Friday, April 24, 2009

The terrible things we do to our horses...

Look at that face. Clearly, Lic's bath is the worst possible thing that could have ever happened to her. LOL... she actually wasn't too bad, but I ended up leaving conditiomer in her tail because anytime I got remotely near her hind end with the hose, she would just spin away from me. I ended up using a bucket to rinse as best I could, and she kind of squatted and cowered her back legs, like omigod I need to get away from this water but I can't run because I'm tied this is SO scary. I did my best to convince her it really wasn't horrible, but girlfriend wasn't buying it. I can't wait to try getting her into a body of water... that should be interesting. We have a small lake with trails around it, and I think horses are allowed. I just bought a trailer, which needs some minor repairs before I can use it, but as soon as it works, we're going to the park- it's about 20 mins away. But, for the sake of my own pride, (and the safety of others, lol) I think we'll save this whole "let's take the horses swimming" thing for a time when the park is pretty dead. Dusk maybe?
Speaking of trailers, Lic is hesitant to go into mine, but I'm sure with just some time and patience this will be pretty easy to deal with. She's been trailered a number of times before, but this is an old clangy trailer, and it's also a smallish two-horse straight load, so I'm sure she's feeling a bit claustrophobic. Plus, we're just hitting our stride in terms of getting along and getting her to trust me, so it may take a bit of work. Today I fed them breakfast in the trailer (they got to stay out on the ground but had to stick their heads in to eat). Afterward, Dutch loaded with just a bit of hesitation, and I managed to get Lic about 3/4 of the way in. Lot's of good girl (and good boy- Dutch was super good) and then they got to eat some hay. So, we're on the right track.
And, as an aside, compared to a week ago, Lic has finally decided that her fly mask really isn't that big of a deal. I can put it on with just minor fussing now.
Minor things, but good things. Baby steps and all. This weekend we are going to work on flexing and collection- something we both need practice on.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Finally- a good trainer!

I had a riding lesson a couple days ago from a wonderful NH trainer. It really was a combination of a few things- a saddle fitting, training, and riding lesson. According to her, Licorice has a very solid base of training- it's just a matter of getting me properly trained now!

I learned that I definitely need some refinement in my groundwork. There are times (for example, when yielding the forehand) when I start too "big" with my cue, and it surprised me to see just how "small" I can be with that cue and get a response. But, in contrast, when I am cueing, say, from a trot to a canter when lungeing, I need to spend less time in each "phase" of cueing, and be more precise and forceful- like when I pick up my stick (yes, I use a carrot stick style thing, and I love the way it feels) picking it up needs to be one phase of pressure, and when I use it, I need to USE it- none of this nagging at her hind end. It's listen to the "nice" cues, or your ass is getting stung. When I saw the trainer work her, Lic woke up and always had an eye on her, within one minute. This is opposed to her kind of la-de-da attitude she has with me, like "okay, well, I guess if you won't leave me a lone, I may as well canter." With this trainer, it was "Yes, Ma'am! And how fast would you like me to go?" Awesome.

Under saddle, we mostly worked on me using my seat more effectively at slow speeds, for walking and halting. We picked two spots in my riding area for transitions, so Lic can "listen" for my seat cue to stop. So far she has been picking it up in the arena area, but not on trails. Practice will make perfect on that one. I also learned that part of her bucking issue is my body position. (Part of it is also attitude, and part of it is probably also saddle fit, at least in my Aussie saddle). I tend to lean back at a walk and trot, and then lean forward when asking for a canter, which makes it difficult for her to lift her shoulder. Which explains perfectly why she bucks when I ask for a canter but can pop into it very nicely on her own volition. And which also explains why she randomly sometimes will throw one or two canter steps into a trot. She's not being bad, she thinks that's what I want!

So yesterday, I practiced what I learned. I still got attitude about cantering in a circle, so either my balance or her balance or both are still off... or it could be that she expects me to lean forward and get in her way... or she could just be pissy about it. But when we went on our trail ride- cantering straight lines was so easy! She didn't pin her ears or offer to buck once! It was amazing for me, because my horse actually responded like "Oh, you want me to canter? Cool! Sounds like fun!" I was wooping and laughing the whole time, it was amazing! The only little oops we had was when I thought we were clear to go around a bush- Lic clearly had other ideas, because she jumped it! (I stayed on this time, lol). I did get left behind and I'm sure I popped her in the mouth, which I felt bad about, but she was a saint about it and simply landed in a nice balanced canter. I can't wait to get an English saddle and learn to jump on her!

Today I'm going to work her in a bareback pad and see what kind of results I get. Here's hoping... and I am definitely taking more lessons with this lady!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Fun Stuff

Licorice now has an older female role model- an 18 year-old QH mare named Honey. She belongs to my neighbor, and we have been riding together a few times now. Honey is pretty damn bombproof, which is great for building Lic's confidence so we don't spook at every little thing. Anyway, the weather was great, and we went out for about an hour and a half. We were disappointed to find that someone had locked the gate to the BLM land, so we rode the dirt roads. (That really pisses me off, BTW- that's not any one person's land, so don't put a fucking lock on it! We all have a right to enjoy that land.)

Anyway, Lic was pretty good, a little pissy about picking up on a canter when cued- until she saw Honey canter, then she was all too happy to canter along. The way she acts when I cue her, I would suspect a pain issue, because she throws her head up and hollows her back out to avoid the cue... but why, if it is pain related, can she pop into a beautiful, smooth canter when she feels like it? I think it's a training/respect/attitude thing... but the good news is, I have a lesson scheduled tomorrow with a new instructor- fingers crossed, I hope it's better than the last lesson I had.

Lic did have a couple of bucking snit fits- the pad for the Aussie saddle got kind of bunched, so I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt there. But with my trusty Syd Hill Aussie and my all-terrain half-chaps, I was glued in the saddle. I just got my new pad for that saddle anyway, and I'm excited to try it out. I'm going to check with this new trainer on my saddles and how they fit her. And the trainer is bringing some of her saddles too. I'm going to start taking English lessons eventually, if everything works out with this new lady. I am so not a preppy person, but for some reason the prim little English outfits appeal to me, and damn if jumping doesn't look like a blast.

Oh, and Lic is in heat- amazingly, she was sweet and wanting to get all cuddly. I expected mean and pissy. Dutch has been very studdish, walking around with a hard-on and talking at her. And even though Lic has put on her "come-fuck-me" stance, I have yet to witness any real action between the two... hopefully this is over in a couple days, because it's really annoying.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Just do it!

I have been working with Lic, just getting out and riding. The other day it was windy as hell (thank you, April in the high desert) and Lic was acting very retarded. Walk two steps, balk. Walk two steps, balk. Then- Omigod tumbleweed- run runRUN!!! Stop, head sky high, snort. I struggled to not get pissed, and just consitently cued her to keep going after she stopped with light pressure, increasing to heavier pressue, using my blunt spurs. For probably about the first 15 minutes of our ride, this is how it went.

Finally, we got over to the wash, and she relaxed and actually walked without being nagged. It ended up being a really nice ride, and she even cantered a few times with minimal bucking. I think we cantered about 4 times, with 2 total bucks. Woohoo! Getting better. And once was through a field; she cantered slowly, nice and collected, it was great.

Today I rode Dutch and ponied Licorice. It was nice to ride a horse that consistently responds to his cues... well, most of the time. As we got close to home he started being a hothead and not wanting to proceed calmly- couple that with Licorice contstantly stopping to eat grass and after school traffic, and the alst two blocks were really annoying. Once back home, Dutch got to work a bit as a reminder that home does not always = laziness and food. But... working is not a good deterrent for him, being that he likes work. But riding Lic so much made me forget how lovely Dutch's canter is. He's still a little stiff in his back legs, but seems to loosen up with work. Dutch also reminded me that spurs are for lazy horses, not for forward horses. I touched him with one spur, lightly, and like that we went from lazy walk to huge Arabian endurance style trot. Licorice had to canter to keep up.

I so wish I had Dutch ten years ago. I think 25 is a bit old to start endurance riding.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Just for fun... picture time!

Smiley horse. :)

Chunky girl.

*Sigh* Must you take pictures?


Friday, April 3, 2009

Eh... Reality check.

Things have been going well with Licorice. We have been making progress... slowly, but it is progress. The biggest issue we're having is respect under saddle... I have trouble being authoratiative enough to get her to listen when I'm on top of an engergetic, 950 pound animals. The other day, after some advice from the I Hate your Horse blog: http://http// I decided to hop up and quit being a pussy! We actually made some progress that day... Licorice likes to stop at the "gate" of our "arena" (really just a flat area on some vacant property next door- there's a little trail leading off of it, and she likes to stop there). Well, every time she stopped, I simply cued her to go again, with my legs, voice, and the lunge whip I had. She got pissed, she pulled some of her ear pinning, mini-rearing, bucking bullshit, and she got yelled at and smacked with the whip. This went on for some time... walking was fine... eventually, we got to where trotting was fine. I started out at a posting trot (yes, in a western saddle) to keep her balanced and to set a pace. She slowed down, I kept posting at my pace... eventually we got to where we could trot past her "spot." Even if she slowed down, as long as she was trotting, I gave no "speed up" cues, just posting. Then, I would set a place (different place every time) to stop, praise, and allow her to rest.

Same approach to cantering. I think part of her issue is a balance issue, trouble balancing in a circle, as well as a laziness issue. I kept cueing, smacked when she bucked, until I got a willing canter, buck-free, both ways. This took some time... and it wasn't pretty... we were not collected, she cut through the middle of the arena. No problem. I figure I'll get her willing to work, and then work on refinement.

So, I was feeling pretty good when I hopped on yesterday. Just bareback, and in a halter, in my new half-chaps. Now, I'm not an English person, but I bought an Aussie saddle, which chapped my legs raw in just jeans... and I found a nice pair of Ariat all-terrain half-chaps on clearance. They are suede on the inner leg... which is nice for grip... but apparently not nice enough... LOL.

Really, this is my own fault. I had already been up all night working, then up all day doing errands... so my mind set as I trotted around my property was about equivalent to that of a person with a 3-4 beer buzz. AKA, stupid.

I decided to ask Lic to hop up a small terrace in front of our house. Now, I am admittedly not jumper, though I'd like to take lessons. I have jumped Lic over logs and such on the trail, and I routinely lunge her over this terraced area... it's got to be a foot or less high. No problem, I thought. This will be fun, I say to myself.

Wrong! I lean forward a bit, and Lic takes off like she thinks she's a Grand Prix jumper. She is, in all actuality, a 15 hand paint. But not yesterday... no, yesterday she was a 17 hand warmblood, and it felt that way coming down, too. My floppy, non-jumper self bounced off her back like a bouncy ball... once, twice, three times. I actually don't know if she was bucking or if I was just all over the place. I grabbed for mane, I prayed for a soft landing, I took one final bounce on the ground, and I layed there and whimpered. I rolled over and looked at my horse, who was all too happy to calmy eat weeds, watching me from the corner of her eye.

Well, I can't say I didn't deserve it. I'm lucky, I actually hit my non-helmeted head on our walkway, but emerged from the incident no worse for the wear, mentally. I'll be hobbling on crutches due to a sprained ankle for a few days though. I'm emailing today to start lessons. I'll consider this my first.