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!

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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!

Good Company & Good Horses

On Saturday I hung out with L. Williams. Dante’s barn is only 35 minutes from Aria’s barn so we decided to make it a baby horse riding day. We headed out at 7am because the weather promised to be hot as hell and because I must really enjoy never sleeping in. Actually, between looking for my helmet and not knowing where exactly the Park & Ride we were meeting at was (thanks Apple Maps…) I’m sure we left later than that but I made up for it with my lead foot. 😉 We dove right into conversation and didn’t have any of those awkward moments of silence. The perks of having a lot in common!

The facility where Dante is at is nice. As soon as you enter the gates you’re greeted by mares and foals on all side, which is probably the worst thing ever for anyone with baby fever. I’m in love with the stalls, wood on three sides and the front is stallion paneling. Love it. L got Dante tacked and warmed him up in the round pen. He’s a tall drink of water. Monster walk, slow lofty looking canter, a trot with suspension and snap, and it certainly helps that he’s big, beautiful, and dark bay. I definitely have a crush. I even tried to trade Aria for him.

You can head over to L’s blog for a recap on her ride which I’m sure she will post this week. Unfortunately I’m so used to not taking any media when I ride that I didn’t think to take any of L riding. 😦 Fail. Next time! From an external perspective I have to admit that Dante is going to be a very fancy hunter considering how much he naturally moves like a dressage horse.

After we finished up with Dante we headed over to my lesson on Aria. We got there super early so we chilled on the bleachers and watched the lesson ahead of me for a bit. I introduced L to P which I think shocked P because I never bring horse people to the barn. Lol. Then we went to get Aria who greeted me pretty sleepily but perked up when she realized there was someone new. L helped me groom which was nice because once again Aria had half her shavings in her mane and tail. I may have to consider keeping her braided all the time when she comes home so I can spend more time riding and less time looking like a monkey picking all the shavings out of her thick mane.

Sleep baby. Photos courtesy of L. Williams.

By the time I was tacked up and lunging it was hot. L got lucky with her early morning ride but once I was in the saddle it wasn’t so bad and we worked mostly where the arena had been sprayed down. Aria warmed up on the lunge nicely but she seemed to have a little twinkle in her eye that made me wonder if we were going to give everyone a show. Because of that P started us working along the fence with some lateral work, using turns on the forehand to keep the side to momentum. It worked really well to get Aria and I synced up and the rest of the ride went really well. Looks like we’ve figured out how to mitigate the drama.

There were a few times that Aria tried to get away with bulging and pulling her normal stunts but I’ve finally gotten comfortable correcting her and anticipating her antics. One technique I’ve learned that usually can be used subtly but needed more oomph on Saturday was bumping her at the girth with my outside leg to help stop her bulging. However I had to use the cue much louder than I wanted before she would listen so I switched gears. I put my ‘whip’ at her outside shoulder as we circled from F to K and that really helped improve our shape. It’s a crutch but something I plan to work on until we’re on the same page when it comes to geometry.

Waiting for me to find a girth and probably wondering why I can’t ever get it together lol.

My timing isn’t perfect yet so she still managed to scrape me along the fence from time to time but I’ll take it considering we’ve finally sort of figured out this circling thing. It also looks like I’ve been using too much leg or possibly not enough outside rein. Easily HAHA fixed by applying less leg and more rein. It’s something I will have to keep in mind for all my future rides. Overall it was a great ride and I feel confident that when I bring Aria home we’ll be successful when we ride. I couldn’t have asked for a better ride while a fellow blogger was watching.

After my ride we went into Norco proper were I picked up some feed for Valeria/Catalina and then we hit up In-n-Out for lunch before heading back to San Diego. It was fun and I can’t wait until Aria and Dante are ‘home’ so I can get pictures of them together because the size difference is hilarious. This was an adventure that I definitely would not mind repeating (and not just because my gelding crush is Dante).

Hobbies Other Than Horses

Now that I have four horses and one that requires a lengthy commute to spend time with I find that my spare time is non-existent. This has really put the kibosh on my other hobbies. I know, I actually do used to do other things besides ride and care for horses. Crazy, huh? Maybe when I get down to two horses I’ll be able to return to those hobbies again…or maybe when the days get shorter? I need arena lights. I’m not sure, but I do know that as much as I enjoy spending time with my furry beasts, I do miss my other favorite activities.

Today I’m going to bore you all with my hobbies because it’s been really light on horse content this week!

Art:
I’ve been an artist longer than I’ve been riding horses. When I was younger I wanted to be an animator. Animation really inspired me and I took every art class I could in school. I was so into drawing that I did really poorly in a lot of my classes because I would draw in my notebooks instead of pay attention. I ended up in IT instead of animation because my parents were very adamant that art wasn’t a career. Jokes on them. My best friend is a storyboard artist and makes more money than I do! lol

I don’t usually post finished art unless they are doodles because I’m too lazy to watermark everything.


I went to school for and graduated as a Master Make-up Artist and worked at a prop shop for a time. Unfortunately we don’t always work in the field we went to school for but some of my work can be seen in Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and at Disney parks. I love using my hands to create. I would really love to dedicate some time to get back into drawing because I’m sure my skills could use a refresher. If anyone has some nice high res photos (I’m interested in detail) they’d let me use to practice, I’d be very appreciative.

Music:
Along with art I’ve always been a fan of music. I played the clarinet in our competitive school program to some success (second chair, yo) and eventually picked up the violin but didn’t show any real aptitude for it. As an adult I started playing bass guitar and really loved the instrument. I haven’t kept up on it in a long while though. I think if I did decide to pick up an instrument again I would probably try the cello or piano before going back to bass because when it comes to instruments I will always be a jack of all trades and a master of none. 🙂

Marksmanship:
My dad is a retired Marine Corps officer and my mom was in the Israeli army. Guns have always been in our home. Safety was strongly impressed, as it should be, and I have a healthy respect for a gun’s intended purpose. I’m not a firearm aficionado but I do enjoy hitting the range several times a year because I believe if you’re going to own a gun you should stay vigilant on how to properly handle one and educated yourself on responsible gun ownership. I also have a recurve bow that I shoot. It used to serve well as gopher population control but now with cute barn cats running around it has been retired from its post.

Games:
I guess we could call this a hobby. I love board games and video games. I don’t know where I got this love. My family was not big into any kind of gaming but Gaming Nights are totally a thing for me and I love nothing more than to spend an evening settling Catan or throwing around elaborate curse words when racing friends in Mario Kart.

mariokart

IKEA Furniture Building:
This isn’t a hobby but I love doing this. Trash those hieroglyph instructions because I go in blind! Why? Because I’m a special kind of crazy.

tumblr_mo38yg2sd81sp5bq2o1_400

While I love all these hobbies and do miss them, I think the flip side of spending more time with my horses is worth neglecting some of these. What hobbies do you have? Had you had to give up hobbies to make room for horses?

Princess Mode: Fight & Laugh Edition

It kills me that I don’t have any media from my lessons (you won’t mind some Rocket pics instead, right?) because recently Aria and I have been doing so well together. I mean…aside from the fact that I still can’t properly communicate the most simple of cues: turning/making a circle.

On Friday I sat in 3 hours of traffic but that didn’t bother me at all. Apparently the trick is to play soothing music! Aria worked really well on the lunge so we didn’t lunge for very long. The wind was blowing like crazy but it was a non-issue that day. When I got in the saddle Aria went straight to work on her flexion. Baby was in the zone. It wasn’t until I started riding her around the ring and asking her to make a 20 meter circle that we had problems. She went into full princess mode and we fought and fought and fought.

Rocket is trying to play cool but his tail gives him away.

By ‘fought’ I mean every time she didn’t do what I wanted I asked her to turn on the forehand or to back up. At one point I even had to give her a few spanks with my…I don’t want to say crop/whip because it’s just some of that flexible irrigation tubing with a bit of foam taped to the end (yup, baby horses get soft and squishy riding tools for their corrections!). We ran into ‘K’ twice when she tried to peel me off using the fence. FYI: that pissed P off. Lol. Aria got major mare side eye from P.

It was the most hilarious ride I’ve ever had on Aria. Major middle fingers were being given all around. Every time I asked her to do something harder than what she was refusing to do she would get more pissed off and escalate her evade. She doesn’t have to do what I ask but then we definitely do something harder, like backing up. I’m a big believer in this method. The idea behind it is that the horse will eventually realize that it’s easier to do the first thing you asked because it takes the least amount of energy. For a lazy horse Aria doesn’t always take the easy way out right away. Haha.

He loves the laundry room.

Plus it gives you the immediate opportunity to praise your horse for doing something right and takes their mind off what they were doing wrong. If you watch R work he never corrects a horse negatively or tells them ‘no’. He only looks for chances to praise. Bad behavior is stopped by asking for a different behavior that can be praised. Usually this different behavior will be more difficult than whatever the horse was doing prior.

His favorite thing to say when a horse acts out instead of performing is the horse is asking to be backed up so they can be praised. It always makes me laugh because it works. Training techniques like that always ‘wow’ me. Not because they are a magical training secret but because they’re so simple and in the right hands so subtle. It’s really inspiring to see someone work with a horse at that level.

Ever the opportunist, he slept on that blanket all day.

Anyway, back to my ride on Aria. We eventually worked through our problems with P’s help and got to a place where Aria was responding without pitching a fit. As soon as that happened P asked me to canter and I picked it up while tossing over my shoulder ‘are you trying to get me killed?’. I didn’t hear what P said in response but it started with ‘that’s why I like you…’. I’ll take it as a compliment to my new found confidence. I spent the last half of my lesson cantering Aria around on both our good and bad side. I’m still pretty stiff going left but Aria feels really solid under me. Actually she felt solid the whole ride, even when she was throwing her royal tantrum. I’d say that’s a huge improvement from the wiggle worm noodle she was when we first started together!

I also think I’ve found the common link between every crap-tastic performance from Aria. It’s always during her evening nap/feeding time. Understandable that the baby is going to be cranky but she’s just going to have to deal because we may very well have a show during that time in the future. Although I wonder if there’s a way to mitigate the bad behavior when leaving her food?

Catalina Update – 2 months

I’m short on time to write a blog post today so photos of the baby moose at offically 2 months old will have to suffice for today! On Saturday we introduced Valeria and Catalina into our ‘herd’. It was really more of a reintroduction for V because she’s lived with these horses before.

The below picture is one of the only moments that little Pippin didn’t have his ears pinned (even though he doesn’t mean it, he’s just a grumpy, fat, old mustang). True to his name, he’s the only horse in the herd that didn’t share his food with C.

Reece, our old lady QH, has been obsessing about C since she was born (literally lost her mind and wanted to steal herself a baby). Here she’s not that thrilled to be face to face but she did spend all day hovering as close as she was comfortable with for being at the bottom of the pecking order.

My sister’s palomino mustang, Zipporah, was unsure about sharing her grass with C. Especially because when they first met C bit her on the flank. No baby baby gestures here. C is gunning for the lead mare position.

Her size really shows when you stand her next to Pippin. Or maybe it’s Pippin’s lack of size that shows!

Ben ended up being way too protective of his adoptive filly and we had to remove him from the group because he was running all the horses pretty hard, which is why he’s not pictured in any of these photos. He was on the other side of the property screaming ‘forever alone’.

Mary’s Tack and Feed Baby Photo Contest

Quick post to let everyone know I dropped our favorite baby moose into Mary’s Tack and Feed Baby Photo Contest. I encourage everyone with babies to enter (because a certain Joey and Presto are bound to win)!

Entries are in the Facebook comments. The one with the most likes will win. If you feel inclined to throw Catalina a like that would be much appreciated (but I won’t tell her because, really, look at my entry below. She doesn’t need a bigger ego).

Because there’s no point in pretending she’s an angel.

Aria, Cracker Jack & Potatoes

I was supposed to have a lesson on Sunday but it was coming down pretty hard in San Diego and I used that as an excuse to cancel so I could spend a day relaxing. Plus, while I’m very confident in my driving skills and the intimidation factor of my big car, with my hands and eyes not working 100%, I didn’t want to put my trust in the other drivers on the road for over 160 wet miles. Not that my Sunday was totally uneventful. I had to muscle Valeria and Catalina into a barn stall because they were wet and shaking when I went out to check on them. They have a 12’x24’ shade on their outdoor stall and chose to not stand under it. I can’t even get mad at Catalina because she’s just following her mom’s stupid lead. Lol. I only wish I had gotten pictures of C looking like a drowned rat. It was adorably pathetic.

He wants to cuddle with them so badly.

To make up for my laziness, that one day was going to bite me in the butt (it did! I missed out on seeing Dante. All the tears), I scheduled a make-up lesson for Monday afternoon. It was cold down here but 20 degrees warmer and super windy in Norco. I used to get all worried about the wind because it’s hardly windy in San Diego but Aria doesn’t seem to mind it anymore. On occasions something new will move or the big, hanging, metal dressage letters will slam against the arena fence and scare her a little but it’s not anything that some inside leg or a quick ‘good girl’ doesn’t settle. She ran her face into ‘A’ when I was lunging her the other day, because heat cycles + stallions, and acted like it was my fault for not steering her clear of it. Psh!

My view all last week.

It took all my will power to do anything on Monday. I woke up with a lot of pain in my hands, despite being on a prescribed anti-inflammatory. Anti-inflammatories seem like a bunch of bullshit to me. They don’t seem to do anything other than make it worst (edit: this is exactly what my research has found! Justice!). My back was hurting in the same place it was when I hurt it back in January, thank you anti-inflammatories! Also, my feet felt a lot like my hands, stiff and swollen and achy. To top it off I had a headache that developed while sitting in traffic. Before this sounds like I’m just bitching and complaining, I was very much looking forward to seeing Aria. She was definitely my ‘all this will totally be worth it’ motivation. Our last lesson was so great I couldn’t wait to ride her even though I felt like I was moving through molasses to get anything done.

There was a lot going on when I got to the barn. I changed into my riding clothes and found out that my lesson wasn’t until 5:30pm and it was 4:40pm. Yes! I’d go take a nap. Haha, yeah right…P asked me to get a pony named Cracker Jack for her next lesson. I made it all the way out to the ponies before I realized I didn’t know which one was Cracker Jack. I knew he was a gelding. I thought he might be a red or brown pony but the only ponies in that color I recognized as Poptart and Tabasco. I stood there for a moment knowing if I just spun my rolodex for a few seconds I’d remember which pony was Crack Jack.

Nope! I trudged back to the lesson arena and asked which pony I was looking for. After snagging Cracker Jack the buckskin pony, I brought him in to the arena to get groomed and saddled. As I passed off his lead rope I was given two sets of reins with a request to return Hashbrown and Tatertot to their pen. I haven’t seen the fjords in a while so I was more than happy to trek them to their turnout. Plus Smallfry came up to great me as well. It was a potato reunion!

Is this as great as I thought it was?

By the time I made it back it was time for my lesson. P told me Aria had turned a corner over the weekend. She was working very light and wasn’t offering the baby resistance we have had to deal with every ride. I could tell right away when I started lunging her because she was leaving slack in the line and I got some great stretches at the walk and trot. She got a little excited during the canter and when I turned her to go left she was super sticky. I had to put more effort into it because Aria doesn’t like idling for me like she will going right. Or maybe she was just reading my energy level and responding in kind because as always: Aria is lazy.

I used to hate lunging but now that I have a purpose behind why I’m lunging, not just to burn off energy, I actually spend a good amount of time getting Aria supple for a ride. She was playful but P told me to ignore that because lately she had been having fun on the lunge line but it wasn’t transferring to her rides. That would prove 100% true for this ride. I got on and flexed her. I’m not sure what has changed her but she didn’t screw around during flexing like she’s prone to doing.

We walked a little on and off the contact. I had her changing between shoulder in/out and then I asked for some turn on the forehands which were not great compared to our normal efforts. But her leg yields were nice and kept forward movement which has been really difficult for us to accomplish together. I picked up a trot on her good side and we worked on our geometry a little. Making a circle will forever be our issue until I can figure out what I’m doing wrong. My plan this weekend is to really focus on riding a circle every step. I think I’m not really riding when we’re along a fence line and it shows when we pull out towards the centerline. Maybe some 20 meter circles with X as the center would help so that we only touch the fence line at E and B?

I mean…I’m not saying I wouldn’t want that brand on my fancy Andalusian stallion…

P wasn’t really instructing me for this ride other than to let me know if I was doing something right or very wrong. She let me focus on the middle stuff on my own. When I felt like Aria and I were working well together at a trot I asked for a canter. This actually went really well considering I didn’t school her at all in the second half of the arena until I cantered her down the long side. She gave the back corner a hard side eye but otherwise we moved through there without any issue.

We were on the right lead, passing C and instead of continuing down the long side Aria cut diagonally M to K. My fault for not navigating, so we tried it again. Sure enough in the corner between C and M she headed for X. I nudged her to the rail and got a very wobbly line. Apparently P has been schooling the counter canter and Aria was anticipating crossing from M to K to pick up a counter canter from K and then at F shooting over to H, making one big figure 8. So then I spent a few laps keeping her on the rail before giving her a walk break (not because she needed it, but let’s pretend she did).

I picked up the trot going left with the goal of getting her flexed and working well to work on some left lead cantering because I really suck going left. We suck together at it, so at least we struggle together. It wasn’t meant to be though. The longer I worked on circles the more she would bulge. P kept telling me ‘you have to prep ahead of time. When you’re at K you need to be thinking about A’ to which I was internally saying ‘but I am! …Or I think I am.’ It got uglier and uglier every time, even with breaks, because my energy levels were totally gone.

horse-lie-down-on-cue

Me: This should be our speed. Aria: Okay.

I admitted defeat after I let Aria’s biggest bulge run the both of us right into the fence because I wasn’t applying a strong enough outside leg. But trust me, it wasn’t easy to let P take over for the last couple laps. I know, and I think Aria knew, if I had more stamina and strength that day I could have supported her better. I don’t pretend to know what my horse is thinking but Aria didn’t get worked up like she normally does which I equate to her understanding the situation. She just kept going around until I wanted to stop.

Despite the end not going as planned, she did really well, I enjoyed every moment of that ride, and I think she did too. I’m hoping this fatigue will eventually end but I don’t think that will happen until the reason for the mystery pain in my hands is resolved. Until then, maybe some vitamin B supplements are in order? For now I’ll just coast on the high I’m getting from these awesome rides. 🙂

Oh Oh, Cantering With A-Myself

Oh, oh, cantering with myself
Well, there’s nothing to lose
And there’s nothing to prove, well,
Cantering a-with myself

Thursday night I sent P a text asking if she had an opening on Friday at 2:00pm. I originally had a lesson scheduled for 6:00pm but I was completely drained from the week and decided to use some sick time to bounce out of work early (and even with a lazy weekend because of rain I’m still dragging this morning).

Turns out playing hooky wasn’t the worse idea. Aria was really up and back in heat. Getting there early let me work her on the lunge line for a while. I’ve learned when she doesn’t come out of her stall in the best mood to work her on her good side first. It’s easier for her and she gets praised quickly. Praise is a big motivator for her because she’d rather not work hard. Of course on this day she wanted to mimic being a sail fish caught on a line, zooming around leaping and bucking.

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The moose looking extra moosey.

The general rule I like to use with those crazy antics is let them do it for a couple strides once and then shut it down. Aria is very responsive to her lunging cues, unfortunately R installed vocal cues for lunging that involve whistling. Guess what I suck at doing? Whistling. Lol! But Aria has learned that my crappy whistles mean the same thing so I was able to contain her crazy energy with half halts and downward transitions. I’m not as smooth about it as R and P but I get along pretty well, if I do say so myself!

My favorite new thing that I’ve learned to do is ask for a trot to canter transition until I get a smooth one and then I let her walk for a while. Without fail the next time I ask for a trot to canter transition, it’s controlled. Letting her think about what she did to earn a walking break is going to be a key tool for me. Especially because she’s so lazy reward motivated.

When I had her moving nicely through all the gaits going right, I turned her left. This is where her hormones took over. She wasn’t getting the releases she wanted because she wasn’t trying to be soft on the line at all. She kept breaking her gaits so I had to go after her a few times and I never got a relaxed trot or canter out of her but she did give me a few less expressive upward transitions so I called it quits because I needed to find a way to end on a good note.

I love this face. He braved the rain to join us in the barn.

This was the ride where I was going to decide if I was going to keep Aria in training another 30 days or bring her home. The 45 minutes spent on the lunge line had edged me towards the ‘leave her’ side of the fence. P asked how lunging went (the vet showed up and had pulled her away for a while) and I asked if I could watch her ride Aria for a few minutes. I take a lot away from watching someone skilled ride my horse. Especially if I pay attention to the corrective cues that are given when Aria doesn’t respond correctly to the original cue.

P rode Aria for about 15 minutes getting her to bend, flex, and loosen up her gaits, then her next lesson showed up and she handed Aria off to me. The one nice thing about having Aria in training is that I am not constrained by the 1 hour mark like a normal lesson. P or R keeps an eye on my riding the whole time I’m in the saddle and if it takes 2 hours to get to a point where Aria is working nicely for me, I get that extra eye on me until we accomplish that. I told P I was going to work on finessing my turn on the forehand and leg yields since she would be on the other side of the arena with her lesson. Setting Aria on a 20 meter circle with an inside bend I would randomly ask for one or both of those movements. It had to be random or she anticipates and gets really sticky and behind my leg. She was executing them really well so I didn’t feel like drilling them and pissing her off.

Next I asked her to trot a 20 meter circle to work on our geometry because she always blows out when we pull away from a fence and we end up with an egg shape. She did this really well after several circles and I was growing bored. The only thing left to work on was the canter but P was busy with her lesson. Immediately my thought process started bouncing back and forth about whether I should pick up a canter on my own or not. I could tell Aria felt that I was having an internal debate with myself but she kept packing around. She’s so sensitive! I did about 3 circles before I made up my mind and committed to asking for a canter. I took a big breath, put my inside leg at the girth, outside leg back, and kissed. She sped up but didn’t break into a canter until I urged her into a canter with my seat. We had a couple start and stops but she became solid on picking up the canter when she realized I really did want to canter. We did a few 20 meter circles and then I saw an opportunity to take a lap around the whole arena because that’s where Aria really opens up her stride and I get heart palpitations.

A screen cap of Valeria trotting. I’m in love w/all the air time her front foot is getting.

I’m not sure how I felt about it. Nervous and excited? I wanted to keep going but I was also worried about…hmm…I’m not sure what I’m worried about. The horse ducking out or spooking and falling off? Lack of control maybe? Aria and I don’t always communicate fluidly. Either way it’s a huge step for me to feel comfortable enough to canter without prompting! This was the confidence I needed in order to bring Aria home. P told me I did a great job, looked good, and she was happy I didn’t stick to walking like I had planned. That ride made my mind up for me. I would leave Aria for another 30 days but not because of fear, because I wanted more rides like that. More rides where we meshed really well in a place she’s comfortable so we can build a good working relationship that will roll over to her new environment.

I may be taking things at snail speed but at least I know we’ll be solid when we’re finally ready to go out together solo.

Also, totally off topic: anyone have recommendations for a riding/sports bra that provides support AND doesn’t give a uni-boob to the more endowed individual? The thought of wearing two bras to keep the girls separate but supported sounds like less fun than being squeezed to death by a boa constrictor.