding it because she's been so speedy when I want her to work at a slower pace, but that's a subconscious choice because I KNOW I really need to put that leg on and get her up onto the bit, and just slow down my seat movement.

Kind of wondering where in the world my head has been lately. It's so obvious why she's been acting "odd". She has been out of work! She's a young horse and she's forgotten a few basics. And when I act confused as to why this is, it just confuses her more. Perhaps I got too used to Jack. Took for granted a horse that I had gotten to the point where he knew what to do at the most subtle aid, and he knew what those aids meant - well enough not to forget it very easy!

I need to keep reminding myself I'm working with a greenie. She's got a lot yet to learn and when we don't work consistently, she will forget and I can't just expect to do everything as normal - it could take a week, it could take a month to get all the "controls" back in place.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

No, we haven't died!

Agh. I've been absent because I didn't even make it out to the barn during her healing time. I've been having sooo many problems at work. My co-workers refuse to get along with me. Always an attitude. Always. It's very frustrating to try to work with them...

I went out Saturday to ride. Amber was so freaking spooky and uncooperative I just put her away. She was dancing, trying to run off, not listening...I wasn't in the mood to work with her, and I thought it best not to try when I was feeling frustrated. I felt like she had worked up anxiety over her mouth. I had no idea the extent things had gotten to. Emma offered to help us out the next day I had free time.

Which ended up being today before work, since it stormed like mad yesterday and I had some sort of stomach virus. Yuck.

Amber has definitely forgotten a few things. We lunged her for 15-20 minutes. She is HATING going to the left, which is really weird. That's usually her good side. But she was moving okay, not lame at all. At one point she started to canter, and I didn't make any sort of motion to do anything, I was just going to bring her down quietly, and she thought I was going to absolutely kill her. She went backwards, and I just followed after trying to calm her down. When she realized that I wasn't going to beat her to a pulp for making a little mistake, she actually stretched down and acted quite nice on the lunge. I rode walk/trot for 15-20 minutes after that, and we had a GREAT ride. No rushing, better movement than I expected after her time off. No complaints from me. She got lots of praise. We also walked by the "scary" side of the arena a couple of times. What a brave horse I have. *Snort*

More lunging in her future. More work on being supple and giving to my leg. Emma said she thinks we should be able to show this year, at the very least a couple of intro tests. I think she will be able to do better, personally. She learns fast. She tries hard to please.

I think everything will start going better now. Maybe I've let my frustration at work sink into my riding a little...I know better than to let that happen. But today was a good day, for sure - at least, with Amber. At work? Oh man, not so much. I don't even feel like going there...