Blog .:. January 2011 8 Entries

My horse is not a carnivore

31 January 2011 Comments

If I sit next to Ro’s stall and eat lunch, she wants to share.

However, she does not like fajitas or nachos.

But if I am sitting next to her stall and eating, she is sure she wants some.

Unless it’s fajitas or nachos. Then she doesn’t.

If she goes and eats hay for a minute and comes back, she wants some of whatever I am eating. Since she walked away, I might have switched food. It might be edible now.

She was really disgusted with me when it turned out to be fajitas and nachos. Still.

The really unfortunate part of all of this is not that I have a horse who wants to steal my lunch. It’s that I have a horse who wants to steal my lunch and then won’t eat it. It would be easier to bear if at least one of us were enjoying it, but she just spits it out on the ground and goes back to her hay.

At least she likes beer. She’s not a total Philistine.

Tagged: Horses - Ro

Sense and Sensibility

27 January 2011 Comments

In early December, Ro and I were cresting a wave. Our Very First Schooling Show Ever was scheduled for December 18, and we were prepared to astound and amaze the judge and both spectators.

Then it rained. The schooling show was canceled.

Then she got an abscess.

Then I had family visit.

Then winter arrived, it rained, winter returned, and it rained some more.

Suddenly it was late January. The rescheduled schooling show was days away. For the first time in ages, I was able to ride Ro two days in a row. I called my instructor and advised her that we’d be showing Intro instead of Training. The point of the show—especially given how much time off Ro had had—was just to get her out and about. Who cares what level we rode?

It turned out to be a moot point. The schooling show arena was still waterlogged and the show was canceled.

So on Sunday, Ro and I had our first lesson since December instead.

Unfortunately for us, the barrel racers were doing their thing in the front half of the arena. We were left with the back half, which shares a weedy, overgrown fenceline with the crazy neighbor.

The fenceline is scary on its own. The neighbor is scary and creepy. He likes to yell things randomly. He likes to rev his various crappy engines while horses are in the arena. He really likes to pull his cars and motorbikes out (if they are working) and run them up and down the road alongside the barn.

We make lemons out of lemonade and call it free bombproofing. It doesn’t make the neighbor any less obnoxious, but the reality is he’s going to do his obnoxious thing and we all have to deal with it.

Still: the fence is scary. Neither Ro nor I like it, and we usually cut off that part of the arena. Bad training, but he’s creepy and Ro and I agree on that.

However, with our lesson taking place in that half of the arena, we had to put our big girl boots on and deal with the fenceline. Which we did, and there were some really cool moments in that lesson. Fabulous canter. Show-quality stretchy circle. Flying lead change!

Yeah, ok, the flying lead change was not intentional and happened when Ro bounded over a low spot; the extra loft in that stride was just enough that she also threw in a lead change. We repeated it, just to show we could (or because someone didn’t steer correctly and hit that same low spot on the next round; I forget which). So Ro can do lead changes under saddle. God help us if she ever really figures that out—I think she’ll want to do them everywhere.

Then, on Monday, it rained.

Tuesday the world was still waterlogged. I got Ro ready to lunge and headed to the round pen, where I discovered a horse had been turned out.

Given our stretch of bad weather, we are all doing whatever we can to get horses out whenever we can. I could have put that horse in his stall while I lunged, but I was feeling lazy and decided I would just throw Ro out in the large paddock—it was muddy, but areas were firm enough that I decided she could deal with it overnight.

However, last night, that “tack up and walk to the round pen” thing somehow translated into “I worked Ro.” I hadn’t, but when I saw the arena was dry enough to work again, I tacked Ro up and headed out to ride. Why lunge when you can pretend the horse worked the day before and won’t be high as a kite?

About the time I got on Ro, I realized my mistake. That’s about the same time the creepy neighbor revved an engine, people at the nearby gun range went trigger happy, and some guys working outside the arena picked up a big plastic drainage pipe and poured standing water out of it.

The crazy neighbor we can deal with. The gun range we barely notice anymore. The water pouring out of the pipe was too much for Ro. She spun and took off.

You know how there are dirty spookers, who drop a shoulder so you fall off and the monster will stop to eat you, giving them more time to get away? And there are horses who kind of like their riders, and make sure to take the riders with them, so everyone can escape the monster in one piece? Ro is one of the latter.

So when we pulled up a couple strides later, no worse for the wear, my first thought was that if she turns like that during the barrel race, we have it in the bag.

Then I thought that perhaps I should lunge her.

Then I thought that perhaps we should learn to deal with noise everywhere. Bombproofing opportunity!

One of us had sense last night, and it probably wasn’t me.

We trotted figure eights, Ro working on dealing with a cruel, scary life, while I worked on regulating tempo with my posting and not constantly getting in her face to slow her down. And, I have to say, her coping skills are really coming along. She doesn’t behave stupidly—she’s not taking off in all-out, mindless bolts, and she tries very hard to do what’s asked, even when she makes it clear that she would rather run away fast. Eventually, I think she’ll be one of those horses who can keep working even as aliens invade. For now, I know we can work through being edgy and uneasy and get to someplace productive, and that’s good enough for me. “Eventually” will come along. Eventually.

After, I talked to my barn manager a bit. We agreed that shows were going to be a piece of cake. If anything, Ro is going to trot into an empty dressage ring surrounded by silent spectators (both of them) and freak out because it is too quiet. I wonder—can I bring someone with a motorbike and have them cruise up and down the arena if the quiet turns out to be too much for Ro?

Tagged: Horse Shows, Horses, Horses - Ro, Riding, Riding - Dressage, Riding - Lessons, Weather

Flirting with the dark side

24 January 2011 Comments

In case I never mentioned it, I board Ro at a barrel racing barn.

There are two of us who ride dressage and a third who sometimes rides hunter.

Everyone else? Barrel racers.

This is awesome. There is no warmup ring in the world that will worry Ro, because she’s already accustomed to horses, well, barreling past her.

They are actively trying to convert us, especially since they went to a race recently and saw an Arab kicking ass. They are even more convinced than ever that Ro wants to run barrels.

My “but she’s a dressage horse!” defense lost any semblance of solid ground today when my instructor, watching us gallop around a little (we were supposed to be cantering, but I digress…), pointed out that Ro was going faster than anyone else in the arena and could probably run barrels.

So I give in.

Ro’s first event, her debut into competition, is going to be a barrel race.

The barn is having a party in early February and running a barrel race as part of that, so we’ll at least go trot the barrels. We might canter them if I’m feeling brave. I hear that at barrel races, people win money instead of ribbons. The idea is appealing.

They are also bringing in some cows to do some roping, so it’s possible we may not make it into the arena at all. Ro has seen cows before, but I’m not sure what she’s going to think of them in the chute by the arena. Hopefully she’ll be interested and not freaked out by them.

If she’s ok with them in the chute, I’m going to try and get her into the arena with the cows. No roping for us—I don’t have the eye/hand coordination, and the cow would probably pull Ro over—but I think it would be fun to herd some cows around. At a walk. A slow, sedate walk.

Cross-training is good for the body and mind, right?

Let’s see what happens when a dressage queen and her princess pony go western for a day…

Tagged: Horse Shows, Horses, Horses - Ro, Riding, Riding - Barrel Racing, Riding - Dressage, Riding - HunterJumper

It’s no good having a truck…

23 January 2011 Comments

First I bought a horse.

Then I bought a truck.

Then I realized that it’s no good having a truck that can haul stuff if you don’t have stuff to haul.

So today I picked up my new trailer:

It’s a 4Star Runabout 2-horse slant with dressing room.

It makes me very happy.

And since it’s no good having a truck and trailer that can haul stuff if you don’t have stuff to haul, we went straight from the dealership to the feed store to pick up a load of hay.

I mean, I’ve never hauled anything before, ever, so why not jump in with both feet, right?

Now my truck and trailer and I have been on the freeway, on toll roads, on regular roads, in traffic, out of traffic, and even at the shopping center, since we decided to stop and get lunch before we unloaded the hay.

Everything went well. Except, as I’m sure you can guess, backing up.

The guys at the feed store laughed at my first attempt and then kindly took the keys away from me. I don’t blame them—they are busy and don’t have time to wait for me to figure it out.

But back at the barn, I had to back it down the alleyway, which was… probably no worse than anyone’s first time backing a trailer, I’d guess. It took me a while to figure it out, but I didn’t hit anything and I got it there eventually. Part of the problem is that it’s very responsive, so the slightest turn on the wheel turned the trailer… and the whole turn-the-opposite-direction thing just wasn’t quite computing. The horses found it fascinating to watch: It’s going away… hey, it’s coming back towards us! Going away… Whoops, here she comes again. Nope… going aw—- oh, hey! She’s back up here!

It’ll get better. I just need practice. Lots and lots of practice.

Then, since the trailer she has been traveling in is more open than this one, I decided to load Ro up a couple times. Here’s what she thought of that:

She was good—she stopped and looked, and it took her a couple times before she stepped on, but she loaded up without any real problems.

Of course, now that I have a horse and a truck and trailer to take her places, I’m too broke to go places—but it’s the thought that counts, right? I could go places, if I wanted to.

(And if you’re wondering, I absolutely got the trailer decoration in navy to match my truck. These details matter!)

Tagged: Cars & Trucks, Groundwork, Horses, Horses - Ro, Trailering

Back in the Saddle Again

22 January 2011 Comments

The weather gods heard my comment about winter being over and chose to smite me via freezing temperatures last night.

To remind me that they are still watching, I don’t think we got much above 45 today.

I am duly chastised.

My fingers are also duly frozen.

Despite the cold weather, I hopped on Ro today. Sure, she hasn’t been ridden in ages. Sure, she didn’t get worked at all yesterday. Sure, she’s had limited turnout. Sure, she’s five and less than a year under saddle. Sure, it was in the low 40s and feeding time.

Why wouldn’t I hop on her, given all of that?

All things considered, she was very good. My plan from the beginning was to just get on and walk. Lots and lots of walking. The footing is still a little deep due to the rain, so walking was workout enough for a first ride back.

For better or worse, I’m not someone who thinks a horse needs to be immediately, 100% mentally focused when they have had time off and I get back on them. I really don’t care how trained they are. If I can spend Monday mornings staring at my computer screen and trying to remember what a Shift key is and why I might want to use it, I think I can cut the horse some slack on their first day or two back, too. All I want from the first ride or two back is for the horse to be honest, obedient, and to get their head back in the game.

So my other reason for only walking was to make it a nice, low-key hack. I wanted it to be an easy mental and physical ride.

All things considered, she really was very good. She jigged a bit, but she came back to the walk when asked. She reminded me that the ditch is full of dead people and other things that eat horses, but she walked down the long side in a more-or-less straight line. True, she walked like she was in training for the world speed walking championships, but forward is never a bad thing.

For most of the ride, she was on high alert:

A leaf moved on that bush! And that one! And that one! OMG! All the leaves are moving! Speed walk!

There’s a car in the road! Must watch the car! Speed walk with a rubber neck!

Is that a wheelbarrow in the barn? I swear I hear a wheelbarrow. My hay gets delivered in a wheelbarrow. That’s the sound of food! I want food! Why are we marching through mud in the arena when someone could be putting food in my stall right now?!

She settled in, though, and started to focus and relax. As soon as she began consistently reaching into the bit and stretching down, I called it a day. That seemed like a good stopping point. Also, my fingers were frozen, but that’s just extenuating circumstances.

And, frankly, in addition to the cold and everything else, she was probably picking up on my energy, too.

It’s like she knows what’s coming this weekend…

Tagged: Horses, Horses - Ro, Riding, Weather

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