Friday, May 31, 2013

Power Steering

One interesting side affecting of riding the boy is the burning pain in my left bicep. The stinko really doesn't feel like turning to left and my piss poor rope halter rein set slid on the left side so he could really brace on the left. I woke up wondering why my arm felt like I got a tentanus shot then realized it was just Dickie.

After my ride I went to sit on Miss Bre the queen of power steering. If you even think "Left" that is where she goes. She was in her paddock when I arrived so I got on and did a few circles just to remind myself of my girl's super smooth turning. Then she sighed, rolled her eyes, and looked back at me like "Is this neccesary, I was napping?" I let her return to alternating between napping and squealing at Romeo with me on board. She decided it was pretty good with me up there because I my mounted neck massages aren't too shappy.

Dickie is about the age Bre was when I first got on her. She had many more miles under saddle but her turning wasn't a whole lot better. I hope I can install some power steering my 2010 model too :)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Hops and Trots

I rode Dickie again yesterday. It turned out great for various reasons. I don't plan on being on his back quite so often long term but it seemed important to make sure his lessons of last week really set in before he had a break. There are jumps in the arena the last half of the week so it was crowded and difficult to get a good lunge in. I decided to forgo much on that front. I want to start seeing how he will do without the midless circle game. It was ok during those first rides to make sure he was tired but we are moving into long term training mode and I need to start doing excercises that are sustainable for his maturing body.

Anyhoo, I did a super quick lunge and he was feeling fresh. He let out plenty of bucks and leaps but was tuned in to me so I decided to hedge my bets and get on. I was thrilled when as soon as I put let on he started walking. I still give him the voice command "Walk On" but I have found that he quickly transfers one cue for another so leg is already doing the trick. He coudl tell right off that he was going to be a little opinionated. We had the arena to ourselves but there were horses coming in and out of the hallway and his baby brain was having a hard time focusing. He really wanted to eat the jumps, visit with the mares on one side, talk to the geldings on the other, rear a little for the fun of it..... He gave me a few protest crow hops, kicks, and mini rears but nothing I couldn't handle. The beauty of a young horse with ADD is that they also forget what made them mad. At one point he really really really didn't want to go left and started to put up a fight then he forgot why he was made beause he saw my foot out of the corner of his eye and decided to taste it. I know it sounds weird but I acutaly feel better than we had some acrobatics. I haven't been on a naughty horse in a loooong time and am out of shape. I wasn't sure if I would remember what to do. I was so happy when my muscle memory took over. I am not as agile as I once was but apparently I still remember how to ride the young squirts.

I tried to trot him in the big arena but quickly deicded it was a bad idea. It was windy, I have limited breaks, he felt fresh, and there were jumps to run into everywhere. I still wanted to have a little trot so we went ot the round pen. It took him a couple tries to remember but we did it. His trot is still fairly tentative but started to open up. I really want to get a little more control so that I can do most of our trotting on straight lines in the arena or outside. For now though the round pen is a neccesary evil but I see us getting out of there and riding the proprety in the next two weeks or so. He gets a few days off for now so I can finish up this term at school Then it is all ponies all the time!!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Another Good Ride Under His Belt!!

I have a pile of homework and got called in last minute for a four hour shift at the hospital today. I had planned on riding three horses today but it wasn't to be. I really didn't have time for Dickie either but I felt like it was important to ride him again while Friday was still fresh in his mind. I rushed over after work to get a quick ride.

I hate lunging babies for very long (that hole turning on developing tendons thing) but I also don't want to just hop on a fresh, barely broke horse. Luckily he tuned in really quickly so I only had to lunge him for five minutes or less. It was windy, the other horses were bucking and farting around the arena. I would prefer to work him in the round pen because it is less distracting but someone took part of the sand out of the round pen (long story...) so it is uneven and the drainage gravel is coming up. So to the big arena we went. The arena with lots of room to take off and horses hanging heads in on all three sides.

Once again I am amazed at how much his mind has settled in the last month. He is still a huge dinkus but he is just grown up enough to feel like I can expect him to pay attention for more than two seconds. He stood like a rock at the mounting block and moved right off when I gave him a bump with my legs. He really wanted to go hang out with the mares and gave a little head toss/hop when I turned him away but that was it. My goal today was work on turning. He is about as flexible at a 1970s Cadillac but it didn't take much for him to start figuring it out. At this point I don't care if things are pretty or coordinated. All I care is that he understands what I am asking. At the end we did big three circle serpentines down the arena and managed to walk a few 20 meter circles. He doesn't stop on a dime and dribbles on a bit after he has stopped but HE STOPS.

We only trotted a lap each way and he was very tentative. I didn't want to push it though because I had been on for about 15 mins and was using up all his baby brain with the turning business. The good thing about his trot was that he understood more leg meant go and was even responding to my driving seat. It didn't matter that he fell out of the trot quickly, the big thing was that he picked it up right away. I just want to see those wheels turning in his brain.

I know I might be partial but I think he's doing amazing for this only being the second time he was asked to perform under saddle. Yes, I have been on him a handful of times. However, during those rides all I expected was for him to be relaxed and tolerate me swinging into his sides. Go Dickie!!

You tube link of Dickie and I handing out: His Royal Cuteness

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Very Grainy Video

Dickie Trots

It's a super grainy video. It was raining on an off and my iPhone camera decided it can't focus while videotaping anymore.

Friday, May 24, 2013


A month or so ago I felt like Dickie just wasn't ready to push under saddle. His attention span was all over the place and he had the spring crazies. He seems to be calming down and somewhere along the line I realized he is as ready to be pushed as he will ever be. He ground drives, stops from long line pressure, W/T/C from voice command, stands at the mounting block. tolerates mounting/dismounting, and his attention span is improving daily. I planned on getting him going during my vacation that happened a bit sooner :) The BFF sent me a text to say he was getting off early and we should ride Dickie. It just so happened that I was getting off early too. I threw on a sweatshirt over my scrubs and BFF brought me some jeans and I was ready for some pony starting. 

I went through my usual routine of lunging with lots of transitions. When I lunge a horse my goal isn't just to "wear them out." You can't wear a hot horse out, you just get them more frazzled, and they are even fitter/spazier for the next ride. I ask for lots of transitions between gaits and tempo changes within the gait so the horse is mentally tuned in to me. 

After I worked him the BFF took over since he would be getting on first. We both expected some fire works when it came to telling Dickie he had to move forward when he really wanted to watch what the lesson girls were doing. He gathered up a little like he might rear but the BFF has started enough horses to get Dickie moving right away. Once Dickie started to understand what was being asked he seemed to actually enjoy the whole process. Pretty soon the BFF is trotting and Dickie looked happy as could be. BFF hadn't planned on cantering but trotting went so well that he gave him a kick and said "canter" annnnnnd HE CANTERED!! There were a few small mini bucks here and there when he was first figuring out how to balance with a rider but that was it. They did a few canters each way and I hopped on. 

It felt great to get on. He was already figuring out how to move off the leg and has a good "whoa" installed from the rein and voice. It was going so well that asked for a trot. He felt amazing. I had the biggest grin on my face. I wanted to keep going forever but I knew Dickie was tired deserved to be done. I felt great to finally be working towards some under saddle goals. It meant so much to have my BFF there. He has started many horses and Dickie is my first, so he gave me some great ideas. 

I have photo proof. They are from my iPhone so the quality isn't great. The photos of my are from video so they are even more blurry. At least I finally have proof!! The only proof I have so far is a blurry photo of my knee, lol. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Still A Genius

I haven't talked much about Dickie lately but that isn't becuase something is wrong. He is doing well but there isn't much to report. One of the realities of training a youngster is that things are often boring. Slow and steady wins the race with babies. Each day he is a tiny bit calmer and can pay attention a few seconds longer. We have been going for walks. I really want him to respond quickly to my voice "Whoa" "Walk on" without needing me to pull on the lead. I have worked a little more on long lining too because he doesn't seem confident once I get out of his visual range. I am hoping this will help once my vacation rolls around.

My hope is that with 16 straight days off I will be able ot get him going better under saddle. He is perfectly happy with me getting on and off his back but now he needs to learn how to go when I ask where I ask. I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little scared for this stage of his training. Dickie is an opnionated horse and likes to express his opinion with leaps, rears and bucks. He isn't mean spirited but I am not sure he will realize his old momma doesn't find leaps and bucks entertaining.

It has been hard to get him going because I know things could get a tad exciting. I feel like I need a stretch of time when I can work with him daily. As it stands I can't go out on work days and I have only been off for one or two days in a row. He only takes a few times to really get something down but I haven't wanted to start something I couldn't finish in a few days.

So look out Dickie-vacation is coming so you better get your big pony pants on!!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Horse Neglect

I had a long week of work and getting caught up in school so Dickie was left to his own devices. I am forever grateful for the BO because he gets extra sassy when I haven't been around. He generally expresses contempt for not having a job to do by rearing, bucking in place, and trying throw anything that happens to be left within reach of his stall door. One bright spot is the fact that his behavior is way better these days. Before if I even missed a day or two he was a wild man. These days his feral horse side is more manageable. He only needs minor reminders that humans are not play toys and doesn't tug on the lead rope or try to body slam you.

I arrived this week not sure what mood I would find him in. Actually I knew the mood. He has one mood at all times: YAYAYAYAYAY!!!! HUMANS!! MUST PLAY NOW!!! What I didn't know was if he would be able to channel that extreme exuberance into acceptable horse behavior. He knows the rules but he is a horse that will always test. He greets you in the field at first polite then he checks to see if the rules of personal space still apply by pushing me with his neck or trying to get up close eye ball to eye ball. Then I say "No you can't treat me like  your mares" and ask him to back up. If he stands politely several feet away he can have a treat, if not he gets to back up until he stands and waits for me to approach.

He was just as sassy as I expected. He danced like he had ants in his pants in the cross ties. Then torture of all tortures, Josey's mom showed up with kids. He LOVES kids and watching them without getting to taste them was too much for his baby brain. He decided this was reason to buck in place in the aisle. The funny thing is that no matter how antsy he is I never get the impression he is going to lose his mind and tear the cross ties down. If he dances so much that he hits the end of the cross ties he just stops, glares at me like I did it, then starts back up again but with less animation. It is just like him, he always wants to know exactly how far he can push things (cross ties, other horses, people, his stall door....). 

I hurried to get his feet picked because I know asking his spazzy brain to wait in the cross ties after a week of no work isn't that fair. Instead of going to the main arena we headed to the paddock behind the barn. It is about the dimension of a small arena, the footing is decent but has slight undulations. I don't lunge him there often, or for long, but I think it is good for him to get used to uneven ground. He was full of energy but the uneven ground kept him somewhat humbled. He is used to running full tilt in the pen but only on straight lines, trying to keep balanced on a circle took all of his concentration. At first he threw some tantrums and tried to spin back the other way (he prefers going to the right) but finally gave in. 

At the end of our session he was so focused. It is odd because he often spends the first ten mins or so really testing me (trying to spin the other way, breaking gait, bucking, rearing, etc) but by the end he gets really relaxed and focused. He is also extra cuddly after he has been worked physically. His shenanigans at the start makes it seem like he doesn't want to work but I think he just wants to challenge me. In the end he seems to thrive on work and it makes him a different horse. I think he will turn out to be one of those horses who really needs a job and is happier when he is in hard work. My TB mare was like that. If you didn't really push her she would make things exciting on her own (bucking or bolting) but if you gave her a big physical/mental challenge she would go all day and ask for more. Bre loves a job but she also really needs to be babied mentally, you can't push her too hard before you can feel her start to mentally self destruct. 

I am excited to be a little over two weeks away from a 16 day vacation and a horse who is telling me he is really for more challenge!!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mostly Wordless Wednesday

Showing Mom he can ground tie when he feels like it. 

Showing me his disgust by being forced to stand still by refusing eye contact. 

Putting on his most majestic grown up pony face. 


I can't believe how shiny he is despite my poor grooming practices.

Getting up from a good roll session. Notice he got up with a mouth full. He likes to roll and stop for bites.

Shiny horse, sun, tall grass, perfect way to spend the evening. 

Nom Nom Nom

I would leave the grass to come see you but I stepped on my lead rope. 

Please don't put me back in the pasture. The grass is so much greener here. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Lesson #3

I had yet another lovely lesson today on pretty Callie mare. I have to admit that I wasn't at the top of my game today. My abdominal muscles are all worn out from learning how to ride again but they haven't quite had time to get stronger. Today we worked on three loop serpentines which are a simple basic training level exercises. However, riding them perfectly doesn't seem so simple. After bungling through the first few I realized I was forgetting move my outside leg back and was actually leaving my inside leg behind the girth. Callie's reaction to me getting my head out of my ass was to sit on her rear and get moving. Sadly my sorry out of shape ass couldn't keep up with her once I got her moving right. I had to go posting for awhile to let my non-existent abs have a wee rest. 

Once we had serpentines at the trot down we added canter. I love riding counter canter serpentines. I love riding when I feel like I have to be focused on every stride. Callie was a blast because she can be so flexible and her counter is unbelievably balanced. The first week her canter was a chore, last week so needed a little help with the whip, this week so hopped right into and went into work pony mode. We cantered at least half of the lesson. 

I am looking forward to our next lesson. I work the next two Tuesdays so I won't have lessons until June. 

If you want to learn more about Lippys check out this video from PBS, the clinician who visits my old barn is interviewed briefly. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Horse health insurance

What do you all think about health insurance for your ponies? I am sending in the paperwork this week and am curious what companies you use. I am using great American and I had looked into Markel. The company I am going with will exclude his heart but everything else is included. He will be covered for up to 10,000 which would at least get him colic surgery. It might not cover a complicated colic surgery but honestly I wouldn't opt put him through that if they got in and found necrotic bowel. The deductible is reasonable and so is the annual fee when you consider the odds of him getting an expensive injury at some point. Sometimes I wonder what bres life would have been like had I been able to afford enough tests to pinpoint her lameness. I don't want to wonder this time around.

Ill cross my fingers nothing happens but ill be sleeping better once that paperwork is filed.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Colic Scare and Health Insurance

Last Thursday I got a call from Romeo's mom that he was hanging his head, not eating, and pawing. She hadn't seen a horse colic but because Bre has such a long colic history I have reviewed symptoms with her often. I told her I was on my way and to call my vet. By the time I go there he was trying to roll if she stopped walking him. Luckily the vet was only twenty minutes away so she arrived shortly after I did. She listened to his gut and palpated his rectum. Then she said the words no horse owner wants to hear "Is surgery an option for you". She said he could go either way, needing surgery or resolving on his own, but several issues pointed towards surgery. The vet school is two hours away so if waiting until it becomes a surgical case could mean a short surgery turning into a long and dangerous bowel resection. All the start aligned, she had gas in the truck, and someone to watch the kids. It was a long two days but his displaced bowel resolved on it's own and Romeo is now back home feeling much better. It was hard to have him so far away when he was sick. Poor baby. Hopefully it was a one time shot but it made us talk about some hard decisions. 

I know that colic surgery or even an extended stay in the hospital would not be an option for me. Due to Bre's health issues I have long ago come to terms with the kind of treatment I would be willing to give her. I love Bre and my heart would break if I had to tell the vet I am not sending her to surgery but I also know she has already been through so many health problems over the years that I don't want to put her through anything else. 

I have to say I haven't really come to terms with making hard decisions about Dickie. If he had issues due to his heart murmur I have run through all the scenarios and feel prepared. On the other hand if he needed colic surgery or put his leg through a fence I don't feel at all ready to say I can't follow through with treatment. It sounds bad to put a dollar number on your friend but we all know that is the reality of owning a horse. I had just assumed that because of his heart condition I would not be able to get him health insurance but decided on a whim to call a few places. Turns out he CAN be insured. I talked to several places and plan on going through the company my vet suggested. They are a tad more expensive but I don't need the vet to come back out for an exam and the covered expenses are much higher. I just need to fill out the paperwork this weekend. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Callie-Super Cute Lipizzaner Mare
Apologies in advance- I crapped this out during a 15 min study break.........

My plan is to take two lessons a month as long as I can have time and I have the dough. I have had two lessons so far and will take one more next week. Tuesdays are the only time they have an appropriate lesson horse free and I work a variable schedule so we are taking it week by week.  I am riding Callie a 10 year old Lipizzaner mare. Even if you don't know much about Lippys you can tell she is a quality mare. She was bred previously to the stud on the farm and it had to be a nice baby.  The owner of the barn was one of the first people in the united states to breed quality Lipizzaner's back in the early 80s and she always has lovely horses. Currently Callie is a lesson horse to all levels of riders.

I hopped on to warm Callie up and my assessment right away was she was all mare. I tried a little light seat to get her marching with a bit of a result, then gentle leg, mmm not really, then a strong leg and SCREEECH it was like I hit the brakes. Callie was having none of the pushy leg business. Once my lesson started I found out this was one of Callie's quirks. She doesn't want anything that resembled nagging with the leg. You can huff and puff and squeeze all you want and she is just going to get slower.

We picked up the trot and my trainer thought my upper body was much better than I had feared. I knew my lower leg has been tight and overall a hot mess so we went to work on that right away. It turns out that Callie will be the perfect horse for fixing my leg because her response to crappy leg is immediate. Good leg, horse goes, crappy leg BRAKES. One of the things I love best about my trainer is she is very precise, she will tell you exactly what muscle to move as the horse puts which leg on the ground. We started this cool little exercises where you step deeper in the outside heel on the up post two times, then equal on both legs on the third post. Callie really responded to that. It worked with the push of her inside hind and focused more on body weight getting her to move forward than lower leg squeezing.

It has been years since I did serious dressage but for some reason my mind went right into riding mode and I found myself sitting the trot. Callie responds so much better to sitting the trot because I could be more efficient with my seat and leave those lower legs alone. She sluggy posting but sitting she is wonderful. With Callie's reminders I suddenly realized my toes were pointed forward and my legs were loose and OFF her sides. You can do the same stepping exercises from sitting trot but I am so out of practice that it kind of blew my mind to feel when the inside hind was loading to get my timing right. Once again I LOVE MY TRAINER!! She is so great about calling out "Now" if you are trying to get the feel of something like when a certain leg hits the ground.

After I got my legs situated we started working on shoulder fore and shoulder in. It was so fun!! I miss being able to ride like that. At one point I had ridden a few shoulder ins then took her straight and she flew. I wasn't expecting that at all. She was so sluggish at the beginning that I thought I would get half that amount of trot. I had to go posting because I am so very very out of shape. I thought my stomach muscles were going to start spitting flames by the end of a 45 min lesson in mostly sitting trot.

This week we got to focus more on canter. I really need to work on my canter. I have a really right lower back so sitting the trot and being effective in the canter are hard for me. Bre has a very bouncy canter and gets tense when you sit the canter. Then I get tense, my back hurts, and it's all a mess. If you want to feel a horse really compress and sit, canter a Lipizzaner. Even when they are lazing around they are just built to do dressage. Callie's canter can get really lazy and even four beatish but even at her worst she sits more than a WP horse on their spunkiest day. My trainer helped from the ground with a lunge whip to get me a little impulsion but once we got going it really clicked. We worked on a exercises to get her lighter in the canter. I will see if I can explain it:
*Trot on right rein
*Transition to halt a few feet past A
*From halt almost forehand turn on an arc so your left shoulder ends up at F. Keep sideways motion but the hind takes bigger steps and that is what gets you turned the other direction.
*Pick up canter (through trot for us)

Her canter was nice and jumpy after that. We even did a few ten meter circles but at that point I had already spent time in sitting trot and my abdominal muscles were toast. I had a really hard time supporting her on that small circle for long. I will say that I am proud I didn't need as much of a rest this week!! Last week I need a big rest in the middle and wasn't sure my body would cooperate when it was time to get going again.

Looking forward to next week!!!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Herstory Time

Aside: To all my fave bloggers (you know who you are, I used to post on your pages)... I am reading all your blogs and I love them. I feel cheated when you don't post. However, I am a big ol' loser and haven't been posting comments. So please I love you all and need your inspiration. It is all about me so that means keep those posts coming!!

So the real post is about my lesson. I haven't really gone into the history of my riding much so here it is. In about 1998 I came down with bipolar disorder. Side affects from meds had me such a mess that I could hardly concentrate and had to quite school and work. While I was getting better on the illness side I became situationally depressed about the direction my life had taken. I went from being a successful biology major who had just landed a summer research position to jobless and unable to sit through a lecture. My doctor at the time asked me is there anything I have always wanted to do but couldn't. I said "horses". She found me a place that was willing to let me help tack up horses for people in an equitherapy program. It was ironic that I was a bigger mess than any of those people but I was helping them.

I had almost zero horse experience and was 20 years old. My horse history was limited to six riding lessons at ten on summer vacation and the occasional trail ride at one of those pay by the hour places. For some reason the owner of the stable took pity on me and took me in as a working student. I went from not knowing how to put a bridle on to jumping cross country in six months. The owner of the stable didn't usually give lesson but she taught her small group of working students occasionally. I got to ride in clinics with Heather Bender (GP dressage rider), Herwig Radnetter (Spanish riding school) and groom at a Bettina Drummond clinic. Karl Mikolka even came to our barn. It was amazing. I learned more there in two years than many people learn in a lifetime. We definitely had our ups and downs but what barn doesn't? And I know I wouldn't be the rider I am today were it not for the opportunity she gave me.

The brightest light in all of it was the trainer. She can be the most encouraging cheerful trainer you will ever meet. She also pushed the heck out of you when you need it. She always had something new and exciting to teach you. She is the kind of trainer who gives her students enough to go out on their own and succeed. The material I got there in just two years allowed me to go on and train Bre and several other greenies. I still hear her voice in my head when my position gets a huge mess. When I moved to Alaska and took on Bre she put it up with countless calls and tears after Bre had reared and I didn't think I was good enough to train her.

Oddly enough we really lost touch once I moved back to Oregon. I was busy with my career and my happy little barn family. I hadn't seen her in ages until last summer from the opposite end of the cross country course I could hear her voice clear as day. She can't be over 5'2" and has a voice louder than a lumberjack with a loudspeaker. It was great to see her after all these years.

Fast forward to now when I have been feeling like I need major help. My position is a hot mess and I am running out of material. It can sure get exhausting being totally on your own without any direction. I am really good about reading a horse and figuring things out on my own.  At the same time, I can't help but thinking that it would be nice to have someone else do the thinking for me every do often. I have know I need lessons and went back and forth on who to ride with. There are amazing trainers out where Dickie lives with big fancy resumes. The thought of having to prove myself all over again to a new trainer sounds pretty tedious for this point in my riding. I really want to be with someone that knows no matter how crappy I look up there it isn't for lack of knowledge. With that thought in mind I picked up the phone a few weeks ago and set up a lesson. A day after last lesson I am setting here with sore muscles in places I forgot existed. Heaven.