Sunday, February 26, 2012

the ground work starts to pay off

On Thursday, before I rode, I went through all of the groundwork lessons that Maddy had taught me earlier in the week. I tacked Lu up with her saddle but left the rope halter on instead of putting on her bridle, and we did a bit of lunging/space awareness work (my own term, not something I found on the internet) and I hoped that would set the tone for the whole ride.

Lucy was so quiet under saddle that I could not believe it! When we were warming up, I was up in my halfseat letting her canter along and it was the closest to a "relaxed hunter stride" I think we've ever had. She was rating herself with just the occasional half-halt on the outside rein from me (usually around the corner). Was she just in a good mood, or did she really learn something from the work on the ground? I don't know, but I wasn't arguing! Here are some videos:

Thanks to my friend Nicole for videotaping!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

SO unacceptable.

Lucy was a HUGE brat during our ride on Monday. Long story short, there was another horse being ridden in the ring when I was in there. Lucy has made it quite clear she hates this particular horse. She pins her ears at him and gives him a nasty look whenever he's around. We were coexisting fine until she randomly flew backward at him from a standstill with the intent to kick him...WHILE I was riding!!!!

The long version:

Lucy is stalled next to a chestnut QH in the barn and she absolutely despises him. She barely missed kicking him when he got too close to her hind end while out on a trail ride, and since then she has had it out for him.

As I said, Lucy and this QH were giving each other the stink eye the entire time we were riding on Monday night. She reacted when he picked up the canter, and every time he would pass her, though he gave her a wide berth, she pinned her ears flat against her head and got visibly upset. Finally I just chose to stand in the middle of the ring while the girl riding him cantered. Well, everything was ok until she got around the far corner where we were standing. Lucy tracked him with her head/eyes as he rounded the corner, and when he got closer to her she pinned her ears and RAN backwards at him, legs flailing and everything. He responded by spinning around so his hindquarters were aiming right at her. I yelled "NO!" and yanked her head around in a one-rein stop hoping to get some control of her hindquarters so she couldn't kick him. It was really scary. They didn't make contact but I was so shaken up that I made Lucy do a few more minutes of work so she didn't think she could act like that and then be done, and then I took her back to the barn. I was really mad at her but I was completely at a loss as to how to show her that, short of beating the you-know-what out of her, which obviously wouldn't be constructive.

Her dinner was waiting in her stall and again, I didn't want to just put her away and let her think she could eat dinner after acting like that, so I made her stand in her stall with her dinner right there and I did ground work with her. She was so good and so quiet and obedient. The aggression had completely disappeared and she had a soft look in her eye.

I am lucky that my friend whom I board with is really excellent at working horses on the ground and establishing boundaries. She's an excellent rider, too, but I really admire her skills working with horses in hand.

Here's a video, showing my friend working with Lucy first, and then I give it a shot halfway through:

Just compare Lucy's body language in the beginning to the video to how she is acting when my friend's part ends. She's actually trying to do what my friend wants, instead of automatically tossing her the equine bird before my friend even finishes the request.

I hope this ground work will translate to having a better handle on Lucy's feet under saddle. I also hope she never tries to attack another horse with me on board again.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

videos from this weekend

We had another weekend of beautiful weather here and I was able to spend a lot of it enjoying Lucy.

First, she got her mane pulled:

Then on Saturday, we did a lot of flat work and then played with some very small jumps in the ring. She was not keen on the little itty bitty oxer, as you will see. Warning, I may or may not swear in this video ;) I wished I had a crop:

Then we moved down into the XC area and had a lot of fun:

Here are some photos from that day:

check out her crimpy tail. I conditioned and braided it the night before :) I know I said I was going to stick to small jumps and obviously this
is not a "small" jump. All I can say is that it was the only one we hadn't jumped,
and she was being so great in the XC area. I am glad we jumped it.

This afternoon I set out on a trail ride and not far from the barn, I bumped into Kenny and Cairo! Kenny and I switched and he rode Lucy for a little while, which was great. Here are a couple of photos of them:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

on canine companions

Yesterday I went on a evening trail ride with a good friend. She rode an Arabian mare and we brought Cairo along.

Cairo in the lead, Surprisingly Chill Arab Mare in second place, and Lucy
looking annoyed that she's last.
 I was nervous for the following reasons:

-we didn't ride out until almost 5pm and I knew we were racing against the waning daylight
-I had never ridden Lucy in the evening when it was basically dark and basically expected her to be a total freak
-I am personally a huge chicken and the idea of being in the woods in the dark is not something I would normally sign myself up for
-I had no idea how the other mare would be with the dog
-Cairo had been cooped up all day and was WILD
-Cairo had also left her listening skills at home and wasn't really interested in paying any attention to me, which is not like her. Usually she listens well, even when I'm on a horse.
-I forgot dog treats at home and so I didn't even have a way to bribe the dog to listen

So, I spent most of the ride waiting for a huge explosion that never happened. Yup, the Arab mare was totally cool with the dog, even when Cairo stupidly went right up to her hind end and licked her hocks(!!!). Cairo did not listen as well as I would have liked her to --I yelled "LEAVE IT!" when she went up to the Arab's hind legs and she licked her hocks anyway, little brat--, but she listened well enough and stayed in front of the horses for most of the ride. We even tried a bit of trotting and
Cairo loped out in front of the horses, glancing backward every ten feet or so to make sure we were following and she was not about to get run over.

Thankfully we didn't encounter any deer and both horses behaved very well. I was waiting for the ghosts to jump out and scare the crap out of all of us but Lucy was like, "no worries, mate". My friend wisely assured me that horses can see better than humans in the dark so I had nothing to be worried about. I have no idea if this is true or not but it sure sounded good at the time, so I chose to believe it ;)

Anyway, I think Cairo still has a ways to go before she is the perfect Canine Companion out on the trails, BUT for being not even two years old and a breed that is known to be quite wild/free-thinking, she does a pretty good job. I will be more diligent about bringing delicious doggie bribes (i.e. treats) with me from now on and I bet she'll listen much better if she knows food is up for grabs. I encourage her to be out in front of the horses for a few reasons: a) if a horse spooks, it usually spooks sideways and I do not want my dog to get tangled up in that mess, b) I also don't want her behind the horses in case they kick and c) she will alert us to things up ahead, like if someone is approaching from the opposite direction, or if deer are lurking in the woods.

Who else brings their doggies out on trail rides? Do you have any helpful training tips?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

snowless snow ride

Today's forecast called for 4" of snow and I was all excited about another snowy trail ride.

At 3:30pm when I finally got out there, this is what the trails looked like:

Not a single snowflake...anywhere!

It did snow a little bit this morning, but it wasn't cold enough outside to make the snow stick, and it all melted very quickly.

Despite my snowless snow ride, Lucy and I had a great time out there today. I was hoping for three things, and they all came true:

1. Part of the trail has steep banks on both sides, with a rushing stream below. Lucy sometimes is ok with this section of the trail, and other times she doesn't know which direction to spook in, because there are very scary things on both sides. Today I just wanted her to realize that forward is the best choice in that situation, and she was really good about it today!

2. I wanted to go to the power lines and do some hill work, but I was afraid she'd throw another massive buck at the top of the hills. She quickly gave my confidence a major boost - she was a perfect lady and was forward and excited to gallop up one of the biggest hills, but she came back to a relaxed walk immediately at the peak, and there was no bucking!

3. I have been very conservative about letting her canter toward home, because on one of our trail rides not long ago, she tried to take advantage and run away with me. I got her attention back, but it took a while, and then I made her walk all the way home. Today we did some trotting AND cantering on the way back to the barn, and she was so polite about everything! She listened to my half-halts and wasn't stupid.

at the power lines
back at the barn, spying on the neighbours

normally I'd crosstie her, but she loves being able to look out of the barn doors
and I figure it's good practice for being tied.
And here's one photo from a trail ride we went on earlier in the week, with Cairo!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Jolly Ball, Cairo style

When Lucy soundly rejected the pink peppermint Jolly Ball that I bought her, I gave it to the dog. Cairo loved, but she loved it in a way it wasn't exactly designed for, and before long it was in many pieces in the back yard.

At the grain store yesterday, they had Jolly Balls especially for dogs. They are made out of harder plastic than the horse version, and they have a rope going through the middle. I got one for Cairo and to my delight, she loved it! She played with it all last night and then today after work, I took her to a near-by field and tossed it around for her.

if you are as terrible at throwing as I am, this toy will make your throwing arm
look great because this toy is really easy to throw far without a lot of effort
(or coordination!).

"take off my jacket!"

she is too cute. here she is throwing the toy for herself.

I couldn't find where she had hidden her collar with the tags on it so she wore
her extra one out.

Monday, February 6, 2012

just what the doctor ordered

Yes, Lucy occasionally lets her freak flag fly, but then there are days like today when I arrive at the barn, pull her out of her paddock, tack up and head out on an hour long trail ride after she had a couple days off, and without lunging first.

Recipe for disaster? Or opportunity for an amazing ride?

We weaved through the trees, trotted along the trails, and cantered through the fields. It was an hour of wandering around, forgetting about drama and remembering how to enjoy myself. Lucy was forward but not bonkers, and she was alert but not scary. She did have one good-sized spook when some dogs came around a sharp turn in the trail and were running around her, but I can't blame her because they scared me too! They weren't doing anything bad but I will be more cautious about sharp turns in the trail in the future.

When we returned to the barn, I spent some extra time grooming her to perfection, and I clipped her legs and bridle path. She was looking quite lovely by the time I put her in her stall for the night.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

if my brain could knock it off, that would be lovely.

First, I am having a giveaway contest for a free painted saddle pad. There aren't many entries yet so your chances of winning are quite high! Details are over on my Facebook page (click here).

Ok, now for the tale of my inability to get my brain to shut up:

Poor Lucy. I don't know what my problem is but I had another tough ride today. It was not Lucy's fault. Kenny put some jumps up and immediately I started getting nervous. We warmed up over low fences (crossrails and 2') and we had no problems at all. As soon as the jumps went up to 2'6"+, I spent the entire approach to the jump a) starting at the base of it and b) silently freaking out. We jumped everything but I had a minor meltdown after she refused a fence (because I pulled her to the base of it, AND I was staring at the ground). Every ounce of me was subconsciously screaming "STOP!" and so that's exactly what she did, and then I lost my confidence. She has done NOTHING wrong and I am really alarmed at myself. We ended up with a very small vertical just to end on a good note, and then we went on a long hack where we had a really lovely, long canter along a section of the trail that is very straight and flat.

My plan is to jump only very tiny tiny jumps for a few weeks. Nothing big, no complex lines, no oxers, etc. I will stick with this height until I am bored out of my skull, then put everything up one hole. I always appreciate Kenny's help setting up jumps for me, but he tends to start them quite high right off the bat, and when they go up, they go up by 2 or 3 holes at a time. I also plan to go on lots of trail rides and really enjoy myself.

Anyway, here are some photos from today:

playing with the small bank jump :)

and back up into the ring

Friday, February 3, 2012

LOL Cats, a run down the road, and liability insurance 101


Ok, now to the nitty gritty:

What is it with loose horses and roads?

They are not friends.

They do not play well together.

fight! fight! fight!
 They are both unpredictable, like two chemicals that may explode when put together in one test tube.

similar to how I bet your head just exploded of cuteness.
 I have had several bad falls on trails where the horse (both Lucy and the horse I was riding before I bought her) left me and ran home along the road. My old horse, Caesar, lived in a super quiet neighbourhood and though a horse running down the road is never a good thing, I didn't completley lose my marbles because very rarely was there ever a car that came down that road.

This past Spring, Lucy and I parted ways on a trail ride, and she was so spooked that she galloped down the middle of the road all the way back to the barn. As I hobbled as fast as I could after her, someone picked me up and was like, "um, was that your horse galloping down the road?". The person offered to drive me back to the barn. On the drive back, people were literally coming out of their houses and lining the road with confused expressions, like a scene right out of Independence Day when the alien space ship is landing.

Sadly, it was Lauren's turn yesterday and due to a freak tack failure, Lucy was able to get loose and have a little trip down the main road the the barn is off of. The billets on Lauren's saddle broke mid-ride and caused the saddle to shift around Lucy's side, which set her off, causing Lauren to bail (she reports that the footing in the outdoor is very cushy, which I am sure will come in handy for me sooner or later). The worst part is that it's not like the leather part of the billets broke; the nails/tacks holding the top of the billets onto the body of the saddle popped out and that's how the billets broke away. Honestly, now, has anyone ever checked the tippy top of their saddle's billet straps to make sure they're not about to fall out? I sure haven't.

Lucy booked it up the driveway of the farm and was loose on the main road the the barn is off of. The saddle fell off about 1/2 way up the driveway. It's a fairly busy road with a 35mph speed limit and the barn's driveway is almost hidden, so she could have been easily hit coming out of it.

A stranger drove down the driveway, spotted Lauren, and asked, "Is that your horse running up and down the road?" Then the kind stranger drove Lauren up to the road to try and find the horse.

According to Lauren, Lucy trotted up and down the road, much less upset now that the saddle was off, and seemed to be trying to figure out where she was and how she could get back to the barn.

She probably knew she was in hot water!

By this time, traffic was stopped thanks to three police officers.

Then Lucy got her bearings and saw the indoor, and ran over to it (and out of the road, thank God).

Now, the good news is that Lucy did NOT get hit by a car, damage any property, mow down any grandmas, or cause any permanent PTSD to anyone. It also really sounded like Lucy got her brains back as soon as the saddle was out of the picture, and she did not run up and down the street like a complete maniac.

The bad news is that Lauren's poor saddle is not a very happy camper and the whole thing was a bit traumatic for everyone :( I felt really bad that this happened, and even worse that I was stuck at work and couldn't do anything to help!

It soon struck me that I could have very easily had a BIG ASS lawsuit on my hands if she had been hit by a car, damaged property, or hurt someone. I spent much of last night researching liability insurance policies that would cover me if this were to ever happen again with not as good of an ending. For yearly $1,000,000 policies for one horse, I was quoted $150 by one company, $500 by another, and then someone said, "You should just get a USEF membership for $35. It includes $1M of liability coverage."

I was like,

I did a lot of frantic googling around and compared a few policies.

$35 later, I am a member (non-competing...for now) of USEF and I already have a copy of my shiny new $1,000,000 liability insurance policy saved on my computer. Contrary to popular belief, this policy covers you at USEF-sanctioned shows AND at home (or wherever you go). It covers property damage, bodily injury, etc. There are exclusions such as if you are teaching a lesson on the horse, so it won't work for everyone, but if you don't currently have liability insurance, I highly recommend you look into it!