Rocking E Cowgirl Summer Blog Hop Series – 10 Questions

I’m a bit behind on this blog hop, but I really want to post something quick since I’ve been so busy. I’m hoping to resume regular posts this week. These questions are courtesy of Allie at Rocking E Cowgirl.

Majestic moose.

1. What is your earliest, clearest horse memory? 
I have a picture from my childhood, I’m maybe 4, and I’m riding a white pony in Bangkok. I think I only remember this because there’s a picture of it. My first clear horse memory that I can currently recall is riding down the Grand Canyon. I was on a nondescript red horse but my dad was in front of me on a black Mike named Elvis that farted the whole ride.

2. Describe the perfect summer day. 

Would be spending the day on the beach in Tel Aviv with my family. But if I go horse centric it would be spending a beautifully warm day with my first horse, a Morgan mare named Hershey. We’d ride out into the middle of nowhere, then nap in the shade, and return home at sunset. Heck the perfect summer day would be any day I could spend 5 more minutes with that horse.

3. Are you reading anything right now? Tell me about it! 

I’m reading a study guide for Security+. Riveting stuff. 

4. Do you follow a celebrity (horsey or non) that you’re embarrassed to say fascinates you?

Hmmm. I’m not embarrassed by the celebrities I follow. I only follow Kat Von D, Taylor Swift, and Gal Gadot. I have a few friends that are ‘famous’ in the entertainment industry (don’t get excited, it’s mostly animation) and that’s sometimes awkward to follow because they switch between personal and fandom posts. 

5.What is your single most biggest horsey dream or goal?

Grand Prix is a goal if I’m talented enough and have the money. If I’m dreaming big I’d love to ride in the Olympics for Israel (because even in my dreams I know I’m not good enough to make the USA team lol).

6. If you were at Starbucks right now, what would you order? 

No Starbucks, thanks. 

7. What is your biggest equine pet peeve? 

“Equestrians” who choose to remain ignorant about horse husbandry. Learn to groom. Learn to feed. Learn to tack up. Learn to ice a leg. Learn every chance you get so you’re not just standing there useless when you need something done with a horse. If I pass you a lead rope, please don’t hold it like its a snake!

8.With everything going on politically and in the media, tell me, do you follow it religiously? Tune it out? Or something in between? 

I don’t know how anyone can ignore it. I have friends, relatives, and acquaintances on all political spectrums. It’s very frustrating but also a great learning opportunity for keeping up on what ‘the other side’ is thinking in an effort to understand each other.

9. If you had to show your horse to a song, what would you choose? 

This one is tough. If it was Ben I’d play Can’t Stop the Feeling by J.T. because Ben really seems to get into the groove of that song when I ride. But for Aria…I couldn’t even say. Maybe something by Enrique Iglesias?

10. What are you most looking forward to this summer? 

Riding Aria all the time, riding with blogger friends, and seeing my Canadian friends!

Catalina – 3 Months

On June 11th Catalina turned 3 months old. In celebration of that today’s post is going to be a photo dump!

Wearing her bedding and food for her 3 month birthday.

The ugly duckling stage is strong.

A little visual of how tall she is. I’m 5’3″ and not slouching in this pic.

Still super rambunctious.

Oh. HAI.

Pouting in baby jail.

Almost shed out of her baby coat.

But she’s still hanging on to some of that orange-y brown.

Derpiest mare stare ever.

A huge change since her first day.

She’ll never be this adorable and innocent ever again.

Lesson post coming next! 😀

Holly Oaks Arena

My last two posts have included picture of the first time I rode Aria when she got back home. However my current riding area is rock hard and not level thanks to El Nino so I’ve been looking for alternate places to ride 4-5 days a week. On my way home Wednesday I stopped by the Holly Oaks Arena that’s about 1.5 miles from my house. It’s been there for years but I never see anyone use it. Naturally I assumed it was because the footing sucked.

Anyone else think the caution sign was an afterthought? lol

Turns out, the footing is actually great. I hadn’t stopped by the place before so I thought it belonged to the housing division that was built behind it but it was actually built by the Ramona Trails Association Volunteers. They keep it maintained regularly too. That’s awesome for me because I had been calling around getting daily and monthly trailer in rates at all the local barns but this little gem is right down the street and free!

It’s huge, which is no surprise. It looks like it was built for running barrels. I think barrels and gymkhana are the most popular activities around here. Well, actually I think people like to trail ride more than anything. The arena is stocked with barrels and cones for running patterns. There’s a bunch of hitching posts littered around the space, a shaded picnic table at one end, ample parking, and a 60’ round pen as well.

A couple of people were riding when I pulled up and I asked them if they would mind if I joined them. They didn’t so I headed home and grabbed Aria. She decided she didn’t want to get into the trailer. With some persistence I did get her in, though she did smash me against the wall once when I tried to clip her in. This is new behavior for her. I used to lead her into the trailer with no issue and now she acts like it’s a scary thing. It’s possible that the quick self-load session we did has made her nervous. It’s something I will have to work on because I like knowing my horse will go in reliably and at the moment getting in the trailer is the only way she’s going to get ridden.

When I pulled up to the public arena the two people that had been riding were preparing to leave. I don’t like riding alone but the arena is well situated. It’s by a road that is highly trafficked during rush hour. It’s also next to several homes that look over the arena. All the hustle and bustle is great for safety and for desensitizing Aria to a lot of different things. I tacked her up and she led into the arena with no fuss, however when the other people left and she started calling for her new long lost friends that she didn’t even know. Haha.

I missed some shavings hiding in her mane!

I started lunging her and other than calling for her “friends” she was well mannered and responded well. She wasn’t stiff so I didn’t ask her to walk for very long. I had her trot for a long time because she was mimicking a giraffe quite well. I had just gotten her working nice a low when a jogger ran by. She bolted, tail flagged, snorting and I just laughed. I’m an awful ‘mom’. I did eventually get out a whistle, her cue that she’s okay and should settle, and she calmed down into a trot for a moment before she saw the jogger again and took off. The second time she settled much better and I didn’t laugh so much.

Once the terrifying jogger was gone—can’t blame her really. Who runs for fun in all that spandex?—I asked her to canter. She moved out willingly and gave a few bucks and jumps but it didn’t take long for her to remember her motto is: lazy. Once we got to that mindset I knew she was good to ride. Our first challenge was the mounting block. It was outside of the arena and the arena gate is on a tension system that automatically closes the gate. I got on her and sidled up to the gate, touching it and moving it a bit. She wasn’t too worried about it but it’s a small space with a trashcan (yes, we did back into it. Twice) on one side and the mounting block on the other. I opted for using my ‘whip’ (it’s a piece of PEX pipe with some electrical tape on each end) to open the gate. It sort of worked and we made it through. Maybe I’ll bring some baling twine next time to hold it open.

Teal is totally this princess’ color.

I only asked her to walk around the part of the arena we lunged in. Once she seemed good there I put her on the rail and intended to do a whole lap before starting. Intended is the key word because half way down the arena we encountered a horse eating barrel. All that backup work that P has been doing with Aria paid off because she motored backwards and it took me a few moments to sit back and push her forward. I made her pass the barrel and leg yield towards it before I rewarded her by turning her back towards the area she was more comfortable in.

We did some busy work to get her mind focus on me and not the scary things in and around the arena. Leg yields, reversing, and turn on the forehand (those are now suddenly gone). When she gave me a good forward moving leg yield I gave her a quick break before picking up a trot. Her trot work was nice. She was rushing and being a total noodle at the start but we eventually worked it out and she was moving forward in a nice working frame by the end. I felt that was a good place to stop because we had already been working over an hour according to my watch.

More rogue shavings to ruin my majestical stoic photo.

A couple of cool down laps around the arena, suddenly the barrels weren’t scary anymore, and I hopped off. For her first time out in a new area she had done really well. I praised her a lot during the cool down and she ate it up. I untacked her and then we wandered around the property to get the pictures I’ve included in this post. Then I had to get her in the trailer. It didn’t go that well but she did get in twice for me. Though I had serious doubts about the second time. Haha. Just means we have some work to do! It was a great first outing. I couldn’t have asked for better.

Aria’s Homecoming Part II

After P was done with her exhibition ride we called R to let him know we were ready to work on obstacles. He took his sweet time so we sat around and chatted with P for a while until he came out. It was actually a good thing because Aria was given a nice long time to cool down from her ride. When he did come out I grabbed Aria and his instruction started immediately because I wasn’t using my lead line correctly. R can be really intense and it’s not everyone’s flavor but I really love his style of teaching. I probably should have warned Alex ahead of time but I didn’t realize R was going to wrangle her into the training session. Haha. Sorry, Alex!

Working on longer and lower. She’s quite good at it but my ability to keep consistent contact on the line prevents her from staying low.

Once I had my lead line on properly we headed back to the obstacles but of course when Aria started to walk ahead of me I didn’t correct her appropriately so R stopped us and he demonstrated how to properly do it. He explained that intent is important when working with a horse. When he asked Aria to back up he waved the lead line in her face but the important thing to remember when doing this is that you aren’t trying to hit the horse in the face. Your mind set should be that you’re shooing flies away, because you don’t actually want to hit the horse but if you do happen to hit them, they’ll understand it wasn’t on “purpose” because you weren’t focused on them.

He also reiterated that my relationship with Aria should always be as an advisor to her, star of the show. I cannot force Aria to do anything (let’s be real, she’s 1100lbs, baby doesn’t do anything she doesn’t want to) but I can make suggestions that are in her best interest which in turn are in my best interest. If she abuses that relationship I won’t want to ‘work’ with her any longer and if I abuse that relationship she’ll ‘fire’ me. Despite all the analogy it really is all about building trust.

I need to get a good picture of all the fat on her crest. I think P went easier on her than R and she’s gotten a little squishy in areas. lol

Finally after about 20 minutes (no joke) we made it to the obstacles we had worked on the previous training session. We discussed what I was going to do and how I was going to do it and then he demoed the poles once more for me. Not because I didn’t know what to do but I wasn’t 100% that I was going to do it exactly his way. Spoiler alert: I still messed up when it was my turn.

One thing I really like about R is that he never minds when someone makes a mistake. He’s intense and he’s a taskmaster but he feels mistakes are part of learning and in some cases the only way to learn. Just like training horses, he doesn’t reprimand you and is quick to praise when you’re right. He also doesn’t mind if he asks a question and you answer with ‘I don’t know’ or with a different answer than what he wants. He doesn’t expect everyone’s mind to work like his but I do love it when I end up on his same wavelength.

Wide stance is wide. This is why she walks so much faster than I do. She totally over tracks.

Alex thought she was going to get to relax in the shade but R engaged her in the lesson when he asked questions and at one point even demonstrated his technique on her (sorry again, Alex! He does it to me too). It was a pretty dense training session and I couldn’t remember every little thing I’m was supposed to do when asking Aria to work around me but I did perform the obstacles to his standard by the time I was done. Every time I forgot one component of the task Rwould remind me and I’d start over. His mantra is ‘perfect practice makes perfect’. He so right, though. Aria was a rockstar and did exactly as told so the whole session was really making sure I was communicating correctly.

Towards the end Aria wanted to eat this weed that was on the ground. She kept trying and I kept correcting but I was not correcting effectively. R took over while we chatted and she eventually left the weed alone. Every time she nibbled on the weed R would back her up and then praise her. Eventually she understood that she could lower her head but not eat. Once she got to that point R asked her to lower her head to the weed until she left it alone. Total torture for poor Aria but also a good lesson in self-control. At the end R plucked the weed and let her eat it. A nice little treat for all that effort. Haha.

Everything the light touches is his domain. Nerd.

What I thought might be an hour session with each trainer ended up being closer to 4 hours total if you include the trailer loading work R did. Not that Aria actually needed it but she doesn’t self-load and has to be led in so that was a nice little something extra. My eyes were dry and hurting, the sun was stronger than I’d like, I was dehydrated, and starving but I walked away totally energized. Isn’t that the best feeling?

It was such a long day but she’s finally home! There will be many pictures of her to come.

Aria’s Homecoming Part I

I was planning to have a lesson on Saturday and Sunday but when I tried to nail down a time it turned out that P and R were not working on Saturday because they were going to a waterpark. How fun! I took the opportunity to hit up a couple friends in LA and see a showing of Wonder Woman. Totally worth it and a better idea than riding horses both days because it was 90 over the weekend and I think I ended up at least 2-3 makeup shades darker than I started on Sunday. Which reminds me, I absolutely need to get a couple sun shirts this week, but I digress.

OMG. Look at that big old T-Rex head. No wonder she’s my smallest horse but wears the largest bridle.

Alex offered to join me to get Aria, which was nice because hauling alone can be lonely. Not that I don’t mind the quiet time after a lesson to process and reflect but it was nice to have the company and the chance to share my barn and horse with another blogger. Alex has already met Ben, Valeria, and Catalina so the last one to meet was Aria. I don’t want to play favorites but Aria Catalina is the best.

We got up there around 9:30am and it was already warming up but wasn’t too bad. I wasn’t sure what the plan was for the day except that I was going to work with R on obstacles. I grabbed Aria. She had been sleeping in her pee—so attractive—but didn’t have shavings in her mane and tail which was a first. Grooming was quick work and I took a damp sponge to her face and body to minimize her stinkiness. She’s definitely getting a bath today.

If only she’d square like that when we practice for dressage tests.

She kind of didn’t engage with us during her grooming. Not normal for her personality but once I led her out of the barn she perked up and said hello by bumping my arm with her nose. I’m going to chalk it up to her being pissed about all the breeding that is going on around her. She really wants to fight those mares for a turn with Hans. What. A. Hussy. Haha!

I led Aria out to the arena and started saddling. Aria has turned into a cinchy horse so I didn’t go too quickly. I’m going to have to find out if it’s just being cinched that is pissing her off or if there’s something else bothering her, like soreness or internal troubles.

Working on long and low.

I thought I might be riding but P wanted to show me how Aria had been working for her. That made sense. I should know where she is in her training so I know what to expect from her. Aria looked great, even from the week before. It’s usually very obvious when Aria has had a day off between rides because she starts off very fresh and takes more time to get supple but she was pretty on it and dialed in.

They started working on the lunge line to get warmed up but it didn’t take long because, again, Aria felt good and was in the mood to work. P had Aria stretching to the ground at the walk, trot, and canter. Seeing the stretch at the canter was new for me and I kind of loved it because I know it’s not easy to push from the rear when going long and low. I also know how hard it is for Aria to keep forward momentum while stretching. It was nice to see all that effort.

Flex that T-Rex head!

Then P got on and did some flexion. Aria has been struggling with this exercise because she wants to go-go-go when you get on but it requires that she stands still. They worked on that for a few minutes until Aria gave in, stood still, and stopped rooting for the bit. Then they backed up in a circle. This is an excellent exercise because it’s not that easy to navigate a horse moving in reverse but it directly applies to a good many obstacles in working equitation. I could tell they were working on that a lot because Aria is starting to pack on hindquarter muscle. It makes her look less yoked.

She gave an amazing working trot that even P got excited about because she hadn’t felt that level of movement from Aria before. This was the first time I’ve seen P do so much sitting trot work. It was great because it shows an increase in stamina for Aria. She also held herself together really well and powered down the long sides in a nice shoulder in and shoulder out.

you_doodle_2017-06-07t02_54_20z

My new favorite view.

The counter canter wasn’t as good as we’ve seen in the past but it did offer up several nice flying changes, so there was no complaint from us. She really brought her A game for this ride. Her gaits were great. I kind of felt bad that I was taking Aria home because P always says how much she enjoys riding her and that ride really did show it. It does motivate me though. I can’t wait to have what P and Aria have for myself.

I’ll save the training session with R for the next post because this post is already long enough!

Riding V

I had planned to saddle up Valeria during Memorial Day weekend and test her skills but as it turned out everyone was too busy, myself included, to make time. It was agony waiting to find a time when someone else was around to ensure I wouldn’t be found dead in my arena hours later at evening feeding time. It also didn’t help that L and Alex were asking for updates on how the ride went as well!

I did eventually find time on Tuesday. I grabbed Valeria and tied her to the outside of her stall. I just couldn’t see how I was going to groom and saddle with a free roaming baby terrorist getting in the way. It’s good I did because V was worked up and Catalina was putting as much lead rope into her mouth as she could manage. V gave the saddle pad and saddle a hard look when I put it on her. That totally boosted my confidence.

Her previous owner had told me that the owner before her used V for trail rides and was ridden by an older man. As a realist, buying a horse I didn’t try from an owner that didn’t offer to meet me somewhere with tack where I could try riding meant that anything said was hearsay and highly suspect. So when I was told the previous-previous owner had ridden but not the current I was resigned to buying an unbroken horse. Which was fine because I was really more interested in the foal than the mare.

Rocket was prepared to call 9-1-1 if needed.

I cinched V up with care. She kept turning to look at what I was doing and I didn’t want to meet any teeth if she was cinchy. V can be a hard read because she’s a total bitch but also very sweet. Like those Sour Patch Kid commercials. Lol. She took cinching well though and I think a few more careful but purposeful saddlings will remind her that it’s not a big deal.

Baby jail. Which, surprise surprise, she is trying to break out of.

Then I grabbed my bridle and slipped the bit into her mouth. She took it pretty well with zero drama but it was too long on her after being used on Aria. Omg, HOW??? V is bigger than Aria but I had to put the bridle up 3 holes on one side and 2 holes on the other side. She ended up with her tongue over the bit before I could adjust the bridle, so I snagged it when she stuck it out and moved it under the bit. Turns out it’s not my most favorite feeling. If I never have to grab a horse tongue again, I’ll be 100% okay with that! But she settled BIG TIME once the bridle was on. It was like I had a completely different horse.

Me: Stop. Catalina: nom nom

Then I put weight in each stirrup and bounced around her a little mimicking mounting. I could have been a giant plastic bag on fire and she wouldn’t have cared. She was pretty dead to the world. I got on and she started walking off, so I’ll need to work with her on that. I asked for a halt with my seat and then my reins and she kind of didn’t stop until I was really pulling on my reins but not in a way that worried me about stopping her. More like a horse who wasn’t listening. I grew up on an appy gelding that didn’t like to stop either. It’s old hat for me to really have to pull on the mouth to get a halt. We’ll work on it until it’s as easy as sitting down. 🙂

Working mom. “Working” is used loosely.

At this point Catalina was losing her little baby mind. She was in the arena with us but she was not okay with me riding V. There was much rearing, bucking, and tearing around the arena (I got video but for some reason all that saved is a white image). This was really the only time I feared for my life during the ride. The last thing I wanted was C trying to join me in the saddle. Which was a real possibility because she rears up onto V’s back all the time. At one point she got way too close for comfort so I booted her in the shoulder and she turned around and mule kicked the shit out of V. 1. I will never do that again, 2. V is a saint because she didn’t even flinch, 3. I will start carrying a long stick with which to fend off C from a safer distance.

garrocha cart

Just adding this anti-Catalina garrocha to my shopping cart.

I had to pony club kick V to get her going into a walk and I plow reined her for some really sketchy steering but she was amiable to everything I was doing. She didn’t seem to understand what I was asking though but she figured it out pretty quickly. I tried neck rein and direct rein before settling on steering like a plow horse. I tried every combination of leg cue for turning before settling on teaching her my cue.

Me: Stop it. Catalina: No.

I’m not 100% sold that she’s broke to ride. Or at least if she is, she’s a true trail horse and follows the tail in front of her versus whatever the rider is doing. A couple friends on FB suggested she’s just lazy when I posted about my doubts but I’m not so sure. I did get a FB message from the previous owner that swore up and down she had ridden V before and she listened just fine for that ride and perhaps I should try a bosal instead of a bit for better results.

Me: I said stop. Catalina: But I want to smack my mom with this iron.

Uh…listen, I swear to you if there had been any mention of the previous owner riding V when I went to check her out before buying I would have been riding that horse back in September. So I’m a little befuddled BUT at least I had a good saunter around the property and can start putting some work into V. I’d love to get out on trail and pony C before she’s weaned for the exposure.

Obstacles In Hand

I’ve been gearing up to bring Aria home for months now and at the end of every month something in the back of my mind would tell me to keep her with P and R a little longer. This month however is different. We finally have a good working relationship and are in a place where I can ride on my own successfully. Yay! That’s big progress for me. I’ve gone from being afraid to ride to riding a baby. Granted she’s a trained baby but a baby none the less.

Enjoy pics of my neigbor’s new mini colt. He’s such a peanut!

Because R had back surgery a couple months ago, I actually missed an opportunity to learn a lot of things that Aria knows. She’d been schooling up to second level and was starting on pirouettes in hand. P has actually gotten Aria up to third level movement with the counter canter and I’ve seen a flying lead change but it clearly took Aria by surprise. Haha. It’s not solid but Aria is only 5. It’s more about installing the cue and movement rather than riding at that level. We know she’s capable of higher level stuff but she’ll spend the next year doing training level work with me and occasionally dabbling in first level. Always school higher than you show!

Knowing that I’m wildly unaware of Aria’s full skill set, which is fine because I shouldn’t be asking for movements I can’t even properly ride, I requested a training session with obstacles. I really want to hit up the local Working Equitation clinic at the end of June but I needed to see how R introduced Aria to new things. Now, I happen to know Aria is kind of a rockstar at obstacles because I forced asked her to tackle a lot of scary things when I first got her. R started with a tarp. I knew Aria wasn’t going to have issues with the tarp because we worked on that together and I had her blindly following me while the tarp covering her head when we finished. In true form, Aria did everything asked and we moved on from the tarp in a matter of minutes.

ex1

The final exercise once comfortable: walking through all the poles.

R moved on to obstacle poles next. These are 4”x4” wood planks, so they’re rather big and square versus round. There were four of them spaced about 4 feet apart. He walked her around them so she could see them from both sides and then he sent her through so a pole was on either side. Once she was okay walking between the first set of poles he asked her to walk between the second set of poles and then the last set of poles. This allowed her to navigate around the area and become confident with the footing. It also allowed her to relax within the obstacle space because we hadn’t asked her to walk over any poles, just between them.

ex3

Then R went back to the beginning and asked Aria to walk between the first and second pole. Half way through he turned her so that she stepped over the pole. Aria is notoriously clumsy so naturally she knocked the pole as she went over but it didn’t bother her. With any other horse the result of not reacting to knocking the pole is because the horse understands the space it’s working in due to the previous exercise. In Aria’s case, she’s just a cool cucumber about stuff around and under her feet. Either way she got an A for effort but a D for execution. Which is totally fine because R sent her through again and again at the half way point asked her to cross over the pole. She was more mindful and cleared the pole with no issues.

ex4

They did this a few times to make sure she would mind her feet. Spoiler alert Aria: you have four. Then R took her through the two center poles and asked her to turn half way through to walk over two poles. After she was comfortable doing that he took her over 3 poles and then all 4 poles using the same method. She cheated a few times and actually stepped up onto the poles instead of over them, but that’s okay. Haha.

ex5

Then R moved to the hard part. Now that she could go through the poles and over the poles it was time to get her to back up around the poles. Much scarier and way more pressure because this is where she could potentially get hurt but since she’d walked through them and over them she knew that knocking into a pole wasn’t a big deal. That’s important when backing up through the poles so she doesn’t scare herself. The other trick is to keep the horse perfectly centered when backing up. Not as easy as you’d think so this was a great exercise in how to move the hind end.

ex2

The final exercise once comfortable: backing up between all the poles.

Once Aria had completed backing through every set of poles R handed her to me and asked me to perform all the steps he did. I’ve never worked in hand the way he does but I watched his every move so I was fairly confident I could replicate it. I didn’t do bad my first pass through and I was able to refine my cues quickly to make quick work of the obstacle. Plus, Aria is really smart, so I basically was on cruise control. Interestingly enough, this exercise is an excellent precursor to trailer loading.

Then R moved on to an empty water obstacle, which could just be called a bridge with sides. He asked Aria to cross it in both directions. She rushed it a bit because she didn’t like the way it felt when she stepped on it but after a couple passes she went over just fine. Then he asked her to cross it lengthwise. Much more difficult because she wanted to bail out over the sides. This is where having control over the horse’s back end when going backwards is important because he was able to stop her halfway out and back her into the obstacle preventing himself from getting run over. No coincidence this is also a great exercise to do before trailer loading.

We ended the training session there because Aria passed with flying colors and was calm. There was no need to get her worked up again. R said many times during the session that challenging a horse with something new or hard creates adrenaline which in turn creates nervousness/fear and the key to training is to get the horse to work through that nervousness/fear to create courage. All of which can only be done because of trust. Not necessarily trust in us, but trust in themselves.

It gave me a lot of food for thought and honestly during the session my brain started to understand what R was trying to achieve because when I was questioned about why he did something, I was able to come up with the correct answers. This isn’t always the case. Sometimes I really do sit there totally dumbfounded until R tells me the answer. I’m okay with that because it’s still learning.

R asked me to stick around to watch a trailer loading session and I jumped at the chance. Why wouldn’t I? It’s basically a free clinic. He also knows that I’m hungry for training knowledge because he totally sees me creeping watching him when he works. Of course there are always people watching, like the owners of the horse being worked, but they lounge around and chit-chat while R trains. I probably I come off a bit unfriendly in comparison when I watch a trainer work because I won’t really chat with the other people watching or I brush off any chances to start up a conversation or I stand far away from the other people.

It’s not that I don’t want to laugh it up with them or roll my eyes at the rail birds, I’m just a firm believer that if you’re talking you’re not listening. Too many times I’ve watched Aria get worked by R or P and some observer will distract me with a question causing me to miss something and I’ll hear an admonishing “you missed it!” come from the arena. It never fails! Haha. Plus, let’s be honest, when you’re spending a lot of money on training you may as well be throwing it all down the drain if you aren’t paying attention.

The trailer loading session was great. I mean, I was totally terrified at the beginning because the horse kept charging R and he’s still kind of recovering from back surgery but it was very educational to see a horse not excel at the obstacles. This horse was afraid and his method for dealing with fear was to fight. He had been in a trailer previously but on one of the exits the horse hurt itself and refused to go in again. It took an hour and a half for the horse to graduate through all the obstacles. His progress with R was the epitome of ‘training success is not linear’. I won’t go into the details of this training session because this post is long enough and it’s not my horse to discuss but after they completed the obstacle course R led the horse right into the trailer without a refusal.

It was pretty cool to watch and I was able to ask questions after the session. It also gave me an ‘ah-ha’ moment about the progress of trailer loading an unwilling horse. It was a great day. Also, I know there’s media out there of me working Aria through the obstacles because I saw the pictures but I’m not sure if R will post any of it by the time I post this. So this will either be a huge wall of text or it will be a huge wall of text with the occasional picture! Lol.

Joints, Joints, Joints

I feel so behind writing about last Friday when it’s already Wednesday! The vet came out for Ben’s regularly scheduled chiropractic adjustment. He doesn’t need it more than every 3-4 month which is great on the wallet. I can’t ever tell if the body work he gets done helps him because he’s so tense when he gets worked on, plus he’s already a really flexible guy. As soon as he sees the vet, who does nothing but love on him and give him cookies, he becomes a giraffe, starts breathing heavy, and gives major side-eye. He’s a good boy though and stands for it all. Honestly, for how dramatic he is about it, he’ll let anyone do just about anything. He does draw the line at sheath cleaning though. He needs to be sedated for that.

I also had the vet check on his legs. Lately I’ve noticed his hocks don’t glide as smoothly as they used to. Overall his joint health isn’t bad for a 22 year old horse. However he did appear to have some swelling on his leg that I originally thought was just a windpuff but turned out it palpated rather hot and by that evening it had swelled to a good size. Thanks for getting hurt the day the vet was scheduled to show up, Ben. That’s very helpful. Except you could just not hurt yourself to begin with. He’s on bute and ice until the heat goes away, then he’ll move to previcox for his hocks. We discussed hock injections but decided to see what joint supplements and pain management do first. Whatever keeps him comfortable, that’s all I really care about.

I am bummed though because someone was supposed to ride him this past weekend with interest in leasing. Aria is coming back in a few days and I was looking forward to not worrying about how I was going to exercise all my horses! Oh well, Ben will recover and the potential leasee can try him out in a couple weeks. Fingers crossed that everything goes well.

Ben wasn’t the only one with joint issues! We wormed Catalina and gave her a general checkup. Her hind fetlock joints are a little inflamed. Not enough to panic about joint damage, though. She’s growing too quickly (is anyone really surprised?). Valeria’s alfalfa might be the inflammation culprit so I have taken away all but a handful of alfalfa and increased their bermuda portions. Valeria is not amused. She’s made her feelings quite clear by destroying her stall, which in turn has made me not amused.

I love my horses but they sure know how to pick the most inopportune moments to stir shit. Haha. Between my hands and Ben/Catalina’s legs we’re a big happy swollen joint family!

Aria Is Growing Up

On Sunday I haul my butt out of bed at the crack of dawn to make an early lesson to beat the heat that I rode in on Saturday. Although it wasn’t really a lesson because I aimlessly worked on lateral movement while P and I chatted most of the time. It’s not often that P and I get adult time to chat because there’s always kids or other clients that require a certain level of professionalism. It was also good for Aria to get some exposure to a rider that is only half paying attention. A few times I stopped riding all together and she just stood patiently listening to us. I guess she didn’t get restless because she felt she was part of the conversation. Although P was eating an apple and Aria always gets the core when P is done, so perhaps she just knew a treat was coming. Lol. It was great to feel her settle under me.

Aria as a baby!!! I just recently got this photo and have been waiting to use it. She’s so ugly! ❤️

Oh, it’s worth mentioning that I hardly lunged Aria for this ride. Which is great. I’m not a fan of using lunging to kill off energy. I’d rather use it as a tool to warm her up, loosen her stiff muscles, and get a few nice transitions before getting on. She’s turning into a great horse and I think in turn I’m becoming a more proactive rider. I read something a while back that said riding dressage is training dressage. I never remember to bookmark this stuff but if I find it  be sure to link it. My hope is that I will eventually be skilled enough to do the majority of the work on Catalina, leaving just the initial saddle breaking and first 30 days to a pro. Aria is teaching me so much.

Itchy horse.
A set of kids showed up for their 9:00am lesson but at that point I hadn’t done more than walking and a couple minutes of trotting so I peeled off to the other side of the arena to ride on my own. On. My. Own. This is also the ‘scary’ side of the arena because there are a ton of chickens that are mostly not visible due to enclosures and vegetation on a neighbor’s property. If I trot or canter on this side Aria doesn’t react but when we walk she gets a little wide-eyed when we pass the chickens and tries to drift off the rail. Lots of ‘good girl’ is said when we pass because she gets a lot of confidence out of the praising and quickly dismisses the scariness. She’ll still look but she doesn’t spook and will get down to business if asked. 

Aria as a 2 year old. Photo used with the permission of Robin Covarrubias.

20 meter circles are only so fun and cantering them continuously is still not super easy for Aria. On occasions I would take a lap around the whole arena, trying to time it so that the lesson pony was on the opposite rail. These kids were brand new clients and I didn’t want them to worry about me and my horse. Although on one of my trips by P asked me to demonstrate a rising trot so I posted around in front of the lesson pony for a while until Aria’s attitude changed. I don’t know what thoughts were going through Aria’s head but I definitely got major vibes that she was jealous that P was working with the pony.

As a brand new 2 year old.

Not wanting to flirt with the mistress that is a dramatic Spanish horse I went back to my side of the arena and cantered around for a while in our bad direction. It was difficult to get her to pick up the canter. Perhaps my cue wasn’t very clear or maybe my seat was wrong or maybe she was bent out of shape from that jealous spell but we eventually did get a rhythm and only ran over the mounting block once. Oops, but hey, baby has to learn to jump at some point!

Photo used with the permission of Robin Covarrubias.

 No. No. Don’t even for a second believe she jumped it. When I say ran over, I literally mean just that. It was a speed bump in our path. I’m lucky she didn’t trip and kill us. Lol. I ended my ride at that point because not only did we work her bad side but she was able to turn off her surly mood and get back to work. She got tons of praising during our cool down walk. I tried to let her stretch down into the contact but she likes to grab and root. It’s something that R finessed but P and I are still working on. At least I know she’s capable of doing it, I just need to work with her when she comes home. I might also want to work on her straight lines to ensure we don’t run over things as she noodles around. Haha.

Photo used with the permission of Robin Covarrubias.

 Overall, great ride. Almost 2 hours! I still need to work on my seat and cues a bit to make sure I’m giving clear directions but I definitely feel like I’m at a point where I could get up and ride without any supervision at this point. I am tentatively waiting for a ‘bad’ ride to see how we work together but at this point I think I am fully equipped with enough tools to work through a tough ride. Aria is growing up, she’s 5 now, and I’m so excited to meet the clever, level-headed mare she’s turning into.

Creek Hollow Ranch Working Equitation B-rated Show

Saturday was a jam packed day for me. After leaving L. Williams I sped back home to hit up a working equitation B-rated show a couple miles from my home. Incoming media! Apparently my town has several rated dressage and WE shows a year. Score.

I managed to catch the speed trials, which is probably the most exciting of the 4 trials. Many shows only offer 3 out of the 4 trials, dropping the cow trial as it’s not required (a shame, really, because I’m dying to see fancy dressage horses herding cattle). I know I will be exposing Aria to cows eventually because I actually want to do all 4 trials. Plus I know a few cowboy acquaintances that rope/pen/sort 2-3 days a week locally that would let me make a fool of myself if I asked.

First and foremost I have to mention that the vibe I got there was that everyone was just interested in having fun. It didn’t feel charged with nerves like most competitive sports do. There were about 15 riders with horses and ponies of varying levels of dressage skill but it didn’t really seem to matter because all the horses excelled and struggled in the same places. Every horse took issue with the jump obstacle but none paused going over the bridge obstacle.

It was really educational to watch and now I know which obstacles I should work on to give me an edge. Something I observed is that the horses competing had issues collecting and staying vertical enough to navigate the tighter obstacles. That could be because it was the speed trial. I didn’t see the ease of handling portion so I don’t know if that was an issue in both trials. However, my take away from that observation is that all these lovely, large dressage horses are used to doing dressage patterns and probably don’t school tighter, smaller patterns often.

Which in the end is no big deal because the air of the event was strictly fun. Even the people who DQ-d enjoyed themselves and got to finish the course. Apparently DQs are common and I’m sure I will also fall into the DQ statistic as well because my ability to remember a course is not great. But, I think Aria’s compact size will be an asset for WE. Plus we won’t even touch a speed trial or be required to canter until we hit the L2 – Novice A level.

Something else that was also heartening to see was most of the competitors were successful at the skewering ring with a pole obstacle. Failure to get the ring isn’t a DQ but it will add points in ease of handling or remove 10 seconds from your speed trial. A good portion of the obstacles require the rider to pick something up and put it or place it somewhere else within the obstacle. Not particularly difficult but I’m always dropping things and the rules state that if you drop something you have to get off your horse, pick it up, get back on your horse, and place the item in its ‘end’ location or suffer a DQ. God bless Aria’s tiny size!

After the show wrapped I headed over to the show office to introduce myself. I knew Polly Limond was the Region 2 Director and I met Julie Alonzo, the president of WE United, who came down from Oregon. I also met Barbara Price who will be president next year. She actually knows R and P really well so we got to chatting about them and hopefully I can scheme a little and get a WE clinic going at Aria’s barn. Which is totally self-serving but WE is still in its infancy in the States and needs exposure if it’s going to grow. Norco has a big gymkhana crowd, and WE is just gymkhana for dressage (please don’t kill me for comparing it that way) but also you can ride any discipline you want. What’s not to love?

Maybe I can talk some of the local bloggers into trying a schooling show once? I don’t know. Could be a tough sell for a horse that hasn’t seen any of the obstacles before. Haha. I would be more than happy to just have some moral support from the ground. I get on edge about competition because I can be very competitive, which is a flaw I hate, but I also want to win do well. I’m not sure how I will like showing and the pressure it will bring but just based on what I saw on Saturday, I think it will be enjoyable.

Everyone cheered when horses finally went over jumps and anyone that busted out flying changes in the slaloms got a round of applause or some good natured ribbing about showing off. It was a great environment. I’m looking forward to the next show on June 24th, which I should be helping at but might even try riding in since it’s a schooling show!

One last thing before I finish up, I’m really behind on blog posts. I’m trying to catch up so I apologize if you get comments on old posts!