Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Here's the Flier Photo!

Here is the photo Rob is using on his flier to advertise... and there's Lilly! I think she looks marvelous! Look at that reach! She's also the one ponying the horse in the middle, small photo.

I think this deserves a free lesson, don't you?

It Happens Every Year!

My mare gets darker and darker every year after she sheds out her winter coat! I tried to get some good photos of this year's color yesterday, but this is the only one that really showed what has happened to her coat this year.

She's got these dark patches all over her body. Her jowls are very dark (like in the picture), the left side of her neck has a pretty large dark spot near her poll, her forearms are very dark, and her flanks are quite dark as well. She's actually got some black circular spots, almost like black dapples. I just can't believe how dark that hair is! This picture really shows how interesting the color is too. You can clearly see where the dark patches end and her "normal" color starts right there behind her halter. She didn't have any of these black spots last year. She was quite dark when she shed out, but she was all the same color and none of the hairs were black like I'm seeing this year. It almost makes her look dirty! She's still got some winter hairs on her sides and belly, so I'm anxious to see how she looks when all the light hair is gone.

Earlier, I was starting to think she was maybe really a dun, rather than a palomino because of how flaxen her tail is and how much darker her coat was becoming, but now I think she's turning into a chocolate palomino. She doesn't have any of the dun factoring needed to be a dun, but she's just an odd shade of palomino. Horse genetics are so cool! And actually, her dam was registered as a palomino QH and her sire was a black and white Paint, so according to my research, assuming her dam was registered correctly (and I'm not totally off base), dun isn't a possible outcome from that cross. Palomino and buckskin are, though, and I'm certain she isn't buckskin. So from now on, I'm sticking with palomino!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Game Plan

I had my lesson yesterday, despite Mother Nature's efforts to rain us out. The rain came in waves, so we managed to work around the heavy downpours. Lilly was a lovely little girl for her entire lesson. I knew she would be! I wanted her to throw a tantrum and show Rob that she really isn't the perfect angel he thinks she is, but she complied 100% with everything I asked. She walked nice and slow and carried her head at a nice level for most of the ride. We worked a lot on me, and my tendency to look down at her poll the entire time I'm riding. It sure is hard to break bad habits! I need to sit tall, look where I'm going, and breath! Rob told me to pretend I'm the queen of a kingdom and I'm parading around in it, sitting tall and proud. It is actually a good visual for me, and I'm certainly going to practice it. I've got lots to work on before next Tuesday when he comes out again.

Of course, I mentioned Lilly's behavior over the weekend to Rob and we worked through some scenarios. I had already ruled them out but listened to him anyway. I value his opinion and he knows her pretty well. Some of the things he mentioned sounded to me like issues that would cause her to act that way every time I rode her, or at least more frequently than just for one 3 day weekend. I think she was just being a brat. No excuses, no tack problems, and no hormonal problems, just a brat. We decided the best way to test everything out was to have an outing on the trail with Lilly and a couple other horses. I'm hoping I'll be riding someone else's horse and Rob will be riding Lilly.

He also mentioned that he thinks I'm being a bit too "precious" with her. He said she needs my support and guidance and I need to make sure my cues are precise and clear to help her learn. He thinks she might not be getting the support she needs from me, and that she has decided to take over for the both of us and is just doing as she pleases. I can see that, so I'm going to work on that as well. She is my baby, and I've been treating her like one.

I told him about her backing skills and he is a bit concerned that she's using them for evil, rather than good. She's using it to evade me and said he'll work on that some next week when he comes out. He gave me some exercises to possibly improve upon that as well.

I'm still upset at her behavior over the weekend, but she seems to be my sweet Lilly again. I just wish I knew why she acted the way she did, and maybe we'll get some answers when we take her on the trail.

And on an unrelated note, Gwen should be sending me some photos she got during Lilly's time with Rob. I heard she's got some really neat ones, so once I get them, I'll post a few. They're also using a picture of Lilly on their flier, so he's supposed to send me one of those as well. My girl is famous! I can't wait to see them!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Was Whippoorwill Fun? Not so much...

While Lilly looks absolutely stunning in this photo, her performance was anything but.

From the moment I backed her off the trailer, she got rave reviews. Everyone said how pretty she was, what a sweet girl she was, and how they could just look at her all day long! Everyone commented on her color and how unique it was and how her white was SO white! They wanted to know my secret. Of course, I told them I owed it all to Lilly... that she was the one that keeps herself clean, and that she was one special girl. I told everyone that she was my pride and joy and I couldn't get enough of her. I told the story of how I'd had her for 8 years, and I included all we'd been through with her surgery and all those injuries she sustained when she was just a youngster. We had a very special bond, I told them. It was all about Lilly for the first day and a half... she had quite a fan club.

After the first day and a half it was still all about Lilly, only for a different reason.

Friday morning, 3 of us girls set out on horseback for a nice ride. The rest of the crowd had gone into town and those of us left behind decided we just couldn't wait any longer, so we saddled up, grabbed a trail map, and headed out! Lilly was hyper, to put it mildly, but I kind of expected it since she was in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar horses. One of those horses was gaited, so she had to work pretty hard to keep up, and work she did! She didn't take a single walking step the entire time we were out. She trotted, pranced, threw her head, chomped on her bit, and side passed down the trail. The side passing was done mostly on parts of the trail where the horses could be ridden side by side, and the head tossing and prancing was done on parts of the trail where we had to ride single file. She was a handful and I had to fight her the whole ride. By the time we got back to camp, Lilly was so worked up and sweaty that I decided to hose her down. Once she was free of sweat and dirt, she went back into the corral we had set up for her.

I noticed that she was very worried about the other horses and where they were pretty much all the time. If she couldn't see the two horses we rode with, she carried on, whinnying, stomping, and pawing, and without much concern for me or where I was. She's always been a bit herd bound, even to horses that she isn't stabled with. She bonds very quickly with the other horses and becomes buddy sour because of it.

That evening, after everyone got back from town and got settled, we all saddled up for another ride. There were 10 of us heading out and we had 2 Quarter Horses, 5 gaited horses, 1 Saddlebred, 1 cute little Fjord, and 1 Arabian. It was quite a diverse group, to say the least. Since this was Lilly's second ride of the weekend, I expected her to have settled down a bit. I was hoping she would want to hang out in the back with the Fjord, Arab, and other Quarter Horse and maybe walk this time. No such luck... she was actually slightly worse this ride than she was the first ride. At the beginning, I kind of let her behavior slide because this crowd was much larger and contained horses that were quite hyper. Perhaps, I thought, she is feeding off the energy of these other horses. A couple of the girls were teasing me about how Lilly was acting and wanted to know when we had started dressage lessons. I'm guessing they hadn't seen a horse trot so quickly down a road sideways before, because she was moving! She really was bad... I'm not exaggerating. She has NEVER acted like that before and I couldn't believe she was acting like that there. I rode her all last year on trails and while she was always trying to keep up with the other horses, but she wasn't rude, defiant, and dangerous. With all the holes, ditches, and electric fences around, I was afraid she was going to step into something that might hurt her or me. She also had no concern for the horses around her and we ran into that poor Arabian about 3 different times. It was all about Lilly, and it was a struggle for me to control her. I was glad to get her back to camp, untacked, hosed off, and fed. Then I fed myself, took a shower, and relaxed with the rest of the group.

Despite the draining rides I had with Lilly on Friday, Saturday was shaping up to be an interesting, and perhaps fun, day. There was a wedding being held right next to our campsite and all the horses on the grounds were invited to participate. The more horses, the better! We were instructed to be tacked up and ready to go around 12:30 that afternoon. The main crew (consisting of all the horses and riders minus myself and the two others I had ridden with on the first day) saddled up and headed out early. I figured the afternoon would be a long one so I didn't saddle Lilly up until about 11:30 and the others did the same. We headed out for a little ride planning to be back around 12:30 for the wedding festivities. Lilly was slightly calmer this time, walking part of the time, but she seemed to relax and walk only when she was in the lead. Staying in the lead against a gaited horse was tough, but she would do whatever it took to stay there. The problem with her being in the lead was that she kept spooking at everything. I kept telling her that if she wanted to be the lead horse, she needed to "man up" and quit being so scared. Every time she spooked at something she would switch gears into reverse and go VERY quickly backwards, right past the other horses, and sometimes into them. She didn't care if they were in her way or not, she was going backwards. It was pretty scary because of the fences and ditches all over the place. I was afraid we were going to end up going backwards into a ditch and she'd end up falling on me. The highlight of the weekend, though, was when she very gracefully and nonchalantly walked over a blue tarp in the middle of the trail that neither of the other horses would even get near. This was after she spooked at goats, an old refrigerator, a hole in the ground, and some plastic tubes. The tarp didn't even phase her. She walked right over it.

When we got back to camp, everyone was getting ready for the wedding. Lilly enjoyed checking out all the other horses and all the people that walked by. She's a very nosy horse and has to be in the middle of everything. Other horses had already fallen asleep waiting, but Lilly stayed alert the whole time. I noticed two beautiful Percherons standing next to a neat wagon that the bride was going to ride in and so did Lilly. To say she freaked would be an understatement. She slammed it into reverse and hauled balls across the field. She is FAST... I just can't express enough how fast she can back up. I know it was great entertainment for everyone watching. A few people mentioned that I should "put that mare in reining training"! Thanks, but I'm trying to show this mare western pleasure.

It got even worse when a small donkey pulling the mother of the bride passed by. I guess small donkeys are much more terrifying than large Percherons. This is where we got our first rear of the weekend. She thought the donkey was coming to get her and she took off like a bat out of hell into the woods. I turned her around hoping she'd at least face the monster, but she reared up, spun around on her hind legs and took off again. She was getting the hell out of there and I wasn't going to stop her. Well, it was at this point that I realized we weren't going to be participating in the wedding. The other two ladies decided they were tired of waiting around (we had been waiting for about an hour at this point) so we all headed out for another short ride. I'd tell you how Lilly acted, but at this point I'm sure you can guess. The poor girl was literally shaking once I got her into the woods away from the donkey. I could feel her heart beating... I'm just not sure why she got so worked up about a donkey pulling a cart. When we got back, they were introducing the bride and groom as husband and wife for the first time. I decided to keep riding Lilly until the donkey and the Percherons were done and gone and he wedding party had left the area. I was afraid that she would break out of her corral if she saw them coming, so I figured we were both safer with me on her.

That evening, everyone wanted to go for one last ride. I was peer pressured into going... Well, that, and I wanted just one more ride. One more chance for Lilly to redeem herself. So against my better judgment, I saddled her, and we headed out with the gang. She pretty much acted just as she had all weekend with one exception. This horse, who I am convinced at this time isn't really mine, had the meltdown to beat all meltdowns. Did you know horses can canter completely sideways down a trail? Mine can! This was the absolute WORST this horse has ever been. She was prancing in place, dancing around, swinging her butt from side to side in an effort to curb my attempts to make her walk a straight line, trotting sideways, cantering sideways, backing up a hundred miles an hour when it suited her, spinning around in circles, and throwing her head so violently that the left rein kept ending up on the right side of her head,. Imagine trying to fix THAT mess while she's cantering in place. So on top of all this, the meltdown came when the group got slightly separated. One group went one way and the other group went another way. I was in the back group, however, we were in the front of the back group and we were on a trail that required the horses to be single file. Well, when those 3 lead horses got out of Lilly's sight, she went crazy! She began rearing uncontrollably, spinning around in circles, slamming us into trees and pretty much doing all she could to RUN to those other horses. The woman behind me began screaming for them to come back because "Lilly is being bad"! She screamed this over and over until one of the other riders told her to quiet down, that she was only making it worse and that Rebecca had it under control. She didn't agree and kept screaming for them to come back. Well, they finally did come back, and while Lilly quit rearing, she didn't really calm down. Now, at this point, I'd decided Lilly was putting me in danger, herself in danger, and the other horses and riders in danger with her psychotic behavior, so I told everyone I was heading back. I wasn't quite sure how that was going to work for me, but I didn't want the other riders to have to cut their ride short or to have to babysit me any longer. So I jogged ahead of everyone and asked Lilly to walk. Amazingly, she did. She walked, she put her head down, and she started taking deep breaths. For the first time all weekend, I loosened the reins and she dropped her head even more. Is this what she was trying to get all weekend? She wanted to be the lead horse that badly? She was walking very fast, mind you, but she was actually relaxing. When a horse got up close behind her she nickered and picked up speed. It was the weirdest thing. Eventually, the horses caught up, passed us (as many of them liked running their horses) and the whole mess started all over again. She seemed to be happy only when she was up front.

I was so pissed by the time we got back to camp that if someone had offered me money for that horse I would have come home with an empty trailer. My horse would never be that dangerous, that rude, or that defiant. That wasn't Lilly out on those trails. In 3 days time she ruined an 8 year relationship and mounds of mutual trust. I feel like my best friend stabbed me in the back. She betrayed me, and today as I write this, I don't feel the same about her.

I've got a lesson today with Rob and I'm hoping he can help me with this.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Whippoorwill, Here I Come!

Today after work, Lilly and I are heading to Beulaville, NC for a nice weekend getaway with some friends. I took tomorrow off and will be enjoying my nice 3 day weekend. The weather looks nice and warm and I get to see some of my friends from Virginia. The campground is pretty nice and it actually has hookups for my trailer! I've had that thing for over a year and have never been able to hook it up to power to run my A/C and microwave. I usually just run my fridge and water heater off propane and my lights off the marine battery. It will be nice to try out the whole trailer for a change, and be able to pop some popcorn! Lilly seems to enjoy trail riding quite a bit and she's always a really good girl. She stands like a perfect lady on the picket line and never gives me any grief. That always makes for a nicer trip.

I'll take some good pictures to share!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

JCHSS Show Number 3

The show was originally scheduled for Saturday, so Friday night I spent hours at the barn scrubbing all that white and trying to curry out as much remaining winter hair as I could. She sure holds on to that hair, especially the really long ones! We're almost there, though. I clipped her legs, her ears, her face, and as many of the long hairs as I could to make her presentable. Finally, after her mane was banded we were ready for Saturday!

I got done with her around 6:50 pm. Since she had been such a patient and wonderful girl, AND it was her birthday, I took her to the green grass patch and let her eat. I figure we better take advantage of it while it is still green! I think that was her favorite part of the evening. Imagine that... Since rain showers were in the forecast, I called the show hotline at 7:00 pm to see if we were still on. As it turned out, the show was rescheduled for Sunday. I wish they'd call it before 7, since by then I'm all done cleaning her up! So I turned my spiffy white horse out into the pasture Friday night and asked her politely not to roll, get dirty, or rub her bands out.

Saturday I made the trip back to the barn with my fingers crossed. The gorgeous sun and warm weather had turned into clouds and cold wind. Good thing the show was rescheduled! I found Lilly almost clean... not bad considering it was wet and muddy. She had some dry dirt on her back that came off quite well thanks to the ShowSheen. I had to redo a couple bands, but for the most part she was "good enough". It was way too cold to bathe her again, so into the stall she went, but this time with her Slinky hood to help hold down those day old bands.

I arrived at the show grounds at 10:00 am. I don't know why I get there so early. It just means more standing around for Lilly but since this is still so new to her, it is good for her to be able to watch a lot of the activities. While we waited for the jumping classes to finish, I signed up for my 7 classes, got some nachos for lunch and longed Lilly for a bit. She seemed much calmer than she did at the last show. Hopefully she's getting used to this and the newness is wearing off!

I got my english tack out of the trailer, tacked her up and went off to do some riding around. It was a new saddle, a new bridle, new girth, and a new bit. I couldn't wait to ride her around and see how it all felt. As we were walking along, though, she kept shaking her head like she had a bug bothering her. Then, she started twitching her withers, and eventually did one of those whole body shakes we all love so much. After putting my feet back in my irons and putting my butt back in the seat, I asked her to walk off again. She started swishing her tail, pinned her ears, and looked down right annoyed. Then she started swishing her tail, shaking her head, and did another whole body shake. At this point, I got off, pulled the saddle off, checked the pad, and checked her back. All looked well, but I walked her back to the trailer to switch bits and girths. I had another bit I wanted to try and I thought maybe she'd like the new bit better and thought maybe the new girth was pinching her, since it was leather and her other one was cloth. No such luck. Our second trip out she acted the same way. This girl was trying to tell me something! I figured I'd better listen before she started telling me in a louder way (ie with a good buck)! My great friend, Teri, offered me the use of her english saddle to see if maybe the new saddle was bothering her. She wasn't fond of Teri's saddle either but at this point could already have been pinched enough that she was just sore. I just don't know! Needless to say, I scratched my Hunt Seat classes. I'll be riding her later in the new saddle at the barn to see how she reacts to it. I'm thinking maybe it is too narrow...

Just to make sure I wasn't going to have to scratch all my riding classes, I threw the western saddle on her and rode her around. She seemed perfectly fine in western, thank goodness. Since my first class was showmanship I untacked her and got dressed. The nice, warm morning had turned into a windy, chilly afternoon, and when the sun went behind the clouds, it was down right cold! Maybe one of these shows we'll have nice weather for the western classes. The first show I went to took so long that western was held in the dark. That makes taking pictures tough! Then, at the show before this one, western got rained out. It was POURING and then the lightening came. This show counted as double points for the western classes thanks to that rain.

Showmanship went pretty good. There were only 5 horses in the class, though. I was hoping for more because unless I placed first in the class I knew I wasn't going to get any PAC points. We had to walk to the first cone, back 3 steps, trot to the second cone, do a 270 degree turn and then walk to the judge for inspection. When we stopped trotting to do our pivot, my lead fell from my hand a bit. I just hoped the judge didn't see it. So that was my bad... Guess I need to hold on tighter! Lilly was perfect and even backed nice and straight. I'm guessing he saw my goof because we placed 3rd behind a horse that didn't pivot... I can't figure out why else he would have dropped us. I read an article the other day that said judges are looking for my legs to be in sync with Lilly's legs, and ours aren't. I might have to practice that and see if it gets us some extra points.

My next class was halter. 7 horses in this class, and they were all really nice. Lilly and I usually don't place well in halter. In fact, we're usually second to last, no matter how many horses are in the class. She usually places above the horse that is obviously going to be last. So I didn't figure this one would be much different. She was such a good girl, too! She even fell asleep in line waiting to be inspected. I'm thrilled that she was that relaxed. Then I was even MORE thrilled when we were called 3rd! I was actually a bit stunned and was waiting for them to correct their mistake (that's happened to me twice!) but they never did. She really placed 3rd out of 7 nice looking mares and geldings. All this riding must be toning those muscles of hers! Of course, I needed way more than 7 horses in the class to get a PAC point. Oh well...

After the halter class, I ran her back to the trailer to get her tacked up. I always rush, and then I end up waiting a while. I'm just afraid of being late! This picture illustrates what I did for quite a bit of time Sunday. Even Lilly got tired of waiting and started yawning! Again, I'm thrilled that she's that relaxed. I'm waiting for the day when I have to wake her up and work to get her moving. Oh how I'll love it.

My first riding class was a GAYP class (go as you please). We don't have those up north, so it took me a bit to figure out the rules. They mix a lot of trot/jog, lope/canter classes here. If you go in walk/jog classes, you can also enter lope/canter classes. I'm not used to that. When I showed in Michigan, it was one or the other. You couldn't do both. Lilly and I, of course, are choosing jog for our second gait in the GAYP class and we're entering the walk/jog classes. We aren't quite ready to wow everyone with our lope yet (LAUGH!). She actually did fairly well in the class. She jogged pretty slow and we weren't passing everyone. Her head carriage wasn't where I wanted and I had to remind her to put it down pretty frequently, but she was much better at this show than at the last one. I'm pretty sure there were 10 horses in the class. I'll have to update the number when the show results are on the JCHSS web site. We ended up placing 5th! I think this was our first non-given ribbon. In other words, we didn't get a ribbon just because they place up to 8 horses. Such a good girl!

The last class of the day for us was walk/jog open. I was in there with kids of all ages and there were 11 horses total. We were instructed to enter the ring and find a spot on the rail. Well, Miss Thing wasn't keen on standing still in her spot, so we ended up dancing in all different directions until the announcer told us to go ahead and walk. I'm pretty sure they don't start judging until the announcer tells us to walk, but I'm sure the judge saw our ballroom dancing. She was a bit antsy the entire class and pretty much refused to set her head. Perhaps she was done showing for the day? Hard to say, but it was no surprise when we didn't place. My friend, Teri, did a nice job. Her horse, Jack, is such a good boy. I think they placed pretty well in all the classes they entered. She even stuck around to do a horsemanship class and trail. I might get as adventurous as her one of these shows. Lilly pretty much dictates what classes we enter at this point. I don't think she's ready for patterns yet. At least not the kind that requires her to be under saddle.

One month to go till the next show... I'd better get cracking! I'm starting lessons up again next week and hopefully Rob can help me figure out what to do with her when she gets uneasy and excited.

Stay tuned...

Friday, April 11, 2008

Happy Birthday!

8 years ago today, Lilly was born!

I put a deposit on her when she was just a month old after seeing her running and playing in a field full of mares and geldings. I was there to buy a barrel horse but it was hard not to fall in love with such a cute little filly. I brought her home as soon as she was ready and we've been together ever since.

Happy Birthday, Lilly!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Showmanship!

Stunning, isn't she? In all her wooly glory! This was our first Showmanship class of the season. Walk to the first cone, trot from the second cone to the judge, set up for inspection, do a 270 degree turn, and line up. Cake for my girl, and 2nd out of 7 horses... not bad! I think we got dinged because her white wasn't so white... darn winter coat! This class is what got us our 1 PAC point. I'm so proud of her!

Show Season 2008

As my trail horse, Lilly, attempts to make her mark in the western pleasure arena, with me tagging along for the ride, you'll all get to watch! We start 2008 with 1 PAC point in Showmanship... she is an incredible showmanship horse.

I should mention that she is an 8 year old APHA mare that I have had since she was weaned. I trained her myself and have done nothing but trail ride. I've got the show bug and while it would be nice to show at breed level shows, I'd just like to be competitive at the local shows. I spent a fortune on my wardrobe, so all I need now is a horse to match!

Here goes nothing!