Sunday, January 26, 2014

Lots of Riding

Well, it's been lots of riding for January, at least.  The less than ideal weather has been so less than ideal that I've gotten out a few extra times to check on everyone.  And when I'm out there, why not go for a short ride?

I am also giving a lesson every Friday, so that gets me out to the barn even though sometimes I am tired at the end of the week.  And giving lessons is hard.  I have to think through all the things I do, then figure out how to explain them.  And invariably I get something wrong and have to think harder about what I'm actually doing, and come up with another way to explain it.  But I'm lucky in that I have a really great student who is eager to learn, patient, and a fabulous listener.  We've had four lessons, and she has made wonderful progress in each one.  She's been riding Steen, and they have been getting along great.  I'm excited to see how things progress in the future.

I've been riding Zoey a lot.  Nearly half of my ride time this year is on her.  She continues to come along really well.  We are spending more time on the lope, but it is tricky for us.  I'm pretty big on her, and it is really taxing for her to lope in the deep sand of the arena.  She's not a particularly balanced loper even without a rider, so I have to be extra aware of my body position and even work to help her out when I can.  We have been making some great progress, though.

We did have one little hiccup this past week.  Robin had a really great ride on her last weekend, and then when I rode her the next day, she was extra jumpy, not excited about the saddle or cinch, and generally a little spacey.  Yesterday it was more of the same, including some kick outs and hops when we were trotting around.  My best guess is she is in heat.  I've never worked consistently with a mare before, and in the summer and fall she was just so jumpy all the time that her heat cycles didn't really stand out.  So the last few rides I just worked on riding through things and being firm but fair.  She ended up really coming down and relaxing towards the end of the ride.  So hopefully that is all it is.

Working on some simple figure eights with 90% seat and 10% hands.
I've been having some exceptionally good rides on Bear lately, and I couldn't be more happy.  Late last year I was having regular thoughts about the possibility of needing to send him on to a retirement home.  We've got a therapeutic riding school nearby that takes solid, older geldings, and we think Bear would fit right in.  He had a rough fall, and he has overall been having a difficult time keeping up with our riding.  It didn't seem fair for me to keep asking him to do things that he wasn't quite capable of doing.

We ended up having his bloodwork done in November, and the vet said he was partially anemic again.  So we got him on a rather strong supplement.  I also got my nice new saddle about the same time.  The tree is a really nice Rod Nikkel, and the bars are angled in between regular quarter horse and full quarter horse.  It sits on his back perfectly, and he has not had any tight spots or knots back there.

Now, after nearly two months on the supplement, he's starting to act like the old frisky Bear I knew a couple years ago.  He still loves standing and hanging around, but if I start to ask him to go, he'd rather give me a nice, energetic lope than anything else.  He's also perkier overall, and much softer to the hackamore.

One of the big things that has been suffering for us is backing up.  I think it was just bothering his back, but now he is backing with energy again.  Part of the problem was definitely me, as I'm sure I started asking for it differently when I noticed he was struggling.  Robin saw how nicely we were backing up today, and she pointed out how I could stay soft but ask just a teeny bit more from him.  I changed my release just a little, and sure enough he got softer and gave me even more energy.

I know with an older horse you never know how things are going to go.  But I'm just happy that we're both having fun together again. 

Looking younger and in great shape again.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Like so much of the country, we are experiencing some pretty crazy temps.  I've made it out to the barn the past three days, though, and I'm happy to say our four are doing quite well.

The big cold was rolling in Sunday evening, so I went out to check everything late that afternoon.  It was about 2 degrees, and I brought everyone inside and brushed the ice off their faces and bodies.  I then hopped on Bear for an easy ride. 

I grabbed the flag and worked on moving the other horses.  I briefly got them trotting and loping circles together.  Then I worked on moving just one, and after I had pushed the one for a few moments I removed the pressure and sidepassed or backed up to them to rub them down with the flag or pet their faces with my hand.  Laredo had a lot of energy, so he wasn't totally all right with this at first, but after some practice everyone was happy to move or stand and get face pets.

Yesterday morning we woke up to -15 degree temps.  I bundled up again and went out to get the horses.  My body stayed pretty warm, but it was really hard to keep my hands warm working all the ropes and gates.  And even inside the indoor arena it was zero degrees.  I think they were happy to be in and out of the wind, but really, it still wasn't that nice for them.  Again I removed the ice from their coats and picked some out of their hooves.  But that was it.  There was a little running and romping, but mostly we just kind of hung out for a little while. Then I put them back out.  At least the sun was shining and they had plenty of hay, heated water, and a wind block.

Today I was supposed to meet the ferrier at the barn, but he ended up not coming due to the cold.  It was about 4 or 5 degrees when I got out.  But there was almost no wind, so it felt downright comfortable compared to yesterday.  I brought everyone inside again, and they settled right in.  No romping or kicking up.  I think they might be getting a little bored with this new come inside routine.  Still, I brushed the ice out of them and picked their feet again.  At least today the indoor had warmed up to 18 degrees.  Again, it felt quite comfortable.

So I tacked up Zoey, and we had a nice, short ride.  For the past two weeks I have been riding her in the hackamore due the sores she got from a bad bale.  Those seem to be healed, so I wanted to get back to the bit and see how that compares.  She has been good in the hackamore.  She's mostly light to it, but I do feel like we were losing some softness and refined communication.  It would probably take more time to get both of us really comfortable with it.  And since we are most likely going to sell her to someone who will use a bit, I was excited to get back to the snaffle.

She was not thrilled about taking the bit (even though I thoroughly warmed it up), but once she relaxed and took it, she was great.  I was surprised that she was much lighter through her whole body.  She was softer off my legs even when I was not engaging the reins.  It is possible I was riding differently, but I really don't think so (my hip was really tight from the cold, so I know I wasn't riding great today).  My guess is she has just become more relaxed about the snaffle and that is where she is comfortable. 

We only did a short ride.  The other guys were still hanging out in the arena.  Bear and Steen enjoyed following us around some.  I'm pretty sure Laredo just took a nap.  We worked on bends, moving the front and then the hind, walking circles, and then did a bunch of trotting.  She was quite good with all of it.

And lucky for us, things are warming up.  I'm a little worried about the weekend forecast, though.  Supposedly it could get near 40.  I really don't want things to get sloppy this early in winter.  Are average winter temps too much to ask for?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year!

Got my first ride of the year in today.  It was super cold and snowy, but we had a pretty good time.  I rode Zoey, and she was happy to come in and was very relaxed.  But under saddle, she was a little more tense.  She had two spooks.  I have no idea what caused them, but they were a little surprising since she hasn't spooked at anything in a couple of months.  But we worked through things and still had a pretty good ride.

I have not blogged much last year.  It was definitely my best year of riding, but also my worst year of blogging.  So here are a few highlights from the past couple months.

We did a lot of riding in the treed lot this fall.  One day we let Bear just hang out and eat grass while we rode.  Towards the end of the ride I haltered him from horseback and then practiced moving him around.  I'd never done that from horseback before.

Bear got a little anemic again in the end of the summer.  So we had a lot of easy going rides.  He seems to be coming back nice and strong, though.  He sure does love the vitamins we've got him on.

In the early fall I got out on the trails with Laredo quite a few times.  He was really fun to ride.

And then we went out on the trails after they cut all the crops down.  Laredo was light and full of energy.  So full of energy I thought he could pop at any moment.  We did a lot of work on top of the soybean hill, and Robin snapped this shot just before he took off like a bullet and we galloped back for home.  Never went so fast downhill on a horse before.  Maybe never so fast ever.  We were both fine, though, and I guess it was another one of those 'good' experiences.

Sometime in October it just kind of happened that I took over riding Zoey.  I think it has been good for us (and it was good for Robin and Laredo to spend a lot of quality time together, too).  So here I am with my 'string' of horses.

I got a few good rides on Steen this year.  He is sooo much different than the other three.  It's always an adjustment for me.  But we are having more and more fun together.  We even went out on a trail ride earlier this year, but here we are riding in the big, middle pasture.

I love when the soybean fields have been mowed (except when the horse runs away with me).  We spent a lot of time romping around out there in October and November.

But now we're back in side.  I've had Zoey in the hackamore the last few rides due to the mouth sores she got from the bad bale.  Thankfully she is healing nicely, and she's actually taking to the hackamore quite well.

And after two and a half months, I finally got a ride on Laredo again.  I kinda missed the big kid.  Here he is sporting my new saddle.  I actually got it used (though it still looks new), and it fits me and Bear (and the other horses) perfectly.  I had some saddle troubles this year.  They either weren't fitting me well, or if they did, they bothered Bear's back.  But now we seem to be in business.  For those of you who are curious, it is a 15 in. Brian Castagno, full rough wade out on a Rod Nikkel tree.  The seat is unbelievably awesome.

I got my 200 hours in the saddle goal pretty easily this year, but I also think it was the right amount of challenging.  I'm not sure exactly what my goals for 2014 are going to be.  I know I'd like to ride more than I did this year.  I would also kind of like to start my first horse, but at the moment, we've got a small problem as we still have four horses (Zoey is for sale!).  Oh, and later this week I will give my first lesson.  I have no doubt trying to explain all the things we do on horses will give me a better understanding of it all.  Hopefully the student thinks so too.