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

Monday, December 26, 2011

Working Equitation

I was talking with Judy today during a barn trail ride (we all went as a group!) and she told me about this:

It is a sport called Working Equitation. It is freaking AWESOME! It's like a dressage-based eventing type of sport. It stems from the training given to Spanish war horses. The first test is a regular dressage test; the second phase is called Ease of Handling, where the horse has to go through an obstacle course similar to something out of a Western trail class, with poles, jumps, figure 8s around barrels, handling a lance (cooooool!), opening and closing a gate, going over a bridge, a reinback obstacle, etc. The horse is evaluated on the same points as in a dressage test: Rhythm, Relaxation, Regularity; Obedience and Confidence; Acceptance of and Response to  the Aids; Suppleness of the Bend and  Elasticity of the Roundness; Impulsion; Straightness; Correction and Balance. And then there is the Speed phase, where the obstacle course is repeated (except for the obstacles that require stopping, like the gate and the jug), but as fast as possible within the required gait (trot for lower levels, canter for the more advanced levels). The video above is of the speed phase.

This video has examples of the Ease of Handling phase:

I had heard of these events sometime in the past, but thought it was something exclusive to Spain and Portugal, and thought it was more along the lines of exhibit rather than an entire sport! I had no idea we have it in the US, nor that all breeds are welcome to participate. Not only that, we have Working Equitation competitions here in FL, in Dade City!

This is the official website for the sport: http://www.workingequitationusa.com/weusa_home

This would be soooo cool to try out!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Update! Lots of changes

Wow...I've been a very, very bad blogger.

Just to give a quick update: in the last month, my mom and brother came to visit for 10 days over Thanksgiving, and the footing in the large paddock at the Parkland barn became so deep that it was like slogging through snow for the horses; even on the lunge Lily struggled to work through it. The footing in the other paddock was slippery to the point where Lily refused to canter, and I did not force her. She's smart enough to not do something that may result in an injury, so I wasn't going to cause it for her. The only riding option, then, was to walk her all the way down to the equestrian center arenas. This became old very, very quickly, especially when I had to hand-lead her down. This was a 20 minute walk so that THEN I could get on. I did not want to ride her down and risk her acting up in the middle of the street again and having to dismount for safety's sake, further reinforcing negative behavior. However, after leading her down, by the time I got on at the arena, I was already tired. Add to this the fact that Lily had not been herself much since we had arrived at Parkland-she was becoming herd bound, and she continued to be very "up" when riding at the equestrian center arenas. (This was still after doubling her B1 dose and starting her on Mare Magic). Even after 45 minute workouts, she would still not relax and listen. She wasn't bad by any means, just very "up" and even more pogo-stick-ey than usual. By the time we got back to the barn, bathed her, cleaned her stall and dragged myself into the car to drive back home, I was utterly done. The end result: Lily did not get ridden much for 2 weeks, just lunged.

On another front, everyone (Elizabeth, Dianne, and Mark) left M's barn and moved back to the old barn, now under a new name. Mark called me up and begged me to come back, promising to move my stall mats with his teeth if I did. What he didn't know was that Judy, who remember, is now in charge of both the Parkland barn and our old barn, had already called me up and offered me a nice deal on board at our old barn, and I had accepted. (Judy needed my Parkland stall for another full boarder, and knew I'd be interested in returning to our old barn after everyone else had come back.) So poor Mark was going to have to move the mats after all. He didn't care, though-him, Dianne and Elizabeth were so excited, he offered to move Lily on a Saturday I was working, just to get me over there already. This resulted in him throwing out his back, but Lily and the mats did get move. His back was the cause of endless joking. Ex: good thing he tried to move the mats with his hands and not his teeth-the chiropractor was open on Saturdays, but not the dentist!

Lily settled in within 24 hours, and went back to being her usual easygoing self. Our rides have been terrific and getting better, but on Lily's personal front, she's having a hard time integrating in the new little herd. Christa has become very attached to Pink, as they are in adjoining stalls, so she is not so fond of Lily anymore. We still turn them out together sometimes at night, but there can't be any kind of hay or feed on the ground, or Christa will mercilessly chase Lily, preventing her from eating anything at all, even if the hay gets separated into different piles far apart from each other. So Lily often times gets turned out in the side paddock while Christa or Christa and Pink get turned out in the arena, with hay on either side of the fence so they can all get used to watching each other eat without attempting to steal Lily's hay. One Sunday morning we turned all 3 mares out in the arena, and I stood by the gate with Elizabeth's lunge whip. I did nothing, just said, "Go Pink!" (I knew she responds to this from the one time I raced her down the powerlines) and waved the lash of the whip in the air. All 3 mares took off galloping around the arena, Lily in the lead. It was beautiful to watch; Dianne and Mark were also at the barn that morning, and they stopped what they were doing to watch the horses running. Around and around they went for a good 5 minutes or so. Afterwards, Pink and Christa came to a stop by the gate to nibble on some leftover hay on the ground, while Lily, good girl that she is, continued to walk herself around the track surrounding the dressage arena to cool herself down. However, when she tried to join Christa and Pink by the gate, both mares pinned their ears at her. Lily spent the next hour hanging out by the back wall by herself, with a forlorn expression on her little face. Here are some pics of the event. Lily demonstrated her Thoroughbred breeding by staying in the front the entire time!

Lily leads the way in their first lap around the arena!

And she stayed in the lead after that. Pink was racing as hard as she could to catch up to the lead, but Christa and Lily, being much fitter, stayed in front effortlessly

Lily was coming out of a buck in this one, while Christa was going into a buck! Note Pink flat out trying to gain on the front runners.

For this lap, Pink figured out that if she cut through the dressage arena, she could cheat her way into second position. *lol*

Our lesson with Judy later that morning went excellent, though-Lily trotted several laps of the dressage arena with her nose almost to the ground in her closest and longest imitation of a stretchy trot yet, while I worked hard at posting energetically to keep her momentum, while maintaining everything else absolutely quiet and unchanging (leg pressure, rein pressure, my posture in the saddle). 3 days later and I'm still sore from that lesson! Lily had her teeth done that afternoon, and as it turns out, not only were her teeth so sharp that it took the technician an hour to rasp them down, she also had wolf teeth that needed to be pulled. I started her on bute that night and gave her the next day off, as she was still having problems chewing, and yesterday I longed her in the morning with just her halter, then rode her in the afternoon for an hour at the walk on a loose rein. She did not object to just having the bit in her mouth and had been eating normally, so I took it as a sign that she felt better.

We'll see how she does on our next ride!

Poor girl! She immediately tried to eat her hay after having her teeth done, so I had to lock her outside while I removed her hay from the stall. She was still dopey from the tranquilizer and there was a risk of choking if she tried to eat before waking up fully.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A week's worth of posts

It's been a crazy week. 3 people at work quit at the same time, and there's been a mad scramble to get those shifts covered. It's been rough in the real world, but at the barn everything has been falling into place.

Last Wednesday, I rode Lily out to the equestrian center, and she was an absolute BRAT. She did not want to go down the street; she would balk, back up, or pop up every time I asked her to go forward.  In the middle of the street. With cars coming both ways. And my health insurance hasn't kicked in yet. She was especially bad when we came even with the pasture with the two cows halfway down the street.

I ended up getting off and longing her in the middle of the street when no cars were coming, in an attempt to make her understand that if she made me get off, she would have to work a lot harder than me just asking her to walk forward. I then got back on. More balking, backing up, popping up. We tried this numerous times, and it did not work. I tried spinning her in circles when she acted up, then sending her forward. She figured it out on the first try, and as soon as I stopped circling her and tried to send her forward, on went the brakes again. I was hopping, furiously mad. She knew I was afraid of going splat on the pavement (I know I tense up on the street, no matter how much deep breathing I do), and she was completely taking advantage of the situation in an attempt to return to her little herd. My blood was boiling; I wanted to beat her. Of course I did not. I got off, longed her 3/4 of the way to the equestrian center (did I mention I was particularly tired that day?), moving like a planet with a satellite down the street, and then had to give up when too many cars were coming to be able to keep any kind of consistency. Once at the equestrian center, she was her usual calm self. Tired out by then, of course, but back to normal. I ended up riding her in both arenas: the white one was being used for a lesson, and after the girl disobeyed the trainer for a 2nd time and almost rammed her horse into us (the trainer asked her to stay at the other half of the arena so we could share) I gave up and we rode over to the red arena. The footing there was very deep, to the point where Lily was deliberately avoiding the rail because her feet were sinking to the pasterns in the sand. The sun was going down behind the trees at this point, casting a golden light over the enormous field next to the red arena. The grass sparkled like spun gold, making it look surreal and oddly 2-dimensional against the brilliant light. I just had to go out there into the gold. Lily was very willing to leave the quicksand, and trotted over the small rise that divides the equestrian center grounds from the field. We trotted and cantered a bit in the near end of the field, just for kicks. There is a cow pasture at the far end of the field, and Lily kept looking over that way to see if they had any plans to stampede our way and eat her, but she still paid attention to my cues, and cantered slowly when asked-no bucking, silliness, or trying to take off. 

Lily's version of cattle.
I could feel her own exhaustion now, though, and didn't push it much more than that. After that, we returned home. No major problems this time-she made a beeline for the barn, marching down the street, but I made a point of making her circle so she wouldn't be heading back in a straight line all the way. The first few times she balked, but then she understood that we were still going home despite the circling, and cooperated.

I started her on Mare Magic that same night!

She then had 3 days off due to me working, which were well-deserved because she had been worked 5 days in a row (a first) and most of the rides, though not always strenuous, had been pretty long . She got to spend her days and nights out with Rose, and yesterday Sunday I was back at the barn.

I longed Lily in the arena, and worked on some desensitizing with the dressage whip (she is deathly afraid of whips in general). She was a spaz. Looking for the other horses in the other paddock, tearing around, snorting, acting like I was going to clobber her at any second. Even though I have never done anything to hurt her. But this is her when she is in heat. She goes into this weird fear mode. I'm sure this was part of her problems with her previous owner and trainer. I let her run around on the longe in both directions, then asked her to walk. She would not. Gentle pressure on the line. Nope. Half halts on the line. This brought her to a walk, but when asked to change directions, she took off again. After about 10 minutes of letting her run around again, I asked her to halt and rubbed her entire body down with the dressage whip, both sides. She remained perfectly still, but she also wasn't paying 100% attention, still trying to look for the other mares. I extended my arm to the side away from her, and waved the whip up and down in the air so that it made whooshing sounds. This got her attention. Off Lily went again, tearing around in a circle. I asked her to stop, still waving the whip, and she changed directions. I asked her to stop again, she changed directions again. We ended up doing this little dance, her basically zig-zagging in front of me, until suddenly it clicked in her head, and she stood still, looking at me, while I whooshed the whip in the air on either side of her. She remembered that I am not here to hurt her. She received a LOT of pats, praise and kisses for that one. I then had her yield her front end and then her back end, and she responded obediently. I then had her walk forwards, back up, stop, turn, trot next to me. She had to mirror what I did without me asking. She did excellent!! The whip came in handy for tapping her when I started to jog and she tried to just walk fast behind me, but after one tap she understood that she was to pick up a trot and stay next to me when I jogged. It was a beautiful session. By the end of it, I was doing all sorts of maneuvers with Lily matching my every step, despite a big loop in the longe line!

After that, I turned her out with Rose and Lil Red while I cleaned her stall. This is the first time that the 3 of them have been out together since the last attempt when Lily first arrived, where Lily was chased away from Lil Red by Rose. This time, Rose came over to greet Lily over the fence when I brought her over to the paddock. She allowed Lily to come in, and they stood head to tail sniffing each other, with Lil Red on Rose's other side. I stood watching. And then...Rose stepped away and allowed Lily to greet Lil Red! I ran for the camera and took a slew of pictures. Lily is officially part of the herd!

It was suuuper cute to watch. Lily and Red instantly hit it off. Almost too much-they would stand head to tail, squealing and squirting. Yup, Lily confirmed that she IS in heat (I'd been assuming and hoping that this was the cause of her erratic behavior, but had seen nothing yet to prove my assumption) and apparently so is Lil Red. The first time they squealed, Rose came over, pinned her ears, and separated them, as if saying, "Knock it off, kids!" Then she walked away to another corner of the paddock and left them alone, acting very much like a chaperone. *lol*

Rose making sure Lily is still Lily

Lily has a new favorite friend

The little herd

Lily posturing for Lil Red. Yup, my mare is a hussy.

Rose the chaperone. "I see you looking at me!"

"Oh, that's why-you have a treat for me!"

"I know that camera is edible!"
She is the best herd leader. She is very motherly and caring while still being firm with the others, and is always the first to investigate anything new for the herd. Including anyone standing by the fence who just might have something in their pockets for her! *lol*

I cleaned Lily's stall while Julie gave a lesson on Miami. After that, I had the opportunity to ride Rose.

I have never ridden an Andalusian. Rose is half Andalusian, half Quarter Horse, but she looks 100% Andalusian. I have seen her trot and canter in turnout, and she naturally arches her neck and floats across the ground. It's just the way she moves, the way she's put together. Judy can't ride her due at the moment to an injured hand, and asked if I would like to exercise her for her. This is a major honor-Judy owned Rose's dam, and has been training Rose from the moment she was born. No one else has ridden her except Judy. This is a monumental privilege. So today Judy was going to show me how to handle and ride Rose.

She had me longe her first. Rose is 100% alpha, 100% of the time, and while she loves and respects humans for the most part (she can be a little pushy on the ground if you let down your guard), she will make you earn her respect. I love this mare and her personality. Judy stood to the side and gave me directions, showing me what maneuvers and cues Rose was used to, and how she is used to being worked on the longe.

I usually walk a big circle while I have the horse longe around me, just to allow them to make an even bigger circle. Rose is used to having the person stand still in the center. Judy trained her with the regular verbal cues, and I was to wave Judy's carrot stick at Rose or thump the ground with it if Rose did not pick up the next gait when asked to. Rose "challenged" me a couple of times, changing gaits when not asked to, or invading my space in the circle, in which case I was to tell her "Out!" She knew the command, but eventually decided to not listen to me when I gave it, requiring a tap with the rope end of the carrot stick on her belly to encourage her to step out to the end of the line. This worked well, and she needed no more reminders after that. She was goofy and playful on the longe, bucking a couple of times and galloping madly when asked to canter, but she had not been worked in awhile and needed to get all that energy out. Judy laughed watching her.

Once she had settled down, we brought her back to the barn, where Judy tacked her up for me and we went back to the arena. Rose seemed confused when she saw that I was the one that was going to ride her, not her mom. She stepped up to Judy for Judy to get on her. Really cute! Judy talked to her and held her while I mounted up. Rose is a big girl by my standards. Most of the horses I have owned and ridden lately have all been in the 14.3-15.2 range, and narrow. Rose has the typical wide round back of an Andalusian and is a little over 16 hands. 

She was a dream to ride. Her walk with me on her was tentative (she kept looking at Judy, as if asking "Why are you down there?", and I of course was tentative with my commands too, figuring out how much pressure she needed of legs and reins for her to respond. When asked to trot, however, she arched her neck, lifted her front end, and floated. Her trot is big and smooth at the same time; I could have sat it even easier than posted to it. "WOW!" It just escaped me, which made Judy laugh. Her canter was easy to cue, but I did not have the leg strength that Rose is used to, and ended up needing the assistance of a dressage whip to tap her lightly and get her going. She had a hard time with the canter, though, because the arena footing has gotten very deep, and she struggled in the far side, where it was deepest-we kept losing the canter because she'd struggle and I would lean forward in an attempt to help her, and then she'd come to an absolute stop, as she is very sensitive to changes in seat. Even so, what I felt of her canter was also wonderful-very rocking chair-like, her front end lifting even more when she engaged. I've never had such a ride. It was wonderful!

Afterwards, Judy and I gave Rose a "bubble bath", and she got to go out with her herd again. I left the barn to go home for lunch, then returned about an hour later to ride Lily. I rode her in the paddock by the barn, where the footing is better than in the arena depth-wise, but there are still a lot of rocks-she kept avoiding the areas with rocks and I didn't insist, of course. We did a lot of trot & walk transitions, halts and backing up, and transitions to trot from a halt. The barn is at the top of the slope, and the far corner of the paddock is at the bottom-most part of the slope. You barely see it when you're on foot, but you can definetely feel it when you're riding. Lily struggled a little in that corner initially, wanting to break down to a walk to go down and up, but after a couple of tries with me pushing her to maintain the trot, she got it. It was a relatively short workout-about 30 min-compared to the long rides we got in last week (most of them over an hour long), but it was intense work and she's not used to working on an incline like that. At the end of the workout, I had her stand and worked on her staying still while I got on and off. After last week's argument, she had just developed a new habit of backing up when I got off, and I've been meaning to seriously work on correcting her bad habit of walking off immediately after your butt touches the saddle when mounting up. After the 3rd repetition, she got it. It was nice to have a normal workout with her; Lily was back to her calm, cooperative self. I gave her a good bath after that and turned her out with Rose.

On Monday, I turned out Miami, Lil Red and Rose in the arena, and we started out repeating the previous day's workout, but with more backing up, halts and lateral work in the paddock. I tried the Buck Branaman trick of getting her to move one step to the side with a weight shift. She responded...with 5 steps in the direction I was shifting towards! I would ask her to stop, shift the opposite direction, and stop her on step #3. We repeated this until she was only doing one step in each direction. Lily was ready to go, however, and let me know by pawing impatiently after the 4th repetition of this exercise. "This is boring! Let's go!" I laughed. So we kept on working. About 20 minutes into our session, Fionna and her daughter Jennifer showed up to feed lunch. Jennifer brought in the other 3 mares, and I moved with Lily to the arena to ride for another 10 minutes. Lily slogged through the sand, and I was glad I had decided to wrap her legs with polos for extra support. We ended up mostly walking, and had officially started our cool down when Fionna came over and asked if I'd like to go with Jennifer to the equestrian center to ride. I accepted-this was the chance to take Lily out with company.

Lily was a little reluctant to leave the barn area, but I pointed her in Red's direction and she got the hint, and settled into a long walk about a horse length and a half behind Red. We walked briskly all the way down to the center, and Jenn and I warmed up in the white arena.

Jen & Lil Red lead the way
Jen is a really good rider-she's only 14, and used to barrel race on Lil Red. She has a good seat and good leg on her little mare, not like some so-called Western riders who are just sloppy. After 10 minutes or so, we split, me staying in the white arena and her moving into the red arena to do rodeo maneuvers (spinning, turning, short sprints). She then took Red into the field, where they did gallops in both directions. Lily and I got some good trot work in and some nice extended canter work, and Lily felt great-energetic, happy, not tired at all, even though by this point I had been on her for over an hour and a half including the 15 minute walk down to the center. I had been concerned she'd worry about Red's depart, but though she was keeping an eye out for where the little Quarter Horse was, she listened to me. After another 10 mintues or so, she was sweating, so I walked her out and took her over to the hose by the clubhouse to rinse her down and got back on. The water was cold enough to make Lily protest initially, but it was a hot day (83 degrees in the sun) and the chilly water did her good. By then Jen was done with her gallops and we met by the red arena to head back to the barn. Lil Red set a blazing pace at a walk, marching her way down the street a good 5 lengths in front of Lily and me. I've never seen such a small horse (she's about 14.2 hands) walk so fast! A couple of times Lily asked for permission to trot to catch up, but I didn't want her to develop the habit of chasing after buddies who are moving away from her, so I half halted her each time to keep her walking and she soon relaxed into her own long pace, with no signs of separation anxiety as the distance between us and Lil Red increased. By the time we made it back to the barn, Lil Red was still panting after her power walk but Lily was mostly cooled off, and was happy to stand loose in the shade of the barn awning next to me while Jen hosed down Lil Red.  Afterwards, I gave Lily a liniment bath.

Today I started to clip Lily's coat again-I clipped her with a #40 blade about 3 weeks ago, since it's been so hot overall, and her hair has mostly grown back. I started out with a trace clip today, with the goal of finishing the rest of her tomorrow after the farrier comes. After that, I just longed Lily for 20 minutes. She did GREAT work on the longe, and did not seem fatigued from yesterday. We did a nice warmup without side reins, w/t/c, then I snapped the side reins on and had her do trot-canter intervals, of 2 circles on the longe at each gait before changing to the next gait. By the time we reversed and changed directions, Lily had enthusiastically figured out the pattern and did the intervals herself! Such a smart girl. On a whim, I unclipped the side reins and snapped them onto a pair of D-rings higher up on her surcingle, imitating more closely the position the reins would be in while I'm riding. This was the result:

She almost looks as good as in the pic Judy took of us!

She was even stretching down in this one. This is the best she's worked on the longe so far. Note to self: clip side reins onto higher D's, not the middle ones!
After that, I took Rose out of her paddock to work with her. I longed her briefly, for about 5 minutes or so, to see how she'd respond without her mom around. She challenged me a couple of times, but nothing major, and I immediately corrected her and sent her off in the desired gait. Charles arrived when I was tacking her up, and held her for me. Rose is afraid of the crossties + cement floor combo: when she was younger, she slipped on a wet cement washrack while crosstied. So Charles came in handy for holding her for me while I got all her tack out and got her ready for the ride.

Rose was way better than the day before-much more responsive, very willing. I did not need the dressage whip at all. Charles took pics so I could see myself riding her, and of course I'm horrid-slouching and leaning forward. Ugh. Rose worked properly when I rode her in a sitting trot, where I could stretch up my body and engage my abs. Automatically her head came down and she engaged and lifted. Gorgeous! We did mostly walk and trot, and cantered a little in both directions but Rose's stride is so big that she could get from one end of the paddock to the other in 3 strides. I can't wait to ride her in the equestrian center arenas, where she has more room.
Warming up at the walk

Trotting up the paddock incline

It was a short ride (about 20 min) and by then Rose was sweating and blowing. I cooled her down with the reins on the buckle, and hosed her off well before turning her out with Lil Red and their lunch.
I love riding Rose. I hope she takes me to the next level, so that I can in turn take Lily to the next level in her training!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Full Moon

Lily is adjusting to the new changes in her life, and so am I. The day after we moved into the barn, another boarder arrived: Jennifer and her mom, with their TB mare Miami. I went with Judy to pick up Miami, and between the two of us we got the mare into Judy's trailer with natural horsemanship techniques after about 30 minutes (Judy would gently and rhythmically tap Miami's rump with a longe whip, lash held in her hand, while I placed firm pressure on the longe line. Each time Miami took a step towards the trailer, Judy would stop tapping and I would release the pressure. Eventually she figured out it was easier to get in the trailer than deal with the annoyance of the tapping and pressure).

Later that same day, Judy and I trailered Lily down to the Equestrian Center. I had originally intended to ride her down, but the morning was chilly, it was windy, and the minute I took her out of her stall to load her, she was prancing and frisky, and not paying attention-she kept trying to turn around, looking for the other mares. I took Lily to the arena (against her will) and longed her for 15 minutes, then went into a series of groundwork exercises, making her back up, yield her hind end, stop, start, and do the old lady walk. By then she was listening, and we loaded her up. I was glad for the decision to trailer; I don't know how it would have gone if I'd ridden Lily to the Equestrian Center.

At the Center, she was her usual quiet, calm self. I tacked up and ended up having an hour lesson with Judy in the red arena. Lily did GREAT! A group of people gathered to watch, and one lady even asked Judy for her information for lessons after watching her instruct me on doing leg yields down the quarter line with Lily at a walk. It was a great session for the three of us! I need to work on myself with leg yields-going to the right, we are fine, but to tshe left, I have a really hard time shifting my weight and pushing with my right leg. I've always been left-handed when riding, even though I'm right handed for everything else. Judy had me holding the reins in my left hand and raising my right hand over my head. When I did that, Lily automatically leg yielded to the left-the position made me shift my weight correctly and my little girl followed. It was fascinating.

The next day we rode down to the Equestrian Center by ourselves and Lily did great-calm and cool like she always is, despite an enormous farmer's marked being held in the field by the arenas.  She was looky, but only really skittish in the barn area. The day after that, I was exhausted, and was originally going to just longe Lily. She was so good after longing her that I wanted to just get on bareback and walk around the arena. But I lack the skills for mounting up bareback, and trying to scramble on Lily's back made her nervous, so I ended up tacking her up for the walk around the arena. After 2 laps I was bored, and then just wanted to go down the street. So I opened the gate and we walked down in the opposite direction from the Equestrian Center. Lily was an angel, looking around curiously as we went.

Urban trail ride!
Heading back, she started walking fast to get back to the barn, so I made her walk on past the barn. But then we passed a pasture with a cow and a bull, and the following had 2 horses, and she started to behave like she'd never seen these 2 pastures before, and tried to balk and back up. With some effort, I pushed her forwards, and we continued until we came to one of the big hunter/jumper barns on the street. All of the horses were turned out in the paddocks across the street, a new sight for her, and this was just too much. She balked, backed up, and refused to go forward. She just wanted to stop and stare at the horses. Then, when I tried to kick her forward, she half-reared twice. I spun her around, brought her to a stop, where she felt like she was going to explode, got off and made her walk at a fast pace next to me. By then I was exasperated with her-this kind of behavior was unlike her, and my exhaustion was giving me a short fuse. I did smack her when she tried to stop and stare again. By God, there are 3 horses back home. Get over it.
After passing this barn, we were pretty much at the Equestrian Center, so I got back on and ended up working her in the white arena for 20 minutes or so. She worked beautifully, so I cut the session short and we headed back home. I had figured she would be back to normal heading home, but was wrong. She tried pulling the same crap with the balking and backing up. I leaped off, smacked her on the neck and made her walk forward, growling menacingly every time she tried to turn her head to stare at the horses in the paddocks. If she became too eager walking next to me, I would make her stop and back up on command. By the time we were past the h/j barn, I had her attention again, and got back on. The rest of the ride home was uneventful. In the wash rack, however, she decided that she just had to break one of the cross tie eyehooks, and backed up until she made it snap, before leaping forwards. This was completely and entirely unprovoked, and something she had NEVER done before. I did not understand why she was so out of sorts. My guess was that she is coming into heat, which often makes her act ridiculous like this, and would explain her unusual interest in other horses-she has a gelding deficiency. She spent the night outside in the arena, still by herself. The plan is to put her and Miami out together eventually, but Miami had had a case of green snot, and though she seemed fine (good appetite, bright, active), Judy was keeping her separate for a couple of days to make sure she wasn't comng down with a cold before turning her out with other horses.

Today I slept in and stayed in bed most of the day. The stress from the move, the fact that it happened while recovering from a second throat infection, combined with that time of the month, daylight savings (my body still feels like it is an hour later than it is) and some financial concerns, had all just piled up on me. After serial napping, however, by the afternoon I felt like a new person, and headed out to the barn, where I tacked up Lily with her bridle and surcingle, and longed her for 20 minutes. We did intervals of trot/canter, which she seemed to enjoy. Her trot was lovely and floaty, and she was super responsive to voice commands. Afterwards, I took her for a walk down the street in the fading light to go past the cows and the two horses in the pastures. She stopped to look at the cows because they were right next to the fence. The cows stared back at her. We turned around after passing the two horses, and Lily walked next to me the rest of the way home. She did startle twice at objects only she could see. Sigh. Hopefully by next week the skittishness is over with.

We turned Lily out with Rose, and Little Red went out with Miami, who had not had any more green nasal discharge for the last 24 hours. Lily and Rose have been doing fine by themselves; there was friction only when Little Red was in the mix-Rose would chase Lily off. The second time we had all three together, Rose was better about allowing Lily to be close, but I still wasn't comfortable with the idea of turning the three out unsupervised.

Miami is on a different kind of hay, T&A, which Little Red had been eating up until recently. Judy had suggested turning them out together while Miami got switched over to the timothy we were feeding Rose and Lily. I thought this was a good idea. The girls were all fed their grain in their stalls, Miami and Little Red in adjacent stalls. As soon as they were done, they all waited anxiously to be turned out. Miami started to squeal and kick at the boards between her stall and Red's, which was a first ever for her. There must be a full moon factor in the mares' behavior. Jennifer thought Red and Miami might not get along in turnout, but they are both so easygoing that I had a feeling they'd be fine. Judy agreed, and we turned out to be  right. Once in the arena, they immediately took to each other, sharing their hay. Rose, who became anxious when she saw Little Red led away from her, calmed down as soon as we put Lily out with her. It was a beautiful night, with a clear sky, and the moon was so bright we could see our shadows on the ground while walking to the cars.

The full moon also seems to be bringing out the worst in people as well. After some deliberation, Judy decided to manage our old barn, since the owner was going to shut it down after M's eviction. This has created drama of epic proportions, resulting in the banning of Judy from M's barn as an instructor, and the beginnings of an exodus-Elisabeth, Stanley, Mark and Dianne are all planning on leaving M's new barn to return to the old barn under Judy's management. All of them would be returning due to financial reasons, but we know M will most likely not see it that way. We'll see what happens.

Paddock by the barn, all finished! That's Miami in the background, at the arena gate.

Brand new shade tree in paddock. The new barn owner rocks-he set up the paddock within 3 days, and had this tree planted today.
Lily turned out in the arena. I love that there is shade in both turnouts. 

Monday, November 7, 2011


On November 1st, 2011, my life as I knew it at the barn suddenly changed.

My barn manager, Mary, has been trying for almost a year to get a second barn to manage. She wanted our current barn to be her partial board place, and to have a second larger, fancier barn for full boarders interested in lessons and showing. There is a lovely little barn down the street with 12 stalls, 2 arenas (one of them legal dressage size with lights for riding at night), 4 paddocks for turnout on a hill (this = no flooding when it rains!) and a real round pen whose current manager, Alexandra, had been having financial issues. My barn manager had looked into leasing this place when the rumors of financial issues had started, but the current manager's lease didn't expire until January 2012. The owner of the property, however, liked Mary enough over the phone that when A decided to terminate her lease early, the owner immediately called up Mary.

Mary was thrilled with the news and of course she signed the lease to this barn at the beginning of October. A girl who was leasing one of Mary's horses, Trixxie, became very involved with the advertising and organizing of the new barn's lesson program and after school schedule for children, designing a new website and ads across the internet. She had enough connections through her job that she quickly had people signed up for lessons, aftercare and full board weeks before the new barn was to open. Mary, however, had still not warned the owners of the current barn that she was planning on managing a second barn. I knew this would not be a problem with the owners, as they are a kind laid back (and slightly eccentric) couple of older foreigners that keep to themselves for the most part but have always been willing to help anybody out. They are one of the few people on our street who are on good terms with everybody else and make a point of keeping it that way. They rarely came down to the barn, but would always say hi to us boarders when we crossed paths on the property, and even gave me advice with some serious horse problems I had when I first moved in, despite not knowing me from Adam. I knew they would  be happy and supportive of Mary if approached in a timely and diplomatic manner. Every week I asked Mary if she had given them the news yet, and began to stress when 2 weeks before the Grand Opening, she still had not informed the BOs of her plans. I could not understand the procrastination, especially with the new barn being advertised now in every popular horsey search engine under the sun.  One week before the opening of the new barn, the BOs got wind of Mary's plans. The husband congratulated Mary on the new barn offhandedly one morning, and Mary, instead of using the opportunity to sit down and give him a full update about what was going on, became defensive. She assumed that the boarder she had been having problems with had gone behind Mary's back and told the BO about Mary's plans. The BO had actually just seen one of Mary's numerous ads on the internet. The stories of what happened next are conflicting. Mary says she told the BO that she was taking over the new barn and 6 of the 12 horses at the current barn were moving over to the new place. BO says Mary just stormed into the house, announced she was leaving and taking everyone with her, and never offered further explanation. The BO assumed that none of the current boarders would be staying after November 1st. However, he still waited for Mary to sit down with him and his wife to talk. The talk never happened. On November 1st, he served Mary an eviction notice, giving her 10 hours to leave with all of her belongings, and us boarders received a new lease agreement in case we were interested in staying. Most of the boarders automatically chose to leave with Mary to the new barn out of loyalty, assuming that the one boarder with whom there had been issues would be taking over as the new manager at the current barn (that boarder, L, had been trying to undermine Mary constantly for the past year and had actually called up Mark that morning to give him the news of the change of power even before Mary knew what was going on. We still suspect she was involved somehow in the final Fall of Mary. Yeah , this is like a coupe d'etat out of the history books.) Mark and I sat down with the BO separately for long talks. Mark went in first, and came out so confused and undecided that I had to go in to talk to the BO myself. I was at the house for 2 hours, in which I learned about so many truths and lies that my head is still spinning from the sheer amount and magnitude of them (including the lack of contract between Mary and the BO, which is why he could evict her without notice). Reality as we knew it literally unravelled before my eyes. My conversation with the BO, however, changed Leanne's destiny, resulting in the denial of her lease agreement by the BO as well. By the time I left the house deciding I would stay despite Mary's leaving, Mark and Dianne had already told Mary they were leaving with her along with the other boarders. They would have stayed if they had known Leanne would be leaving too, but  it was too late for them to go back on their word to Mary.  I would be by myself and Lily would be in an empty barn if we chose to stay, and with the BO leaving on a business trip the next evening, there would be no one at the barn to feed Lily breakfast and lunch when I went back to work on Thursday. We had to move, and quick.

I called Judy. She had just taken over a tiny 4-horse barn close to the Equestrian Center about 10 minutes away, and I knew she still had 1 stall available. Her full board was more affordable than what I was paying for partial + my hay, feed and shavings. Judy was horrified over the news, as her and Mary were on good terms, and told me that of course I could move into her stall as soon as I needed to.

I spent the rest of the day helping Mary and my fellow boarders move. It was devastating. I had loved this barn, the horses and the people in it so much, and to suddenly see it stripped and lifeless was more than I could handle. At the end of the day, looking down the barn aisle at the row of open, empty stalls, I just broke down. I couldn't stop crying. Us partial boarders had been looking forward to just being us at the barn with Mary moving the brunt of her operation to the new fancy barn. We were a unique group of people, all willing to help each other out, all standing up for one another, all of us getting along with each other despite the occassional minor bickering. It was truly like a big horsey family, each of us accepted, loved, and respected equally despite our differences in profession, education, age, and race. Each of us brought something unique, different and exciting into the mix. We could talk about anything with one another for hours; if one person had a problem, everyone pulled together for that person to help him/her out, be it a horsey problem or a personal problem. We trusted one another completely and kept each other's secrets. You just don't find this every day; I had not been in a situation like this for 12 years, since I was in the riding team back at my barn in Puerto Rico in my late teens.

Ghost barn

Everyone moved to the new barn, despite the smaller stalls and the virtual current lack of walkouts, and at the end of the day, after making sure Lily was comfortable in her stall at the old barn despite being all alone, Charles and I joined them. Everyone was sad and confused. It was like the day after a hurricane, when you come out of the house to survey the damage and clean up the remainders.  It was that same sensation of uncertainty that follows a catastrophic event. Everyone was sticking together, but no one knew what they were going to do in the long run. M was keeping the current partial board rate for November for those that had moved with her, but would be raising the monthly rate by $100 in December. None of the partial boarders could afford it. Stanley, a partial boarder who followed me to Mary's barn a few months after I left my previous barn where we had boarded together, was already straining to pay the current board rate. He couldn't afford another increase. Dianne already is working 2 extra jobs to keep Pink; I know she can't afford it either. Elisabeth had moved to Mary's barn for the lower partial board rate too. She wouldn't be able to afford her lessons with Judy if the price of board went up. They were all stuck on the same boat. I don't know if Mary will eventually just keep the lower partial board rate as a long-term reward for her boarders' loyalty. She might, but everyone knows she wanted this to be her full board barn, and the fancy barn isn't really set up to be a partial board barn-there isn't enough room for each person's own individual space for the necessary extra belongings required for taking care of your own horse yourself. Each of the partial boarders individually could've filled up the small tack room meant to be shared with 11 other people. Most of them had no idea where they were going to store 3/4 of their stuff. Plus there were 3 full boarders moving in mid-November who now would have no stalls available.

I barely slept that night. Sadness, uncertainty, fear all whirled around in my head, in and out of dreams. The last time I had tried to move a horse to a new boarding facility, the barn owner took my horse. Yup. I had adopted my horse from the barn owner (and director of an equine rescue she ran through her barn) and boarded him right there. I signed an adoption agreement but it was a free adoption. The day after I gave my 30 days notice informing the barn owner that I was moving to another barn down the street with more turnout, the woman terminated my adoption. Astoundingly, there is little help available if you get a free horse. We would've had to go through small claims court, which can take years, and he was an old horse. I was worried he'd die or get adopted out to someone else before the case was resolved. Or that the barn owner would starve him deliberately so she could say it had been me and use that as the excuse for taking him away from me. This woman was notorious for being chemically inbalanced and becoming vindictive against any boarder who decided to leave, especially if they were staying on our same street. She couldn't stand the idea that anyone would want to go board with her "competition" and took it as a personal offense. I saw it each time, with 6 different boarders who left the facility. She reached new heights of madness when I gave notice. So of course I was terrified that Mary would try to somehow take Lily from me, even though we were still on good terms.

Charles and I were at the barn at 8am to strip Lily's stall before loading. Mark had his truck and trailer ready for us, and came over to help us load Lily's stall mats, hay and feed into the truck. Lily loaded uneventfully, and we were off. Mark was still helping with the barn manager's move, so he stayed behind and Charles drove the truck and trailer while I led the way in the in-laws' SUV. I finally breathed a sigh of relief when we unloaded Lily...we had made it!

We took the corner stall at the end of the row. It's a nice sturdy wooden barn, with a long overhang roof and concrete platform in front of the stalls. Fresh sand had been laid down in the stalls, which were quite large-I pretty much needed an extra stall mat now to completely cover the floor. Ceiling fans had been installed that week, and the stall doors had a half section of PVC pipe to prevent the horses from chewing the wood. The little barn is simple, strong, and beautiful, with careful attention to detail. A paddock was being built in front of the barn-the posts and gate were already up, and there was also a fair sized arena where the horses could also be turned out.

Cute barn!! That's Lily on the crossties, and her stall is the one right next to her, in the corner.

A woman who must've been a little older than Charles was at the barn with her daughter. She introduced herself as Fionna and handed me one of Judy's boarding agreements. I instantly liked her; she immediately made us feel welcome, talking horses and inviting us to place my stuff wherever we needed to to; everything could be re-arranged later. She had a lilt to her speech that made Charles and I think of Northern Europe somewhere-Charles was guessing more German or even Russian, I'm guessing Dutch. As of this writing, I still haven't had a chance to ask Fionna where she's from. I will keep you posted. This is a game of Charles and I-we love foreign accents, and when traveling will entertain ourselves at the airport trying to guess where people are from based on their accents.

We got Lily settled in her stall, and my five bazillion things organized and stowed away. I had extras of everything, which comes with the territory when you're a partial boarder and have an entire stall to spread your stuff out (we used empty stalls close to our horses' as tack rooms at the previous barn), and took the opportunity to downsize. Some stuff was thrown out, some stuff I took home to wash or store.

That afternoon I returned to the barn for a lesson on Lily with Judy. I arrived early to tack her up and throw her on the longe. This ended up being a grand idea, as Lily was already anxious in her stall when I arrived. She wanted to go out so bad with Rose and Lil Red, Judy's and Fionna's mares respectively. They are pretty much turned out 24/7, but Rose is the herd leader and has bonded very strongly with Little Red in the couple of days they have been together; Judy was expecting there to be some friction when Lily was added into the mix, as Judy had already been kicked by Rose after separating them the first time. Rose and Little Red were wandering in the area around the barn and Rose came right up to me, ears pricked, in typical boss mare fashion to investigate who I was and what I was doing at the barn. I let her investigate me and rubbed her forehead. I really like Rose. She is a large (16 hand) black Andalusian/Quarter horse cross, though she looks 100% Andalusian. Judy hand-raised her herself from the moment she was born. She is a very personable, confident, and motherly soul. I had already interacted with her when Judy had her at her previous barn when I went to take photos of her for a commissioned painting. Rose just radiates personality.

I called Judy to see if it was ok to put the girls in their stalls while I tacked up. I was getting my stuff out of the little tack room while on the phone, and laughed when Rose stuck her entire head in the tack room door to see where I had gone to and what I was doing.

Judy gave the ok to put the two mares away and I quickly tacked up Lily. Judy arrived while I was getting ready to longe Lily. She was antsy on the crossties, and pranced her way down to the arena next to me, full of herself for the first time since I'd owned her, but I had expected this. I had actually expected worse, considering the night alone at the old barn, the move into a new barn, and the little herd that she wants to belong to so much. Lily immediately proceeded to do a beautiful floaty trot, and when asked to canter, took off in a series of bucks around me, another first for her. Not dramatic, kick-the-air bucks, more like bronc-style withers-up, head-down bucks. Buck, land, buck, land, buck, land, all the way around the circle. Judy and I laughed watching her. Lily was exhuberant and happy, snorting, ears up as she did this. It was cute to watch her really play on the longe for the first time. She attempted to bolt a couple of times, too, but I reined her in with the longe line. Once she settled enough to where I could get her to walk on command, I snapped on the side reins and longed her some more. More bucks, though not in series anymore, and then she settled into a forward rolling canter, followed by a nice snappy trot. Judy commented what a nice mover Lily is; I smiled at the compliment. My little girl has talent, we just have to bring it out of her for the world to see.

By then, I felt good about the idea of getting on, so I took off all the longe equipment and mounted up. Lily actually stood still for me and waited for me to cue her to walk on. This was a first. My recent efforts in making her wait after getting on are working!

It was a fun lesson. Lily was very silly-she startled twice at the neighbors, a local small feed-delivery operation-they were moving supplies. They apologized profusely, but normally Lily wouldn't have spooked at someone wheeling a bag of shavings around-she was in a very goofy mood, and it was dusk, the time of day when horses don't see well, which was an added factor. We got her listening, however, and she worked well for me. With some distractions, yes, but she was a very good girl considering all of the sudden changes in her life and routine, and even relaxed enough to throw in a couple of circles of stretchy trot for me, which Judy had not seen yet! Judy took an awesome picture of her-very blurry due to the receding light, but you can still see how good Lily looks when she pays attention and engages.

See? I told you she has potential! :)

Lily also had the chance to be turned out overnight in the area around the barn. We left her stall open so she could venture back inside if she needed to. She was so cute-I opened the door after dropping her dinner and she immediately walked outside, still munching on her hay. Lily followed us around as we finished cleaning up, and would intermittently wander off on her own to explore. I slept well that night, even with Lily outside by herself for the first time at night. It just felt good, you know?  It was a good ending to a sudden and unexpected change. I still feel uprooted, but I feel the change was for the better. Lily is happy in her new little barn, I am boarding with someone I know and trust, and the area we are in is beautiful for riding.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Parkland Horsemen's Association Dressage Show 10/23/11

I must apologize-I've been horrible about posting this last week-our computer was suuuuper slow, and it would take me 5 minutes just to complete 1 sentence here on Blogger. I was trying to upload photos of the show at least, while we had the computer fixed, and just that made the computer crash. I think I managed to fix it in the meantime, so here goes!

The show was this past  Sunday October 23rd. Lily loaded in Judy's step-up trailer like she'd done it every day of her life (Mark's has a ramp.) The show was wonderfully uneventful. It looked like it was going to storm on show day, so we rushed to leave the barn before it rained and were the first ones to arrive at the Parkland Equestrian Center. The overcast sky was a concern, as there is no place to take cover. This series of shows is very inexpensive because there is no barn-you don't have to pay a barn fee. Thankfully, the rain held up and the skies eventually cleared close to noon, and the early arrival gave us plenty of time to settle in. Lily was very "up" when we first unloaded, but after walking her around the grounds, the arenas, and longing her in the red sand warmup arena, she had settled down enough that I felt confident about getting on without her freaking out. From the moment I got on and we started our warmup, the tension completely left both of us. It was like schooling at home. Lily did REALLY well, considering it was her first show ever, and it was my first dressage show ever. We both managed to stay very calm from that point on, even getting decent scores (though I don't agree with the placements we received, but that's a whole other story. There is definetely some favoritism going on at this series of shows, considering the placement vs skill level of some of the other riders in 2 of my 3 classes). I was happy with our scores, however: we got a 63% in Intro A, 62% in Intro B, and a 65% in Intro C!! I was particularly excited about the 65, as I had been convinced C would be our worst class.  One of the comments that was repeated over & over in our tests was "inconsistent contact", which is true. I need to get Lily's teeth done, and Judy is going to let me try one of her Myler snaffles, to see if we can get Lily to reach for the bit and STAY THERE. I probably could've done better about trying to keep that contact during the tests, but I didn't even want to risk being in her face when she was doing so well at staying relaxed, especially since she'd been so jumpy the last couple of days leading up to the show. And our circles could've been more precise, but I kept focusing on where the letters were instead of on the shape of our circles, and I overshot the centerline at the end of each of the 3 tests! Grrrr! Oh well. We had fun and enjoyed ourselves, which was the most important thing. Judy was very happy with our performance too. I loved having her there; it's nice to have somebody who believes in you to guide you, and Judy is so calm and quiet herself that it helps you stay calm too. This show was a big deal all around: this was Judy's first time taking a student to a show since she moved from Michigan to South Florida, and it was my first time taking a horse of my own to a show. I've gone to multiple shows, just never riding a horse that actually belonged to me.
Initial warmup canter in the red arena

Yeah, she's moving downhill and I look like a huntseat rider, but she was nice and relaxed in thsi one. :)

Judy the Wonder Trainer and me with Lily

Ready to go into the arena for Intro B

Warming up in the field next to the dressage arena

Going around the arena for Intro C, while waiting for the bell from the judge

This is the video Charles took of test C, our best of the three. Direct link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yv31XZkasLo

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Friday morning was even chillier than Thursday. :) Love, love, LOVE this weather!! I wore a long-sleeve thin cotton shirt under one of my microfiber workout shirts that I normally wear to the barn. Elisabeth is out of town for the weekend, and she asked me if could ride Christa Friday for her. My lesson wasn't until that evening, so I tacked up Christa and rode her down to the field.

Christa just went into heat and has been particularly sassy (trying to bite passers-by when she's in her stall), and actually bucked for Elisabeth under saddle Thursday when asked to canter (she never does this for her mom). She's been particularly sensitive to touch on her lumbar back, flanks and belly. So my plan was to just take her down to the field for some walk and trot to exercise her, but not instigate her crankiness/soreness with cantering. Plus I've never ridden her myself outside of the arena, and I wanted to see how she'd behave for me. I know she's an angel for Elisabeth.

Tacking up, she stood with a wrinkled nose, which I thought was funny. Cranky mare. As soon as I stopped what I was doing and approached her head, her nose would relax. So I would pet her and talk to her, and continue what I was doing. Wrinkled nose again. *lol*

Wrinkled nose
 I expected her to be sassy getting on, too, so I tightened the girth, placed the dressage whip in my right hand, and put weight on the stirrup. She whirled her head and swished her tail in protest, but no buck-I figured out she bucks if the saddle shifts when I put weight on the stirrup. I tapped her with the whip on her right hip, and she stopped. I only had to do this 1 more time, and she allowed me to get on. We then walked down to the field. She was a little "up" going down the driveway, and looky, but once on the street she relaxed into her usual easygoing self. I like Christa. She's a good girl, but she's got some personality.

We had a great workout. After a nice relaxed warmup, I asked her for more collection and we worked on shoulder-ins, circles, spirals, and then doing long diagonal and straight lines using the entire field at a good energetic trot while still maintaining a frame. She did excellent! She only complained once while I was asking her to extend even more, but a tap with the whip corrected that. We only worked on walk and trot, as her feet were long and I didn't want her straining anything. As if on cue, when we arrived back at the barn, Elisabeth's farrier had shown up to do another horse and Christa, so she did get a nice pedicure.

My lesson was at 6:30pm. The weather was a little warmer than that morning, but still cool (for us) in the low 70s. I returned to the barn early to set up part of the dressage arena (corners, and a couple of rails on the sides to create an illusion of an arena). I also clipped Lily's legs, face and bridle path, and tacked her up afterwards. I already had show jitters. We were going to practice our tests today.

Judy arrived and I took Lily outside to get on. She became very fidgety at the mounting block, which is highly unusual for her. July held her while I got on, and then Lily tried to walk off before I had my right foot in the stirrup. I'm not really sure what happened next. Apparently Julie quickly reached for the reins to halt Lily, and Lily panicked. She gave 3 enormous and completely unexpected bucks, slamming me to the ground. I jumped back up from the concrete-like footing (after all the rain, the sand in the arena was packed as hard as cement!!), fine but already feeling the ginormous bruise I was going to have on my right thigh. Immediately the entire barn was standing at the arena gate. One of the girls anticipated that I would need the longe line and brought it out for me before I could ask for it. I clipped it on, and proceeded to longe Lily. Calmly, quietly. She was still skittish when approached, and extra-willing to trot out. I had her canter, and then do a balanced,  controlled gallop, but she did not offer to bolt or buck anymore. We changed directions and repeated the same process. She relaxed enough where I felt better about getting on again. Mounting up was uneventful, but Lily was SUPER tense, a stark contrast to the relaxed willing mare I'd ridden the day before! Judy had us walk around the arena, working on some light bending, and then pick up a trot. Her trot was a total reversal to day 1: like riding a pogo stick. I could not get her to push forward and stretch. We tried this for a few minutes, but any leg pressure caused her to jump, a touch on the reins made her pop up her head. And then Judy told me to just stroke her neck. Lily instantly gave a big long snort and dropped her head. The tension in her body was reduced by about 50%. Wow. And duh! I know how well she responds to praise, but I was so tense myself that I wasn't thinking either. Ater that, the lesson improved. With a lot more praise, Lily almost relaxed to where she had consistently been the last few weeks. Then Judy wanted us to canter. I made a face; I didn't feel comfortable. We discussed it. Judy really felt it would help her relax more. I asked if I could do it in 2-point-it's the only way I can safely canter her when she's this jumpy. Judy said this was fine. She also said we didn't need to canter if I didn't feel confident. But after thinking about it for a minute, I felt better about the idea. So we cantered. I brought her into the gait from the walk, and asked her to canter with the verbal cue, "Up." She popped right into the canter, and we did a lovely canter around the entire arena, me in 2-point with a light contact on the reins, stroking her neck, her snorting happily with every stride. It worked: her following trot was a lot more relaxed. We then changed directions and repeated. She was just as good. Afterwards we practiced Intro A & B. Lily didn't  want to bend, but we at least finished the lesson on a good note. By then, night was falling, nad Judy and I ended up agreeing to practice Intro C Saturday morning at 9:00 am.

I was at the barn early Saturday morning to longe Lily before the lesson, and she was back to her normal self. We longed fully tacked with side reins on, and she did very well; the best I've seen her so far on the longe. Judy arrived when I was half-way through, and she was impressed with Lily's movement. After a brief warmup under saddle, we practiced the dreaded C test: I was afraid Lily was going to take off when asked to canter on the circle. She surprised me by keeping her cool, picking up the correct lead and relaxing into the circle within 2 strides. I felt much better about our test. As it turns out, you CAN show in Open and Novice in the same level, in the same show.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cold front!

So with my strep throat I was in bed for 3 days straight, woke up on Monday to go to work and it started to rain, then on Tuesday I woke up coughing up a lung (still raining), which resolved by Wednesday when a lull in the (continued) rain finally allowed me to exercise my mare. Yup, Lily had a whole 6 days off. Probably a good thing-she had been working hard.

Wednesday I woke up feeling giddy with excitement at the thought of riding again but when I opened the curtains at 7:00 am, it was raining buckets, with thunder, lightning and gusts of wind not unlike those of a tropical storm. I puttered around the house until 10:30 am, when the rain finally stopped and the wind died down a bit.

This is what it looked like outside. Lovely weather, right? *sarcasm* At least it was not hot-around 76 degrees.
It was dreary at the barn-dark and quiet, no one else there, but still not raining, so I kind of threw Lily's bridle, surcingle, boots, and rope halter on her and dragged her out to the arena. Actually, not really "dragged"-she was perky and alert coming out of the barn, walking animatedly beside me. The poor baby was still chewing on a stray piece of hay leftover from her breakfast, but seemed as eager to go out and work as I was.

We started with a short walk on the longe to warm up, no side reins, but Lily was feeling frisky, so I let her begin trotting. Today's session was simply with the purpose of letting her get all excess energy out of her system, if we didn't get to achieve anything else with the weather. I had to smile when she started head-tossing and doing a snappy extended trot that almost had suspension to it. Of course I didn't have my camera on me to capture it-I had left it inside the barn for fear it would get wet if it suddenly decided to rain. Lily picked up a canter, and I allowed her. We then switched directions. I asked for a trot. She trotted for one circle then moved up into a canter. It started to drizzle. Lily cantered faster. All of a sudden, she bucked and took off in a mad gallop away from me, making a beeline in the general direction of the gate. She caught me so by surprise that the longe line escaped from my hands. This was not a problem, as she did come to a stop at the fence between the two gates, and allowed me to catch her. Right at this moment, it started to rain hard. So we had to run back inside. I stopped by the truck to grab my raincoat, then promptly put Lily up in the cross ties to wait out the rain. The minute I had snapped her in, the rain slowed to a sporadic drizzle. I brought her back outside, raincoat on. Back in the arena, I had her walk again, but she was still frisky, so I allowed her to trot and canter. She crowhopped once when asking her for a change of direction, and was acting weird and nervous like when she first arrived at the barn, but I attributed it to the horrible weather, the cooler temperature, and my sense of urgency. We moved across the arena in 30 meter circles, and in the far corner, she decided to take off in another gallop, but this time maintaining the circle around me. I slowed her down, and it started to rain harder. I figured out that Miss Priss doesn't like to get wet! *lol* She kept bolting to run away from the rain! I made her walk under the pelting rain before walking in, just so she'd learn to keep her cool despite a little water, then brought her back into the barn. This time I had actually taken all of her equipment off, when it stopped raining entirely and the ominous darkness of the sky lifted-it wasn't going to rain again for awhile. So again I put all her equipment back on (I have a very tolerant mare; she didn't even make a face at the idea of working again! Dianne had showed up at this point to take care of Pink and she laughed at us-"You're attempting it again?!") and brought her out to the arena a 3rd time. This time I snapped on the side reins, and we started over, walk/trot/canter/trot/walk in both directions. By this time she had settled down entirely and we ended up having a productive session after all.

Warmup walk with side reins. This was our third attempt at a workout session, after she'd settled down.

Yeah, her head. But she was stepping up under herself nicely.

Cool down free walk, sans side reins. I love that she actually will do this too under saddle now.

We worked for maybe 15 minutes in both directions, then I cooled her down, hosed her off, and put her on the cross ties with her ice boots on her hind legs. Reason? I lock her in her stall when it is this rainy, because she'll go out in the walkout and destroy the footing-it gets very deep if the horses are allowed outside when it rains. Her stall is large-14'x14'. But she does stock up a little when cooped up in the stall with no walkout and no turnout, especially after having been exercised. I've found that if I ice her legs after a workout when she's locked in the stall, the fluid buildup in her legs the next morning will be negligible.

It rained and stormed the rest of the day, but that night it cleared up, and a wonderful, beautiful cold front came in! I woke up at 6:00 am Thursday morning just to open the sliding door of the living room and feel the wonderful outdoor cold. It was 62 degrees. In South Florida, cold weather = beautiful weather. I was supposed to work today but had been called the day before requesting me to stay home because there were no patients in hospital. My paycheck is going to majorly suck, between the 2 days I took off due to the strep throat (we get no sick time) and this, but at least I got to ride in this beautiful weather.

The sky this morning. Gorgeous, huh? :)

Lily's legs were minorly stocked up this morning, as expected. I removed the stall chain from the walkout so I wouldn't forget later, and tacked her up. I changed out my awesome Parelli-type rope reins for the more traditional web reins that originally came with my bridle that are still brand new. I have to get used to the feel of them again for the show Sunday.

I longed her for about 10 minutes total, first without side reins to warmup, and then with. Just walk/trot/canter. No signs of the previous day's spazzing out; just relaxed and loose. And for the first time ever, she was holding herself in a frame at the trot with the side reins clipped on, tracking up and her head vertical instead of above the bit. Now I just need her to do this with me on her! :)


Then I got on. We did a long walk warmup for about 15 minutes (I used to be really good about looking at my watch before a ride, but lately I just get lost in the flow of it), first on the buckle, then a collected walk, then some shoulder-ins, haunches-ins and small leg yields. As soon as I asked her to trot, she asked to stretch down! This was a first. The rest of the session was like this-Lily continued to be relaxed, reaching for the bit constantly and holding it for a couple of strides. We had a nice canter to the left, but to the right, she threw her head up, took off at a gallop down the long side of the arena, swapped leads midway, and then I slowed her down carefully before we came to the corner. This happened twice. We did some more trot work to get her relaxed again, then I asked her for the canter again and rose into two-point. Nice, relaxed easy canter. This confirmed that it was me, not something bothering her. I am horrible with the right canter cue and tend to ask for it too strongly from years of riding OTTBs-I was cueing for the lead with my seat, then driving her forward, hence the head in the air and the ensueing gallop.

We trotted a little more to end on a good relaxed note, then I hosed down her neck, legs and hindquarters to take advantage of the cool breeze, and got back on to stroll down to the field. We did a couple of circles at the front end of the field, and returned home, where I gave her a good bath. Every time it rains she starts to get rainrot on the fronts of her hind cannon bones, even if I keep her indoors. So I scrubbed her down with Eqyss Microtek shampoo, left it on for 10 minutes, rinsed, and poured my vet's leave-in antifungal medication over her legs. This usually takes care of it within 24 hours. When I first bought her, she developed the nastiest fungal infection I had seen in a long time-it looked like she had mange. The skin over her hindquarters, gaskins, and around the entire hind cannon bones was crusty and painful. She lost all her hair over these areas. A round of antibiotics and the wonder antifungal medication took care of it within a week. I wish I had "before" pictures.

Her coat has pretty much grown back in 2 weeks! Arrgh! Oh well. I'm not body-clipping again before the show; my body-clipping skills are less than stellar at this moment, and I like her coat at its current state-it's just slightly long, and has turned into a deep dark chocolate brown. We'll do some face & leg trimming today or tomorrow, and that will be that.

This photo was taken last week. She's already fuzzier than that! But you can see how her coat has darkened, and the area under her flank looks redder.
After the barn, I ran over to the tack shop to pick up a pair of black gloves, another detail I need for the show. I laughed when I opened the door and the store owner (and show manager) was standing there
waving my show times with a big smile on her face. They were supposed to have been e-mailed the day before, and I had e-mailed her Wednesday night kind of frantic, automatically assuming that there had been a problem with my registration. (Yes, I'm a worrywart). As it turns out, entries had been delayed, so posting of the times had also been delayed. My turn in Intro A Open is at 9:16 am, Intro B Open is at 9:48 am (I go second in both) and Intro C Novice is at 10:36 am. I go first in C, and it's only me and a guy riding a horse named Hansel (Warmblood much?) The one thing here is that I thought I had requested Intro C Open, and apparently there is no such thing; it's not even listed as a class on the show times sheet...so now I have to find out what happens with Intro C, as I thought I couldn't go in a Novice class if I was showing in Open.  If I have to scratch  C I honestly don't mind, because I don't think we are quite ready for that class yet, and it's only $15 down the drain (a much needed $15 right now, but still)...I had been counting on having that extra week I lost due to being sick & rain to practice our canter departs. We'll see what can be done the next 2 days. I have a lesson tonight with Judy, so I will find out. Ahh the ins & outs of showing...Jumpers was so easy! You just show up, have a clear round without time faults, and that's it. *lol*