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

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

More Epicness: Adventures With Liz & Co, Part II - Lateral Work

*EDIT - see note in bold after trail ride with Liz and Mike

Charles had to work Thursday night; he gets out of work between 7:00 and 7:30 am. We had decided we would all wake up when Charles got home.

I woke up to faint stirrings in our bedroom: Charles trying to be quiet. I was up, and it turned out that so were Liz and Mike (we had set them up on the futon in the living room. Last time Liz visited we had given her and Kenai the bedroom, and alternated our two cats and Kenai between the bedroom and the living room, but they were SO freaked out about Kenai's scent. Kenai is wonderful with cats but both our cats were terrified. I had decided that this time around Charles and I would just keep the kitties in the bedroom and sleep there so they would have familiar faces with them at night. This worked beautifully: they were relaxed, happy, ate well and used their litter box with their usual regularity.)

We made a breakfast of scrambled eggs and turkey bacon for Liz and Mike. Charles then hit the sack while Liz, Mike and myself piled into my car to go exploring. 

Liz wanted to check out a consignment tack shop for riding equipment for Mike. I took them to The Grey Pony. I hadn't been there yet and had heard they have one of the best and largest consignment riding gear selections in our area. It was true. We looked around in the store for about an hour while Mike tried on a selection of breeches and tights. He didn't find anything but he figured out what size and fit he'd need if he did go the breeches/tights route. Dr. R, my previous vet, happened to be shopping at the store and we stopped to talk and catch up. I wish they hadn't raised their prices but that's not her call - it's her hospital owner that makes the big decisions.

We were all hungry after that and Liz had an Ethiopian food craving. She had found a place called Sheba that actually is not that far from where we live, so we went there for lunch. 

Neither Mike nor I had ever tried Ethiopian, so it was a good thing that Liz knew how it all worked, as silverware is not an option. Food is served on this amazing beautiful yeasty bread that looked almost like a thick, spongy cloth. You get rolls of that bread served on the side as well. You break off pieces of the bread, grab the food with it, and eat it.

My food. Salad, beef stew, and lentils, served on that beautiful bread.
I had ordered the beef stew and had a complete brain fart about there not being silverware...oh well. That's what the bread was for! The beef was surprisingly spicy but very good. All the food was amazing.

We had a great time! That bread expands something incredible: only Mike was able to finish his food. My original plan was to order something for Charles to take home but there were enough leftovers from Liz and me to make another meal, so we took doggie bags home instead.

We returned to the apartment where the 3 of us had coffee and got our riding duds. The forecast had called for a bright, sunny warm day, and instead it had been chilly (40's) and overcast all day long. Charles was still sleeping. I let him know we had brought food for him, which he acknowledged briefly before going back to sleep.

The minute we started driving towards the barn, it started to rain! There had been NO rain on the forecast! Psycho spring weather...

Upon arriving at the barn, however, Liz realized that she had left the keys to the trailer at the apartment...which is 30 minutes away. I said we could of course return to the apartment to get the keys, as it would allow more time for the rain to stop anyway, but then I looked at Mike. Personality wise, Charles and Mike are as alike as Liz and I are. Lightbulb moment:

I asked Mike: "Can you pick the lock?"
Mike said, "Yeah, probably, if you have a pair of needlenose pliers and a paper clip or tiny screwdriver."

Grinning, I produced a pair of needlenose pliers and a variety of Allen wrenches. Within 5 minutes, Mike had unlocked the door.

Charles can pick most simple locks. It's a side skill he learned while in the Boy Scouts. I was not at all surprised that Mike shared this skill!

We put on our rain coats and got the mares ready. Lily and Q met for the first time, a moment that Liz and I had been anticipating for months!

Lily: "Can I be your fwend?"
Q: "Go away! I'm eating."
Lily: "I will be your fwend for eva and eva and eva..."
Q: "I don't care! Go away!"
I had to laugh over the fact that Lily, who is normally very sensitive to horses giving her the stinkeye/threatening body language, didn't give a hoot about Q's demeanor (Q was actually a good girl - she only pinned her ears and wrinkled her nose at Lily; didn't even bare her teeth at her) and even tried to steal Q's food. At that point I took Lily away before she thoroughly pissed off Q...silly mares.

Gotta give it to Lily though - she has become so self-confident over the last few months! Even in her social interactions with other horses.  

By the time we were finished tacking up, the drizzle had stopped. We hopped on the mares and warmed them up. 


Check out that heel first landing!
Q was looky over the peacocks in their coop (the coop is located adjacent to the far corner of the arena), especially given the fact that one of the males was shaking his tail feathers at the females (even Lily spooked at that sound), and the minis in their pen. This made for a very distracted Q-Mare. 

Liz got her working at a walk and a trot, and I did w/t/c with Lily.

Thanks to our dressage school the day before, Lily was extra specially bendy, light and stretchy. She even gave me a canter shoulder-in in both directions, which we had not done in a while. 

Liz has been wanting to start lateral work with Q so we tried to get them going with me demonstrating the cues on Lily. Q, however, was still quite distracted. She'd maybe get the shoulder in for a stride or two, which was hard for Liz to recognize as she has not really done this movement before. 

Taking a break with Mike
We ended up trading horses. This way Liz could play around with Lily, the cues, and the movements themselves, and I could try to figure out Q's buttons. 

Q didn't quite understand my cues. I tried using a light tap with Liz's dressage whip behind my cueing leg as a gentle encouragement to move her body away from my leg in a sidepass (some horses are better doing a sidepass first before all of the other lateral movements and Q used to be able to sidepass with the cowboy that owned her prior), but she responded instead by stepping forwards more quickly. After 2 attempts I ditched that effort; I didn't want to frustrate the little mare. Instead I tried to play to her strengths: getting her to counterbend on purpose since she was kind of doing it already by trying to look at the minnies; I basically just added the bend through the shoulder and she nailed it without a problem. I'd then try to alternate with a shoulder-fore. When Q was paying attention, we were able to do very small baby shoulder-ins/shoulder fores going into and out of the corners of the arena, which is a start. Liz had mentioned Q's bracing against contact, and I experienced this firsthand. Our plan had been to experiment with different bits to see if we could figure out what kind of mouthpiece Q likes (I have one of every snaffle known to man, plus a collection of low-port pelhams with shanks of varying length from when I first discovered Lily preferred ported bits, and a couple of other bits inbetween...) but we completely forgot to do this!

In the meantime, Liz was having a ball getting Lily to move in every direction! :D

Explaining cues while Q gives a suggestion of a shoulder-fore
Liz demonstrates a leg yield on Lily.
Can you tell she was excited? ;)

So my impression of Q, which is what I told Liz, is that she needs to develop more flexibility laterally on the ground before she can actually perform the movements with Liz on her back. I got off and demonstrated how to do a shoulder-in in hand, which Q was able to do for a couple of strides at a time. Like most horses, she is better in one direction than the other. I then showed Liz what I did with Lily, who now knows to move laterally in hand from me turning her head to the inside and simply starting to move sideways crossing my legs. I figured Liz can develop her own set of cues with which to achieve the same results with Q, since the little mare is so tuned into Liz's body language.

Q demonstrates lateral movement and proceeds to hold it forever.
Lily hangs out with Mike while we do in-hand work with Q.
Mike is like the pied piper of horses. :)
By then, the sun had come out for good and the arena was starting to get crowded as boarders came out to enjoy the nicer weather on their horses.

Liz and I had originally planned on doing a trail ride after the dressagey stuff, so we decided to stick with that original plan after all. 

I had asked for permission for Liz to ride McTavish the Haflinger again so Mike could ride Q. Our BO, however, has a new QH mare that is supposed to be bombproof on the trails and had not truly been tested yet and asked if we could take her instead. The mare had been out for a very short trail ride to the back woods once in early winter, and had done okay. A little looky but no major spooks/problems. One of her bigger issues is head-tossing/shaking in response to bit contact. She had a full dental done a couple of months ago in which her wolf teeth were removed and she was thoroughly floated by Dr. L. Other than the wolf teeth and lots of sharp points, her mouth was fine. Our BO hired an exercise rider to work with the mare in the arena and she had been doing beautifully during the last two most recent rides I had witnessed: the head tossing had been greatly reduced. I warned Liz about the potential issues with this mare and about what we didn't know about her, and we decided to take her along for the ride. Liz rode her in Mike's stock saddle for extra security.

The QH mare
Going out, the mare proved to be a confident horse that had no problems leaving the barn nor being in front of/behind other horses. We alternately walked and trotted with no issue. She is very green but seemed to have a good head on her shoulders.
Like I said: no problems whatsoever! :)

Mike following us on Q
The QH mare taking the lead.
She was doing so well, in fact, that after checking with Liz, we decided to go on to Four Corners to give Liz a preview of our course for the ride I had planned for Sunday.

We rode up to Four Corners where Mike dismounted to stretch his legs - one of his knees was very sore from skiing (he works full time as a ski patroller). The mare and Lily were a little impatient with having to wait, but settled down just fine.

Until it was time to head back home. 

The QH mare started out very forward but initially responded to Liz's cues to chill and slow down. 

Still enjoying ourselves on the way back home
However, the closer we got to home, the worse she became. The head tossing/shaking became more and more frequent and insistent to the point where Liz was becoming extremely aggravated. I wished I'd put Lily's running martingale on - I could have just put her breastplate on the mare and maybe curbed the behavior somewhat. All of this was definitely greenie behavior and can most likely be curbed with lots more mileage on the trails, but the head flinging was getting so insistent at this point that Liz was afraid the mare's head would make contact with her nose.

As we were re-entering the back woods however, the mare's behavior had escalated monumentally and she started calling. At that point Liz dismounted. She did not want to wait and see if the mare's behavior would escalate even more. 

Mike's knee had become progressively more sore by this point; he dismounted from Q, offering the little mare to Liz in exchange for walking the QH mare home. He insisted that he would be better walking than riding. Liz acquiesced and mounted up. 

Mike has a calming effect on all horses. The mare settled down somewhat with no rider on her back. Any time she became too forwards and tried to get ahead of Mike, he would patiently have her circle around him at a walk until she settled down again. 

Liz and I alternately trotted on ahead and back to check on Mike and the mare. When we arrived at the fork in the backwoods trail between the "new" loop that Phoebe and I cleared this summer and the loop that leads straight out of the forest, we split: Mike continued on the shorter straight loop home at a walk and Liz and I cantered off onto the "new" loop, jumping all of the fallen trees in the path.

Lily had always wanted to do this but I always held her back because I didn't want to go off jumping all the things while riding alone. Lily jumped confidently and enthusiastically, cracking her back over every log and fallen tree, reminding me why back in the very, very beginning I had entertained the idea of turning her into an eventer: I have ridden only one other horse with a bascule like hers. When she's confident about jumping, she's a beautiful jumper.

We came upon the Hill of Doom and I explained to Liz how the trail switchbacks sharply on its way up this steepest hill in the woods. I pointed Lily at the hill and she bounded into a gallop up the trail, Q following behind in our steps.

We followed the trail away from home to catch up with Mike and the mare again, and we all walked home the rest of the way as a group.

Once back at the barn, we got all of the horses settled into their respective fields or stalls with their dinners and headed back to the apartment to fetch Charles so we could go into downtown to run some errands.

EDIT: BO WAS IMMEDIATELY INFORMED OF THE ISSUES WE ENCOUNTERED WITH THE QH MARE. Both Liz and I recommended a lot more mileage on the trail with the exercise rider BO hired, and possibly the use of a running martingale to curb the head-tossing behavior, before BO ventures to take this mare out on the trail herself. 

Liz and Mike wanted to stop at REI so that's where we headed first. It's one of my favorite stores and I don't need an excuse to go! Liz got a pair of shorts for Mike and we then raided the snacks section...I may have bought too many snacks, but we were STARVING by then and I was stocking up for the next couple of weeks. There were several performance bars I wanted to try out and the selection and prices at REI for these are better than at our local grocery store.

We then went to the Asian market to buy critters. What critters?

THESE critters!

I had taken Liz to the Asian market back when she first visited us in October and she remembered seeing the lobsters at close to Maine prices, aka really, really cheap. We went straight to the lobster section on this visit and discovered that the price had gone up to $9.99/lb. Still very affordable though. Liz had Mike select the lobsters while we looked at all the things in the fish section of the market.

Mike came back beaming with a bag full of critters: he'd managed to talk the clerk down to $8.99/lb for the lobsters!

We ended up staying in the store for another 15-20 minutes because Mike was so excited over the store. It's a fascinating place. Liz was the same way the first time I took her there:

Liz on her first visit to the Asian market, with her green tea ice cream. :) She was like a little kid in candy store!
She got another tub of it on this visit.
I had to laugh because Mike's expression was exactly like Liz's when she first went to this market. He ended up snagging a bunch of bags of odd jerky (eel jerky and veggie jerky, in case you're wondering), while Charles and I couldn't resist getting some Goya guanabana (aka soursop) juice. They have an awesome selection of Hispanic food at this place, too!

Liz and Mike modeling Mike's jerky selection
We basically filled a whole basket to the brim between the four of us. You can't beat the prices at this place.

We then made one more stop at a nearby liquor store to stock up on beer for the next day's adventure (to follow in the next post!) and headed home to start dinner.

Dinner preparation was conceded to Mike - he has worked before as a cook and was the most confident about how to cook the lobsters. It was a hilarious event all around.

Charles and Mike were having issues figuring out the digital oven. I had to explain.
Liz took a photo of the men arguing about why she was taking a photo of their confusion...lol
Beautiful lobsters
Dinner was AMAZING
Dinner really was amazing. Mike had boiled the lobsters to perfection, the butter/garlic/adobo/lemon sauce he made to go with them was perfect, and the broiled asparagus was also perfect. It was a wonderful dinner. Thank you Mike!!!

Afterwards, we played Cards Against Humanity. It was the first time Charles and I had played the game and now we want one of our own! 4 inappropriate senses of humor = some epic laughter. Kenai and Liz tied for the win.

Next up: our beach ride!!


  1. what a wonderful weekend! So glad you all had fun!!!

    1. It was the best! I need to change the banner photo now... :D

  2. Ah, you fill in all the gaps I leave out. Together we tell the whole story lol

  3. Ethiopian, while not my favorite is pretty damn good!

  4. I'm so enjoying following your antics...wish you girls lived closer to me!

    1. I knooow! I wish you lived closer to us too! We'd all have such a blast!