Friday, August 31, 2012

That Arena Project

So, us dressage people seem to be a tad anal about our arenas. I mean every dressage arena ever has to be the exact same size with letters not-so-randomly strewn about (seriously, who chose the order for the dressage letters?) and evenly spaced so that an arena is an arena is an arena no matter where it is. 

So this summer, I've installed (actually hired out the job) to making a nice big flat riding area for my ponitas. Because, as it would turn out, its quite difficult to really school accurately when just out in a big field. 
The dirt work starts

Woohoo, flat and level!

Finished with the dirt work

Adding markers for letters
Obviously i still need to put up the little white chain that won't actually contain a horse in the arena and letters, but isn't it a huge improvement?

And I really had nothing interesting to post anyway ....

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Artificial Aids

So,we all know our basic aids, right? We have our leg, seat, weight, hands, and voice... Then a few artificial ones: whip, spur, double bridle, etc.
I take pride in how quick off the leg my horses tend to be. I like it when you close your leg, the pony GOES with a "yes ma'am" instead of taking a kick-kick-kick-kick-roll-into-the-pony trot kind of transition.
It's all about standards, right?

So, why bring all this useless garbage about aids up? Because I have had to up the ante with RC to keep him fun for me to ride while he's still giving lessons to the kids. Introducing spurs.
Now, RC is a solid guy. He knows his job, he's safe and dependable, and he's fun once he gets going. The downside to Mr Safe and Dependable is that with a few beginner/novice lessons a week, he tends to revert to his western pleasure mode... Which can be fun, but I expect my horses to be powerful and forward and quick off the aids.
Not any of that shuffling around the arena, pretending that he's being forward and obedient when really he's humming some little ditty to himself and tuning me out. So out come the spurs for a little refresher on what 'off the leg' actually means.

I think that my leg is pretty good. I mean, I don't 'accidently' bump RC with the spur, or flop around like a dead fish. It's that attention to details that really makes one a trainer, instead of just a rider. Keep this fact in mind...

Well, my attention slipped a little.

I had a great ride on RC (even got some nice changes!), untacked and bathed him, put him away and grabbed the next pony to work.
Deli's turn.

You know where I'm going with this... I forgot to remove my spurs.
Now, Delight is a very forward thinking pony. I have never had to use the whip or spur to get her forward. I've used the whip to activate a hind leg or encourage her to give through her ribs, but not to drive her forward. I have never used spurs on Delight.

Until yesterday.

Delight has been a little sticky to the left in the last week, so while doing some 10 m circles to changes of direction, I added a little more leg... and incidentally, spur. Delight responded to that little nudge with a rounded POW spur like I had just jammed a cattle prod into her fat little belly.

She leaped forward in one of those both-hind-legs-bunny-hop type moves, then dropped her head and neck out of the frame and gave a few good bronc moments while I held on using only sheer will and ab muscles that even I didn't know I had, since I didnt want to A) hit her with the spur again or B) clamp my legs which has proven to result in increased leaping and twisting.

After a very active 45 seconds, I hopped off Delight (voluntarily) and removed the offending spurs. We had a nice little ride after that....

Lesson learned: Always check your boots. Especially when riding La Ponita.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

When Your day Starts With...

Yeah, literal shit, not just "I hate Mondays" type shit. 
Alison, you live on a farm. With horses. You are quite familiar with 'literal shit', as a matter of fact you spend your mornings literally moving 'literal shit'. 
Quite right, italics voice, however, this day started off a little differently. I poured myself out of bed on this fine Monday morning (insert appropriate 'I hate Mondays' look here), pulled on my wonderful bright yellow muck boots (first good choice of the day) and headed out to the barn to feed, turn out then clean only to step in THIS as soon as I entered the barn:
This is not the actual pile I stepped in.
This is a borrowed image representing the actors portrayal
of the incident because my camera was out of battery
 All over my aisle mats... cow manure!
One of your horses could have gotten out and left that mess, you know. 
No. No they could not have. For one, all four horses were happily chowing down in their respective stalls, for the other all horse people are some what obsessed with the bodily functions of their horses...
Are they pooping enough? Too much? Has the consistency changed? Do they need to be wormed? Are they dehydrated? Sick? Is there and impaction? Oh god, it's colic!

Moral of this story is that horse people know their poo.

This, for instance, is horse poo.
What was in my barn aisle was NOT horse poo. It was cow poo. Which means that at some point last night, a cow moseyed into my yard, infiltrated my barn, was herded out and headed home all without waking me or my useless useless dogs.

Now, what kind of person comes to their neighbors farm in the middle of the night to collect their wayward livestock and doesn't come back to clean up the mess left by said livestock? Sigh.

Fortuneatly I had stellar rides on RC, Delight, and Tilly that afternoon, so my day wasn't bad at all.
Though I could have used a nap...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Tilly's First Schooling Show

So, this past weekend was Tilly's first show! And since I'm updating my blog, obviously she didnt kill me, so that's already a successful outing, dontcha think? Anyway, this might be a picture heavy blog since it's the Monday after a horse show, and typing a coherent, compelling story might be beyond my grasp today. 
The tack room, complete with guard poodles
Of course, when we got to the show, we were the only group with a tack stall, which I promptly filled with saddle racks, shelves my saddle pad rack, a mat on the floor, and all of the other odds and ends required at a two day show for three horses. Oh, and the poodles settled right in...

Tilly, wide eyed and wondering where I've brought her
Of course, Tilly hopped off the trailer pretty wide eyed. She was quite talkative all Friday, answering ever whinney she heard. Annoying... but in the grand scheme of taking a young horse off the farm for the first time, bearable. Of course, she was much happier with food in front of her (she's not quite the power chow hound that RC and Deli are, so there's some room for improvement). Friday's warm up was pretty exciting in a large unfenced arena. We did a few laps with her head in my lap and her tail over her back, but after some not so subtle maneuvering on my part, her little brain engaged and she realized that she has to do the exact same thing in this arena as in our arena at home.
"Uh, excuse us, but we're adorable. Why waste time on a pony?"
Saturday morning rolled around way too early for my taste, with a 5:45 start for my crew. Of course I was sleeping in my trailer, so I didn't have as early of a morning as my students... but it got COLD in my little tin can.  Good thing I had two blankets and two little poodle spaceheaters to help get me through the night. And Ellen brought me a giant cup of coffee first thing in the morning. That helped too.
Tilly's first braid job. So far she's unconcerned.
After my student's got through their morning rides, I rushed back to the stalls to get Tilly braided for our 1pm classes. I was a little concerned about it since she was having a difficult time standing still and focusing on anything with all the excitement of the show, but she tolerated my braiding pretty well with only minimal shuffling back and forth.
Tilly's braids: Final Product
After we got braided, we walked over to watch the jump arena before  getting tacked up and ready for our class. Oh, and I still had to learn my test. No biggie. Intro B is only like 9 movements, right?
The first picture of me riding Tilly, ever. 
So, we had a few issues in the warm up arena, like horses passing us, naughty horses lunging just out of the arena, other horses hollering, and a paint. Tilly was confused about that color pattern, though less obviously racist than AT is, so it's all good.
 Saturday's tests were Intro B followed by Intro C, almost immediately.  Tilly was pretty good. Obviously our connection could use some help and we have a few balance issues in the transitions, but we scores a 65% and 66%, respectively.
 Now, there are times in life when you have to stop yourself from saying something super douchey. I had one of those moments when picking up my scores on Saturday. Intellectually, I knew that there were issues. Of course she's not perfect. This was her first show, she was a little tense and looky at the judges trailer and we got hollow in the transitions.... yadda, yadda, yadda, excuses, excuses, excuses...
But as I looked up my scores I had to stop myself from being disgusted with only a 65% in front of my students. "Oh. 65. ugh.... I mean, good pony!"
Way to be an asshole, Alison. Way to go...
 By Sunday, the Tillner was all settled in and had her game face on. We scored a 70% and Intro C and a 65% at Intro B. I'm much happier with a 70%, than a 65%.... But in all honesty, I'm thrilled with how Tilly behaved all weekend. There was no silly young horse shenanigans or losing her little pony mind over seeing something new.
 What a good Pony!!!
 Tilly was looking for her post ride treat.... I was trying to memorize my second test in the ten minutes between my two test.
The poodles guard the ribbon wall after a successful weekend at the horse show!

More pictures, thanks to Kate!
Awwwww Pony trot!

Warm up waiting for the bell...

Free walks... We earn 8's

'Fluffing' my legs after our final halt-salute....
Sure looks like pony is about to get a spanking

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Two Days...

So tomorrow I get to head on out for yet another show, kids in tow... And Chantilly.

Yep, Tilly is going to make her show debut at Intro B and Intro C (and no, we're NOT the only open riders in intro!). Wish us luck!
Of course, this show should be a little easier than the last schooling show. I mean, I've been to the facility before, met the people and with any luck there wont be a monster truck rally next door. Crossing my fingers on that last one...

So stay tuned... Hopefully there will be a full report and plenty of pictures to come!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Making the Right Choice...

You know how after a long Monday (because Mondays are proven to feel way longer than any other day of the week), you get home absolutely drained and are tempted to take a short cut or two?
Ballsy little deer....

London is not sure he's a fan of the deer. At All. 

Well I did and didn't. At the same time.
I'll admit, I gave the whole herd a day off, even though they didn't need or particularly want it. I laid down and took an hour long power nap. Evidently I really needed it.
Anyway, I woke up at 8 and headed  out to feed horses.
Sure, I knew that there was a chance of rain, but really, the sky was blue and any clouds were way to the north. Surely, I thought to myself, I can save myself some work and leave them out tonight? What could it possibly hurt?

Then I told myself to suck it up. Put hay in the stalls and bring them in, if just because London likes spending the night in his stall away from RC. So I hayed, watered and brought the herd in for the night.

Of course, later that night as I was watching an episode of Psych before falling asleep (or possibly falling asleep while watching an episode of Psych), in rolls a storm; rain, lightening, thunder, the whole nine yards. Thank goodness I had already brought the horses in!

Score one point for forethought!

Monday, August 6, 2012

It's a Beautiful Day

For whatever reason, this weekend was just fantastic. Not only did I not have any repeats of the bucking Ponita fiasco, the weather was perfect and I got all kinds of jobs done.
On Saturday, there was a chance of rain/storms and it was appropriately grey and threatening all day.
Wait, you just said that the weather was perfect. Which is it, perfect or threatening?
It was perfectly threatening. The clouds made 80 degrees feel cool and the clouds were impressive and a nice break from the sun. Also, I was ready for a little rain. Of course, since I had mentally prepared myself for the rain, it didn't happen. So I got sawdust to rebed the stalls, stripped three of the four stalls (Tilly's wasn't bad enough to merit a total rehaul yet), mowed the entire lawn, raked the trimmings (guess two weeks is really too long to go between trimmings), rebedded the stalls and unloaded the remainder of the sawdust.
Tarp in place, ready for that sawdust...

Which really made me think about my need for a 'shavings bay' again. Add it to the to do list...

Of course, then because it didn't actually rain, I took Delight and London out for a ride. Riding London now can be difficult for me... I tend to want him to ride like the fit 12 year old that he used to be instead of the happy 20 year old that he is now. So I ask for a few movements without really pushing him then go on a trail ride and we're both happy campers. It's the first time I've done any tempis, let alone two's, in quite a while. I was grinning from ear to ear.

Delight was an ok little pony on Saturday. Of course, since Saturday was a property maintenance day, I didn't ride until the evening. Cue the deer. Delight is not ok with deer wandering through her arena/field. Not ok at all... Which made for an interesting ride for me, but we got some decent work and called it a day.
What you don't know is that this photo captured the gallop-walk transition that happened as soon as the horses saw me. Side note: Too close, RC. Too close.

Tilly, trying to lead the herd on another gallop around the field. 

Sunday was beautiful. The front came through amid a rumble of late night storms and the temperature dropped from the 80's to the low 60's with decent winds all day. I nearly needed a jacket, but refused to wimp out in August. Because it was such a pretty morning I took Delight out first thing (she really wasn't a fan) for a early morning work out.
And Delight nailed it.
We worked through second level test three, and probably could have scored in the high 50's, low 60's - which, I realize, isn't a great score, but not bad for a training level pony. This was the first ride where I sat the trot for half the ride and she didn't try to take her back away from me. Success!!!
I rode Tilly in the afternoon, because I had lunch plans, lessons and stalls to clean first. I was a little worried about the Tillner because she was pretty off on Friday when I worked her (due to a big kick on her shoulder... probably from that jerk, RC), but she was right as rain on Sunday. I don't think that I could have been in a better mood than I was yesterday.
Look at that little pony neck!

Of course, now it's monday and the final countdown to show time this weekend....

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Let the Countdown Begin..

I did it. I sent in the entry for Tilly's first show. i know that Courtney will be disappointed, but I have her signed up for Intro B and C which sounds fair to me... I mean, she's a young pony who has been on a trailer a total of three times, all of which resulted in a new home and she tends to turn into a hand-galloping giraffe in times of tension.
Oh, and I like to do well, which we wouldn't (yet) at training level.

I'll admit that I'm disappointed that I can't ride RC, but with the hassle of trying to get an answer to whether or not it would be legit to show him a second level and have a student show him at training... Just not worth the possible complaints. (Side note: The USDF doesn't CARE how you run your schooling show)
I would have really liked to show at a 'real' level for a change. I feel that my riding has gotten much better in the last two years, but I'm still stuck at the lower levels because I have all these young horses. Darn young horses.... One of these days I'll get back to the real levels. You know, the ones with half-passes and flying changes. Oh to dream....
RC... eating away his show goals...

So, in my now panic that Tilly has just over a week before her showing debut I pushed her a little harder yesterday. And I found her eject button.
As it would turn out La Ponita Tres strenuously objects to 'excessive use of the whip', which seems to be defined (by her) as the smart pop I gave her when she pulled out a Whoastorm. It was a canter-prop-smack-bucksquealbuck transition... I stuck it, but thank goodness for knee rolls, know what I'm saying? After a little reprogramming on my part, I got some good work out of her. Tilly is becoming a really fun ride because I can feel her canter coming along, no more of that scrambling little pony run, but an actual reaching rounded canter. Sigh. I do so love it when things end on a good note.

After Ponita Tres, came Ponita Uno. Delight's had a few days off, so she's back to the Tick. Her girth had to go down two holes to compensate for her inflation. Oy vey... I guess Delight just can't hang with days off.
Anyway, for all that she has had an easy week, Delight was pretty good. Of course she warmed up rather stiff with absolutely no desire to bend her body at all... but plenty of changes of directions, some shoulder in and leg yield helped that out. After some great canter transitions and sitting trot work, I called it a day.

So Delight got a bath followed by a half hour of supervised grazing in the front yard.
Of course, then London wanted some front yard privileges, so I fed him in the yard then watched him graze for an hour. I'll still have to mow my lawn, but maybe the horses can help out at least a little.
This is like a dry lot here! Look at all that lawn! We could help...