Monday, June 30, 2008

JCHSS Show Number 5!

What a day we had on Saturday! We entered 8 classes and placed in all 8 of them! We didn't place last in any of them either! Nope, no 'gimme' ribbons this time. Lilly and I worked hard and earned them all! Once the pictures are posted on the show website, I should have some to post.

Let me also add, it was HOT! Hot, hot, hot! It was about 95 and sunny. Thank God there was a breeze or I think we surely would have died from a heat stroke.

I had decided to put the english spoon bit back on my hunt seat headstall for the show since the fat D ring snaffle didn't work very well for me at the CMESC show... If you'll recall, Lilly just charged around the arena with uncontrolled bursts of speed paying me absolutely no mind. I wasn't going to let her do that again! And sure enough, the very first riding class we entered was a bit of a trial. And of course it was the equitation class. She was trotting around at a pretty fast pace and then would just change gears and speed up. She was quite surprised, though, when I snatched her up real quick! I decided right then that even if I blew my class, I wasn't going to let her act a fool all day again. She settled down for a few more strides and then charged forward once more. I snatched her up again and nicely asked her to set her head and quit acting like a tool. We ended up with 3rd out of 5, so that wasn't bad considering what went on inside the arena. Let me just take a moment to say how much I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE that new saddle of mine. It was great being able to ride for a change and not feel all out of place and wobbly up there. I'm sure it made a huge difference in our day.

The next class was our hunt seat stock type class and I decided to school her in that class as well if she needed it. She was pretty good but I had to ask for her head a couple times. There were 11 horses in that class and we placed 6th! I was quite pleased with her performance.

The ribbon I am most proud of, though, is the 7th place ribbon (the purple one). It was for the hunt seat walk trot open class. Youth, junior and adult riders could all enter. There were 20 horses signed up to ride, so the judge split the class. Since I was being so optimistic on Saturday, I decided to ride the second half so I could just stay in the arena when my number wall called for the final. We were indeed called to ride in the final and ended up placing 7th of the 12 called back. I was SO excited! Lilly did such a good job! There were times when we were jogging around the arena and she was on a loose rein! I probably had a big cheesy grin on my face the entire class! "Good girl, good girl!" I kept saying it over and over! I was also very excited to get back to the trailer and check the PAC rules... I knew with 20 riders in the class I had a good chance of getting my first performance PAC point! Come to find out, PAC only gives points up to 6th place. I was bummed... SO CLOSE! I was still proud of Lilly, though!

The first western class was Showmanship. There were only 3 horses in the class, but Lilly and I got first! It was an interesting pattern and I enjoyed it. I get tired of the straight line, boring patterns that don't have an element of difficulty to them. This one had 3 cones lined up in a straight line, but we started at cone 2. We had to back from cone 2 to cone 1, and then jog from cone 1 past cone 3 and execute a big loop back to cone 3. At cone 3, we stopped and did a 360 degree turn and walked to the judge for inspection. Lilly did great, except she wouldn't set up at cone 2. She kept backing up (thanks, Alex... lol!)... So I finally got her settled and sort of square at cone 2. Luckily, we were supposed to get ready as the person in front of us was doing their pattern or I wouldn't have had enough time to get our little mishap straightened out. Since we placed 1st out of 3, we should get another PAC point. Woohoo!

Halter was next and we placed 6th out of 7 horses... a far cry from our grand champion placing at the CMESC, but there were also some REAL halter horses in the class this time.

The western riding classes went well. We got a 3rd place (out of 4), a 6th place (out of 9), and a 5th place (out of 8). Lilly did very well, though. She still isn't a western pleasure horse, but her jog wasn't too terribly fast and her head was in an acceptable position. We've still got a lot of work to do, but I can see substantial progress from the last show until now.

The two main things I think we need to work on (aside from the usual head set and slowing down) are her walk/jog transitions and her jog/walk transitions. When I ask her to jog, she always pops her head up. Loose rein or no loose rein, she just pops it up. Almost like the result you'd get if you spurred her to go. No spurs here, though, and no reason that I can see for her to do that. Then, when I ask her to walk from the jog, she jerks her face forward and down and either pulls me forward or pulls the reins out of my hands (depending on how tight I've got her). It drives me crazy! I guess it is time for transition boot camp.

Now for the most exciting part of the day! I stayed around after my classes to watch my friend Teri ride in the western horsemanship class (with a pattern) and the trail class. This girl did awesome, by the way. She got 1st in all her classes! Her horse Jack did amazing! Anyway, when I was packing up the trailer, I heard someone calling my name... so I went over to the building to see what was up. They informed me that I was the division champion for the adult division for the day! I was so excited! I got a really great trophy and Lilly got a bag of Nicker Makers. I would never have guessed that we acquired that many points! I feel I must mention, though, that there was a big QH show going on at the fairgrounds this weekend so a lot of the usual girls weren't there to show, but 20 horses in a class is still a good turn out. I'm so proud of Lilly... she did great!

When I showed my boyfriend the trophy he asked if I bought it... lol Ye of little faith!!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

New Saddle!

Well, not really because my NEW saddle is used, but it is new to me!

I finally saw the pictures of me from the CMESC show and I look horrible (so don't expect to see any of them posted on this blog!). My legs are super far back and it's no wonder I'm not placing in any of the eq classes! Ick!

So, since I'm always posting things on the NC Horse News forum, I thought I'd vent a little bit about how much I HATE my new saddle (pictured left). It went like this:

"Where have all the TRUE close contact hunt seat saddles gone?

I have an old school Lynn Palm Collegiate saddle that I love. It has no knee rolls at all... no padding to build up the flap. It is really getting worn out and stained up (I've had it for about 14 years!) and I wanted to get a new saddle to show in. I looked all over and couldn't find one like my current saddle (unless I bought used) so I ordered the Collegiate Connoisseur 'Close Contact' saddle, but it has LOTS of padding and knee rolls.

I just cannot get used to riding in it. In every picture I have of me at the shows, my leg is WAY far back. It just isn't comfortable for me to ride in. Maybe it isn't completely the knee rolls... I don't know, but I always feel like I'm falling forward. (Some of it might have to do with the fact that my horse is trying to pull me out of the saddle, but I can't seem to keep my legs under me in that saddle!) Things are much better when I'm riding in my old saddle. I feel like I can 'equitate'.

I was thinking of selling it and buying a different saddle, but there aren't any saddles nowadays like my beloved Lynn Palm.

Why don't they make them without knee rolls like they used to?"


The result was a PM from a lady in Raleigh that just happened to have a Lynn Palm that was just a few years old. She and her daughter hated it because it didn't have knee rolls... they were looking to sell it and get something different. So how perfect was that!? We were both rode in the same size saddle and wanted what each other had. So we got together the other night and traded saddles. They got a nearly brand new Collegiate Connoisseur with lovely (annoying) knee rolls and I got this lovely saddle pictured to your left. Beats trying to sell mine on eBay and finding a new one. Especially since there really aren't any TRUE close contact saddles anymore. I haven't ridden in it yet, but plan to at the show this weekend. I think Lilly and I both will like this new saddle better. I don't think the other one fit her quite right. I just hope my bridle matches the leather ok. This one is quite a bit darker than my other one.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Horsemanship Clinic

The clinic was amazing! Well, except for that whole falling off part... but that was just 10 seconds out of two whole days!

I learned many, many things, but there are a few tips I got that will be with me for a long time. The first one is illustrated in this picture... Notice how Lilly is walking behind me and not directly next to me. Alex helped me teach her that she didn't need to be right up next to me all the time. She didn't like it at first, and I'll admit I didn't like it either (I love having her close to me) but the technique is amazing and has already come in handy a time or two. Basically, we taught Lilly to back up when I shake the lead rope at her. So if she's in my space, I'll shake the rope and she'll back right up. This worked great when I got her home from the clinic and she wanted to run me over to get to the pasture. I shook the rope at her and told her to back up out of my space. She backed right up and her attention went from her horsey friends to me. It was great! So instead of me moving out of her space, she has learned to move out of MY space. Nice! We're still working to perfect the technique, but it really is a great tool to have.

Here we are side passing over a barrel! I have such a hard time getting her to side pass over poles at home that I told Alex she was great at side passing, just not over poles. So we started with a pole, and she went right over it. So then we used a traffic cone and she side passed over that too! My jaw dropped! She was making a liar out of me! Well then Alex told me to side pass over the barrel. Lilly didn't think that was such a good idea and I couldn't get her to do it at first. She's so short and the barrel is so big! Alex told me to go ahead and side pass over the mounting block instead since it was bigger than the cone but not quite barrel size. She went right over that, and I think it was just as tall as the barrel. Next, we ended up back at the barrel. I was hoping she wasn't going to hit it with her feet and freak out! After a bit of coaxing, she went right over it and even ran into it a time or two, but stayed quite calm! I was so proud of her and impressed at what we were accomplishing!

We did a lot of obstacles both in hand and in the saddle. Lilly took them all in stride, especially the bridge. She went right over the tarp as well. The only thing she absolutely would NOT do is jump. We set up a small jump and she just kept plowing through it. She must have heard me tell her a hundred times that she's not a jumper. She must also know I don't like jumping because she just would not do it (she's a mind reader, you know). I wasn't in the saddle when we were trying, she was just on the end of the lead rope, but she just wouldn't pick those feet up. So Alex set up two barrels and tried to get her to go over those, thinking it is a bit harder to plow through barrels, but she'd either run around them or stop in front of them. Nope, she just was NOT going to jump and no one was going to make her.

She really is a good girl, though, especially when her full attention is on me. On occasion, Alex called her "Miss Perfect"! That's my girl!

You may remember my post a while back about the Whippoorwill trail ride... it was just awful. Lilly was extremely herd bound and showed her ass the whole time. I literally feared for our safety because she was downright dangerous. Alex really helped me in this area, starting with the exercise that led to my fall, and this picture shows the second phase of the technique. It is basically the one rein stop... amazing! I've never used the one rein stop but it worked wonders! Here I am engaging the one rein stop to get miss Lilly to pay attention to me and not her friends all the way across the field. She did very well! I was amazed at how well all the preparation we did worked. I had to one rein stop her quite bit and she did still whinny to them, but for the most part, her feet were planted and she was still. No more rearing, climbing trees, slinging her head or jumping into ditches. She even walked on a loose rein back to the herd! It was a SUPER fast walk, mind you, but she did walk and that's a far cry from the sideways cantering she did at Whippoorwill!

Another problem we had at Whippoorwill was that Lilly was spooking at everything, including a donkey pulling a small cart and two Percherons pulling a lovely wagon. As you can see here, she's right up next to this lovely little Clydesdale. I can tell you that she wasn't happy about it at all, but she was able to trust me and listen to me and we got through it. It always helps when there are other horses around for moral support, but when it was her turn to do it alone, she was very brave! I was so proud of her!

If you hadn't noticed yet, I am so proud of her! She tried so hard and gave her all the entire weekend. We learned SO much and I look forward to using all the techniques in the future. I plan to use the one rein stop A LOT... especially with Lilly's speed issues. I want to use it to help each her to walk/trot/canter on a loose rein. If I ask her for the trot and give her a loose rein, I expect her to stay trotting, but usually in 7 steps or so, she'll break into a canter. I'm going to stop her using the one rein stop each time she breaks. She'll have to learn to stay in the gait I put her in. Alex told me that we can't control the speed of the gait until we can control the gait. What words of wisdom! So once my body has forgiven me for falling off Lilly at a full gallop, I'll get right back into training.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I Bit It!

That's right, folks... I bit it, and I bit it hard! For the first time in about 6 years I came off my horse!

I went to a clinic this past weekend with Lilly to try and learn some techniques to deal with her herd bound issues and in the process of doing one of the exercises, I ate dirt. It was totally my fault and Lilly was actually a very good girl about the whole thing. Here's how it went:

The Setup:
A large arena with a round pen in the back corner. All of the horses in the group were standing in one corner of the arena and there were folks standing in front of the horses with lead ropes to keep Lilly from joining the herd when she tried.

The Object:
To get Lilly to run to the other end of the arena and stop. I was not allowed to steer (unless I was in danger) and had to let Lilly go where she wanted. Try that at home, sometime... ask your horse to haul ass around the arena but don't steer. It was VERY hard to not pick up the reins and slow her down, steer her, or stop her. When she faced the herd or made her way toward them, I was to get loud and click, kiss, kick, etc... the point was to get loud and make it an unpleasant experience for her to be near or heading toward the herd. When she started heading in the opposite direction, I'd get quiet.

Miscellaneous Information:
We had done this exercise on Saturday and it went rather well. The second time we tried it, Lilly ran right to the corner (hauling ass, mind you) and stopped at the barrel and stood there. She's so smart! Who ever said third time's a charm? I'd like to slap them...

The Flight:
When we started off, Lilly ran right to the back of the arena. She obviously remembered the game from yesterday, but instead of stopping, she circled around the round pen and was heading back toward the herd, so I got loud. She was moving! Kiss and kick her and she'll gladly move out. I thought she was going to go all the way back to the herd, so I was getting as loud as I could when she suddenly decided to QUICKLY change direction to the left and head back to the corner of the arena. When she did, my saddle slipped and ended up half way down her right side. As I'm thinking, "OH SHIT", I grabbed onto her neck to try and stay on as best I could. Well, being uncomfortable from the saddle and having me hanging on her neck, she decided so crow hop a couple of times and that was all she wrote for me. I remember swinging around in front of her and seeing her chest at eye level. I thought some things I probably shouldn't type here, but you can guess what they were because I thought I was going to be trampled. Falling in front of Lilly just seemed like the worst possible place, and I was waiting for her hooves to crush some part of my body. Shortly after thinking I might die, I hit the dirt. I hit the dirt HARD, and right on my head (thank goodness I was wearing my helmet!) and my left shoulder got slung back a bit. I laid there for a moment doing a mental check of my body parts... right leg, check... left leg, check... I can move my fingers... I'm still breathing... and then I looked up to see my beloved pony standing there with me. Her head was down as if wondering why the hell I was laying on the ground. What a good girl to not run me over and kill me! By this time, the host was on her way over to examine the damage. Once she found out I was ok, she did a girth check on all the other horses.

I am VERY sore today... my neck is killing me. Apparently landing on your head does a number on your neck. The rest of my body aches as well. I've also got what appears to be a saddle burn or something on my right forearm. That's my best guess anyway. Otherwise, I'm fine. I can tell you, however, that I will not be riding today.

More about the clinic later. I'm expecting some pictures, so once those arrive I'll post and give details.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

No Lesson For Me

My lesson was canceled yesterday, but I was planning on riding anyways until I saw all the commotion when I got to the barn. AJ's pasture buddy, Cameron, was being led back to the pasture and closely behind him was Mason, the little stud donkey that lives at the barn. He HATES crossing the white lines on the road (the barn is at the end of a dead end road and part of the road goes through the property) and they couldn't get him to go. They were trying to put Mason in with AJ and Cameron so he'd quit causing mischief in his paddock. So I got out of my truck (work clothes and all) and helped push his fat butt over the white lines and into the paddock.

AJ seemed very interested in Mason, so I put a halter on him just in case AJ decided to chase him around the pasture. We waited to put Cameron back in so Mason would have a fair shot with just one big horse. After a few minutes of checking things out, I took the halter off AJ because Mason wouldn't hold still for AJ to make friends anyway. Well, what does my little piggy do once he's free? He goes over to his hay pile and proceeds to munch paying no attention to Mason. Once we put Cameron in, things got a little more exciting. He chased Mason around and around, and then AJ decided to join in. It looked like they were trying to get Mason to play, but he wasn't having any part of that.

One instance was pretty funny. Mason was standing up by all the people and AJ decided to come get some attention too. When AJ got close to Mason, Mason kicked up his heels and tried to kick poor AJ's nose! Well, once Cameron saw that, he RAN from his hay pile, ears pinned, and ready to attack! Mason took off running and Cameron stood there by AJ as if he was protecting AJ from Mason. It was all too cute.

Of course, I didn't have my camera, so I'll see if I can get a picture of all three of them.

On top of all that excitment, the other mini donkey had her baby, so now we have 2 adorable baby donks! This one is a little girl. She's really cute, but momma is being very protective of her, so I didn't really get to see her too much. Her color is really neat, though.

Fun, fun!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Poor Girl... She's Scared!

Lilly did well last night on the longe line. I told her that if she did what I asked I'd keep it short and sweet. It was obvious that she remembered all the fun we had on Monday and decided it would be easier to listen to what I was asking. There were a few times she decided to start trotting or cantering on her own, but if I sternly said "WALK" she came right back down to the walk. I didn't have to force her into the canter once.

Since the longing went so well, I also rode her around the arena a bit, but just at the walk. It was very funny at times because if she'd start walking faster (doing the old super walk of her past) I'd say "WALK" and she'd flinch, then slow right down. Poor girl... she's scared of me now! She is also doing much better keeping her head down. She is definitely making progress with the longe line work. She still wants to turn her head to the left EVERY time we stop, but maybe she'll get the hang of it one day.

Tonight I have a lesson, so more longe line work wil have to wait until tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Spoiled?

If you ask my boyfriend, who isn't even a horse person, he'll tell you that Lilly is spoiled and that I cater to her just a bit too much...

Do I? Is she spoiled? I suppose so... she's my baby. She's my pride and joy, and I let her get away with an awful lot. Things I wouldn't dare let my gelding get away with, she gets away with. Things I normally wouldn't let slide, she gets a free pass for. I use the phrase "choosing my battles" a lot to justify letting her get away with stuff. I say, "it isn't that big of a deal..."

If I'm longing her in the arena and she's supposed to be walking but decides she'd rather trot, I let her trot. If she's supposed to be keeping her head straight when we're stopped but she decides she wants to look at me out of the corner of her eye like she does, I let her. If we're trotting and her head is supposed to be down but she decides she needs to look over there, I let her look over there.

When we're at a show and there's about 30 minutes before our next class, I'll untack her and give her a hay bag. Everyone else leaves their horse tacked up, but I feel bad that I get to take my hunt coat and cap off and take a break and she has to stand there with that hot saddle on her back. She loves putting her head on my shoulder and napping when the farrier is working on her feet, and when my shoulder gets tired, she wants me to hold her head anyway, so I literally stand there with her head on my hip (holding her like a baby). When we're at home and I'm done riding her, she gets sprayed with the hose, scraped, fly sprayed, fly sheeted, and fly masked. She gets cookies for a treat and then gets to eat grass for 15 - 20 minutes before I put her back in the pasture. I schedule events according to what I think Lilly wants (like the sport horse versatility clinic going on at the end of this month that I want to attend really badly!). It's the same day as the JCHSS show, but I have plenty of time to do the clinic first and then trailer off to the show. I'm actually considering skipping the clinic because I think "Lilly might think it's too much work..." and, "is that fair to Lilly to do both things in one day..." I've found myself cutting my rides short because I think "Lilly is tired and wants to be done..." or scratching classes at shows because "Lilly is ready to go home..."

WTF is wrong with me?

Miss Thing has my number. She's got it good and she knows it.

She's just SO good about SO many things that I just don't like making a fuss when she acts up. She stands like a statue to be bathed, clipped, saddled, and tied. When I'm standing with other folks chatting, she stands there so perfectly. She's never offered to bite, isn't mouthy, and just keeps to herself. She doesn't try to rub all over you, isn't pushy, respects your space, and doesn't require a chain when working with her. Her ground manners are impeccable. I've been told a thousand times what a nice, well behaved horse she is.

She's just such a good girl, and that's why she gets away with so much.

Well, I had an epiphany yesterday. I can't believe it took me this long to figure things out. Guess Lilly IS smarter than I am... just as I suspected. I realized that if I let her get away with murder at home, what is to be different at the show? Her total disregard for me at the CMESC show should have been a big clue. She doesn't have to listen at home, so why should she listen there. She does what she pleases when she pleases. It really is my own fault. I've taught her that certain things are unacceptable, like not standing to be bathed or clipped, but certain other things are ok, like changing gaits as she pleases, looking where she pleases. DUH!! I've created a monster!

Well, this is it folks. I'm done being taken advantage of. Her reign as queen is OVER! My promotion from peasant to queen took place yesterday, and here's how it went:

I was longing Lilly with her reins tied to the girth to remind her about giving to the bit and I asked her for a walk. She walked a few strides and then decided she would rather trot. I communicated again that she was to walk, but she continued to trot. Ignoring me + doing what she wants = BAD! The queen said walk! Since she wasn't listening, I asked her to lope instead. Fine, if you won't walk as I asked, I'll make you lope. She gladly transitioned to a canter (she loves to go fast) and loped around in circles with glee! I asked for the walk again and she jogged a few strides and then broke into a walk. She walked a few more strides and decided to trot again. So I pushed her back into the canter and she loped around with more glee!

Lather, rinse, repeat...

Only, each time she loped, the glee got less and less noticeable.

We did this for quite some time until I could get her to make one full circle at the walk. The poor girl was literally dripping with sweat. I have never seen her sweat that much. She was spent. I felt bad, but it felt good to be in charge for once!

The lesson for the day was this: I choose the gait, you do as you're told. If you refuse, you'll be cantering.

It'll be interesting to see if she remembers this today when I ride. No more nicey nice mom. No more letting things slide. I don't have to be mean, but I can be firm. I've done it before, I can do it again!

Monday, June 16, 2008

CMESC Show Number 1!

It has been a busy couple of days preparing for the CMESC show. As you know, I had my lesson on Wednesday and had plans to ride on Thursday, but when I arrived at the barn, there was a special surprise waiting. One of the donkeys had a baby! No one even knew she was expecting, so it was a bit of a shock. The barn owner was still at work and the baby had just been born like 20 minutes before I got there. After trying to track everyone down and spending time keeping the other animals away from momma and baby, it was a bit too late to ride.

Friday I went over to bathe Lilly and get her ready for Saturday. Since there was a new baby at the barn, though, the stall I usually put Lilly in to keep her clean was taken. So after spending about 3 hours bathing, clipping, and banding, I reluctantly turned her out into the big, dirt filled pasture and hoped for the best. It was certainly too hot for a sheet, so I was at her mercy.

Saturday morning I found her pretty dirty. She hadn't rolled, but it was obvious she had laid out and took a nap at some point during the night. Thank goodness for Show Sheen because I was able to spray the dirt right off. I had a few bands to fix as well, but it only took a short time to get her back to show clean!

When we arrived at the fairgrounds, I signed up for all my classes and then took Lilly for a walk in the covered outdoor arena. I had flashbacks from the last time we showed there where she FREAKED out being in a covered arena. I didn't want to see a replay! She seemed fine so I took her back to the trailer and got ready.

Our first class was stock type mares at halter. There were only 2 of us in the class, but miss Lilly got first! I was so excited to finally have a blue ribbon! Winning that halter class qualified us for the grand champion mares class. This class was reserved for the first and second place horses of stock type mares, field type mares, and saddle type mares. I wasn't going to sign up for it initially because I didn't think we'd win and the class was $15 to enter. I decided at the last minute to give it a shot. After all, the payback was $50 for grand and $25 for reserve. As it turned out, we WON! There were only 3 horses there, but someone has to win, right?! So we got a really nice ribbon and 50 bucks! I can finally say Lilly made some money instead of just spent it! So it's official... I have a grand champion halter horse!! With any luck, APHA will count the grand class and I can get another PAC halter point.

Next was showmanship. It was a tough pattern for a change. There were 3 cones set up in the shape of an L and we had to trot from cone A, around cone B, and on to cone C. At cone C we had to do a 580 degree pivot (that's a full turn and then another 3/4 of a turn, people)! From there, we walked to the judge and set up for inspection. After the inspection, we had to back a horse length, do a 90 degree pivot and walk to our place in line. Let me tell you, Lilly nailed it!! Her foot stayed planted and she backed nice and straight. She was a little lazy doing the 90 degree turn at the end, but she schooled the other 3 horses and their patterns were pretty darn good too. We got first place in that class too!!

(For those of you not keeping track, that's 3 FIRST places in a row...)

The showmanship class should get me another PAC point for sure. So I have the potential to get 2 more to add to my current point!

After showmanship, we headed back to the trailer to get ready for hunt seat. By this time, it was HOT! I think it was about 96 degrees and it wasn't easy getting breeches on in that kind of heat! After getting ready, we headed up to the arena to ride around during the break. Just so you can get a mental picture, the covered outdoor arena has walls that are about as high as her withers. There are bleachers around the outside and there was also an Appy show going on there at the same time. There was plenty for her to look at, and she enjoyed doing just that. If I asked her to put her head down, she would do it, but then it came right back up. You know, if her head is down, how is she supposed to see what's going on? The walls are in the way! So it was pretty much up, down, up, down the entire time. She was ignoring my leg as well and would go from a nice relaxed trot to trotting like a freight train around the ring. And of course her head is up and over the wall checking things out. For the first time in her life, I wished I had some spurs. Man, we have a lot of work to do...

The first riding class was hunt seat GAYP all types (stock, field, and saddle). There were 23 horses entered. The judge decided to split the class and I was in the first split. Lilly was awful. She was going too fast, she had her head way up, and I was all over the place because I just couldn't sit her sudden changes in speed. Surprisingly, we made the cut and were asked to come back to the final. She was just as bad for that as she was for the first split. We didn't place.

Hunt seat walk/trot all types went about the same, except we didn't make the cut this time. Surprise, surprise...

Hunt seat GAYP stock type was next and there were 9 horses entered. We got 7th place and my kick ass showmanship horse just couldn't pull it together in the riding classes.

The next class was an equitation class for the adult age group, and there were 7 horses in the class. We got 5th. Guess I looked pretty bad, but Lilly was just really hard to ride on Saturday. Either she was going too fast, or she was more than happy to stop... quickly. Her head was up, she wasn't listening to my leg and didn't want to trot. So when I had to finally kick her, she pinned her ears and threw her head up.

Needless to say, I decided to scratch my western classes. I haven't ridden her western in a while, and if hunt seat was that much of a struggle, I knew western would be even worse. It was really hot, too, and SO dusty. Either you stood in the shade out of the breeze and roasted, or you stood in the breeze where it was cooler but you sucked dust all day. *Cough, cough!

I had fun... we had a good morning with showmanship and halter. I just really need to start cracking down on her when I ride. She's going to boot camp, starting today!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Lesson Went Great!

As I mentioned yesterday, I had a lesson last night with a new lady. She has many amazing accomplishments and I think she can teach me a lot. She listened to my stories about Lilly, adapted our lesson accordingly, and I think I'm going to get a lot out of these lessons.

Just as I suspected, I need a lot of work. I need to support Lilly when she needs it, but also give her the independence she needs to learn to carry herself by herself. That's probably the biggest thing I need to work on. She gave me lots of tips specifically designed to help Lilly and her issues with speeding up, jumping into her transitions, and not wanting to soften and stay that way. I have a lot of homework!

Not only do I need to work on those things, I need to learn to sit up and keep my head up. I actually know that already, I just find it difficult to pay attention to Lilly if I'm not looking at her.

One thing she suggested to help with the transition issues is to place my leg on Lilly and cue her for the transition a couple seconds before I actually want her to do it. That way, we don't just burst into a trot and she's not surprised by what's coming her way. Canter departures from the walk might also be helpful in my situation because when we're trotting, and I cue Lilly for the canter, she just wants to speed up the trot. So it might be helpful to reinforce the cue to make it easier from the trot.

I got lots of other little tips and tricks I need to work on... so I'm starting today after work!

My new trainer said next week we get more difficult... uh oh!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

New Lesson!

Today at 6:15 pm, I have lesson with my new trainer. My barn owner has been taking lessons from her and a few of the girls at the barn speak very highly of her, so I figure I'll give it a shot.

I sent Lilly off to get training in January, and I figure it is now my turn to get some training. I'll let you know how it goes!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Holy Hell, it's HOT!

For the past couple of days it's been at least 100 degrees outside! Add in the 90% humidity, and you've got a heat index of about 107 degrees or more. Yesterday we roasted with the temperature topping out at 104. I don't even want to guess what the heat index was. Today they're calling for 100 degrees and tomorrow we can expect 97 degrees. Things finally start to cool off after Wednesday when we dip back down into the upper 80's. Wednesday, please hurry!!

I don't mind the heat. I absolutely HATE being cold, so I do pretty well in the heat, but 100 degrees is even a bit hot for me. It's the horses that are suffering, though... they're all sweating and have salt streaks all over them. I've been going over every evening and spraying Lilly and AJ to keep them cool. Lilly seems to appreciate it, but AJ doesn't like getting wet.

Lilly has also been sick since Friday. I noticed her udder was REALLY swollen and I couldn't find any bug bites or ticks on her, so I took her temperature. 101.6... I called the vet since she obviously had an infection and has had mastitis before. I ended up picking up some antibiotics and Banamine for the weekend. Yesterday her udder looked much better and her fever is gone.

Usually when it gets really hot, she gets diarrhea. She had it pretty much all last summer and it was a real pain. I had to wash her about every day and used a ton of Desitin to keep her cheeks from getting red and irritated. Friday, she had diarrhea, yesterday she had normal looking manure. It really has me puzzled because last year she got probiotics to try and help with her digestive system, but over the past couple of days she's been getting antibiotics and her manure is more normal now than before. At least I know it is a seasonal thing since she did it last year and is doing it again this year. Maybe we can come up with a better plan of attack now that we know she didn't eat something bad or have worms. Last year, her chronic diarrhea was a mystery. Now it seems she just can't handle the heat.

If it isn't one thing, it's another...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I'm Starting to Wonder...

It is becoming more and more clear to me each time I ride. I'm really embarrassed to admit it. I'm not sure what the cause is, or what the reason behind it is... I mean, I think I'm a pretty good rider. I've been riding horses for about 18 years now. I've trained every horse I've ever had (all totaling 5 so far) so I figure I'm at least knowledgeable when it comes to training. I'm no Stacey Westfall, but my horses seem to respect me and enjoy spending time with me on the trails or in the arena. So why is it that Lilly seems to have surpassed my intelligence? Why is my horse smarter than I am?

I swear, she gets more difficult to ride each time I ride her. The more she learns, the more challenging she becomes.

Each time she learns something new, she stores it away in her little brain and adds it to her list of accomplishments. Then, when I ask her to do one thing or another, she'll use her newly learned skill and hope that's what I wanted her to do.

Case in point: Yesterday, she and I were working on half passes. If Lilly does one thing REALLY well, it is move away from leg pressure. She'll side pass all the way across the arena and back. She'll pivot on the haunches both ways all day long and is very close to mastering the turn on the forehand. She half passes very well at the jog, but I was working on them at the walk. She struggles with them a bit at the walk and tries to just turn it into a side pass rather than half pass. After about 4 half passes each way to each side, I figured she had done well enough to quit with that for the day and I was going to start on her transitions. I let her walk around a bit and relax, as the half passes got her going. Once she was collected and ready, I cued her for the trot (we're still doing canter transitions from the trot). Mind you, we're on the rail, and her cue for the trot is my INSIDE leg tap-tapping on her side. What do you suppose she does? She starts a half pass to the inside of the arena. Since when does inside leg mean track to the inside? Never in her lifetime! Well when that didn't work she tried to turn to the inside (I've been working on steering her with legs and seat only). I eventually got her to trot, but not before she tried all the things I had worked with her on previously in the day.

At this point in the game, I'm trying to exaggerate every cue I give her. My leg in front of the girth means move your front end. My leg at the girth means move your whole body, and my leg behind the girth means move your hind end. My canter cue is my outside leg WAY back on her belly... as far as it can go, so she'll learn the difference between tracking to the inside and cantering.

Often times, though, I find her guessing... she doesn't really pay attention to the cue like she should and just guesses what I want. If she's right, she's happy. If she's wrong, she gets frustrated and difficult. She gets anxious, anticipatory (is that a word?) and makes it even more difficult to ask her for what it is I really want. She tries desperately to please. It is as if she is waiting for me to cue her constantly. Always on her toes... always ready to hurry up and do whatever I ask her so I'll tell her she is a good girl. Sometimes I think she has her mind made up already, even before I ask her for a thing. "Well, last time she asked me to do something, I had to half pass to the middle of the arena... I'm sure she's going to ask for that again, so I'll be ready, and I'll do a really good job this time." Then, when I tell her she's wrong, she just falls apart.

Another interesting thing she does is stare at me when we stop. If her feet aren't moving, her head comes around to the left (always to the left) and she just stares at me. She brings her head around just far enough that she can see me with her whole eye. It is like she's saying, "Why are we stopped? What are we doing? What is next?" She is always waiting for me to ask something of her, and she really wants to do it right.

If I do the canter transition from the trot, she does pretty well with the leg cue. If I try it from the walk, all she wants to do is track to the inside. I guess I'll have to keep working from the trot only so I don't set her up to fail.

Lilly is the most complicated horse I have ever ridden. All the geldings I've ridden in the past were ok with being muscled into things. If they wouldn't set their head, I put draw reins on and they'd give in and set their head. If they wouldn't move off leg pressure, I could kick them harder and they'd give in and move over. If they were going too fast, I could pull harder on the bit and they'd give in and slow down.

Draw reins on Lilly: Don't work... I tried. She learned very quickly that she could avoid the draw reins by simply turning her head slightly in the direction of the rein I was pulling on. So there we were, trotting in the arena, and her head was going side to side with each step. She was completely avoiding the draw reins.

Leg pressure on Lilly: Well, she moves away just fine but I cannot imagine what would happen if I kicked her hard. Hang on?

Pulling on the bit: Doesn't work on Lilly... she pulls back and all of a sudden, we're fighting.

I'm not sure if all this stems from her being a mare? Are mares more complicated? Are they smarter, or just more difficult. Maybe she is just a lot more sensitive and I'm going to need to learn to ride with more than just my legs and my arms? Is she reading me that well that sometimes I'm asking her for something and I don't even know it? Either way, she's shown she is much smarter than I am and isn't going to have any of my old tactics. I need to get inside her head, and I need someone to help me. Those dressage lessons I mentioned... yeah, those are coming sooner than later.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Grab That Boot!

Saturday Lilly and I did our second hunter pace. It was a bit hotter and more humid this time, and my poor, short, fat girl had a hard time keeping up with long legged, 1/2 TB Summer Berry. We ended up going a bit too slow this time and came in 23 minutes behind the ideal time. No ribbons for us! This is a photo taken by a photographer at the pace. It was posted to the website and I just have to share. Can you see me and Lilly WAY back there?

Lilly was a good girl, though. She was a bit beside herself when we were parked because they always park the goosenecks on one side and the bumper pulls on the other. This means poor Lilly can't see her buddy SB. Last time I begged them to let me park on the bumper pull side because my rig is relatively short. They allowed it, so Lilly and SB got to stand together. This time, I wasn't so lucky.

There was a lot of mud on the trails this time... sticky, sinky, pull a shoe off mud. So Lilly's boots got very dirty. As I always do, I tossed them in the back of the truck to dry. Note to self (and everyone else): neoprene, caked with mud and heavy with water, can and WILL fly out the back of your truck if you're going over 45 miles per hour down the highway. Like a plastic bag in the wind, I saw it lift up out of the bed, float around for a few seconds, and then POOF! That sucker was gone! My first thought was, "shit"!! Then I started adding up numbers in my head... how much would it cost to replace that boot? I can't buy just one, so I'd have to buy a whole new set. So about 80 bucks... is 80 bucks worth finding a place to turn this rig around, park on the side of the road, dodge traffic (assuming I can even find the sucker) and set myself back about 15 minutes? I decided it was... If I hadn't turned around, I would have been pissed off at myself for days. I was able to recover that boot. Luckily, no one had run it over with their car.

Monday, June 2, 2008

So I Spoke Too Soon...

Riding Lilly on Friday didn't go as well as it had on Thursday. She was a little more rushed and was chomping on the bit quite a bit more than usual. When she's chomping, she's not relaxed. She was also trotting much faster and my usual easy squeeze with the reins wasn't working, so I had to do many, many circles with her to slow her down. I also tried some sitting trots (trying to pretend we were western) and she wouldn't slow down at all.

We did, however, have an awesome canter for about 6 strides. I was working some transitions and decided to try a canter from the walk. At first, all she did was track to the inside (thinking my leg meant move over rather than canter) but after I got her back on the rail, she took off into a SLOW, smooth canter. As I mentioned, she only stayed in it for about 6 strides, but it was awesome! It gives me hope! She's actually doing quite well at the canter. She's keeping things under control, is picking up the correct lead, and stays at a fairly decent pace. I am considering entering some canter classes at the next JCHSS show. We'll see how things progress, though.

I expect her to have some off days... she's definitely not at the point where she's going to be a perfect angel every time I ride (although, how cool would that be?) but we certainly have made a lot of progress. If we keep going at this rate, she'll be spectacular by the end of the year.

Most people that I have talked to about cues for the trot and canter have said that most of it should come from my seat and body weight rather than from my legs and my reins. We're not advanced enough for that I'm certain, but once we get our communication where it needs to be, I can start using my seat more and my other aids less.

I'm thinking about taking some dressage lessons... I think it would REALLY benefit us.