Photo by Margaret Chant and edited by Jessica Metropulos

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Awesome times THREE!

I had a busy busy day today, and of the three real sessions I had (I played with a 4th, but only to keep him occupied while the others ate their grain) were absolutely FANTASTIC. I haven't felt that productive with my herd in a VERY long time. I played with Crest, Cricket, and Prin, and I think the easiest way to summarize will be to just go down the list.


I've been trying really hard to get into a consistent schedule with Crest, since he thrives best when he's played with often. So, since the last time I blogged, we've actually played twice, not including today. Anyway, we've been playing with really progressing in the patterns. The ground was too hard by the time I got them last fall, so I only got to introduce them to him.

All I can really say is HOLY CRAP, this horse is a speed-demon learner. I knew that about him from the start, but he's now blowing my mind more and more. I started playing with these patterns at L2 two days ago, and today, he was consistently offering me L4 with everything. He kept pulling flying changes out of NOWHERE, he was cantering like I've never seen before, and his circles were GORGEOUS, and amazingly rhythmic!

After being thoroughly mind-boggled by Crest's ground play, I decided to hop on and do some stuff. We started out just walking around and playing with walk-halt transitions, which he did flawlessly. We toddled around the playground a bit, w/t/c and playing with obstacles, and then I somehow got the idea that we should play with turns on the haunches. It started out a little bit rocky, being that it's physically challenging for him, but we played through it slowly and persistently, and by the end, I was getting some LOVELY pivots, and twice got what I think were pretty high-quality spins. He's truly a very athletic horse, he just needs proper guidance, etc.

Poor Cricket is going through some difficult things right now. I'm just starting to get her back into riding, something that hasn't been kind on her in the past. She's basically been taught nothing but to resist, and unfortunately, has been punished for a lack of understanding. The result is a very skeptical, very unsure, very unconfident horse in all aspects of riding. I've spent the past couple weeks getting her friendly to the concept of being saddled. I pulled out Prin's original saddle for the job. It's a cute little general purpose Trainer's brand saddle, pretty narrow, but has decent weight distribution throughout the panels, which is why I chose it. Coupled with the Theraflex, it does fairly well.

Anyway, today, for the 3rd day in a row, we've played with bridling. Cricket must have evaded bridling really well in her days prior to my riding, because she knows practically every trick in the book to get away from it now. Today went fairly well though, we only had to "discuss" yielding to poll pressure for about 3 minutes, as opposed to the 15 and 5 we spent the past two days.

Once we got bridled, I hopped on, and proceeded to play with fluid rein. I've got her in the confidence snaffle because of the rough handling she's had in her mouth previously. Three days ago, When I'd get on, she'd turn her neck inside-out to get away from any sort of pressure on her mouth. Today, we made HUGE strides with fluid rein. Though a bit skeptical (and astounded!) that I really wanted her to stretch into the bit, Cricket finally got the idea, and we spend a half an hour walking and trotting around with Cricket's nose barely above the grass, exhaling and blowing almost every stride. Talk about a pressure release! It's going to be a long road, but she's going to make a LOVELY riding horse. I'll be continuing this journey, so keep checking back :)


Today's session with Prin will be dubbed successful simply because it was short, sweet, and I totally blew my horse's mind. I had originally planned to tack up and take her out for a long trot up the road, but after I heard gunshots coming from Dusek's, our neighbors up the road (the 3 brothers shooting pigeons, no doubt), I decided that we'd better not. So, I hopped on bareback, and took her for literally a 5 minute ride. We cantered up the driveway, to the top of the hill, stopped, backed up, did a roll back, and cantered home. Once I got back, I took her to the tackroom and I groomed her from head to tail, gave her a cookie, and put her back. The look of astonishment on my horse's face was fantastic, and I know I left her wanting more because she followed me along the fence line as I walked out.

So. All in all, a VERY productive day. I love spring, I love my horses, and my life is going very well. I'll hopefully get the camera out this week sometime if it's not too nasty (they're predicting freezing rain/snow on Tuesday), and will keep progressing along.

Keep it natural, and I'll post again soon :)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Focus? Energy? Fluidity? Oh yeah...

Today was an excellent reminder of all those concepts, usually all together, at once. It's amazing how things like that can totally change a session, and believe me, they can.

You know how Linda says "You're not playing for today, you're playing for tomorrow?" She means it. Usually when you leave off great in a previous session, the next session will be even better, and more progressive. Conversely, if you leave off on a bad note, generally the next session will be poor, too. Keep that in mind as we go along here.

I headed out to the farm today with the intent to play with Crest. He and I had had a slightly scary session last week, and I, truth be told, have been making excuses to not play with him since, simply because it was a disturbing flashback to how Crest used to be. I guess you could say I was visiting some sort of denial phase.

Last week's session left off with Crest frothing, me panting, and both of us thoroughly pissed off and scared of each-other. Though I won't go into detail, needless to say, it didn't go well. But one of the things that triggered the session was Crest's "sticky" sideways game. Crest is a pretty bio-mechanically screwed up horse, and so going sideways, particularly to the left, can be very difficult for him. This is all thanks to an accident we had a couple years ago. Anyway, as a result, he's crooked all down his right side, but especially through his ribcage. We've played with it for over a year, and we've corrected a lot of it, but it still causes him some discomfort from time to time. Unfortunately, being as extroverted as he is, Crest expresses his discomfort in a large, animated way that often causes me to lose my confidence and brace, which in turn causes him to get even more animated, and it usually ends up with me getting off and feeling a little dejected.

ANYWAY. What does ALL THIS have to do with today? I decided, based upon last session, that playing with the sideways box pattern might be a smart thing to do. For those who aren't familiar, the sideways box is comprised of 4 markers (barrels, cones,etc) formed in a box shape about 10-20 feet apart. The goal is to side pass from one to the next in a Z pattern.

So, I got Crest out, and warmed him up playing with patterns and sideways on the ground. It was going really really well, he was peppy, but not crazed, focused, but not clingy, it was perfect. So hopped on, and went first to show him the box I had created. I wasn't going to ask for him to go sideways, I just wanted him to see it. He saw it, and immediately perked up in a way I wasn't so sure I liked. So I decided to play with some figure 8 before I even TRIED to get sideways. This is a pattern he's plenty familiar with, we play with it almost every time we ride because it helps calm him when he's on adrenaline. So I send him in, he goes around the first barrel like a gentleman, and comes to the second, goes 1/2 way around it, and then, without warning, SHOOTS sideways. It wasn't a spook. Crest is a bolter in those situations. No, this was totally defiant. He does it when he doesn't get his way, though it's been getting less and less common. I sort of sighed and asked him forward, and completed the 8, and went for another one. We came 1/2 way around the second barrel, and BAM, same thing. He did this twice more. Okay, so now I'm starting to get angry. I'm not proud of it, but there you have it.

It always seems like I have to blow up with Crest before we succeed. This is not something I'm proud of, and honestly, after this session, I have some keys to fixing situations like that before they become explosive. But anyway, what happened next was embarrassing. I'll ask you to try to see the humor in this image, because honestly, that's what gets me by after acting like a complete ass.

I got off (I was losing my confidence) and proceeded to send Crest in a pretty aggressive falling leaf pattern, while growling orders at him, that he clearly doesn't understand. Now as I'm doing this, I'm realizing just how ridiculous I must look at sound. Crest is 3 steps away from leaving the planet with this "What the HELL did I do?!" look on his face, and I'm growling like a maniac, while doing something completely unproductive. And then I had a thought. A thought that stopped me dead in my tracks. Why not try the figure 8 on the ground, Fran? WHAT A NOVEL IDEA!

So that's what we did. And Crest, probably relieved to not have psycho-Fran growling at him, was absolutely tuned in and fantastic on the patterns. He never broke gait on the figure 8, and several times popped a flying change at the canter. I felt really good about that, so after two sets of 7 (I did one regular, and then one where he had to spin to get the correct direction) I hopped back up, and tried again...only to get the same result as when I had tried riding it before. Puzzled, I asked Crest to stop, because I really had to think. I had no idea what was causing this gap between ground and riding...and then, like a ton of bricks, it hit me.

It's me. Of COURSE. He's shooting sideways, and I'm tensing up. I've patterned myself to tense up at that second barrel. But WHY? I asked him again to figure 8, while I examined my behavior. I was indeed tensing up, but also, my focus was NOWHERE, and my body wasn't following either. I was asking him to go around a barrel, sure, but was I going around the barrel? Nope.

For the next 15 minutes, I played with figure 8's with the reins on Crest's neck. HE followed the pattern at a trot, and I didn't even have to pick up my reins. He's an EXTREMELY sensitive horse, and so as long as the components for lightness are there, he'll take it.

So...Focus? Energy? Fluidity? Oh yeah...those...they're handy! Today I'll head out and play again :)

Savvy on,


Thursday, March 26, 2009

One Picture

Sorry guys, this is all you get today. I was a poop and didn't do much. Curse this gray and mushy weather.

Trot poles

Cricket and me playing with trot poles a couple days ago. (Photo is from the session I last blogged) The poles are one of the things we've been playing with, along with hill therapy, and now we're also starting some riding. I'm hoping to keep somewhat of a photo diary of her progress this spring and summer, and keep posted on here. She's a very special girl and her journey is going to be worth noting :)

Savvy on, I'm off to go read some more Outliers, which is a FANTASTIC book, by the way. It's on Pat and Linda's reading list, and for good reason :)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tis the Season to be Naughty...

Short blog today, but I thought I'd share what's up at least.

Spring has sprung, and along with lots of rain and mud, we've got a herd full of SASSY horses. I headed out to the farm late in the afternoon, let Prin and Cricket into the west paddock and went about my routine of mixing feed, etc. Got everyone fed, and decided to play with Cricket, simply because I'd played with Prin for a while yesterday, and it had gone well.

I haltered her up, just on the 12' line (my 22' is soaked and muddy at the moment)and played with getting her using her topline (it was circle pattern meets bullseye, meets hill therapy, oh yes!). She did wonderfully, I think she's going to be just a GORGEOUS English riding horse, she's got such nice floaty gaits, and she carries herself nicely.

After playing with Cricket, I had to put Prin back. She'd finished her cubes, and was on the "I'm going to play with you if it's the last thing I do!" path. So, away she goes, cantering and farting. Fortunately, though, she really did want me to play back, so I went running WITH her. Not after her, or chasing her, but with her. Almost immediately, she slowed, stopped, and turned to look at me, like "Oh...well that was my grand idea, what's the plan now?" and I led her by the ear (oh the humorous expressions on her face for that...) back to the paddock and put her in.

So all in all, a very wet, sloppy, and fun day. I'm looking forward to the rain stopping so I can start riding again.

That's all for now, folks!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spotty Girls!

Had a lovely lesson with Phoebe and the mini today. They started playing with some patterns, as well as using the 7 games for obstacles. It was truly a treat to watch, and I was fortunate enough to have my camera with me. Here's some of the best pix I got. Enjoy!

They're both thinking the same thing..."Can I keep her?"

LB is a quick study, and with Phoebe's help, learned to operate your standard jacket zipper--here she takes a break after zipping up :)

In action!

My "Coco-esque" shot of the day--and the actual picture doesn't cut off the poor horse's eyes. Click on it to view full size.

One foot?

Two foot?



Cute as buttons-lol

MINI JUMPER! Part of my new logo...Coming soon ;)

Let me know whatcha think :D

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Life's a Dance...

Especially when you're riding Crest out for the first time all year :)

I had a VERY successful horsey afternoon with my kids. First of all, I did a practice-film of my L3/4 online audition. It was really good quality as far as play went, but the footing was so terrible that I could hardly ask her to canter, and thus could not submit it for L3/4 had I wanted to. But that's okay with me for now. The intention was not to ace it, but to get a feel for what needed doing, and how I might go about it when the footing was good. And honestly, I LOVED it. I was disappointed when my camera-person called the 8 minute warning ("I HAVE SO MUCH MORE TO SHOW!" was my thought)and I feel really confident in filming when the ground hardens (a week or two, yay) So I'm really glad I got that taken care of :)

After that, I went out on a really lovely ride with Micky and our mutual friend Sarah. Sarah took Prin, who was a gem, Micky rode Amigo (she's decided to do this more often, we could tell he missed being out), and I took Crest, which brings me to my title line. Today was our first "real" ride out this year, and Crest was...well...a total LBE-on-adrenaline dancing queen. I had saddled him up in the fluidity (MAN I MISSED MY SADDLE!) and had a new bit I wanted to try with him. He was fantastic, behavior wise, but totally high on life and thus very hard to ride because of his perpetual bounce tendencies, that were magnified by 10. The result? A passaging, dressaging, haunches-inning Warmblood-wanna-be who had ALL the moves.

I kept track, and Crest performed like 4 grand-prix level dressage maneuvers when asked, simply because it involved being fancy. I got like 150 yards of lovely passage, a hilarious set of VERY collected tempi-changes, and about 3/4 of a canter pirouette. How funny *eye roll*

So all in all, a very nice ride. Fun was had by all, and I'm really looking forward to progressing with Crest, now that his TRUE athletic ability has been revealed-LOL.

Savvy on, I'm off to bed EARLY tonight :D

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Nice Low-Key Day

Okay, so I'm really confused about this whole weather thing, here. It is March 12th, daylight savings has begun, and for the past week and a half, it has not been under 32 degrees, hardly, except apparently the past 2 days. The past two days, it's been 15ish degrees. Now, I don't know if you've ever experienced 15 degrees in March,but it's really bizarre. The ground wants to be warm. The sun wants to be warm. It feels warm coming from those two areas, and yet the air temperature is FRIGID, stubbornly holding onto the fact that it's still technically winter for another 9 days. Ah well, melt starts again tomorrow, and I'll be out playing in it!

Anyway, I didn't do a whole lot today because the footing is really bad (frozen manure and icy patches)but Prin and I toddled around and did some play with being particular in the walk. We both had a blast, surprisingly enough, (this whole attitude shift from negative nit-picky to positive particular is doing us wonders!) and even though I didn't ride for more than 20 minutes I bet, we had a ton of fun. Prin was SUPER light, and her shoulders were moving over SO fluidly!

It actually caused me to think back to my course, when we were first struggling with isolating and moving the shoulders over. I had spent the better part of all afternoon one day trying not to lose my patience, smack my horse with inappropriate phase 4's, or yell at Avery, who was trying to help me with it. That was not a pleasant afternoon at all, but I'm glad I persisted with it. Days like today remind me of how worth it it was. :) I can just feel our finesse developing in little sessions like that.

Oh, on a side-note about finesse, I recently recieved Walter Zettl's book "Dressage in Harmony" as a late Xmas gift from my friend Sarah. I've only just paged through it a little, but HOLY COW the man knows his stuff. It's a really thick book, probably about 300-400 pages, and every page is packed full of thorough, fantastic information, as well as drawings of maneuvers, exercises, theory, and troubleshooting. "From Basic to Grand Prix" is the subtitle, and it really doesn't do the amount of information justice. It really delves into the horsemanship and horsenality aspect (minus PNH references, of course) I can hardly wait to have good footing again, I'm thrilled to give the stuff a try :) I'll keep you posted on how that goes!

Anyway, time for dinner. Savvy on!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"These Are MY Carrots!"

I had the most hilarious session with LB and one of my young students today. This won't be a real long post simply because you really HAD to be there to truly grasp the adorable hilarity, but it's well worth sharing.

Phoebe (my student) is a very precocious little individual, and extremely talented young rider, and also blossoming as a horse-woman, too. She's a quick learner, very LBE, and is really quite fun to teach. She has Mini/Shetland pony crosses at home, and so has taken quite a liking to little LB. Watching the two of them interact is really hilarious because it's stubborn snotty kid vs stubborn snotty kid. Occasionally, one of them needs a slight correction, but for the most part, they duke it out in sibling-rivalry fashion, and they're both smiling and laughing at the end.

So. Today, Phoebe brought several large bags of baby carrots to the farm to share with the herd. Instead of getting caught up in the middle of the herd of 13, she just dumped piles here and there along the fence-line. Saaaavvyyy. Anyway, she made a separate pile off to the side for LB, but then haltered her up after not much time at it, so there were a few left.

We proceeded to start our lesson, a review of the 7 games etc, and mostly focus on games 5, 6, and 7, since both Phoebe and LB need help there. Things were going extremely well. LB is a VERY smart little LBE, and she picks up on things super quickly. But, she's also got a naughty streak, so I decided in order to set the situation up for success in the circling game, I'd plant myself near enough the pile o' carrots that she could stop and eat them when the time was right.

Boy, did that backfire on me. I always forget, food motivation only truly works with LBIs. Sure, she likes her carrots, but her main source of incentive is play (and naughty thoughts!)So...I send LB out in a circle--Buck,squeal, buck, squeal, buck--and then she comes to the pile of carrots, screeches to a halt, lies down, and starts rolling on them, then leaps up and takes off bucking and squealing again. She repeats this cycle 5 times, each time, stopping at the carrots, dropping, and rolling on them. So I pass her off to Phoebe, and the same thing happens.

By this time, all 3 of us (Phoebe, her mom, and I) are gaping in disbelief, and Phoebe's mom says in a baby-talk voice (personifying LB): "You guys, these are MY carrots! MINE! And I like how they smell!"...indeed. My little snot was being possessive of her carrots!

Anyway, the rest of the lesson went well. At the end, I sent Phoebe and LB into the playground and told them "use your 7 games, and go play with the obstacles."...that was a treat to watch, the imagination of a 10 yr old at work partnered with a young mischievous Miniature horse. They did some really fantastic stuff, and they both appeared to just be having a ball. I have to bring my camera sometime. They're just fantastic.

So anyway, I just wanted to share that little story. That little partnership is coming along so nicely, and it's truly a treat to guide it :)

Savvy on!