Photo by Margaret Chant and edited by Jessica Metropulos

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Oh, So THAT'S What Productive Feels Like!

Hi you guys!

It's been a very bizarre week, hence my slight drop off the face of the planet. Physical exhaustion, coupled with major disorganization, and a rather unkind man-made knock to my confidence have all taken a toll on my horsin' around these days. So anyway, I figured you all were due for a bit of an update!

As I mentioned, it's been slow here, and the tension within MY MIND has been building slowly, and got to the point last night that I COULD NOT ignore it anymore. So last night, I broke, and went "I'm going to LISTEN to my body for once! I want sleep, I want to get up early and enjoy the morning, I want to stay hydrated, I want to stop eating crap at random times, I want to read, I want to get back to my learning frame of mind, I want to spend all day at the barn and love it like I used to. I'm going to get organized, and I'm GOING to do this." So I did. I was up early this morning, actually ate breakfast, made coffee, drank 3 glasses of water before I left. I cleaned my car out, then headed to the farm and had my first round with the horses--an hour and a half long session with little Sunny.

That was an adventure. I had a wedding to go to yesterday, and so little Sunshine got the day off, which was fine, she had earned it, but she must have spent the day plotting her next playtime with me! Today's session revolved around all things porcupine. When she arrived here, she was very unconfident in zone one, and made up for it with confidence and dominance in zones 2 and 3. All last week revolved around getting zone 1 really nice and friendly, while keeping her ribs and shoulders where they belong--not on top of me ;)

Today was quite the opposite, she offered some of the most beautiful correct trotting circles she's given since she's been here, but she was very snotty and pushy with zone 1. Talk about swinging the pendulum! Anyway, We played with porcupine pressure on the poll, leading by the chin and ears, as well as by the legs. She was a little resistant at first, but really caught on quickly, and by the end of the session was leading all over the place by different parts of her body, and offering to put her head down, around, or up, depending on what the situation called for. Really cool stuff!

Afterward, I hopped on her back. I'd been on her twice before, and really focused on getting her to accept my existing there, lots of friendly games, etc, and she's been a champ, so today I started teaching her the beginnings of HQ and FQ yields. At first there was a little brace, which was more my not having my weight correctly distributed, so once I fixed myself, she picked right up on it. I think she's going to be just wonderful! Pictures and VIDEO to come, I promise!!!

I headed home, and ate a healthy lunch (I have developed some really unhealthy sporadic eating habits this summer, and that's something I am determined to correct now), caught up on some reading, and then headed back up to play with both Crest and Cricket.

I had a really fun and educational online to Freestyle session with Crest, involving lots of play with a flank rope--how interesting. I followed an interesting path of indicators to get there, and let's just say his take on the whole concept has changed a bit since I last played with it. But it ended well, and I really want to include some of that good stuff in a video of us. He's awesome ;) The Freestyle riding was an entirely different story (For me anyway!). I opted to ride bareback with a carrot stick today and really start developing and progressing towards L3 Patterns. This was interesting for two reasons. One, I haven't ridden Crest in almost 3 weeks, and two, I haven't carrot stick ridden on him in who-knows how long. The main lesson I took out of it was that I need to do it FAR more often, and that I use my reins to balance on him A LOT. Yikes! I'll be playing with that in the near future! Overall his response was great though--much more responsive than I anticipated, and I got gutzy and rode with just a savvy string for a while (hackamore for safety net), and I actually felt very connected with him, which is super cool. More to develop there soon, I'm sure.

My session on Cricket was very rewarding. First of all, I took the time and shimmed her up in my fluidity saddle, which is huge, because when she came here, my 32 cm Stubben Roxane (WAYYY narrow) was too wide for her. She uses less shims in the super-wide fluidity than Crest, now! Gotta love her for that little Arabian rib cage! Anyway, I had a really really nice freestyle ride on her. We played in the round pen first on isolations (HQ and FQ), and then playing with follow the rail and transitions which she did magnificently with. I can't wait to develop her futher, she's going to make someone a PERFECT partner, I just know it!

Anyway, that's all for now folks. It's now 11:00, and I'm going to pattern that whole "early to bed" thing this week! Savvy on!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sunny Days

Two for one post day today, but I thought this deserved special introduction. I have a little gal in for training for 6 weeks. She arrive here on Sunday the 23rd, and she is really quite the character. Her name is Sunny, and she is a 3 yr old Palomino QH mare. She stands 14.2ish (haven't measured), and is a totally LBE. She's very interesting to watch because she is SO extroverted. You can tell this little girl HAS to move her feet. She was trotting/cantering around the pasture for the fun of it this evening, while her boys (Crest and Hart) stood and watched from the long clover.

And SMART, too! Her owner is a L1 graduate who is a student of mine from Minnesota. She'd already taught Sunny the 7 games before she came, but even so, I CANNOT believe how fast she's picked up on things. She's already playing on the 22' line with fairly high quality, considering she's only been here 4 days, and we're playing with developing some more particular and subtle things that I think will really help this little girl move to the height of her potential...and fast!

Anyway, more to come on this sassy little blonde, but for now, here's a picture ;)

Subtleties in Adrenaline

It's been an interesting couple of weeks around here, but I'm finally started to settle back into a routine of things with my ponies and the like. I had my second session with Crest since my accident, and like nothing had ever happened, he's back to being a miraculous teacher and partner for me.

Recently, it's become increasingly apparent to me that Crest's walk and canter (and the behaviors that surround them) are connected. He has a tendency to get very adrenalized and excited in the canter with me on his back, and of course, he power-walks like a fiend. I decided to examine his transitions online to see if I could get a feel for how things are transferring to his back.

I've found that Crest had a lot of trouble maintaining rhythm, relaxation, and contact in both canter and walk online. Now granted, I'm looking at this from a L4 standpoint. He's a shoo-in for L3. But he lacks that contact that I'd need to get the kind of ride I'd like out of him. Anyway, I've been playing a lot with getting his walk slow...and...rhythmic...and...not...adrenalized. Yes. At that pace. It is SO HARD for him, especially at the beginning of a session or after a downward transition. He gets very hyped up. Eventually what I'd like to see is for him to do canter-walk transitions online, and be able to find a nice relaxed walk almost immediately.

The key has been to recognize and release when he's truly found his relaxation, so that he knows that THAT is what I am looking for. The rest will come with repetition with him (once he figures out the pattern, he'll be great, he's so clever!). The subtle difference has to do with the tension in his body, as well as his breathing and I have to be VERY careful that I recognize it. I took a couple photos to show the subtleties I'm looking at. Thought you guys might be interested in them :) See if you can spot the difference. And yes, he's covered in mud, it poured all morning yesterday.

The "Adrenalized Walk"

Notice the tension he's carrying, particularly in his back, haunches, and withers. His topline is taught, stride long and deliberate. You can also see a flared nostril if you look carefully. His head is also above the vertical.

The "Calm Walk" (I tried to get it as close to the same place in stride as possible)

Here's his calm walk. Though it's not as evident through a photo as it would be in video, you can see that he's really using his whole body. He's reaching up and over the top, his head is lower, and his hind leg is REALLY reaching under him, indicating that he's actually focused on using his hind end. His head is also much closer to vertical. And finally, take a look at his tail. In the first photo, it's between his back legs. Not that it wasn't a bit sticky and humid, but it indicates that he was pretty braced. In the second photo, near the same place in stride, his tail is loose. Pretty interesting huh?

So that's what I've been playing with in him for now. I'm really looking forward to seeing how this transfers to his back--I may start playing with this walk-trot style freestyle. Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Awesome Videos

Short post this morning, ya'll, I'm running out the door on my way to a lesson, but I wanted to share these videos with you guys.

My awesomes friends Sarah and Hannah made them for me :) I love them, and I love these girls for it! (and for many other reasons too, of course-hehe) Take a look! They are BEAUTIFUL!

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Hey All,

Quick update. My internet has been down, I'm typing on a library computer right now. I'll have more for you probably on Monday when my mother gets home and can wrangle the turkeys at CenturyTel into giving us information as to WHY our computer isn't working. (That's another story)

So, Kristi Smith was here Wednesday evening through Friday early morning. She taught lessons all day Thursday and we had a TON of fun. I shared a 3 hour semi-private with my good friend Anna and her horse Piper. We had a ton of fun, and by the end, I was literally riding a spotted hovercraft with hooves. Prin was SO LIGHT and responsive to everything Kristi had us playing with, it was truly a pleasure. I'm loving the progress that comes with these monthly lessons--be it Kristi or Farrah.

Richard took a lesson on Amigo which was REALLY nice to watch. Richard hasn't done a whole lot of riding recently--injury coupled with lack of time I think has really gotten his motivation levels. Anyway, they played with freestyle, and the patterns that go with it. Amigo went through one HELL of a transformation. Not that he's a difficult horse, but he hasn't really been ridden at all in the past 6 months. He went from cutting corners and neglecting responsibilities to following the rail and doing figure 8's like a L2 pony should. It was just beautiful to watch, and Richard, Kristi, and Amigo were all smiles throughout :)

We finished with my friend Jessica taking a lesson on Prin, which was just AWESOME. Kristi read my mind on subject matter, put a bareback pad on Prin, and proceeded to blow our minds with the most magnificent freestyle/fluidity lesson and transformation I've ever seen, personally. More on that later, I need to compose my thoughts and actually write this out. It might even be a seperate post, it was that amazing. So cool.

Kristi's demo, though slightly less-attended due to the rain, was wonderful. I was particularly pleased and impressed with her long-line driving, they've come so far even since I was in FL this winter. And of course their liberty, Maxi is such a hoot. Kristi did a great job engaging our group for the Q&A too, there were the audience, and she definitely got them thinking. To see members of my local saddle club leaving with horsenality charts was priceless. YAY!

Anyway, there's my short update. There will be pictures as soon as my internet is back up. I have pix of everyones' lessons, as well as some of the demo, courtesy of Raven Flores and Richard Knopf (when they arrive).

Savvy on!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Some Horses Are Like Playing With Fire

...and this time, I got burned.

I have had enough people requesting information on what happened to me (regarding my recent slightly vague facebook updates about a mystery injury), I figured I'd better write a blog about it.

I have been teaching lessons and visiting a friend in Green Bay, WI since Friday night. Yesterday I was giving a lesson (my last one of the day) with a difficult, and very dominant filly. She was just full of piss and vinegar, first scared, then dominant and very difficult to shut down. The hardest part was finding relaxation and obedience, and she wasn't wanting to give in, so finding a good note to stop on was tough. Anyway, toward the end of the session, things took an ugly turn. I had found a fairly decent stopping point. She was willingly doing some figure 8 pattern, and would lead behind me without trying to run me over. Anyway, We had a rough lead back to her paddock. There was a VERY strong draw back to the pasture, and she wanted no part in leading respectfully, or allowing me to walk ahead OR WITH HER for that matter. Anyway, we had finally gotten back to the pasture (another 10 minutes of extreme yoyo games, etc), and I was just beginning to take her halter off. She took advantage of my arm being near her head, and she reached over and bit me--and not lightly, mind you, probably just another dominance game. So I stopped what I was doing, and asked her to back up...rather vigorously, and of course, hind-sight being 20/20, probably a little too roughly. She took a few steps back, and I was just about to stop (she was being polite, or so I thought) and she reared up. What happened next is kind of a blur, but the fact that I can recall it demonstrates how damn lucky I was: She reared up, and very deliberately struck me in the head multiple times. She was (and accepting this is scary) trying to kill me. Of course I crumpled (maintained consciousness, fortunately) but knew it was bad, because as I scrambled out of there, I started bleeding heavily from somewhere on top of my head--down my face, into my eyes, etc. My friends told me I was not allowed to go into the bathroom to see myself--I must have looked awful!

Anyway, I was fairly certain I was dying for 10 minutes, simply because I was in lots of pain, didn't know what I looked like, where I had been hit, or where all the blood was coming from. They got me cleaned up and to the ER, and fortunately, it was not nearly as bad as I had expected. They told me before I was even admitted for examination that I was far too cognizant and "with it" to merit serious inspection for concussion, but that they'd see what the doctor said. Upon further examination, the source of the blood was found--a laceration about an inch or inch an a half long right on top of my head, cut fairly clean and down to my skull. I had to have 3 staples put in it (Just call me Frankenstein), and was told that though they didn't think I was "concussed", and that I could go home, that I should probably be woken up during the night.

Coming home from the hospital was another whole ordeal--the stress from the entire ordeal made me ill. I had to get two injections, one of novicane to numb for my staples and an update on my tetanus shot, which would have been fine if I weren't deathly afraid of needles. Then of course there was the shock of the accident, and the realization of what was happening...not to mention the fact that I wasn't allowed to get my head wet, and so was facing the prospect of having to sleep with bloody hair. Yeah...I was not happy. But I did end up taking a nice hot bath and rinsing my hair at least (I WOULD NOT have slept had I not), and I was back to feeling pretty normal mentally by 9:00pm

Anyway, I'm just REALLY SORE for now. Turning my head to the left is painful, I have scrapes and bruises down my arms, and of course my head is tender. My jaw must have gotten good and yanked around, too, because it's really sore and I bit my tongue up pretty good too, so that makes eating tough. But overall, I'm fine, healing, and now am focusing on staying mentally healthy--so far so good, too ;)

So, thank you all for your concern and well wishes. I'm just thankful to be alive at this point, and am focusing on not letting this hinder me--though a word to the wise, don't pat my head or feed me anything crunchy for the next few days ;)

Oh, and for some sick reason, my friend took pictures of my head. Anyone wanna see? LOL.

Savvy on!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Like a Painted Wild Mustang...

"...flyin' out across the open range... Finally gets to live her life that way, no fear, no fences, nobody, NO REINS!"
~Rascal Flatts

That song is one I've claimed as Prin and my "signature" song, we love it for demos, and it seemed appropriate for tonight's excitement. Prin and I learned something new :)

Yep! It's there, it's consistent, we're rearing now! Like a painted wild mustang, indeed! Pretty neato, huh?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Cricket Update

Hey All,

Just some pix of Cricket from the other day, I wanted to show off how chubby and wonderful she's gotten :) We've been playing with solidifying our L2 ground stuff, as well as preparation for under-saddle. She's proved to be a horse that transfers every detail from ground to saddle, and so the catch is, I have to be careful about what I reward--for example, I used to just reward her circling because she had a huge mental block about it, and since I've realized that helping her find rhythm and relaxation is much more important than the actual circles (hence why I'm playing on about 6 feet of the 22 line at some points in these photos), because otherwise she gets very bracy undersaddle.


Building up on relaxation

this is how it transfers--more like 18 feet of line here, and much more soft and relaxed.

Stretchy circles are becoming a more commonly seen thing, which is super cool--fluid rein from the ground :)

So darn cute :)

Isolate, separate, and recombine--zone 1 porcupine games to eventually lead to less brace both online and undersaddle.


We really love this girl, she's proven to be such a wonderful student :)