Monday, June 30, 2014

June/Spring/Year Goal Review

June Personal Goals

  • Give Rebellion (my novel) to at least 2 people.  Yes. Four, I believe.
  • Piano - Rememorize/Polish 3 pieces.  Mostly done. The Beethoven piece was more difficult.
  • Write and post 4 writer's blog posts.  2 done, 2 outlined.
  • Enter a writing contest.  I consider this done because I found a good one to enter, but haven't done it yet.
  • Read 3 books.  
  • Diet.  Mostly. Slacked off pretty bad this last week though.

June Equine Goals
  • Trim Lady's feet twice.  No. I tried but couldn't get very far because of the lack of rain. Hard hooves.  
  • Cover Level 2 Liberty and Level 3 OnLine.  Yup. Needs some work, but went over it all.
  • Film 1 session.  Yes!!
  • Get off the property every session.  Almost every time. Went pretty well. :)
  • Learn USDF Intro Test A.  Only ridden it 1 time, but I have it memorized.
  • Go into the canter every ride.
  • Progress to 5 minutes trotting at a time.
Spring Equine Goals

  • Start working in Parelli Levels 3/4 OnLine
  • Improve fitness so I can master the rising trot  Not mastered yet, but lots improved.
  • Start riding in the canter  Not scared of it anymore!
  • Jump a course of 1 ft jumps  Not a course, but jumped, yes :)
  • Ride a 3.6 mile local ride confidently.  Nope, but made some progress towards it.

2014 Equine Goals
  • Maintain Lady at a healthy weight.  So far, so good.
  • Keep horse health records.  So far, not so good.
  • Get a new saddle.
  • Film regularly.  Not regularly, but got some stuff.
  • Attend/Audit 1-2 clinics.  Money issues...
  • Go to see some horse shows.  Again, money issues.
  • Learn USDF Intro Tests A, B, and C.  Got test A going this month.  :)

2014 Personal Goals
  • Maintain a blog post schedule.  Definitely doing better!
  • Read more books.  Kept up quite well!
  • Publish my novel.  Being edited now, so on the road to this too.
  • Get published in a magazine.  Uhh... ooops.
  • Win Camp NanoWrimo.  Won in April. Plan to win in July again.
  • Complete Hanon piano exercise book.  Slow... and boring, but I'm attempting to persevere.
  • Create a decent pianist's repertoire.  Got about six/seven songs right now. Good start.
  • Be ready for my college music audition.  Been planning this lately. Think I've chosen my music.
  • Play the violin again. Ooops.
  • Graduate from Paris Junior College.  Have my classes scheduled for this to happen!
  • Get my purple belt in taekwondo.  Testing for my green belt this week, so this is easily happening.
  • Get along better with my big sister.  Yes, mostly. I feel that overall we're understanding each other better.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Oh So Blessed

I am giddy with sheer joy right now. I have no clue why or where it came from, but I love it.  :-)

Over the last day and night, for whatever odd reason, I've just been thinking of how amazing my horse is. I mean, of course she is amazing, but every so often it just hits me that I have the loveliest horse I could ask for. Yes, I dream about other breeds and colors and disciplines, but at this moment, I would not trade anything for the partnership I have with my Lady.

I had a totally different blog post planned for today, but I just couldn't write it without sounding ridiculous, so I scrapped it. Maybe next week. Today, I'm just going to rant about how much I'm blessed to have this beautiful horse in my life. And use pictures!

I cannot say that I've always done the best for my horses. I've made mistakes, plenty of them, and sometimes my ponies have paid the price. But, no matter what, this beautiful girl has always been here for me.

She has tested and tried me until I cried in frustration and tried to give up. And yet, every time I nearly despair, she greets me the next day with a nicker and a soft eye and proves me wrong again.
I have always had great dreams, of soaring over fences and winning races and so on and so forth. When I searched for a new horse, I had those dreams in the back of my mind. I tried out enormous Quarter Horses (truly, some of them were disproportionately enormous), pony crosses, a cute little POA mare. I tried a lovely Arabian mare that was confirmed pregnant at the time, a 2 year old that had already been started for nearly a year (poor thing!), and a lovely tall cross-breed that was quite honestly too big for me at the time.

I found this girl by accident. The horse advertised was a dominant pinto QH cross mare. She was sweet, but we just didn't mesh. Before we left that day, the owner offered to let me try Lady out. She wasn't officially for sale, but he said he would consider it since she had been sitting in the pasture for some time. She had been a competitive barrel and poles horse and won several championships. She was the go-to trail/endurance horse, and had been bred several months before. I really liked her immediately, but it was touch-and-go for several weeks because the owners just could not make up their mind whether to sell her. We finally did get her, the week before Christmas, and for a whole lot less than she was worth (the owner told me when I met her that he could sell her for several thousand if he wanted to).

It took me some time to really figure her out, but it has been totally worth it. Not everyone appreciates some of her attributes, but I don't think there is a single part of her that I would change.

  • She really likes children. She gives pony rides like a pro, and loves to get her nose into everything.
  • She isn't an in-your-pocket kind of horse, but when she wants to cuddle, its memorable.
  • She is such a pretty color. I will forever have a soft spot in my heart for bays and blazes.
  • She is an Arabian. Many people have negative opinions about Arabs, but I've always loved them.
  • She is tolerant. Never had an issue with spooking at tarps, vehicles, you name it. Not spooky at all.
  • She listens. I have never ever had to be rough with her or use force.
  • Comfortable. I've ridden other horses, but none of them have gaits to compare with Lady's.
  • Easy to manage. Sort of. I'm not sure what I would do with a skinny horse. Lady is round.
  • Solid feet. Yes, this can be a pain, but having soft or brittle hooves would drive me crazy.
  • Personality. Please don't shut your horse's personality down just to get what you want. Please.
  • Spirit. Some prefer a laid-back horse, but I absolutely love the spirited ones. 
  • She is so very sensitive. I don't want to be using muscle to get my aids across and I don't have to. She responds to thoughts.

Will this horse ever fly with me over fences? No, her jumping is limited now because of arthritis. She could still win some races, especially over the "cute" Quarter Horses everyone owns around here, and she is capable of lower-level dressage, which we are working on. Most of my big dreams will not be achieved with this horse, but she has given me so many keys that I can use to further my success with other horses. I don't plan to purchase another horse of my own until I graduate from college (5ish years from now) and with Lady turning 16 this year, I have to expect that she will continue to decline bit by bit during that time.
But I truthfully don't care. She has been and will continue to be the best horse I could have asked for. I grew up on the back of this horse and there is something to be said for the girl who had 4 hooves to carry her away during the hardest years of childhood. I owe my courage and my strength to her. She is my heart and my soul.

Extra side note... if anyone remembers, please send up a little prayer or thought. Lady has been in a fair amount of discomfort the past week (hocks and stifles) and I'm doing what I can to keep her happy and comfortable.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Using Groundwork for Success

I was introduced to Parelli Natural Horsemanship in 2007, at the same time as I was looking for a new horse. Groundwork, or work in-hand, is a major part of the program, both On Line (aka. on a line of 12-foot, 22-foot, or 45-foot length) and at Liberty. This foundation is supposed to lead to riding on a loose rein confidently and ultimately to contact, collection, and finesse. Once you have reached these goals, then you are ready for specialization for the purpose of competition. 
Because I've been involved in the program for 6 years now (it has been 6 years, oh my!) I've watched it evolve and change. I have had my moments of dissatisfaction too, and I know I'm not the only one. 
When I first started, in a way I sort of pledged myself to the program and to their values, and for several years it was "The Only Way" for me. I would listen to other ideas, other trainers' opinions, and if it didn't match up with what I knew Parelli taught, then it was automatically not for me and not correct.

I think that this mindset wasn't completely bad for me or for my horses. I learned a lot about setting up a good foundation for a horse of any background. Lady and I have a terrific relationship and she has nearly impeccable manners.

That being said, we never did make as much progress with riding. Part of this might be that I never got instruction while I was on her back, but for whatever reason, I never worked as hard on her ridden foundation as I did on the ground. So it just never progressed. We passed our Parelli Level 2 Freestyle audition 4 years ago with flying colors, but it was in a round pen and we pretty much stayed at that level until recently. Part of this also was due to her back issues, which kept me on the ground for some time.

Anyways, I was blessed with a lovely, fast, athletic horse with whom to work with and play with and make mistakes with. But most of all, to have success with.
Parelli always starts out with safety, the acceptance of equipment, and basic yields to different kinds of pressure. With that, one progresses to doing more advanced yields in all different areas around the horse. For example: moving sideways with a fence for guidance, or without a fence, with you alongside the horse pushing him along or in front of him, or behind perhaps? Long-rein driving is often an important part of young horse's training, and it is a part of Parelli's program as well.

Jumping at liberty in an open area.
Lady knows how to jump what I point her at, she knows how to yield, pay attention, and stand still. I can touch her anywhere, pick up her feet, medicate her in any form or fashion, and control her in nearly all situations without putting myself in danger. There is something to be said for 20-something-foot lines and distance control. About the only thing she does not do well is load in a trailer, but considering we've never had a trailer on the yard except for taking her to the vet, it isn't surprising.

I'll talk about riding some other time, but when it comes to groundwork, manners, and the like, she is the most well behaved - soft and sensitive and obedient. In fact, that is probably one of the best things that Parelli has taught me over the years: how to keep your horse sensitive. Lady still has a highly developed personality, she lets me know when something is bothering her instead of just tolerating it, and she is extremely sensitive to all aids. And I know how to be a better leader because of the program.  :-)

And finally, to steal from SprinklerBandit's post today, I'll post the same thing that I put in her comments. Some fun information about getting one's horses. As she put it... horses are so much more than money.  :)

Horse Name:  Lady
Age When Acquired:  9
Experience/Training at the Time:  She was a thoroughly western trained horse with more than a few years of barrels/poles and endurance competitions behind her. And one foal.  :)
Purchase Price:  500 even

Monday, June 23, 2014

Blog Hop + Riding Out

Today, from the awesome Viva Carlos, we have this thought-provoking blog hop...

Other than money, what would make your horse life simpler?

This is actually a difficult question for me... I don't have money, but I do have my two horses in my back yard. I have a lovely fenced in area to work in, a pretty good set of tack, etc. Everything should be set up for success and be as simple as ever. Right? Not so much...
Probably, right now, my horse life would be simpler if my health were better. Not that it is so bad right now, but I have some leftover mental attitudes from the past 2 years of being sick on and off so many times I'll skip working with the horses because I just "don't feel too great."
So... yeah. Being not sick would make everything a lot simpler.  :)

In other news, on Saturday, Lady and I rode off the property. If you've been reading along for any length of time, you probably know that we have major issues with this. Lady is quite barn-sweet, and The Pony goes a little berserk when her companion goes out of sight. We've never really had issues that I couldn't ride through, but it has been a little uncontrollable at times.
I'm still hesitant to say too much, in case it was a fluke and we have a major meltdown the next time, but overall, the entire ride felt like a huge success.
We went up and down the driveway and then went a very good ways past on one side down the road. There was a lot of tall grass, which she doesn't like due to the insane amount of grasshoppers we have living here. Because of that, we had a little argument about whether we were walking in the grass or on the highway. Obviously, I pressed home the fact that we were NOT walking on the highway. I was just so glad that she was not spinning around and trying to go home.
Beside our property is a huge grassy field across from which is a smaller road that I would love to ride on regularly. This time, unlike any time in the past several years, we marched off into the great unknown. She even sped up and we trotted a short distance. Away. From. Home. I was a little shocked, and very pleased.

I did think ahead a little bit and managed to find a pretty good place where we were both quiet and fairly relaxed to stop. She was still looking forward and probably would have gone further if I had asked, but I decided to turn around instead and make the entire ride a success instead of pushing the limit. She was really good on the way back too and only got a little headstrong once we were actually within sight of The Pony again and all that.

*fingers crossed* hopefully it was actually a result of training and confidence! :)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Notes of Seeming Importance

I must start writing more often...  <knocks head on wall>  After all, I'll be doing Camp Nano again next month and writing every day is mandatory. I wonder if I can add blog posts to my word count?

Anyways... so, this week had been planned to spend time with a friend of mine and her horse at my place working on various horsemanship principles. Sadly, due to unforeseen circumstances, she had to leave several days early and therefore I did not get as much horse-time in this week as I should have. <sad face>

The best part of this week (besides the short time my friend was here)!

Not so lovely on camera, but oh well....

The arena got mowed and trimmed! My daddy is the best and I am super excited and motivated to make some more progress now that there are not 3 foot tall weeds in all directions.  :-)

Lady has been doing pretty well lately. She listens and tries to understand and do what I want. We're learning together and its slow at times, but we are making progress. She has been a little sore the last week or two, and I'm quite sure that her hocks are hurting her at times. She still offers things like jumping and such, so she will continue to stay in regular work so long as the discomfort is minimal. I am doing extra warm-up and flexibility exercises for her though. Poor girl tries so very hard for me.

While my friend was here, my primary focus was on keeping Lady calm and obedient. She takes the screaming and carrying-on to an excess when it comes to other horses. I was very impressed that she kept most of the shenanigans inside the pasture and behaved very well when I had her on the ground or under saddle. She was capable of standing still and watching them canter across the arena and of moving away when I asked, so I was pleased.  :)
Yesterday, I brought only my bridle out and did some liberty. Lady's confidence is a little shakier than usual with a bit, so we're working on that. She was quite a good girl at liberty and I hopped on for a little bareback/bridleless ride afterwards. Lovely, especially as the sun went down.
Today, I simply pulled out my 45-foot lariat rope and played with that. And my conclusion is that I need a ton more practice. We spent more time standing still whilst I untangled the rope than we did actually moving around! Yeah... I'll be practicing that without her attached.  ;-)

Friday, June 13, 2014

Being Gentle

We've had lots of rain again this week, so I've eased up on working the ponies because I'm always worried about slipping in the mud. Maybe a needless fear, but one I harbor anyways. Probably due to Lady's many sore backs over the last few years.

Today I did a lot of chores and ended up with very little time to work with the horses, but I got Lady out and worked on some groundwork basics. She wasn't feeling too good, so the time ended up turning into me rubbing on her and being very gentle.

To explain, Lady gets sore fairly often, although not as often or prolonged as it was a few years back. Her neck has issues mostly and it will affect her hips and gait. If I don't take care of it, her back and hips will get pretty bad, so I took care of the little bit of tightness she did have there and then rubbed on her neck and face. The poor girl gets headaches and likes hugs and, hardest for me, gentle, firm hands.

I don't know why I find it difficult to get that balance between firm and soft, but it is. Usually its because I'm not thinking in the moment, but rather about what I want from the workout, or whatever... something except  being in the present which is where one needs to be to deal properly with a horse.

No matter what, this little mare teaches me new things every day. :)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Staying Alive

Yup. I went an entire week without writing anything about my horses. Bad me.

Anyways, the best news is that the fence is now (hopefully) fixed!!  We added another strand of wire on one side and changed the spacing on the other side and so far The Pony has not escaped again. She was getting out 2 or 3 times every day, and that is not exactly a good thing, particularly when my family is attempting to grow three gardens and I am the only person who can catch the little pinto right now. So, I am super happy that we fixed that problem and don't have to worry about that anymore.  :)  Rotten pony.....

The worst news is that I had not been out into the pasture for over a week... at least, not looking at it, and I realized that my poor horsies have basically grazed the entire area down. It's brown and dry and weedy and just doesn't look too good. I feel terrible for not noticing this sooner. No wonder they were trying to get out. Anyways, new plan consists of putting them into the front pasture, which has been growing for 2-3 months now, but only for night, and giving them hay on the dry pasture during the day. Hopefully this will keep their weight stable and make them happier!

No, I did not do a whole lot with Lady over the weekend. Again.
Last Wednesday, we had a nice bareback ride and I was pleasantly surprised that she was willing to hack out as far as we did. She still got uptight and a little bracey, but nothing compared to what we have been through recently. So I was very happy about that.  :)

The most adorable face ever <3

Yesterday, I rode bareback again.... only because I am super lazy and don't like to drag ALL the tack out. Well, also because ALL the tack needs cleaning really badly. Yeah...

Today, I brought The Pony out. She has gotten ever so much better at being caught so now we're working on basic manners and skills. She tries really hard to understand and do the right thing and usually I'm patient and soft enough with her that we make progress. She is extremely nosey and mouthey and that very easily translates into nipping. Today, I worked on being able to touch her in different areas, which didn't end up working too well because she wanted her nose in everything instead of just standing still. Like a little kid who can't sit still.
She has done groundwork before, and knows how to be sent through gates and move away from rhythmic pressure, but she has a hard time relaxing. I decided that instead of going back to what she used to do, we are going to work on relaxation and really solidify her ground manners before moving on. I'll talk some more about that tomorrow.  :)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Closer Look + Random Thoughts

So I finally got some pictures today to try and compare Lady's physical improvements. Of course, I wanted some conformation shots anyways, just haven't gotten around to it lately.

Today - June 4th, 2014
Fairly old picture, don't have a date for it.

My pictures today actually have some weird shadows on them, but the most noticeable difference for me is her neck. The shape of it has changed a lot, and I definitely like it a lot better now :)  Her back also is more defined and she has more muscle mass in the right places. Of course, in these two pictures, she was close the same weight. She gained a lot in between but has lost most of it again. :)

Other thoughts....

So far, I've worked with Lady already 3x this week, which is pretty good.

Monday was a dressage day. We worked on transitions, and even got our first calm canter depart ever!

Tuesday we did fitness, with trot and canter sets. Summer is not the best time for this, but it was okay regardless. I need to focus a bit more on recovery times or something because even 10 minutes of walk afterwards leaves her breathing hard.

Wednesday was supposed to be dressage again, but the Lady was feeling a bit down, so I hopped on for a bareback ride and we hacked out. Probably the best ride away from home that we've had in a long time. Almost no arguments and she was interested in all sorts of different things, not just home.

Since Lady hasn't quite been herself the last few days (heat + pain + mystery) I'm not sure yet what we'll do tomorrow. My schedule says groundwork and jumping and we might do that if she warms up well, but I'm also more than willing to give her the day off and bathe her like I've been meaning to.  :)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

June Goals

Personal Goals

  • Give Rebellion (my novel) to at least 2 people for opinions. 
  • Piano.
    • Play Hanon exercises #1-3 every morning (finger strengthening).
    • Re-memorize/Polish the Invention No. 6 in E Major, by Bach.
    • Re-memorize/Polish the Invention No. 14 in B-flat Major, by Bach.
    • Re-memorize/Polish Movement 1 (Allegro) from Opus 13, No 2, a Sonata by Beethoven.
  • Write and post 4 blog posts (writer's blog, not this one).
  • Enter a writing contest.
  • Read 3 books (I have three picked out, but two will have to be ordered at the library).
  • Diet. No corn, and no corn by-products if possible. Limit wheat/gluten and meats to once a day and sugar (any form) to 1-3x per day.

Horse-Related Goals
  • Trim Lady's feet at least twice.
  • Cover all Level 2 Liberty and Level 3 OnLine tasks (Parelli).
  • Film 1 session.
  • Ride (or lead) out off the property sometime during each session.
  • Learn USDF Intro test A.
  • Go into the canter in every ride, even if just for a stride or two.
  • Progress to being able to trot for 5 minutes straight (riding).

Last month I had 8 personal goals and 10 horse ones. This month I have 7 of each, and they all feel like a logical progression from what I have been doing. Hopefully I can, for once, finish all of them and feel super accomplished. Of course, I didn't include taekwondo on my personal list and I'm going to have to use June to prepare for Worlds in the beginning of July, but if I continue going to class and practicing the way I have been, then I'll be fine.