"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Friday, March 29, 2013

In Sync

Ok. Enough about the weather.

Yesterday I was at the barn by 9:30 am, in an attempt at trying to get a head start on riding both Jezebel and Lily before the afternoon mayhem started.

I got to see some of the morning crowd of riders, including Descent's and Bally's owners, but it was so much more quiet than in the afternoons. I'm usually up early no matter what, so I will probably continue with this new routine until the lesson schedule changes again once the weather gets warmer (I'm still rooting for Summer, since Spring seems to be losing the Epic Battle of the Weather Gods. *lol*)

I decided to ride Jez first, to give my own goofball time to get turned out for a bit before I hopped on. It was early enough that no one had been turned out yet. Jez was just finishing her breakfast, so I removed her blanket and groomed her while she licked her feeder. Sally had mentioned a while back that Jez can be territorial about her stall, so I figured this was a good opportunity to work on that. She seemed to enjoy being curried while eating and gave no problems. She's shedding like crazy! Great gobs of hair were coming off of her. Lily's coat still hasn't received the memo.

When Jez started nuzzling me in the hopes of getting treats, indicating that she was done with her feeder, I took her out of the stall and cross tied her in her usual spot in the aisle in front of her stall. This is when her Brat-ometer swung up to 100.

Levi, the horse stalled directly across from her, was still working on his breakfast mush (he has choked before so all of his grain gets soaked now), and there was a fresh mess of it on the bars of his stall. Jez loves to lick his stall bars after she's been bridled, which means she holds still long enough for you to be able to do up her throatlatch and noseband. Today, however, she tried to rudely go straight for Levi's stall bars as I was  attaching the cross ties, almost yanking my arm off in the process. This, of course, meant that she was not going to get to lick them at all. I picked her feet and started saddling her. Normally she will air bite while the girth is being tightened. On this day, she was being EXTREMELY dramatic about being saddled, biting the air, pinning her ears and giving me dirty looks from the moment I put her saddle pad on. I rolled my eyes and carried on, ignoring her. I did reprimand her sternly when she turned her head to bite the air close to me (she won't bite you, but that was a lot more of a threat than her usual antics) as I was attaching the girth on one side. She immediately snapped her head back up and her whole expression softened, then she looked at me with twinkling eyes, "I'm being good now! Can I have a treat?" Silly girl! She still did her air biting when I tightened the girth, but it was her usual display, not this excessive drama.

This is not pain-this is classic OTTB-mare-in-heat behavior. Sally had mentioned the day before that Jez was being uber pushy, which is something she does when she's going into season.

The bridle...bridling was an event in itself. It took 3 attempts before I could remove the halter, as Jez kept trying to barge forward every time I went for the halter buckle. Each time, I had her step back. She finally held still long enough for me to quickly remove the halter, slide the bit in her mouth, and get her ears through the crown piece in one fluid move, as she tried to step forward again!! With the reins, I had her step back. Well, she stepped back, then tried to turn towards her stall. I blocked her, and she tried to turn towards Levi's stall. I stopped her again-no rewards for naughtiness! Being so much bigger than me, she decided that she didn't care, she was going to go into her stall, which she succeeded in doing, but I smoothly went with her and we simply turned around in a circle without pause and found ourselves back out in the aisle. Jez tried this stunt three times more, but I had just figured out the perfect correction, so she found herself twirling quietly around me in the middle of the barn aisle each time she tried to go back into her stall. (This was MUCH easier than trying to make her back up, and effectively curbed her from being able to so much as set a hoof in her stall.) Each time she tried to go back in the stall, I made her circle tightly around me at a slightly quicker pace than the previous time. (Another perk of it being quiet-I could correct Jez uninterrupted by people trying to walk by. You MUST make training corrections within seconds of the behavior occurring, otherwise the correction is pointless-the animal, whether horse, dog, cat, etc, won't remember what you're correcting them for.) By the third time, where I had her prance around me, she figured out it was just easier to stand still. Smart girl. I was finally able to buckle her noseband and throatlatch. I was laughing at her, though-she has all of the qualities that I love of OTTBs, especially the mares-super smart, opinionated, with a bossy streak, but playful, with a sense of humor. Jez took all of this in stride and learned, by the third attempt, that I was the alpha mare even if she was feeling crabby. She stood quietly with ears perked and eyes bright. Silly, silly girl! *lol* Hopefully she's good for Sally after this one!

For more updates on Jez and her new pretty pink boots, go to Sally's blog.

Since she was definitely in a mood, I took Jez into the indoor where there were no distractions. My original plan had been to practice cantering on the lunge prior to riding, but given Jez's current spazzy state of mind, I decided to leave this for another day. I took her to the mounting block, where she did her usual trying to step forward when I was going to get on, then backing up all the way past the block when I stopped her. I immediately hopped off the block and turned the backing up into another twirl around me. Voila! The little girl stood still at the mounting block on our second attempt.

She was SO HAPPY to be working. I LOVE this mare's work ethic! We did a looong walk warm-up, walking at a nice rolling pace in straight lines, then adding 10 meter circles in the corners. We then did a forward trot, where she felt a little stiff in the beginning, but by the second loop around the arena, she had worked herself out of it. The indoor sliding door was closed, but it wasn't firmly shut, so drafts of wind would occasionally blow through, making it thud against the door frame. Jez would prick her ears each time, and she startled a bit once, but as we continued to work, she stopped paying attention to the door and focused on what we were doing. I did Tina's exercise from the lesson the day before with Jez, and it proved to be beautifully effective with her, getting the little mare into a gorgeous frame, where she lightened in the bridle. She would stay like this within the space of a 20 meter circle, too, before having to remind her again to soften. Every time someone walked into the wash stall area, they would stop to watch. There were several comments about how beautiful Jez looked.

It was a super fun ride. We stopped at the 40 minute mark, and I walked Jez out on a loose rein. We'd done some solid trot work, and she had neither broken a sweat nor was she out of breath. We had both been so focused that neither of us had heard Lily screaming her head off in the paddock outside, which I was told about by the other boarders.

I groomed Jez in the cross ties after untacking, and she was an absolute angel. Miss Cranky Pants just needed to have a job again, I think.

I put her out with Lily, who was calmly eating hay by herself  in the paddock at this point, but she started whinnying and whinnying and whinnying when she saw Jez coming. Jeez Lily. Won't you do that for me some day?

Just a *little* attached...
They got to hang out for a bit while I put all of Jezebel's stuff away and set up Lily's tack. Then I fetched my mare, and she actually let me catch her without running around the paddock like an idiot first.

She was really fidgety in the cross ties, and at one point she even crowded me against one wall of the wash stall while I was trying to get the mud off her legs. She got smacked in the butt for that one, which got her attention, and she stood still afterwards. I knew why she was being antsy: of course she's going into heat, since Jez is in heat, and she was looking for her buddy. No Lily, you will pay attention to me when I'm working with you. It's just 2 hours out of your day.

Since I could hear the wind whipping around the building outside, I decided to ride Lily in the indoor as well. We rode in the mullen mouth snaffle again, and since for once we had the entire arena to ourselves, we really got down to work.

All we did was Tina's exercise from the day before. Lily braced, I asked for counterbend, she softened, I asked for slight bend. Over and over and over. Walk, trot, and canter, with the occasional walk break on a loose rein. Then we did shoulder-fore at walk and trot, and we cantered again. Cantering to the right, she was uber-stiff, wanting to look to the outside and bulge her inside shoulder, like she used to do last summer in FL. So I ended up asking for a shoulder-in at the canter. It wasn't perfect and it wasn't pretty; I just wanted her to bend to the inside. She complied, but with great effort on her part. We only did this down one long side of the arena, then circled and trotted. Her trot after this was super awesome-up, loose and long-strided. We zoomed around the arena a couple of times, maintaining the rhythm through 20 meter circles, then changed direction and repeated the other way. We did this twice in each direction.

By then, we had been working for an hour, and we were both sweating. We finished one last circle in Lily's forward trot and called it a day.

We had a good session, but I've been running out of ideas, and am really needing a spotter on the ground. We need lessons!

"Mom, stop taking pics and put me out with Jez already."


  1. Sounds like you had 2 really productive rides!!

  2. I want lessons, too! Haha. Reading your adventures and progress has really given me the dressage-bug!

    1. I'm glad I can inspire someone! :D I think dressage is kind of Pilates & strength training for horses. It does wonders for their bodies!