Monday, November 28, 2011

Time of Thanks

Sorry to leave you all hanging for a week, but the holidays are here, and I got all caught up in the Thanksgiving celebrations and haven’t had time to type!
We had the family thanksgiving up here in the ‘frozen tundra’… even though it was 55 degrees and sunny for Turkey Day.  We had a big family dinner with aunts and uncles and cousins (and one random awkward, possibly frightened guest). It was a smashing success for 14 Metsa’s sitting around a table.  It was a bit different than the usual four person dinner (complete with a pie per person) followed by Christmas movie after Christmas movie, but quite the holiday, none the less.
One of the better parts was I got to show off my horses! To someone who gets it! Of course, by that, I mean that Courtney both rode my ponies and gave me lessons! Finally! After so long without any direction, I needed those experienced eyes on the ground to keep those bad habits from creeping back in while ensuring that I’m not straying too far from the ‘right’ training.
It’s amazing how little things creep up on a person… For instance, on RC I’ve developed a disturbing tendancy to both lift my outside hand and over flex RC to the inside. As it would turn out, I also need to step it up with Delight. I tend to ride her like the young horse I broke, not the developing horse that she is today. Leg yields and shoulder fore to work her past the ‘scary’ places in the arena that seem to pop up everywhere nowadays. Silly pony…
Also, I got to show off Tilly to Courtney and mom, who might actually appreciate her quality. Yay!
So for the quick list, I’m thankful for family. They mean well, even if they can be overwhelming in the advice department.
I’m thankful for having quality horses, and the all of the time and effort that all of my previous trainers put in to teaching me what I know.
I’m thankful for my poodles. They make me laugh even when I’m stressed and are more than willing to cuddle up next to me on a chilly UP night.
Finally, I’m thankful for my current adventure. I know that I’m lucky to have the education, connections and chance to make such a big change while I’m still trying to figure out my life. There’s no telling where I’ll end up, but I’m glad that I’m taking the chance and trying something different.

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving and takes a moment to count to good points. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed and caught up in the annoyances and bad things that happen, sometimes it’s cathartic to stop and count your blessings. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 21, 2011

It's the Holidays...

You know you're not in the city anymore when the radio announces "The holidays are here: Deer season, Thanksgiving and Christmas!"

This was my weekend to be overwhelmed, evidently. I should have known that it was not going to be my day when, on the way to the barn - in town- there was a guy cleaning his deer on the side of the road. Nice.

I got the the barn around 10 am -  early enough that few people were there, not so early as to be in the way of the stall cleaners- and got Tilly all tacked up and ready to go. As it would turn out, she'll do anything for a carrot (which is good, since she was not a fan of the peppermints, at all), so we hustled into the arena and made it half way through lunging, when the door opened.

Now I could probablly forgo the lunging, but five min of lunging before the ride seems the smart thing to do with a young horse on a cold day. With the snow creaking on the roof...

A neighbor from down the road poked his head in the arena and asked if I was done.

Nope, sorry, just got started.

Well, we just walked up here and no one was here, so we brought our horses. Could you just give us half an hour?
I explained that while my horse is young, I am perfectly able to share the arena.
Except I wasn't.
Because they brought in their two horses, unclipped the halters and set them free.

Who does that with another person in the ring?

So I took Tilly and made her stand in Delis stall for half an hour, fuming. Why is my time less important than theirs? While I do spend quite a bit of time at the barn, warming my pony up, then making her stand in the cold for half an hour is NEVER my plan.

Finally the interlopers finished their 'free lunging' and I was able to work Tilly. She was great. True, we had to warm up again and only worked for about twenty min, but we got a nice walk trot and canter to both directions. Even when the ice/snow came crashing off the roof, Tilly only crouched down, then resumed her trot like nothing had happened.

It must be the Code of the Pony: Thou shall not show fear.

Of course, by then I should have known that something else would go wrong.

As I'm walking Tilly back to her pen - brushed, blanketed and fed- I see everyone walking in the back corner of the property. After a "big black horse". In a raspberry blanket.

Evidently the ice/snow that fell off the roof slid into Deli's turnout, sending her over the 4' fence, down the road, back up the road and around the property at top speed. I was beyond upset about this.
What if this had happened in the afternoon when the stall cleaners/I wasn't there? Delight could have been loose for hours.

I walked Deli around, gave her some bute for lewer leg swelling, and took RC for a cathartic ride.

When I went home I had to play with the poodles just to remind me that this isn't the worst place in the world... Just a bad day.

Tempi has a squeaky snowball
New snow siled by Poodle tracks...

"Why is it so deep!?"

Going boldly where no poodle has gone before... today.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Embrace the Snow...

So the poodles are no longer troubles by the cold white stuff that covers the ground, in fact, Bacon seems to love to frolic in the snow. He's making his own track where he's joyously leaping and running in giant loops circles. He even got Tempi to play with him....


Super Poodle!

Dashing through the snow....

I hear poodles were hunting dogs at one point.... Bacon is a pointer!

Even Tempi is getting in on the action!

It's cold. Very cold.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Snow Poodles

I'm afraid that I don't have any witty anecdote for today's post, just pictures of last night's fresh snow. Enjoy!
My barn, complete with new siding and nifty garage door!

Tempi want's to know why all this cold white stuff is on her lawn?

Tempi knows there's a squeaky tennis ball in there somewhere... Bacon just wants to play!

My house is just cute in the snow... The horse trailer kind of ruins the quiant picture though.

Bacon, leaving footprints where no poodle has froliced before.

Now off to ride some ponies in the cold!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Like a Good Neighbor....

So, this morning I’m afraid that I did not endear myself to my neighbor. In case anyone lives in a less redneck location, today is the first day of deer season. Keeping that in mind, I brought my poodles outside for a little walk then an game of fetch (using Tempi’s new squeaky tennis balls. She loves them). So, I’m standing by the windbreak behind the barn so that I can throw the ball down a hill to hopefully wear the poodles out, when I see my neighbor and his buddy, decked out in his orange finery, walking the property line between my place and his.

The hunters stop. The look at me (probably because Tempi was viciously squeaking her tennis ball), then look out into my field behind where the horses were previously pastured. Then they look at me again.

My buddy, the buck, whom I met over the weekend, was standing there staring… probably at the tennis ball squeaking poodle.

Now, I first saw this buck on Saturday. I was dismantling my electric fence, winding the electric rope around an old tomato cage to keep it neatly stored, when I heard a snort that sounded like a surprised horse… not quite as powerful as Opie’s “keep away from my stall” snort, but along the lines of London’s “I feel good with my tail over my back and I want to play” snort. Since my horses aren’t home anymore, I ignored it.

And I heard it again. And again. The third time I heard it, I looked up, and low and behold, there was a big buck standing probably 30 yards from me in the middle of my field. He stared at me and snorted another three or four times, before taking two of those graceful leaps sideways, stopping to snort at me another 4 or five times, then slowly walking to the tree line to the north side of the pasture. What’s with the wild life in this place? Jerks.

Back to today…

The hunters looked from me to the buck a few times, obviously wondering if it would be kosher to shoot the thing even though it was in my field. In the time that they were mulling it over, the buck moseyed off again into the north tree line, away from the hunters and still on my property.

Buck, you’re welcome though I really don’t think that this is going to endear me to my neighbors.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Ah, RC… My trusty quarter horse. I like him again.

Why? Because first, he’s sound (finally!) and second, we had a very good ride yesterday, even after having nearly three weeks off! Sure he started out a little tense, and my Stubben doesn’t fit him as well as his custom fit Schleese (spoiled, much?), but after about twenty minutes of warm up, something clicked in his head and he turned on the working horse gear.

We did leg yields, shoulder in’s, renvers, travers and even some baby half pass (he was a little resistant to those). I even got some canter work out of him! This is the first ‘real’ canter I’ve tried out of him in the last three weeks… the quarter pony lope we played with the other day doesn’t count. He was hardly moving. He is wanting to swing his butt in in the canter, just like back in the day, but we fixed it with some baby halfpass ad counter canter (which would have been easier had there not been a fresian careening around the arena).

Oh, it feels so nice to be reminded that I can ride dressage. There is something passed these young horses. Progress will come… My dressage zen is back.

And, the only comment we received while working RC: “He sure has a huge butt”

Tilly had the day off, and Delight had the arena all to ourselves yesterday. It’s like the stars were aligning for good rides. Now I just need to string a few days like that together…

Hey, I can dream.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like....

Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow

Ok, first things first: I’ve been singing Christmas carols since the first snow started falling and I won’t apologize for it. I blame my upbringing. I mean, Texas doesn’t really get snow, so I’ve long since been conditioned to equate snow with Christmas movies (thanks, Dad). Either way, don’t judge!

(Baby, it’s cold outside…)

Alright. Main event. Yesterday the snow started lightly falling around two. The area had ice in the forecast, so I went out to the barn to make sure that all of the ponies were nice and snug, and bring Chantilly her new blanket-unfortunately her midweight hasn’t arrived yet, so she’s in her heavy weight. Good thing I brought it out though, since out of the 20 horses on the place there were two that couldn’t hang when the snow started.

RC and Chantilly.

Why don't the ponies like me?
I think Chantilly would have been ok except that she’s turned out in the pony pen, and the little appy ponies wouldn’t let her in the shelter. Then again, she has even less of a winter coat than RC, and way less than Delight, so blanketing it is! Also, she’s so happy in a blanket.

(Chestnuts roast on an open fire...)

RC had to be brought in from turnout before I got there since he was shivering in his midweight blanket when it started snowing. What a wimp. When I got there his neck was wet with melted snow, but he was happily chowing down on hay. Today we’ll try the heavyweight, and if that doesn’t work, I’ll add his hood. Really, this horse is already an embarrassment. What’s one more layer?

Oh, that pony gets to go in first?!?!

Delight was the only one of the three unperturbed by the snow. She gets wicked jealous when I get Chantilly and RC before her, but the cold was not bothering her. Though she worked second in my rotation yesterday, so she was somewhat mollified (and she’s the one who breaks a sweat, so needs to be in a sheet to dry off before she’s done).
No, that's ok. I don't mind. Really....

Riding wise, Chantilly had another good day. She’s going to be a fun little horse, even if she’s still a little wide eyed at some of the shenanigans happening at my barn. Delight was less naughty than yesterday, but she needs a lot more work. I think she’s ready to work harder than I was expecting. It’s an eye-opener riding her right after Chantilly. Oh, maybe Delight isn’t the young green horse that I keep thinking she is. RC was last in my rotation because he felt NWR yesterday at the trot (what little of it we did), he isn’t a priority. Which is a mistake, because that horse makes me smile like the two ponies can’t (yet). Since it was cold and I had already ridden three other horses (I did a tune up on a boarder’s horse), I opted to go bareback, and just walk RC around for a while. And he was amazing. We did our little QH jog and even some of our western horse lope around the arena. Riding that horse just makes me smile- and bonus: the advice giving mother think that I’m the most talented thing since Pat Parelli (cringe) because I can do everything bareback that I can do in a saddle on RC (yeah, NEVER riding the ponies bareback. At least not til they’re in their teens).

Evidently I live in a gingerbread house...

The down side of all this snow: I have a 100 yard driveway and no snowblower. Just me and the shovel this morning, humming christmas carols under my breath with the poodles romping about in the snow, sans blankets because they were so excited about being outside in this new white stuff.  When I was nearly done, I was politely informed by the school bus driver this morning that it's simply not done to shovel a driveway for this little bit of snow unless one drives a Smart Car or go-Kart (maybe not that exact phrasing). Oops. First winter faux pas.

That tennisball is harder to find in the snow...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Flying Ponies

It seems that my life is developing a pattern. I get up, walk the dogs for a few miles, go to work, then off to the barn where – let’s face it- the real work begins.

Yesterday was slightly different in that, silly me, I went for a jog/walk with the dogs instead of just a walk. Ow. I know this last ten pounds is stubborn, but I’m not sure if it’s worth jogging. People run for fun? OW!

So off I went to work, leaving my happy tired poodles sleeping happily in their boxes, with my quads burning. Work was… uneventful.

Then barn time! Best part of my day! Seriously, that physical activity (that isn’t mindless running/walking) is probably what keeps me sane some days. I started with Chantilly, since there was an empty arena and I was going to use it! As it would turn out, she’s a whole lot more comfortable without ponies careening around. Steering is sometimes a little iffy, and she was very very suspicious of the ground poles that I left set out in the middle of the arena.

So, Chantilly (we need a nickname. Chanty? Tilly?) worked well for about half an hour. Check.

RC’s turn.

I chose RC because I knew there was a lesson scheduled, so I assumed that it would be easier to stay out of the way on RC (who is 90% better now!) than on Delight, what with the weather changing and having had a few days off. In the time it took me to get tacked up and out to the arena, there was already another little pony out there. Fine. We can deal. No problem.

Shoulder in, leg yield, baby half-passes, renvers, travers all at the walk for some warm up. Just as I pick up the trot in comes the instructor. Not just for kid 1 on the pony already in the arena, but with four more kids and ponies in tow. So much for that ride… Bogies at 4, 6, 10 and 12 o’clock. I bowed out gracefully, and took RC back to the barn for some serious grooming.

I dawdled getting Delight ready, since I really was hoping for an empty arena (not totally out of the realm of possibility, since it’s usually pretty empty after five), but we had one other horse and rider to dodge. No biggie. We’re both descent riders, we can share.

Since lunging is for weenies, I just hopped on Delight. Turns out, that wasn’t my brightest moment. The other rider chose to lunge, and with the first snap of that lunge whip to get her steady eddy moving, my Delight decided to show off her prowess for airs above the ground. We had a leap and a buck, followed by the typical warmblood proposing.

Side note: Ponies are damn quick (thanks for that sound bite Wayne).

After two more rounds around the arena where pushing Delight forward seemed to not be fixing the problem (think forward leaping and bucking) I wimped out. I wimped out hard. Out came the bright pink lunge line, and we lunged over cavelettis.

Now, I don’t lunge to get the sillies out. I lunge to make them work in the case that there might be some sillies that I don’t want to have to sit out. Ten minutes of lunging, and she was no longer leaping the cavalettis as if they were 3’ oxers, so on I got. Again.

And we had a good ride. Thank goodness.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


I suppose I should start with the Big Reveal: My surprise… I added another pony to the string!

Her name is Chantilly. She’s a 2007 German Riding pony (RPSI, not Wesser-EMS) with 30 days of training on her. When I went for my second visit, I sat on her and though “Oh, this is the one!”

So we did the PPE, then I went on down and picked her up on Sunday. Of course, it was only her third trailer ride, and first time in a slant load, so we had a little pony fit for the for ten minutes or so, then she settled in and ate for the next 7 hours… 14 hours a day dragging a trailer is beyond what I ever want to do again. Oy vey.

Chantilly popped off the trailer with no problem, went for a jog in the arena while I got her new stall ready, rolled then happily went to her new stall to eat some more.

So yesterday I debated about giving her the day off, since she had just arrived, but she met me at the gate and wanted to come in, so I tacked her up and brought her in to lunge. No one was there, so it seemed like perfect timing to me. I cleared out all of the jumps and barrels and ground poles that were strewn about the arena, presumably in some sort of pattern for the lesson ponies. I didn’t think that Chantilly needed any obstacles on day 1, so away it all went. Chantilly was a little jumpy-in the way that ponies seem to spook, with the crouch and look but nothing else.

Oh, and we had 50 mph gusts yesterday too, so the arena was rattling and groaning.

Plenty of factors to make La Ponita Tres a little nervous, yet she lunged like a champ (maybe she liked my neon pink and black lunge line). She even settled down in the trot so that it was reaching as opposed to a little rushed. Just as I asked for the canter, in came another boarder on her big four year old. So no canter… Fine. I can deal with that.

Off came the lunge line, and I hand walked Chantilly around the track of the arena while the big black four year old careened around. Chantilly’s head went up.

The door opened and in came a kid on a little pinto Shetland. Chantilly’s eyes started getting wide. What IS that thing? Shetland and Kidlet 2 started warming up with no discernable pattern or speed. Pony does what Pony wants, evidently. Usually at the sewing machine trot or careening canter… Chantilly’s eyes were wide as saucers at this point, but she was calmly standing next to me.

At this point, I figured what do I have to lose? Might as well get on this pony and see what she does. I mean, worst case scenario, Pony bucks me off and I receive even more advice from the rail birds than usual. So up I get, on to the little Stubben close contact saddle I’ve been using while the Schleese is awaiting repairs (not as secure feeling as my dressage saddle would have been…).

And Chantilly… Stands there. What a good pony. So off we went to navigate through this pony and child mine field. Chantilly’s eyes are still pretty wide, but she’s calmly moving forward. I can feel a little tension in her body, but two or three laps around the ring and she relaxed a little bit (but still never trusted the little pony when it came tearing up behind her).

And the door opens.

In comes the Natural Horsemanship pair of the barn. Saddled and ready, armed with carrot stick and official NH halter/lead rope/reins… Again Chantilly stopped and looked, but she moved off readily enough. We upped the ante to trot work, nice and forward. Chantilly seems happier when moving forward so that she doesn’t have to worry about all of the bogeys in the arena.

Whump. Whump. Whump. Whump.

Chantilly came to a dead halt and craned her neck to look at the sound. Evidently NH warm up includes tapping your horse with the carrot stick, which sounds kind of like a wiffle ball bat on the side of a house.

I decided that discretion was the better part of valor and dismounted. I lead Chantilly around one more lap, then took her back to the stall to untack. Of course, as I exited the arena, what did I hear?

“I have some Natural Horsemanship tapes you can borrow so you can learn how to desensitize that horse”

Thanks, but no thanks. This horse deserves a gold plated feed bin filled with mints and carrots for not dumping me and leaving forever.

Oh, and here’s this week’s weather forecast. Charming right?

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…

Monday, November 7, 2011

Do the Twist...

First of all, I will start off with my good news: RC is sound to trot!

Finally! After two weeks off, his feet have finally grown enough for him to be comfortable at the trot. The bute that I’ve been giving him is probably helping… But that boy needs to start working before he destroys the barn. We don’t want to be “That Boarder”. Shudder.

Since RC is prone to annoying bossy behavior of his jerky stud-cold alter ego, Red Fury, when giving any considerable time off, we’ve been spending our time doing about an hour of showmanship or in hand work. Mostly things like stopping when I stop (without having to bump the lead rope), backing when I ask (without having to bump the lead rope), pivoting on his hind quarters to both directions and generally not running me over. We were actually doing pretty well after a few days of practice. RC is always so proud of himself when he knows the answer to the questions I’m asking.

On Friday, I brought carrots for both of the ponies. A little treat for being good, as it were. Delight worked hard, and pretty well, so she got her carrots in her stall after working. RC, nearly frantic that HE was never going to eat again at the sound of Delight crunching away on carrots, got too pushy. So it was off to the arena for some groundwork. I decided to break up two carrots into little pieces to reward him got his groundwork efforts. As it would turn out, a little food reward makes RC very very attentive. He would stop and back without any pressure. His pivots were approaching reining velocity. That is, until his lack of coordination caught up with him.

I was asking him to do a little pattern using the ground poles that were lying all over (as always). We walked over the first three poles, pivoted to the right 270 degrees, walked over three more poles, halt, pivot 90 degrees and set up. We didn’t make it to the set up stage. I tried (silly me) to give RC a treat as I was asking him to pivot the 90 degrees. His body started moving faster than his legs, which got twisted up under him like a pretzel. He hit the ground with a THUD.

What kind of horse falls down in showmanship?

Obviously RC cannot walk and chew at the same time, much less cross his legs while chewing. I should have known better…

Of course, there were witnesses to RC’s moment of grace. Lesson kids on their ponies were staring at him wide eyed as he finished chewing before lumbering to his feet, ready for another carrot piece. What a doofer. Good thing I have Deli, so it looks like I actually do know how to work with horses…

Also… I have a surprise for everyone! Pictures to come….

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Helpful Advice

Well, the change has happened. It’s closing in on winter- a fact that I’m reminded of every morning when I find my slippers to take the poodles outside in the dark. 23 degrees this morning at 9 am (when it gets light). I’ve had to chip ice off my truck for the last few mornings… But my new automatic garage door is nearly complete (along with my stalls-but those pictures will come later), so there is hope from when it’s snowing and blowing and just being miserable. But for now, it’s just chilly.

As for my new barn… Let’s just say that there’s an adjustment period. RC’s still off from the last horrid trimming job. He’ sound at the walk now, with the help of neat purple runner pads and size 000 shoes. To give you an idea on how much foot was taken off, he usually wears a size 0. That’s two sizes smaller than ideal! Not happy…. Where’s Jessie when you need him?

Other than the feet, RC’s fitting in. He’s the only horse on the property who wears a blanket at all times. I tried to turn him out sans blanket yesterday (it was 50 degrees and sunny, with a light breeze); He had to be brought in because he was shivering so badly. I guess he’ll be in blankets/sheets for the next six months. What a wimp. The other bad thing about him being lame for so long (going on three weeks now) is that he’d made the transition into Red Fury. He actually went so far as to bite me the other day while I was picking his feet! Me! I have a bruise on my butt from that horse! Turns out the only cure is about an hour of hand walking and working on showmanship.

Delight, on the other hand, loves having a stall of her own. She could not be happier. She gets to go outside (unfortunately with Red Fury, who is even less of a benevolent leader now with his time off), and come back in to ‘her space’. And the girls at the barn think she’s hot stuff (though they are calling her “Black Velvet”, which I think it worse than Irish Delight, in my opinion). She’s even progressing in the indoor arena- First level, here I come.

Side note: Funny how much more I ask from her in a proper arena than out in the field. All of a sudden I care about bend through the corners and maintaining a proper circle.

The down side of all this is that I am getting all kinds of unsolicited advice…

One ‘trainer’ started telling me that horses can actually wear blankets outside (I know, RC's is hanging in front of his stall and I am paying for full care board).

A lesson kid’s mom knows a woman with a first level school master who could teach me so much.

A boarder knows someone who did dressage and can help me fix my pony (ok, so we had a few explosive transitions. It was cold, she was fresh… these things happen). And obviously a martingale would fix her head set.

I shouldn’t be afraid to ride with other people – There were 5 lesson kids on ponies in there. I think Delight and I needed to wait them out. Safety first.

But really. This boarding thing might work out. Either I've lost all talent in the saddle or I just have to get through this overly helpful initial period. (Though I am really excited about my new stalls in my barn. Spring can’t come soon enough!)