Blog .:. December 2013 5 Entries

A Change of Plans

30 December 2013 Comments

On Saturday, I lined up my three saddles and inspected them closely.

Option 1: my favorite saddle of them all, the one that they will have to pry out of my cold, dead fingers. Favorite, as in: when its useful life at the barn is over, it will be turned into a bar stool or wall decoration or something else in the house. Favorite, as in: I’m glad I won’t be the one executing my will and having to explain to the cats that their inheritance has been cut by a 1/3 so the saddle may molder out the rest of its life in comfort. I tossed it in the truck to go out to the barn.

Option 2: my other dressage saddle. Somehow, every time I think of it, my mind immediately does the black-sheep-of-the-family cringe and tries to change the topic of conversation to something safe, like politics. And yet, if I managed to get through that moment and bring the saddle out to the barn, it actually fits me well and fits many horses well. I’m not sure why I don’t pull it out more often. Perhaps it is possessed by the ghost of a lazy freeloader, who recognizes that living in an air-conditioned closet is a better life than being used regularly and then turned into a bar stool when its time is done. Anyway, I looked at it, was convinced it would never work, and tucked it away under its cover again.

Option 3: my hunter/jumper saddle. It’s barely even broken in, but I tossed it in the truck because it has an adjustable tree. I figured if the panels fit ok, it would be the best starter option. For all that I love Option 1, I was pretty sure it would be too wide.

I tried the hunter/jumper saddle first, and the panels were all wrong. The One Saddle went on next, and as expected, it was just a bit wide. I decided to see how he moved with it, because it might work well enough with shims.

It was a nice idea, but it quickly slid so far up his neck I thought it might be trying to make out with his ears. I was perhaps a little optimistic when I called it “a bit” wide, but hey… love is blind.

After cursing myself a minute for not loading up the other dressage saddle as well—I mean, what was I thinking? Why did I not bring all the saddles out for the try-on-saddles day?—I got in touch with a few people and secured a couple other saddles to try. I also dropped the hunter/jumper saddle off at a consignment shop, because having one reprobate saddle is enough; I don’t need two freeloaders. Before heading to the barn this morning, I made sure to toss dressage saddle #2 in the truck.

Back at the barn, I tried the two extra saddles, but neither one was a great fit. Grudgingly, I tried on my second dressage saddle.

And a ray of light broketh through the clouds and lit the saddle, while a voice from on high said…


It’s a bit wide as well, but it did not try to ride up Fin’s neck when I lunged him. This one will actually work with a bit of shimming.

I packed up the saddles that didn’t work, and then I pulled the saddle that did work out of the truck again. Somehow, in the flurry of packing, my mind blanked and decided it needed to go back home to its cover in the closet. Seriously—it’s possessed.

I worked with Fin a little more, and then sat down to consider the question of his mane. It’s long, super fine, and lives to tangle. The only reason I hadn’t chopped it off yet was… I’m not sure why. Anyway, I butchered it and will even it up with a razor later (it’s too thin to bother pulling).

He looks a bit like a kid with a bad bowl cut right now, but he’ll get over it.

Or I’ll roach it, as I’ve been known to do.

Anyway, as I said, I changed plans today. Initially, I was planning to wait a few months to ride him, for various reasons. But as I was finishing up all my mucking about at the barn, the instructor helping me with Fin showed up. We chatted, I mentioned that I had lunged him with a saddle and bridle on, and it was a good day all around. I made a parting remark about just getting on him today, because why not?

She had a lesson to teach, but when it was done we pulled Fin back in from his field, tacked him up again, and I got on for a little pony ride.

He’s been sat on and has given pony rides before, so this was nothing new for him. But we hadn’t done it yet, so this was our chance to see how he handled it. He was super—stands like a rock to be mounted, walked off calmly, halted when asked, and was completely relaxed the entire time.

The next step will be to teach him the leg means forward, but even by the end of today’s session he was starting to figure that out—or remember it, if they worked on that before with him.

So it looks like we won’t be waiting a few months to get him going under saddle; we’re just going to jump right in.

Well, not jump. But walk with purpose.

Tagged: Groundwork, Horses, Horses - Fin, Lessons, Training, United States, United States - Texas, United States - Texas - Houston

It’s a bridle… I’m bored… What’s over there?

28 December 2013 Comments

Somehow I got it into my head that Fin had never worn a bridle. So today I went out with my lunging bridle and a box of sugar cubes.

He looks distressed, doesn’t he?

I realized very quickly that either I am a magical horse whisperer the likes of which the world has never seen, or else my brain was confused and he had been bridled before.

The seller confirmed later in the day that yes, he’s had a bridle on. Often. I guess I should cancel the production plans for my Magical Horse Training DVDs.

Tomorrow we’ll be trying on saddles. He’s been saddle broke, so this will be a very simple and straightforward process: I will put every one of my three saddles on his back and discover that not one of them comes close to fitting him. Then I can go saddle hunting, buy a saddle that will only fit him for a year or so, and then repeat the process, and soon I will have eight or nine saddles and one horse.

If the arithmetic seems off there, don’t worry. I’m just allowing for the fact that saddles multiply like rats when left unattended in cool, dark places. This is how I ended up with three saddles in the first place.

Tagged: Groundwork, Horses, Horses - Fin, Training, United States, United States - Texas, United States - Texas - Houston

Gaining a new perspecitve on life

23 December 2013 Comments

Fin has had the past few weeks to settle in at the barn while I have been very busy with work. A friend took this picture and sent it to me since I couldn’t get out:

She said this was the best she could do, because he was very, very interested in the phone. I suspect I will gather many photos over the years that look like this.

However, now that my work schedule is settling, it’s time for Fin to go to work.

We know from the work we did a couple weeks ago that he probably hasn’t been taught to lunge. He goes ok to the left, but he doesn’t even like to be led to the right, much less move out on the line. He also has the “whoa” voice command down pretty well, but he needs to learn “walk” and “trot.” We’ll worry about canter once he’s solid at the walk and trot.

So when I went out today, I decided to just do some in-hand work. I want him to learn to step over when I tap a haunch or shoulder with the whip. When we started, he ignored the whip. I expected that, as the seller said he’s been sacked out quite a bit and he wasn’t very responsive to the whip when we lunged him, either. He’s just doing what he’s been taught to do—not respond. We just need to re-sensitize him to the whip.

He really wants to do what is right, which makes him a lot of fun to work with. He’s just unsure right now, because we’re changing the definition of “what’s right,” but his response improved each time I asked, so I don’t think it will take too long for him to understand the new expectations.

And I found my camera, so there may be more photos coming after all.

Tagged: Fences & Walls, Groundwork, Horses, Horses - Fin, Shadows & Silhouettes, Training, United States, United States - Texas, United States - Texas - Houston

Now with video

8 December 2013 Comments

A brief video snippet from this morning:

I lost my camera somewhere and I hate taking photos/video with my phone, so this is probably it for images for a while. Getting a new camera isn’t exactly high on my list of things to do (we all know how often I use it), but it’ll happen eventually. Probably.

Tagged: Fences & Walls, Horses, Horses - Fin, United States, United States - Texas, United States - Texas - Houston, Video

And now it’s Fin

5 December 2013 Comments

Since I have even less talent for naming things than I do for gardening (and I killed a cactus once, if that tells you how low the bar is set), my rule for changing a horse’s name is very simple: unless it’s awful, I don’t.

It’s not like I’m going to come up with anything better, after all.

Closure is not an awful name. It’s not a name I’d ever pick, but see above re: my ability to pick names. It’s the sort of name that sounds like it should have a story to it, so I’m assuming it meant something to the breeder. So as far as a registered/show name, it’s staying.

However, it doesn’t work at all for me for a barn name. Fortunately, I am surrounded by people who can come up with names, and it looks like we will be calling him Fin. Ostensibly, this is short for Fini, but in reality it’s just Fin.

He’s curious, he’s smart, and despite never really having been fed treats (which is good, as I’m the worst treat-giver ever), he thinks the world is his cookie. He is, basically, a three year old boy.

And he’s going to be turned out with the coming two-year-olds. A few of us were at the barn last night talking about it, and one person said, “That’s great! He can supervise!” I looked at Fin, who was at that moment checking out a tack trunk to see if it was edible, and suggested there would not be much supervision going on. Hardly any, really.

What’s actually going to happen is that he’s going to be that 16-year-old kid you hire to watch your 10 and 11 year old, and you come home to find he drove everyone to the arcade and fed them soda and sugar for four hours.

But we’ll see how it goes. He’s just been settling in this week and we’ve been taking the time to get an idea of what he knows and what he’s like. There won’t be much going on for the next couple weeks—or, I should say, work will be busy and I won’t have time to do much with him. Whether or not there is “much going on” will depend on what sort of mayhem he gets in to with the babies.

Tagged: Horses, Horses - Fin, Naming Horses, United States, United States - Texas, United States - Texas - Houston

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