Tuesday, May 29, 2012

In Which Sparky Jumps 3'0"!

Okay, so I already gave away the good part.

Sparky turned 8 on Saturday.  Eeek!  Where does the time go?!?  Last I knew, I'm pretty sure he was 4.  Anyhow, so Sparky's chronological age is now 8, and his "training age" (yes, I made that up) due to his injury and related set-backs is 6 1/2, and he should be "all grown up" either way.

And he *just* might be (knock on wood).

On Tuesday, Honorary Big Sister Jen hauled Tiki and Sparky to her place of employ so we could ride together and kick each other's butts.  This was going to be Jen's last jump school in preparation for her (and Tiki's) first outing at Novice at the May Daze horse trial in Kentucky.  My goal with Sparky was to go somewhere different, jump around fences he hasn't necessarily seen in those particular spots, and do a little bit at 3'0".  My rationale was that if one of the PWF IEA kids can jump him 3'0", there's no reason I can't!

Everybody pretty much knows that the journey with Sparky has been, uh, interesting (Greg Best saying Sparky was an asshole, anyone?).  So it has taken a while for Sparky to get to where he "should" be training-wise.  And the goals for this trip were not a "given."

We started out in the covered, due to an annoying thunderstorm rolling through.  Honorary Big Sister Jen had some stuff set at 2'-ish, a vertical on the diagonal at 2'9", and a 3'0" oxer on a short, awkward diagonal.  Sparky and I were not going to attempt that one.  We warmed up on the flat, for which Sparky was pretty good.  Honorary Big Sister Jen then did some 2'-ish stuff with Tiki, and then I followed suit with Sparky.  It wasn't all perfect (and I certainly wasn't!), but Sparky never hesitated.  In fact, he was forward enough that I was *quite* glad that I had chosen to use the Sprenger WH bit for the day.  We progressed through the line (it was set as a two to a one, or a one to a two, depending on which way you were going) each way... and eventually I got brave, and we cantered up to the 2'9" vertical.  And the Sparkplug looked a little bit, but he went right over!  I did my job to make Honorary Big Sister Jen jump the 3'0" several times, even though Tiki was being a shit.  *shrugs*  I do what I can to make others' lives more enjoyable. ;) 

After the rain let up, we moved to the (much) bigger outdoor arena.  Because of the rain, the footing was pretty darn near perfect.  Honorary Big Sister Jen had set herself an entire course at 2'9"-3'0", which she planned to jump "cold" (no schooling over anything before going in and jumping the course).  So she and Tiki started out over the course, and then decided on a do-over.  Second attempt was perfect-ish - Honorary Big Sister Jen sat up, rode, made decisions, and didn't take anything for granted.  I was very proud of her!

Then it was my turn.  Honorary Big Sister Jen watched Sparky while I went around and dropped random jumps to various lower heights.  I dropped the square oxer to 2'3", because I really haven't done too many of them with Sparky (and this is clearly Jen's fault, because she doesn't like oxers and never sets them at home... so since I'm too lazy to set anything other than what she's set, I don't do many oxers!), and then walked around and lowered a few others that seemed somewhat imposing.

I vaulted up onto my trusty steed (ok, really I used the mounting block to get on the pudgy pony), and off we went.  I didn't have an actual plan in mind (good thinking, I know) other than to just jump everything in the arena.  We started with the oxer because it was low and oxers generally don't scare me (except for 3'0" ones set on an awkward short diagonal).  And it went well.  So we continued along to the single verticle on the outside line.  Which also went well (not perfect, but well enough).  And we continued around to a single hanging gate (Sparky and I had never jumped a single hanging gate before).  And it went well.  And next thing I knew, Sparky and I were doing exactly what Honorary Big Sister Jen and Tiki had done - going in and jumping an entire course "cold."  And every single fence was just. fine.  After the gate, we strung together the outside line, the other gate (this one had flowers underneath), and a ramped oxer.  And Sparky perfectly willingly jumped everything.  He looked a bit at the oxer, but said, "OK - if that's what you want!" and jumped it with a foot to spare.

And I was pleased as punch.

The sequence of jump heights was 2'3"-2'9"-2'9"-2'6"-7 strides (we did 8)-3'0"-3'0"-3'0".  Holy crap!  Sparky did it!  He actually did it!

We still have some things to work on, but I could not be more happy with Sparky on that day.  Everything I asked, he did.  He trusted me to not put something in front of him that he "couldn't" do.  And he looked super-cute doing it!

As for me, though Honorary Big Sister Jen complimented on the fact that I've become much more of a stylist and a thinking rider, rather than "seat of the pants" (hmmm... that sounds familiar as well), I am terribly out of shape for jumping and have developed the habit of letting my stirrups be too long.  I *might* make it a point to spend some quality time in two-point for the next several days-weeks-months-as-yet-undetermined-timeframe... and I am definitely going to make it a point to get my stirrups to a *proper* length.  Too-open knee angle?  No thanks.

And without further ado, here is the link to Spanky's course! http://youtu.be/rathK9Jn5iU

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Riding in the Rain

I think Sparky is tired of trying on bridles!
 We're getting closer to Sparky's new bridle... it's been a bit of trial and error.  After Brita at Just Bridles contacted Barbara at Edgewood for the *just right* browband, Sparky now has a nearly-perfectly fitting Edgewood.  Well, as close as he's going to get anyway.  All the buckles are in the "wrong" spots, but at least they're all even.  I just try to not think about it.

I started out with Star on Tuesday.  I've recently toyed with the idea of making her a Western pleasure horse, but I'm having trouble committing to that idea.  If I do something, I like to do it right.  Doing Western pleasure "right" for Morgan world involves silver, dark oil, romal reins, and considerable expense.

The main thing right now is really just that Star needs to be worked, whatever it is.  So I decided to say screw the snaffle and flat her in her Pelham.  She just goes better in her Pelham, so why struggle with trying to make a snaffle "work," when right now the point is just to get her a bit more fit?  (Added bonus: it's easier on me, too.  What can I say?  I'm lazy).

As (nearly) always, Star did everything I asked, but was definitely grumpy.  She did offer up a few (appropriate) lead changes, though, which was pretty neat.  Out of fairness, I didn't push her too hard, because she's obviously unfit, and I was maybe about ten days late administering her Adequan this month.  Part of me would like to get her hocks injected, but it's expensive and I'm hesitant to inject a joint when a horse isn't actually unsound.  I might do a full loading dose of Adequan for her and see if it helps.

After I was done with Star, I tacked up the Sparkplug.  As we got to the arena, it started to rain; just a little bit at first, but enough to be annoying.  Apparently, I am not the only one who doesn't like riding in the rain - Sparky was doing the best he could to tuck his face away from the raindrops by curling up behind the bit and turning his neck and leading with his shoulder!  It was actually pretty comical.

The rain picked up more and before too long, both the Sparkplug and I were soaked.  The nice thing about that is that once you reach that point, it kind of doesn't matter that it's raining anymore.  So we proceeded to jump around a little bit.  (Another nice thing about the rain is that it made the footing nice).  Honorary Big Sister Jen had set a hunter-ish course consisting of a  2'-ish bounce on the outside line with a ground pole some number of strides away (bad me - I didn't count), the coop on a diagonal, a 3' vertical on the other outside line, and a low, wide oxer made up of the three cavaletti on the other diagonal.  I took away half the bounce so it was just a single vertical and I lowered the 3' vertical to 2'6".  And we began.

Sparky was perfect!  We started with the 2' vertical a few times and then moved to the coop.  After doing each of those a few times, I got brave and decided to try the wide cavaletti oxer.  Sparky hadn't seen this before, so I wasn't 100% sure what he would do.  I kept my leg on... and he didn't even blink!  Right over, like it was NBD.  As we starting stringing more jumps together, I eventually just threw in the 2'6" vertical.  He looked and wavered the tiniest bit, but because I kept my leg on, he said, "Okay," and went right over.  We strung together some little course, jumping each fence a few more times, and called it good.

I think we've finally "mastered" the coop.  Given any opportunity to duck out at it, Sparky will do so, but as long as I make sure to ride well and have a nice, straight approach, I think it won't be an issue.

It was really reassuring to have such a good ride, because I've really been struggling lately with "feeling like" making the trek to the barn to ride.  I need to feel like I'm working towards something, and that has really been lacking lately.

I plan on riding again tonight and on Sunday; I'll just do flatwork with Sparky and try to drag Kellie and Star out as well (at least on Sunday).  Next week, Honorary Big Sister Jen and I have plans to take our ponies over to her place of employ, jump around, and kick each other's butts.  It should be fun - and for the immediate future at least, gives me something to be working towards.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Franken-Bridle

The problem with Sparky breaking his *ONE,* *EXPENSIVE* bridle is that I need to replace it.  And Sparky's head is oddly-sized.  Now, if he had just broken the cheek pieces that would have been fine - I already have an extra pair.  But nooooooo - Sparky had to find a way to break the headstall.  So until that's replaced, no useable bridle.

I decide on a two-pronged approach.   1- I replace his crownpiece and at the same time, upsize his slightly-snug browband for a larger one to accomodate his big brains.  2 - I also purchase a second, less-expensive for daily use.  Though Sparky has an oddly-sized head, this one seems like it might work.

Of course, none of this is simple and straight-forward.  How could it be, when your pony needs a horse cavesson, cob crown, pony cheeks, and oversize brow?

I ordered a plain raised padded Dover Showmark for daily use; after chatting with a rep, it seemed a cob size might work, but might need pony cheeks for the buckles to be in just the right place.  I also ordered a plain raised padded oversize Edgewood browband and both a horse and a cob size Edgewood crownpiece from Just Bridles.  Truly, the cob crown seemed a little snug on Sparky previously, but I wasn't sure if it was because of the crown or the brow... so now that I have the opportunity, we'll find out and fix it.  

I received both the Showmark bridles and the Edgewood pieces on the same day.  The Showmark is very pretty and even has the new-fangled comfort crown thing goin' on.  The Edgewood pieces are exactly what one would expect from Edgewood. 

I fiddled around with the Edgewood pieces for a bit, and determined that the horse size crown fits the Sparkplug better than the cob, though the throatlatch is a bit long.  I'll get that trimmed down someday.  I also decided that I'll keep the cob size crown, as with the addition of that, I will now have a complete cob size Edgewood made from Sparky's cast-off pieces and the spare cheeks.  The oversize browband, however, was just plain too big.  And the horse size is too small.  Figures. 

The Showmark is possibly the most oddly-sized bridle I've ever encountered.  The browband and crown were a perfect fit for Sparky.  The throatlatch was, as always, too long.  The caveson was too small and the flash was ridiculously tiny.  And the cheeks - oh my gosh, the cheeks!  There is NO reason that either of my horses should need to have the cheekpieces on the top hole on a cob-size bridle - and yet, that was exactly the case!  So the Showmark bridle is going to be returned and replaced with a SmartPak Plymouth bridle.  For 1/3 of the price, I can handle a less-than-perfect fit (or, alternatively, can afford to buy different pieces to make it fit, or at least come close).

I've come to this determination about Sparky's head: he's oddly sized, but maybe in a different way than I realized.  I can't really mix-and-match pieces to make something fit because he's exactly in-between cob and horse size.  He's pony/cob sized in the length and under the chin and throat, but horse+ sized over the crown, brow, and nose!  (See picture above - red is pony, yellow is cob, green is horse).  You can't buy that - lol!  So the closest we're going to come for now is that I am just going to have to settle on adjusting straps on shorter/higher holes than I prefer (therefore having more excess strapage than I like)... and then it turns out that Sparky's current Franken-bridle is not that Franken-bridle after all.  It's basically a horse-size bridle with cob-size cheeks.  And the only thing left from his original cob size bridle is the cheeks.

One last thing: I'd like to put in a plug for Brita at Just Bridles.  She's absolutely awesome and is helping me brainstorm ideas for a browband that will both match the Edgewood AND fit the Sparkplug correctly, including even checking with Edgewood to see if they have a random irregularly size browband that just happens to fit.  This is why you deal with small businesses!   

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Perfect Day and a Far From Perfect Ride

I've been to the barn more this week than I have for the past several weeks, and yet I'm sure that I've actually spent less time in the saddle than in previous weeks!

Sparky is way out of shape and quite pudgy (my new favorite nickname for him is "Pudge," which I extra-like, because it's also a name for mashed potatoes, which I also love), so I've been trying to spend some time in the rather-hilly back pasture doing my version of "trot and canter sets."  This really just means that because I don't own a watch, we trot around the perimeter a few times, canter around then perimeter a few times, and then reverse and repeat.  We get the benefit of a big area to maintain our pace for a longer period, as well as the added effort from the hills and dips.

Since it was a perfect day weather-wise, I decided it would be a good day to go out to the back pasture.  We did this last week, and it went well.  The one change I made was to shorten my stirrups a hole - they felt a little long last week.

We head out to the pasture, and started out at a walk around the perimeter.  After completing one circuit, we moved up into a trot.  As we came by the trees, Sparky started to get a little "looky."  I remembered that the neighbors have cows and assumed that Sparky was just hearing them, but worried because he couldn't see them.  I mentally shrugged and thought, "No big deal.  He's seen cows before - he'll be fine."

We passed the treed area and move along our fenceline to where it paralleled the clearing in the neighbor's pasture... oh!  Here are the cows!  Sparky was still acting a bit spooky, so after we passed by, I brought Sparky back to a walk, with the intent of walking by the cows again.  It seemed it might be okay, but then one of the cows (calves, really) cantered up to the fenceline!

Thoroughly convinced that the zombie calf wanted to eat Sparky's brains ('cause they're so big, you know), Sparky politely tried to excuse himself from the situation through all means of attempted bolting, spinning, backing, hopping, and popping up in front.  I had him well enough in hand that he didn't actually run off, but I knew that I also did not want to stay on him.  Convinced he was about to be zombie-fied, it took a minute to settle Sparky enough for me to dismount.

My smart thought upon dismounting: unbuckle the reins.  I knew I would have more control over Sparky if I brought the reins back over his head, rather than leaving them around his neck as I usually do... but for some reason, unbuckling the ends seemed like a good idea.

I worked on the ground with Sparky for a while, trying to convince him that the cows really were not going to harm him.  Poor Sparky was literally terrified - every single muscle was tense, he was puffed up, blowing, shaking, snorting, and soaked with sweat.  Poor guy!  A few times he relaxed just enough to try to reach down and take a bite of grass, but as he rustled leaves and made noise, he scared himself again!

Eventually, Sparky started to calm down some, and tried to grab a bite of grass again.  But then, horror of horrors, one of the zombie cows (again, calves, really) came  running up to the fenceline again.  That was enough for Sparky.  He said, "Fuck this shit!  I'm outta here!" and took off.  I suppose I could have tried to hold him, but really, what was the point?  I'm brave, but I'm not stupid (I don't think, anyway...).  As Sparky ran off, I yelled to him to not break anything.  And I set off, at a much slower pace, across the many (15?) acre pasture back towards the little barn to retrieve my pony.

As I got close, I saw that there were no longer reins dangling from the bit... nay, there was no bit!  So much for my warning to not break anything.  Of course, for probably the first time ever, there are no spare halters by the barn with which to catch my horse, but then I spotted a random few straps laying on the ground.  So I walked over to those, thinking it would work for now to lead Sparky back to the main barn.  As I got closer, I realized that those straps were not so random after all.  Oops.  Reins - check.  Bit - check.  Cheek pieces - check.  Headstall - headstall?!?  *Sigh*

Who would have thought a cow (calf) could be so terrifying?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

All Grown Up?

So it would seem that perhaps Sparky is ready to be "that horse" - the horse that will go pretty much anywhere, do pretty much anything, and not get rattled by the occasional bad ride, bad spot, bad/scary/new fence, or llama.

Honorary Big Sister Jen recently took Star and Sparky to her place of employ to give lessons for her middle school IEA team.  I figured it would probably be okay... but part of me was still a little worried.  And I couldn't be there, because I was working!  In the afternoon, I received a text message from Honorary Big Sister Jen telling me that I HAD to call her as soon as I got off work!!!  Hmmm... so, as soon as I got off work, I called.

And Sparky was  perfect!  He nearly backed off the trailer without needing his driving reins (yes, my horse must be "driven" back off the trailer), and then clocked around with kids like he did it all the time.  He did, apparently, have one meltdown involving a llama, I believe, but (and this is a big "but") he recovered and carried on with his job.  He jumped everything in the arena (much of which he'd not seen before) and even swapped his leads during the practice equitation tests.  And finally, upon his return home, he backed off the trailer in a much more convential manner, requiring no driving lines at all.

I couldn't possibly be more pleased with my Napolean!  Apparently, Honorary Big Sister Jen told one of the girls that if I were there, I probably would have tears in my eyes.  I'm pretty sure she was right!  It's taken a very long time, but Sparky is finally turning into the horse I always knew he could be. =)

PS - Star was, of course, perfect as well. :) 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Some Thoughts on Morgans

I read a couple of really great quotes/opinions about Morgans over on the Chronicle of the Horse Forums today.  These quotes inspired me to share them, as well my own thoughts on Morgan horses.

Morgans are pretty special horses, and as much as I love them and think they're the best horses in the world, they really are not for everyone.  Morgans are thinkers, and can't be pushed around.  Working with Morgans requires having a partnership, rather than taking a stance of, "I'm the boss."

This was posted on the forums recently: "I'd say Morgans are craftier, a little more sensitive, and require a little more finesse... they have an acute sense of justice and will tell you in no uncertain terms to F-Off. I wouldn't try to muscle one around or you might end up in trouble."  Case in point: I guess someone tried to take the "I'm the boss" stance with Star at this past weekend's IEA show.  Honorary Big Sister Jen couldn't figure out what the rider was trying to achieve with Star, as the mare was being perfect (as she pretty much always is).  But this rider trying to push her around pissed off the mare, and they didn't have a good round.  Her other riders, who have been willing to work with her don't have these issues.  As is always the case with Star, her IEA riders place exactly where they deserve to place.  She will do anything you ask of her... but you do have to ask!

Morgans kind of need to understand the "why" behind doing something.  They are pretty quick learners, and are easily bored with repetition.  They also have a strong sense of self-preservation.  This is another quote from the forums: "The Morgan is usually a big thinker, and a lot of that though is about putting forth no more energy than is necessary to get the job done. That's why they last all day!"  It's funny as hell, for sure, but if I were Politi-Fact Georgia, I would rank this statement as only "half-true." 

The thinking about how to expend the least amount of energy possible applies in a manner relevant to the conveyed and percieved importance of the task to the Morgan.  If you don't treat the task as important, then of course a Morgan will put forth the least amount of needed effort!  If you treat the task as important and ask the horse to perform the task, then the horse will keep going as long as you want.  And if the Morgan truly loves what they are doing, they will do it all day, no questions asked, for anyone along for the ride. 

Another IEA example (and I've referenced this before): if you are just a pretty eq picture when riding Star, rather than being effective, then Star goes around doing her own thing.  She'll walk, trot, canter, and reverse on command, but she's not going to give one iota more than asked.  If you are an effective and pretty eq picture, then Star will come onto the bit, lift her belly, use her back, and step under herself.  And if pretty much anyone or a monkey is jumping with Star, she'll keep going all day... but if the fence is 2'6" or less, she still only gives it the minimum required effort.

And to quote the movie Seabiscuit, "Though he be but small, he is mighty."  Morgans are definitely a big personality in a small package.  They are very strong for their size, and often far more athletic than people not familiar with the breed give them credit for.  People are surprised when I tell them Star can jump a 3'6" course no problem, and that she has jumped 4'3".  And even Honorary Big Sister Jen seemed surprised when I told her that Sparky is, in every way, even more athletic than Star.  And Bumble Bee, one of the Morgans I rode back home and who was about the same size as Sparky, was able to outpull a Jeep CR-7 back in the day.

And the final quote (and this one I liked well enough to put on Facebook): "You can ask most horses; you have a conversation with a Morgan."  While a Morgan may not initially come across as a horse with lots of energy and a great desire to please (a comment made about thoroughbreds), they really do have great minds.  If you get into these thinking minds, and have that conversation (rather than bossing around), the Morgan will step out of their energy-conservation mode and you will have a willing partner who is eager to please and who will go to the moon for you.

For more information about Morgan horses, go to http://www.morganhorse.com/.  The Morgan horse - the horse that chooses you!

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Lesson Here?

I talk about bitting a lot, I think.  But my somewhat-frequent bitting changes are rather validated, I think.  I work to find the bit that works best for each horse in a given situation, thereby keeping both the horse and rider happy.  And then when I find what works, I leave it.

I took Star on a trail ride last night (well, evening).  It was a rather impulsive thing - I was about to go to the arena when my already-mounted barnmate asked if I wanted to go on a short trail ride with her.  I thought for a moment and decided Star might like that.  I then thought for a moment more about changing her bridle from her snaffle (the same snaffle I've flatted her in since August, I might add!) into her ready-to-go bridle with the Kimberwicke.  And then I thought, "Nah, it will be fine."  So I mounted up and off we went.

The first half of the trail ride was rather uneventful; my barnmate was in front and Star was in back (Star is *not* brave).  And then we turned around.  And Star was in front.  And we were going home.  And Star had been that way before.  And I had *no* brakes and a suddenly brave horse.

Our fast(!) walk turned into a jog, which turned into a trot, which turned into a faster trot, which turned into a canter, which turned into me thinking, "Just don't hit any branches!"  That damn mare merrily cantered along the trail... and I was just along for the ride.  Until we got to the creek, that is.  I don't know that I've ever seen something induce such fast breaking in that mare.  If she were a car, her tires would have screeched as she slid to a halt.  And I, thankfully, halted with her, rather than continuing over her head.

I made my barnmate get back in front of us, and the rest of our ride home was uneventful.  And you know what?  I couldn't even be mad at the damn horse - lol!  Horses are just that - horses.  At the end of the day, no one was hurt, and nothing happened.  And I was the idiot who didn't heed my own warning and change the bridle.

The lesson here?  Listen to your gut.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

P**ters*n Ponies REPRESENT!

YAY!  As Honorary Big Sister Jen put it, what a difference a year makes!  The Sparkplug made his first IEA outing of the season on Sunday.  I equipped him with a Happy Mouth full cheek with a rolly peanut and his riders with no crop or spurs.  He was put in the pool for 2'6" and 2'0" flat.  And I had no idea how it was going to go.

As it turned out, my little Napolean was just about perfect!  I rode him for his warm up, taking a good, long time.  I could tell he was definitely unsure and nervous, but he just tucked in his nose and trucked along.  He was perfect for warm-up, and as I got off, I was feeling pretty good.  The only thing that could muck it up would be a rider who couldn't ride for shizzy.  Been there, done that... got pulled.

I had to leave to go to work, so I left Sparky in Honorary Big Sister Jen's capable hands.  His first class was a 2'6" flat class.  All was well until the canter, when Sparky popped off a wrong lead.  And then the same on the reverse.  And a little bucky for a swap.  Uh-oh.  Tough break for the kid, but no mad-pony antics to get him pulled.  His next two kids, however, had perfect rides on him: correct leads and no antics!  The assessment then became that the first rider had maybe tried to ask a little too much of him, rather than just leaving him alone and letting him do his thing.  Sometimes the hardest thing for us to do as riders is to do nothing.

Star was, of course, her usual perfect self.  Our warmup was fun, especially when I went from the second-to-last fence to the last... but jumped the last one the wrong way.  Lesson: If you're going to do something wrong, do it with style!  Our turn between the last two fences was stellar - except for being wrong, of course.  I then did it correctly, but neither Star nor I thought the correct way was as much fun.

Overall, I am just tickled pink that Sparky did so well (and Star, too, of course)!  While we are still far from perfect, it certainly serves as a gauge of just how far we've come in the past year and shows that my work with my horses absolutely accomplishes something!  If I had more time, obviously we could progress faster, but hey, at the end of the day, we are progressing.

I'm just pleased as punch!  P**ters*n Ponies REPRESENT! =D

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Something like that, anyway.  It's been a while - a LONG while - since I have actually felt like getting on more than one horse in one day.  Now some of this, I'm sure, has to do with my work schedule, but really, I just haven't been feeling it.

Finally, last night, for the first time in a long time, I rode multiple horses.  In fact, I rode all three horses.  Granted, I didn't ride any of them for a super-long time, but all three of them are out of shape, so it wouldn't have been fair of me to do any more than I did.

First I hopped on Sparky.  I wanted to see what kind of horse I had under me before I committed to either flatwork or jumping; there are some days that trying to do flatwork with him is an exercise in futility.  By Sparky's way of going, I could tell that pressing for "serious" flatwork just wasn't happening, so we did some W-T-C (which was all actually fairly good), and then went back and forth over a crossrail a few times.  I really focused on using my aids and starting to the right and finishing to the left (see the Greg Best clinic entries) to prevent his shift right (which was *quite* marked during our "how high can we go" day).  I really need to make a conscious effort to make these corrections with him so we don't run into problems as the fences go up.  After a few (maybe 8-10?) good jumps,  we stopped and cooled out.

I got Star out next, despite her baleful look as I went out to the pasture to get her.  I put her in her standard "flatting bit," which as of right now is a double-jointed eggbutt.  Star really needs to build her topline and butt muscles back up; she looks so front-heavy right now, it's not even funny.  We warmed up with a bit of trot and canter (Star's walk is so pokey and lazy that I long ago abandoned trying to use it to warm up), and then went back to a decent walk on a circle, with a bit more bend and connection.  We then moved up into the trot, and continued our circle.  I really tried to keep her stretched down and over her back and correctly bent.  As we trotted a bit more, we added a little bit of spiraling and some trot-halt-trot transitions to get her engaging her hind end.  Finally, right near the end of our right, she nailed it - I felt the best engagement of her hind end that I have ever felt from Star.

As I put Kellie in the crossties after finishing with Star, I saw that she was missing a front shoe.  Since she hasn't been worked in a probably a few months, and I was therefore already planning on not doing too much with her, I rationalized that it was not going to do her any harm to ride.  We started out just walking, Kellie reaching down and forward pretty well.  (Good!  She hadn't forgotten that part!)  We then did some snake-like patterns at the walk, and then proceeded to "following the nose," using small-ish circles to unlock her neck and bending correctly.  Once we moved up into the trot, I definitely had a giraffe for a little bit, but as I worked at remembering to keep my elbows soft, I had a horse that was eventually reaching down and bending more correctly.  After some good trot work each direction, we came down to a walk through a pretty nice transition (all things considered), and called it quits.

I feel like I'm back.  I don't have any goals, but I am feeling a drive to actually do something with all the horses again.  My work schedule has changed, so I will now have more time at the barn in the evenings, which should make it easier to work with multiple horses.  I think I am also going to start incorporating more longeing/long-lining back into the horses' routines.  I think it will be especially beneficial to Star, as I can use it to still get her working even I days I don't have time to ride.

It's supposed to rain tonight, so no barn, but tomorrow might be okay.  The footing should be really nice in the arena tomorrow, so as long as the weather forecast is not lying to me and traffic doesn't completely suck, I'll do horsey stuff tomorrow night.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

AHHHHHH! Playing catch-up!

Okay, so here's the short story of my life since I last posted.

Nicole's Life:

Mid-November: BF came to visit (we are currently in a long-distance relationship of 800 miles.  He is in NYC; I am not) and (finally!) proposed to me
Thanksgiving Time: My grandparents came to visit for a week
Early-ish December: House-sitting for a week
Mid-December: Very busy at work and various dental, etc appointments thrown in
Late December - Early January: Holiday Travel (home for Christmas, to NY through New Year's)
Early-Mid-January: Parents visiting to look at wedding venues

So it's only been mid-late last week that I have started to have my normal life back.  Of course, "having my normal life back" is somewhat open to interpretation, now that I have more things to do!

There have been some IEA shows (Star has been great, and I've had a lot of fun warming up some other people's horses) and I've had some great rides at home on my own horses.  Star only jumps at home now when the footing is really good - so only after it rains.  A couple Sundays ago the footing was great, so I had some fun just raising the jump with Star.  We finished at 3'7"... I don't think we've jumped that since we went to Oklahoma City in 2010.

Sparky is doing well, too, even if he looks like a burro right now.  He's jumping everything I ask of him with no problem.  Our dressage needs some work, but experience tells me this will improve once the burro loses some weight.  Playing the same game with him that I did with Star, he jumped a 3'1" vertical a few weeks ago.  This is the highest he's ever jumped over (he has jumped up a 3'0" bank).  I'm optimistic that maybe we're finally getting someplace.

My plan for this week (now that the week is half over!) is to ride at least two evenings, depending on the weather and traffic.  Next week, I'll ride Sunday and maybe Monday, and then Oren will be here Tuesday and Wednesday.  I'll have to squeeze in some time going to the gym (ick!), so I'm not sure what things will look like after that.

There's a couple more IEA shows upcoming, but the schedule is not yet definite.  Star will be going, and Sparky might also get to tag along (yay!).  I'm really excited by the idea of Sparky going - he's come a long way in the past year, I think.

As for the new year, I'm not setting any "goals" or show schedule (we see how well that worked out last year!).  It's going to be a year with a lot of other goings-on and changes, so I don't think I can reliably plan on anything.  I would like to at least get to some smaller, local jumper stuff (with both horses), and maybe a schooling horse trial with Sparky, but I'm not planning on anything big.  The Mid-A Morgan Horse Show is on hiatus this year, so I can't go to that one regardless.  We'll see about the Dixie Cup.  I would love to get to a Gigi Nutter clinic or two this year, and hopefully Greg Best will be coming back.  Not sure if it will be in the cards, but I'd love to do another clinic with him.  And I would really like to make some progress with Kellie this year.

Okay, so maybe I do have a list of "ideals" or "would like to's", if not really goals.  We'll see how the year goes.

Belatedly, Happy New Year!