Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Blog Hop - Do Over

Yet another wonderful blog hop from Viva Carlos!

Loved the quote she shared in a recent post, really went along well with the subject: "The trouble with doing something right the first time is that nobody appreciates how difficult it was." - Walt West

If you could have 1 do-over in your horse life, what would it be? (or you can list a handful of do-overs because I (she) totally did).

This one is actually kind of hard for me, at first. I don't have anything that really pops into my head when I first read the question. But here are a few that I thought of....

  • Firefly. I wish I had known more or tried to learn more while owning my first horse. She was a senior horse and needed senior care, but I did not know how to give it. It may not have changed much, but I always believe in hindsight that I could have helped her have a happier, fuller life for another few years. If only I had known better.
  • First contact when I received my two yearlings (now 8 year olds). I should have been more careful and gentle with how I handled their first experiences. Both are still well and happy, but I do wonder sometimes...
  • Caring for my current horse. I did not keep all of Lady's care to a 'natural' way during the first few years of our partnership. I'm quite sure I could have caught some of her issues earlier on and treated them better if I had been watching out more carefully. I also pushed her pretty hard those first few years. 

Piece of trivia:  When I bought Lady, I had been searching for a horse for about 9 months. We looked at lots of horses, but Lady was the one that my instructor said was not for me. I bought her anyways. Never regretted it! :)

Fun link - found this through Facebook!  TROXEL - Reasons to Wear a Helmet

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Random Thoughts

The fences were finally finished on Wednesday and the horses love their new pasture. It is not terribly big, but it has a pond, lots and lots of green grass and (my favorite!) is mostly hills for their exercise and benefit. Very happy about this.  :)

Had a nice ride on Friday. We worked on following a cue and not rushing towards the barn. I think we had some improvement by the end of the ride. We need to do some work with the bridle, however because I think she loses some confidence and/or is more reactive in it because her mouth is sensitive and maybe I'm not as gentle as I think I am.

Had a "girl's night" with three lovely friends on Friday night. We took lots of pictures around the creatively build WinStar Casino and then watched Il Divo and Lea Solanga perform.

A new week is here and even though there are a lot of unanswered questions right now, there are so many good things to remember. I have several blog posts planned for this week, and several rides scheduled so that there will be plenty to write about! :)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Being Consistent

The Pony being oh so cute  <3

I love getting things done and I love being productive and I love doing things. Get the picture?
That being said, I am terrible at being consistent. Horrendous. Truthfully so.

Now that you know all of that, you should know that it is no surprise that I want to get all sorts of things done with my lovely equines (not to mention the rest of my life, however minuscule that might be compared to the horses). It should also not surprise you that I don't actually get most of those things done, due to my lack of consistency.

My goal has been for some time to work with Lady every morning. Half of my reasoning for this is that she needs the exercise daily. The rest of the reasoning comes from the new limitations of my schedule. So far I don't think I've made it through one entire week without skipping at least two mornings. Ugh.

I worked with Lady Monday morning and yesterday morning. That makes two times so far this week.

It's been raining a lot (yippee!!) and that means a lot of mud, which also means I'm a bit afraid to do anything that might cause Lady to slip or slide, since she tends to get sore and stiff quite easily. On Monday, we did just groundwork and my goal was simply to get about 20 minutes of trot done, or until she was warm. We worked on a few different things from my list of goals for the month, but did a lot of transitions on the circle, or rather, we did for a while until she offered  me a lovely canter and I stood in confusion and shock while she cantered around me for nearly four laps before asking to stop and come in. It was quite muddy and I could tell she was having a little bit of trouble handling it, but it was oh-so-cool to see her trying her heart out. We usually have trouble holding the canter for a single lap, but she offered and gave so much more this time.

Best thing that ever happened to me. Big sister is almost an exact tie.  Tehe.

Yesterday morning, we didn't actually get a "workout" done, or rather, she didn't break a sweat or even get warm. I, on the other hand, did sweat a little. We did a little bit of groundwork, mostly focusing on expression, until she wasn't pinning her ears or wrinkling her nose whenever I asked for something.
(Side note: I really wish I could see her face when I'm riding. It would make things so much easier!)
When she was being nice and sweet again, I attached reins to her halter and got on bareback for a ride. We worked on a little bit of flexion and yields and then worked on the far side of the arena for the rest of the time. She likes to drift in to the center of the arena/gates/feeding spot/whatever and I wanted to work on that, as well as I like having the fence for support.
She was quite lovely the entire time. Her back-up was soft and quiet, no hollowing at all! Yay! We went up and down the one fence, doing walk/trot transitions and hindquarter/forequarter yields. I was very very pleased with her trot too, very forward but it didn't feel like she was rushing, and I was able to sit it quite well. Another yay!
Funny ah-ha moment: during the entire ride, I had to keep a bit of my concentration on keeping her straight on the inside (outside? not sure yet...) track. I'm trying to this more by guiding her whole body or pushing her hindquarters or shoulder over rather than just using my reins to put her nose back on track. Well, when we were going along to the right, she was pretty obedient and would listen when I asked her to bend. But, when we would go to the left, she was stiff and would continue to push her left shoulder into the arena instead of more towards the fence. Later on, driving to town, I realized that she was not just being pushy or disobedient, but was mirroring me. My left shoulder has been giving me trouble again and was quite stiff when I got up this morning. Therefore, I was asking for something, but blocking it with my body.
At least its an easy fix, just relax that shoulder and be more allowing through it.

I've been pretty inconsistent about updating here lately, which only proves my point about myself. But I've been sick more often the last two weeks, so I've done less with the ponies, and I'm still working on writing 30K words in my novel this month, so whenever I sit down to write, it makes sense to work on that.  :)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Update

With starting a new job and adjusting my schedule and other crazy things, I'm having to settle for less time with the horses. Even if I wasn't playing with them daily before, its still hard not to have the time to do it.
Anyways, I've done two workouts with Lady this week so far. Since Wednesday is my day off from work and Friday is my day off from school, I am aiming to play with her at least those two days every week. And that is what happened this week.  :)

Wednesday. Groundwork session, focusing on April's goals. Some direct pressure work to help with everything overall. Mostly circles, working on transitions and smoother changes of direction - very happy here! We succeeded in getting some lovely canter circles (the most solid I've seen in quite a while) and the trot was beautiful too, she was tracking up better than she has in a while. Quite pleased with that. We did some sideways work, because I want to get her lots better at going sideways with me in zone 1 (in front of her). She gets confused with this and doesn't like for me to stay in that position, but it turned out alright anyways.
It wasn't a hard workout, by any means, but I was sweating and she was warm, so I was satisfied. My thoughts as we finished up were about her mental attention span, which doesn't seem to last more than 20 minutes right now - something I want to work on extending so that we can eventually have an hour-long session.

Old picture, but I like it a lot.  :)

Friday.  Riding session. I let her loose to graze about 45 minutes before I went out to ride, and I think that always helps some. When I first got on, she was quiet and calm, and I was quiet and calm, and we didn't do anything for about 10 minutes except sit and enjoy the lovely sunshine and spring weather. After that, we did some leg yields, which were okay, but not spectacular, and then went out into the big pasture. We did most of the work in the furthest corner from The Pony. While we were going along a long stretch of fenceline, I asked for the trot and we actually got about 10-15 strides calmly and easily. After that is where I went wrong, though. Instead of being satisfied with that, I asked for more, but wasn't able to ride it easily, which drove her crazy. The rest of the ride wasn't so great, but we ended with walking and calming down and it was okay in the end. My thoughts coming out of the session were that I definitely need some help with my riding, especially in the trot. I also need to work desperately on my timing because I am pretty terrible at taking pressure off at the right moment so that she can learn what is expected. We'll have to work on that.

Other news... I ordered garlic in SmartPaks for both Lady and The Pony. Should get here sometime next week and then hopefully we'll see a reduction in flies. :)
Other other news.... if one can trust a weight tape, Lady now weighs almost 950 pounds, which is absolutely amazing. The most I have ever measured her at was 1200-something and even though she has a bit of a hay belly, she looks awesome. I am super happy about that!  :D

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Dissertation on Helmets

Since the next question on the blog challenge list is about helmets, I thought it would be a good time to talk about them. I honestly don't think about it very often, so maybe I ought to.  O.o

I have only ever owned one helmet, and that one for about six years. And it needs replaced. Quite badly.

Anyways, I have rarely worn said helmet. I used it for a day-long trail ride last summer, and have worn it at random times. Mostly when I remember.

With that being said, I really want to get a new one and wear it regularly. My problem is that I never liked the one I have for certain reasons (not counting that I just don't like hats very much at all).
1) Not comfortable, and I think too big.
2) Throws my balance off.

I wear glasses, and this has always made my head-gear problem even more aggravating. If it doesn't fit well enough, it sits on top of my glasses, which in turn puts pressure on my head and causes headaches later on. I'm still considering getting contacts for sports, but since I haven't talked to my eye doctor in a while, we'll see about that.

My opinion on wearing helmets might  be a bit different. I have fallen very few times in my life, and every one of them has been my own fault. I also am very careful not to get on/stay on a horse who might throw me, or get into a situation where the horse might explode. Of course, I also understand how accidents can happen, and therefore I lean pretty heavily on the side of wearing a helmet, particularly in jumping or at high speeds. Then again, is one supposed to wear a helmet when working on the ground with a horse? Approximately half of the training I do is groundwork and accidents could happen in that setting too.
Pretty much, right now, I don't wear one because mine probably wouldn't protect me anyways and it doesn't fit. However, I am looking into purchasing a new one that will fit so that I can wear it during riding.  :)  Since I don't have a lot of money to spend (broke college student) and I probably don't need a fancy one for competition (yet!) I'm looking at the following....

Ovation Competitor Helmet

IRH ATR Helmet.

What I'm not sure about at all is the low-profile idea. Although its neat and I can see how it works, I'm not sure how it would mesh with my glasses issue.  Another issue that is important is the cooling system. East Texas humidity is not kind to helmeted heads, and I like to stay comfortable :D

What do you wear or recommend?  :)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Viva Carlos' Blog Hop: Our Commercial Moment!

This is my first time doing this, but I've been wanting to for a while, so thanks Viva Carlos for hosting this!

What are you buying next? Not your "Wish I could" list but your actual practical pony shopping list. And if its a high ticket item you are saving for what is it and when do you expect to order/get it?

Here is my list!

  •  Garlic. Planning to order it as a SmartPak supplement for the ponies' fly issues, unless I find a better deal somewhere else.
  • Grooming Kit.  Mine is old and falling apart and I'm planning to slowly replace most everything. I'll probably get it all from the local tack shop as they have sales that I like. 
  • Saddle Pad. Technically I don't need another one, but it would be so much easier to have two (eventually more, since you know how it goes)!
  • Hay Bag/Net. Since we'll be setting up the horses' track system, I'll need one or two more hay bags or nets pretty soon.
  • Blanket. I want to get Lady a winter blanket, so this is the higher priced item, but I have a while to save and wait for a good sale.
  • Fly Mask. This is one I'm not completely sure on. I have one, but we'll see if it lasts the season!

Fun!  :D

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Small Improvements

So, I'm having to build a new routine around certain changes in my life, and it can be a huge pain, therefore I still have been able to keep up with chores or even spend time with horses every day.  <sad, droopy face>
However, my choir director called for sectionals yesterday, which meant I had an extra half hour before needing to be at school. That opened up my time enough to allow for a ride!  Yippee!!  :D
It was quite a nice ride too, considering I had not ridden at all in over a week.  <gasp>
I focused on the Figure 8 pattern. She is still very herd bound and drifts in the direction of The Pony, especially during circles, so one side of the Figure 8 was more difficult than the other. We worked on this until both sides were more even.

Interesting side note:  After more observation and consideration, I believe I have decided that Lady is more stiff through her right side. Of course, she also seems stiff through her left shoulder, but I'm pretty sure that is due to my stiffness in that shoulder, and I think I block her sometimes. Food for thought!

Once the Figure 8 was looking better, we went off down the driveway. Right now my goal is to get her going up and down the driveway (away and from home) without difficulty or herd-bound-ness showing up too much. So far, she is doing pretty good, other than the first 10(ish) strides, but once she settles into her "job" she is fairly good. Forwardness and obedience change quite a bit depending on which direction we are going, but its nothing too bad. One of the nice things is that once we turn back towards home, she is quite forward and stays fairly straight, so I can practice posting to the walk (so, so hard...) whereas going away from home she tends to stop if I stand in my stirrups (my fault too, probably).
We worked mostly on calmness and obedience during this time. One of the things I was trying to do is to get her to give me her nose when I ask for it. She will bend okayish, but keeps her nose pointed towards home the whole time. So, my "exercise" was for her to give me a nice bend so I could see her nose. Since she is very stiff through the poll (and often the rest of her neck) it was quite challenging. She was also better bending to the left than to the right, and she liked to stop a lot.  Hmmmm!  Something we'll keep working on!

Blog Challenge, Day 12 - Dream Trailer.
This One would be awesome! Of course, I would rather the living quarters be a bit less fancy and the horse side of it be even better. Surely I'm not the only one who couldn't care less about the human side of the trailer?  o.O

Sunday, April 6, 2014

I'm Not Too Busy for Horses

I didn't update for several days because... well... because I haven't done anything and didn't feel like writing about nothing.  :(  Yes, I'm ashamed... I have not ridden my horse since last Sunday, and I've only done a few short ground sessions, more for her fitness than anything else.
The bad news is that my schedule just got crazier. School production next weekend with nightly rehearsals leading up to it, taekwondo tournament the day after said production, and then I start at a new job immediately after all that is over. I'm going to have to figure things out around this job anyways because I'll be working evenings, and I usually spend my evenings with the horses. So.... yup, this might be interesting.

Busy-ness?  I'm outta here.....

I still want to attempt and get all my goals complete for April (and still move on towards my Spring ones), its just going to be harder than I thought to get it all done. Right now, I still have time in the mornings for a short session, but not a ride. I get out of my regular classes by 12:30 on Monday and Wednesday, so I hope to saddle up those two days if at all possible, and then Friday of course. This means I can't be lazy. I have to get up, gather the gear, and get out there.
That being said, even though I've neglected the horses this past week, I haven't done too shabby on my other ones. Other than the past two days, I got 1000 words written every day towards my goal of 30k this month. Because of this production at school, I'm practicing piano every day, so that should hopefully carry over after the show is over. And, I have been doing some workout in the morning (it helps that I'll be going to a tournament next week) so big step forward there!

Blog Challenge, Day 11  -  What is in your grooming bucket, and what is your routine?
Sadly, I don't have a picture of my own grooming bucket.  :(  But, I'll tell you about it.

In my "collection", which currently needs replacing (I'll be doing it as soon as I can....

  • Rubber curry comb. I use this ALL THE TIME.
  • Stiff bristled brush.
  • 2 Medium bristled brushes. 
  • Soft brush.
  • 3 hoof picks. And I need another one, I'm always losing them.
  • Mane comb. Not technically a pulling comb, but that's my use for it. That and insane tails.
  • Shedding blade. Awesome for this time of year, but I use it also for dried mud.
  • Face brush.
  • Slick 'N Easy grooming block.
  • Fly spray.
  • Bot knife.
  • 2 hoof knives.
  • Farrier rasp and nippers.

I don't technically have a routine right now, as I tend not to groom every day. Lady started shedding, so I was going to put in the elbow grease to help her, and then it got super cold again, so I let it go.
Usually, I start off with just the rubber curry comb, unless she has lots of muddy spots (love pasture-kept horses....) and then I get the metal one (shedding blade) out. I curry her super well, since it also serves as a workout for me! 
After that, I use the medium brush (my stiff one is dirty beyond belief right now) to get all that dirt and dust off of her and onto me, naturally. If I'm feeling really nice, I'll get the soft brush out and smooth her out. Not during shedding season though! Her hooves get picked out almost daily, and her legs get cleaned with the stiff brush, especially if I'll be putting boots on. 
I try to groom all over every few days, so that I can catch anything going wrong. But they live out on pasture 24/7 and deep-cleaning doesn't happen. Please don't tell me about stalls and clean horses, and all that stuff. I'm already impatient to go off to college so I can have a fancy barn for my horse!

Not really. It is a huge blessing to have my horses in my backyard, under my personal care ALL the time, and I will miss that more than I realize. But I have a list of perks that I am looking forward to immensely in West Texas.

What are your favorite grooming tools? I really do want to replace/replenish my kit sometime soon, so I'm looking for suggestions and ideas.  :)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Goals - April 2014, Plus a Thought

Yesterday, I recapped all my 2014 goals, so today I'm going to plan out April.  :)

April 2014 - Horse Goals

  • Film 1 riding session. Should be easy enough. Just get an empty camera and a person/tripod. Just gotta do it.  :P
  • Practice riding the trot with help (on a lunge line, etc.) Need someone who can lunge my horse. Just need to ask either mother or big sister.
  • Take The Pony out 4 times. I'll have to make time because she is a bit difficult, but once a week isn't too bad.  :)
  • Complete a set of Level 3 OnLine tasks.
    • Work with a flag - desensitization, etc. Get out the flag that is sitting in the tack room. Just do it.
    • Lead by one ear, and backwards by a hind leg. We've done this a little bit before, so we'll have to build on past experience.
    • Drive from zone 5 (behind the horse). Done some before too, but its always been challenging.
    • Back up and draw solidly on a 22 and 45 foot line. This one happens, but its not solid.
    • Solidify transitions on a 22-foot rope, and trot change of directions. Again, it happens, but not solid.
    • Move sideways from Zone 1 (in front of the horse). I can do this, but I want to try it from further away.
    • Play with tarps, especially going under them. Need to find a tarp.
  • Get a difference between a medium and a free walk. Haven't really tried this one, but we'll see!
See how a lot of this is not hard stuff, I just have to push myself into doing it. Yeah, me too.  :P
Also... I decided to add to my Spring 2014 list - since I'm working hard on getting Lady more confident away from home and around other horses, I have added a 3.6 mile ride to my goals. Just locally, around the gravel roads and then back home, but it will still be success!  :)

April 2014 - Personal Goals

  • Get a workout routine started. Started a little bit this morning. Going to build from there!
  • Go to Wednesday night church. Plan to go this week, unless school goes late.
  • Win Camp NanoWrimo with 30,000 words. Off to a great start this morning!
  • Record a video for blog (either this one or my writing one). Ummm.... eeeek.
  • Read four novels. Some just need to be completed. Not too hard, if I push myself.
  • Practice piano 3x a week. This one takes more time, but shouldn't be too hard.
  • Learn 2 new songs on the violin. I actually have two songs laying around. Need to schedule time to work on them.
Really all I'm trying to do is make better habits, at least in my personal life. With the horses there is more improvement to make, not just habits.

Something I've been thinking about lately is getting Lady and I to brave the canter and finally get into the gait so we can work in something other than the walk. She is less hollow in the canter (unlike the trot) and I can actually ride the canter decently. The problem is that I get tense and therefore tighten my legs AND my grip on the reins. Also, she bucks, especially if I try to guide her in any way. My thought or idea which I've been contemplating over the last few days, is possibly taking a chance and pushing through it, by which I mean riding Lady into a canter and continuing until she relaxes. I'm fairly certain if I prepare and set it up carefully, that I can stay relaxed. What I'm thinking is to set up a large square or rectangle with a barrel on each corner so that I have some points to focus on. 
Anyways, I'm not sure yet, but we'll see.  :)