Monday, August 29, 2011

Spills and Thrills

So this weekend I took my dressage horses to a local show. That show was actually a county fair open type show. I haven’t shown a lot in the last year and it cost me $20 to show all day fifteen minutes from home. I figured that the pony would be able to handle it and this would be a good way to get her little pony feet wet in the showing world. Obviously I brought RC too… Just because it’s fun to show, and cheap if we blow it.
I had my fears about the show. Why? Because my pride took a serious hit on Saturday. I had a good training ride on Deli so I took her on a trailride. I’m not quite sure what happened, but one moment we were moseying through the long grass on a loose rein, the next minute she spun right out from under me. I didn’t have a prayer of staying with her and landed in a heap cushioned by the tall grass. As I sat up, Delight stopped and looked at me, reins dangling. As I stood and reached for those dangling reins, she took off in the nicest extended trot that I’ve seen out of her. All. The. Way. Home.
So I had an unplanned mile and a half hike through waist high grass in my tall boots back home, where I found Delight patiently standing by the front gate.
Stupid ponies. And surely a bad sign for the show on Sunday.

The day started fine, the carnival was not 100 feet from the horse arena but nothing was moving and there were no flashing lights, so both horses tucked happily into their hay bags at the trailer.
Pony went first in junior horse English pleasure and English equitation. She was focused and wonderful; over her back and pushing from behind. I could not have asked for more from her. She bobbled the extended trot transition, and that cost her the class. I’m still so proud of my little pony.
The equitation class was not as nice as her pleasure class. The pattern was trot across a diagonal, sitting the first half and posting the second half followed by a counter canter ¼ circle, change of lead, ¼ circle true canter, trot a short diagonal- sitting the first half and posting the second half. It was already a tad too difficult for my little pony but I thought we could at least pull it through (and it seemed unfair to put a horse schooling third level in the English equitation class). As it would turn out, the ‘talent’ show was starting in the tent up the hill. Delight’s turn was punctuated by an off key version of “Remember Me”. To her credit, she just tucked her butt instead of a spin bolt or buck. But it threw us enough off that we blew the counter canter depart. Oops. Poor Deli….
All in all, it was a very successful show for Delight. I was very very proud of her.
RC had senior horse English pleasure, senior rider English pleasure, western horsemanship and western riding. We blew the sr horse English pleasure because it was immediately following Deli’s class and so we didn’t have any warm up. His canter takes a little more prep time then that to be steller. He did well, but was just a little tight. The senior rider English pleasure went very well, in my opinion, but the judge objected to his dressage-y head position as opposed to the lower quarter horse HUS style. Oh well.
His western classes started after lunch. Guess what else started after lunch?
The carnival.
Screaming teenagers, swirling colors, flashing lights and creaking mechanics.
And the demolition derby. Crashing metal, roaring engines cheering crowds.
And RC didn’t. Mind. At. All.
Delight got quite wide eyed with a look that said: "My ad said for sale to a SHOW HOME ONLY! This is NOT what they meant! What kind of redneck hell did you bring me to!!!"
So I had to put Delight in the trailer where she resumed happily munching hay for the rest of the show.
He was “on”. Completely and totally on. I was a little worried since I’ve only ridden him in the curb bit three times, total, and neck reining can be iffy (especially since I never practice it). But he held his head at the vertical, with his neck all arched like the California style western pleasure horses from back in the day. He lifted his back and was very much on the seat. The horsemanship pattern was :
• Jog half way to second cone, pick up extended jog
• Extended jog around second cone
• Lope Left lead diagonal to first cone
• Walk around first cone
• Lope right lead half way to second cone
• Half and back two horse lengths

Not too bad. And RC nailed it. His canter-walk transition was a tad abrupt, but he sat on his butt and calmly walked on. He won it.
I didn’t really know what to expect of the western riding class, since there was already a horsemanship class, but I figured that as long as it wasn’t western pleasure, RC could do it. And he did. As it would turn out the western riding class is a much more involved pattern class, involving steering and finesse.
The pattern:

Again, RC nailed it. I hardly had to steer, or touch his mouth. All weight , seat and legs and his simple changes were spot on. Just perfect; not rushed or worried or tense. Perfect. It was my crowning achievement for the day. Too bad no one else ever sees these things….

All in all it was a spectacular show for both horses.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Alison V Nature

Nature is conspiring against me.
It rained two days this week, making yesterday the first day I was able to school the ponies for the show this weekend. The cooler weather has made Ms Princess Pony quite a handful, and I do believe that she is coming into heat. As if there wasn't enough stimuli at a county fair horse show to distract a young horse, hormones have to be thrown into the mix. Great, just great.
I finally get a nice sunny day to ride, and when I get home from work, this is what greets me:


I managed to salvage most of Delight's forelock, but RC's is much worse for the wear. He's not follicle-ly challenged. Don't even get me started on the mess that their tails were... Everyone know's how I feel about tails. It hurt me to rip those burrs out...

Now I have tons to grooming to do before a show this weekend. There's clipping to be done, socks to be whitened, ears to be trimmed, tails to be banged (though I don't know how I'll salvage RC's.. Maybe I'll tell everyone he's an Appy)... So much to do, and no heated wash stall to do it in.....

Monday, August 22, 2011

Alison V The Hummiingbird

I love living in the country. I really do. There are some downsides, sure… But I honestly didn’t expect this one. I have very poor cell reception in my house, so I usually answer and head outside. I can get three bars of reception if I stand on the top step of the porch, two bars if I stand on the porch, and one bar if I sit anywhere on the porch. This isn’t to say that the cell reception doesn’t just disappear on its own whim, because it does that too. It’s like playing hind and seek with a cell tower sometimes.
What does this have to do with hummingbirds?
Because I have a lovely little flower garden right off of my porch, left from previous residents, and there are two of the feisty little birds who love the flowers. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to like me as much as they like the flowers. If I’m sitting on the porch the little birds will pull back from the flowers and chirp angrily. At first that made me laugh; I’ve never heard an angry hummingbird. Here I thought that Disney had been exaggerating when they made Pocahontas’s Flit an irritable aggressive little bird.
The little flying rats will then commence to dive bombing me for a minute or two or until I move away. Chased off of my own porch by a pair of birds!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Turning Pont

These past few days have been a turning point for me. I was totally overwhelmed by how much there is to do… Stalls need to be built, my house is still not totally unpacked, and I have oodles left to do. Not to mention I have to wannabe dressage horses who were rapidly losing muscle and discipline. And fear of the unknown. So I had a little meltdown.

But I’m better now.

Two days on my own, and a few rides on both (good) ponies, I can appreciate what’s around me. For one thing, it’s really pretty here. Really pretty. I can even kind of forget the ever present threat of winter while riding through old fields admiring the hills. I am even able to do dressage work while riding through the hills. My horses are relaxing, my poodles and I have taken up biking (we’ll have to see how long that lasts). And I even went on a nature hike to explore the little creek behind the house, poodles in tow.

Who knows, this Great White North experience might be good for me.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

An Apple a Day...

That's the apple tree that's just east of my house, and just out of reach of the second paddock. Poor RC watches the over ripe apples fall in the yard, just out of reach (if only that hot wire wasn't on!). There are apple trees in both paddocks, but none of those trees are as proliffic as the one pictured. It still only took Delight a day to realize that she could pick an apple whenever she wanted a snack.... Not to mention what RC did to the rasberry bushes. All of those years picking dewberries off the fenceline back in Texas with his thick little muzzle has paid off in spades. He loves rasberrries. Unforunatly, so do I... And now they are mostly gone. Silly horses.

I wish I could say that I had another fun anecdote about either the poodles or the ponies, however, I was in Seattle on business for a few days. Nothing to write about there... On the plus side, Delight was good yesterday- working in the hills. Nothing like the Monster Pony that she was last time. Whew..

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Happy trails to you... but now we need to work.

As the title indicates, it’s time for the ponies to get back to work. They have been mostly trail horses since I’ve been here as Mom has been showing me the property boundaries here at Ray’s as well as the other ‘family holdings’. It’s nice to have so much space to explore, and 100 acres of hills will really get those ponies into shape (other than round), but they have reached the point where they require a little more structure in their day.

It all started out well enough. I went to work, then went home and collapsed for an hour long nap-that’s the nice thing about it being light until 10pm, there’s time for that post work nap without worrying about running out of daylight- then took the ponies out for a ride. Mom showed me the 20 acres behind Rays, where we found some surprise logging, which is another issue that will have to be addressed, but not here and not by me. The plus side is that the logging trails made a nice little path for the horses to use. My first hint that today was not going as I would have hoped was Delight’s leap over a small creek. She didn’t just jump it, she cleared it by probably 10’. I, on the other hand was left clinging to her side awkwardly; not my proudest moment in the saddle.

The rest of the trailride through the logging paths was less eventful, until we headed home. We had to cross the little creek again. This time Delight jumped it like a deer; back humped, straight up and straight down kind of jump. She nearly lost me… and I saw a light bulb go off in her head. Damn.

Anyone who has ever ridden a young horse knows that when they start thinking on their own, nothing good can come of it. And true to form, the rest of the ride was far from a pleasure ride. I tried to canter Deli along some of the hills in the field, and mom took RC off a little ways to stay out of my way. As it would turn out, that was less helpful than it could have been (though not anyone’s fault but Delight’s). It only took Delight one stride to go from grumpy but compliant to whirling dervish. She pulled a canter-to-buck transition that a PRCA bronc would have been proud of. And as Wayne noted about her sister Kiwi, she was “damn quick”. I managed to stop the broncing before she lost me totally, but she decided that since she was already in trouble she could just go full monty. She then reverted to a rear-spin maneuver, often seen in moves where the horse then falls down. She didn’t fall… But she made me awfully mad.

Off to my makeshift arena down the road; 3 acres of gentle hills. We then worked at the trot until she was a sweaty mess. Medium trot, working trot, leg yield, change bend. Anything to get her focus off of RC, who was happily cantering around with Mom, and keep it on me and what I was asking her to do.

Young horses… sheesh.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

GTT.. Or the other way around

I’ve done it. I’ve moved from the sweltering heat of Texas to catch the last of the tepid Michigan summer. I must be doing something wrong to have so much stuff to move. It took two horse trailers full of stuff to make the move. To be fair, the horses have quite a bit of their own stuff too. And the poodles had to bring their wardrobe too (because, as Dad kept mentioning, the poodles are not going to like being cold).

It took us four days to drive from Houston, TX to the UP. I stayed at national and state parks with horse facilities on the way up. If anyone is interested in a slow cross country trip, that is the way to do it. It cost less than boarding for the night and finding a motel (though it was pretty comfortable in the big trailer with it’s weekender living quarters). I was a little worried about how Delight would handle the trip, but she was totally unconcerned with the whole ordeal. She drank when offered water, ate all of her hay and pooped. No worries with her at all. RC, on the other hand, turns into Red Fury when he’s been cooped up for 24 hours, evidently. On the first trail ride in Kansas, he was up and doing his big trot, showing off for Delight, mom and me. The next place we rode was in Wisconsin… By then he’d had another 24 hours of no work. He pulled out of his halter as soon as we unloaded him and went cantering around the campgrounds. So embarrassing… Not to mention that it scared the tar out of me to have a loose horse in the Wisconsin national wilderness right after the park ranger told us that people have lost horses for weeks in there. Fortunately he was quickly caught using the sound of pouring feed.
Now he’s grazing in my front yard in the temporary electric fence that my mom and I put up. He and Delight are just loving it so far. Except for the bugs. They hate the bugs…