Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Back To the Lessons!

I actually made $15 today cutting a mane for a fellow boarder. I told her there was no charge and she could watch what I do and try herself next time, but she insisted I take the money. Look at me MAKING money in the horse business for a change... woohoo! Breeze's mane turned out lovely, too, if I do say so myself. :)

I had my first lesson today in quite a while. I knew the lesson would be a lot different than what I have been doing with Lilly, but my trainer usually has some good ideas for us and things for us to try. When she first got there, we chatted and got caught up. I told her I had been merely walking and trotting and trying to get Lilly to relax before we start working on cantering again. I don't think she was very happy with my reply and said that we'd never get better if we didn't canter. Which, I won't disagree, but I think Lilly has been doing really well with the exercises I've been working on. Plus, I don't want to let Lilly canter around 'wrong' or doing transitions incorrectly, or just being her hyper self when I try and ask for the canter. I don't think my trainer and I were on the same page there, and I got the impression she thought I was being a wimp for not cantering.

But alas, we went to the rail to get to work. We walked and trotted and she always tells me to shorten my reins, so I ride Lilly with tighter reins than I like, but I do as she asks. Lilly did really well and I could tell that our long and low work was paying off. She did really, really well until it was time to canter. She jumped into the canter like a cannon, as usual, pinned her ears, and swished her tail, but about 3 strides after the transition she calmed down and did pretty well going clockwise. Counter clockwise was a different story and we flailed around like a fish out of water. So we did some bending exercises and asked for the canter again. Transition was horrible, but the canter itself wasn't bad.

So the part I've been trying to avoid is the part where Lilly does that choppy, head up, anticipatory trot, right before she canters. Then the canter transition is horrible because she's got so much energy built up, and she's not engaged like she should be, and she really has no other choice but to LEAP into the canter, or she won't be able to make the transition. It takes a lot of work to get her back to thinking trot and not canter, and I think working on the circles and the relaxing exercises will make a huge difference for us when it's time to canter.

We did work on some equitation stuff, so I'll be practicing that over the next week...

I guess I'll have to find a happy medium between the lessons and my own personal exercises.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Trail Ride!

It was a gorgeous day for a trail ride! Some may argue that it was too hot, but I love a sunny 91 degree day. Riding through the woods provided us with shade most of the time, so it was just perfect!

We rode for about 3 hours and Lilly did pretty good. The girl just wants to be in front. If she's not in front, she chews the bit nervously and is generally a brat. If she's in the front, she plods along like a happy camper but tends to leave the rest of the group behind. There were 2 other riders, and they both had "normal" horses that actually walked calmly and eventually got tired out. Not, Lilly, though. And we did some serious hills along the power lines, but she trucked up and down those hills and still had plenty of gas after our long ride. The other two, a QH and a Morab, were dragging ass by the time we got back. The other riders were teasing Lilly about how she had this happy "come on, let's go" look on he face the entire ride.

Know what I say to that? Yay... NOT. No wonder I'm having such a tough time getting her to slow down and relax in the show ring. It's like the girl never gets tired!

We rode out to Falls Lake, which was really pretty. There really wasn't a 'beach' where we could take the horses close to the water, though. Lilly loves playing in the water, but we had to settle on seeing it from afar. There was a pretty neat stream we had to cross... it was only about 8 feet across and the water was about ankle keep, but it was deep enough to give Lilly a drink and let her splash and play for a bit. The other two horses are terrified of the water and it took us a good while to get them to cross. So on the way back, they didn't want to cross the stream again (not sure why, as you'd think they'd want to get their horses used to crossing water, but whatever) so we took a completely different route that took us right out to the highway, through people's backyards, and through traffic lights. I absolutely HATE riding on the road. People think it's funny to honk their horns and very few of them even slow down or move over. We probably added a mile or more to our ride just by trying to avoid an 8 foot stream. It wouldn't have been so bad if it wasn't on a busy road.

It was a really fun ride, though, and I think Lilly had a lot of fun. I did too, and hopefully we'll be going again soon!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

And Now We Add the Trot

I found my french link snaffle and decided to try it on Lilly today. She seemed to really like it, but the best part was how squeaky it was! I never really realized how much Lilly 'chews' on the bit until today. Every time she mouthed the bit, it went "squeak, squeak"! It was really helpful for me today during my ride.

I rode with the intention of only walking again, but she did so well at the walk that I later decided to do some trotting. She was actually 'moseying' around the arena like a normal horse! Not on the rail, mind you, but I'll take it! The few times she did speed up, I took her in a circle until she gave and lowered her head, and then we were off again. She even walked around long and low for quite a few strides. She got a lot of pats today!

The trotting part didn't go so well, however. The transition was actually quite good. I just clicked when she was walking nice and relaxed and she stepped right into it. Of course, shortly thereafter she was trucking around like a freight train. So I made the circle smaller and smaller but she just would NOT slow down. She was pulling and tugging and wouldn't give no matter what I tried. She even managed to pick up a canter when we were doing a very tiny circle. I decided to go the other way and take my circle clockwise to see if she would do better that way, and she did much better. She slowed right down, gave with her neck and I released. I worked on the trot for quite a while in both directions and she got better but counter clockwise is obviously her most unbalanced way of going. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

We also did some walking over poles... we need a lot of practice with that!

Friday, April 24, 2009

R-E-L-A-X

After reading Dressage In Jeans' post, I headed out to the barn for a nice ride. I really enjoy her posts and she has horse that is very similar to Lilly, in that he is very forward, and she has been giving me tips and tricks that worked with him. I'm hoping I will be able to apply the techniques on Lilly and get a more relaxed girl. :)

In her post, she suggested "taking the head and gently pulling it to the inside of a circle whilst trying to keep the reins very loose, and then pushing the horse with the inside leg, to the side. When the horse side steps, they will usually 'give' in the neck, and the head will come down... and they will chew on the bit. You release immediately, then continue on the walk."

So for about 30 minutes I worked on trying to get Lilly to give with her neck. Things started out very well and when she went in to power walking mode, I pulled her head slightly inside, pushed her slightly with my inside leg, and when her head dropped, I released the rein. We'd walk off and she'd start power walking again, so I'd repeat, but I'd take the circle in the other direction. Many times she left her head down quite low, but would speed up and do her power walk, just with her head down. So I'm not sure if I should let her walk briskly as long as she's long and low, or if she needs to be long and low AND walking relaxed...

She never chewed on the bit, though, until near the end of our ride, when she started fighting the circles. She seemed to be getting nervous or upset and started chewing... then she would grab the bit and push her head down quickly trying to get more slack in the reins. She was also resisting my bend requests and then began walking around in a C shape, whether we were on the rail or in a circle.

We never did try the trot because I didn't feel she was relaxed enough at the walk. And when I finally got her to work nicely at the walk after our bought of stubbornness, I hopped off and took her back to the barn.

Maybe 30 minutes was too long? I think next time I'll set out some poles for us to walk over or something to mix it up. Anyone know how far apart they should be for the walk?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

JCHSS #3

Today was a huge flop... even Lilly thought so.

I gave Lilly a bath this morning, which was good because she really needed one, and I clipped her up all nice and pretty. When I walked her to the trailer, she acted really ouchy walking across the driveway. When we got off the driveway she was still stepping lightly, so I picked up her left front foot to check for a stone. All looked well so I tossed her into the trailer.

When we got to the show, I unloaded her, went to sign up, and then started getting her ready for halter. As I'm putting hoof black on her right front hoof, I realize that SHE HAS NO SHOE! I cannot believe I didn't notice when I was bathing her... or when I checked her LEFT FRONT HOOF. I was so extremely mad at myself for being such a dummy! All that work, all that driving, and I wouldn't even be able to ride my horse.

I decided to do halter and english showmanship just to make the trip worth while, but there were 19 horses in the halter class, so, uh... yeah, no ribbon there. Lilly had a hard time trotting even in the nice red clay. English showmanship was a flop too... 11 horses and we got 5th. I have no idea why we placed so low. Lilly's pattern was great. She trotted nicely around the cone, pivoted, and just had an overall nice pattern.

Who knows...

So Monday the farrier comes out to give her a new shoe. Then I can finally get back to riding... hopefully. Lilly also managed to get a bit of a sunburn today on her rump, so it's time to buy a new fly sheet since last year's got destroyed. I like to get the kind that provides UV protection as well as fly protection. I had a Kensington but found it to be really heavy and kind of hot... so I wanted to get something lighter and easier to wash. Anyone have a suggestion?

* On a side note, today I actually heard someone yell from the rail to a student, "Start yanking his face off!! Right now!!" I get more and more disturbed each time I go watch the warm up ring. Yank his face off? Ouch... There was kid at the show last month that got bucked off for doing that. He was doing a lot of yanking, so I assume his horse had enough, and sent the kid flying.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

My Horse Needs A New Person...

Lilly is a shedding machine! The dark hair is really showing up under her winter coat and it's so pretty! Hopefully the weather will stay warm and I'll be able to give her a nice bath.

I rode yesterday for the first time in about 3 weeks, so I expected her to be a little 'something' and I was prepared with lots of patience. We started off doing some bending exercises to warm up and she really seemed to be rushing. If she was in a circle, she was good, but when we got to the rail, she was in a hurry to go somewhere. So I worked on steering her with my legs and guiding her through the many obstacles in the arena trying to keep her mind busy. Then we went to work on the rail... she was still in a hurry and not wanting to give to the bit. Trotting wasn't much better and she was quickly getting annoyed with me having contact with her bit. She seemed much happier when I gave her some rein, but then she also sped up quite a bit. I like turning her in circles to slow her down instead of constantly pulling on her mouth, but the arena I ride in has jumps all over the place, so I can't always do a circle.

So I remembered reading that some people use anticipation to teach horses to slow down, so I thought I would give it a try. We started out at the walk and when she sped up I said "whoa" and sat deep. After she stood for a couple seconds, I asked her to back up. After doing it a couple times at the walk, I tried it at the trot. The anticipation part worked really well because she knew it was coming and I could feel her waiting for the "whoa" and it kept her slower. The bad part was that she kept her head up and her ears pricked backwards waiting for my cue. She did slow down, though, so I guess it worked as I hoped.

After doing the 'whoa and back' literally 5 times, when I asked her to whoa, she automatically started backing. She picked it up so quickly!! I had to keep asking her to wait until I actually told her to back up. She is so smart, especially when it comes to this kind of stuff. Side passing, pivoting, leg yields... those kinds of things are so easy for her to learn, but they're also easy for me to teach to her.

It all makes me feel sub-par as a 'trainer' (and I use that term loosely) and I feel like I don't have the ability to train her to be a show horse. She is so quick to pick up the little things, but I can't get through to her with the important things... like slowing down, collecting, and carrying her head level. So that tells me a couple things... either I just don't have the skills to communicate with her, she's too smart for me, or she just can't physically do the higher level things I'm asking of her. Maybe I just need to be more consistent (and ride more). I really feel like I can't develop her to her full potential and it bums me out.

My next show is Saturday, and I'm excited to see how she does... she always does better than me!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Horse Hair

I'm finally back from Baltimore and I'm so glad! Shedding season isn't the time to go out of town for two weeks... I got a ton of hair off Lilly today, but she's back to being clean and pretty. Her tail was icky and dirty, but now that's clean and back up in the tail bag. The tail bag is really helping with the thickness and length of her tail. I dread the day the bugs show up and I have to give her flyswatter back. She seemed happy to see me, but she might change her mind when we start our lessons again and get back into show mode!

Before the sun has a chance to fade her coat, so pretty much right after she sheds out her winter coat, Lilly is the most gorgeous color! Her legs and chest are really, really dark, and the rest of her is this gorgeous copper color. She's more of a chocolate palomino in the spring and I wish she could stay that color all year long! I'll post some more pictures of her as more of her body hair sheds out but I tried to get a good picture of how dark her chest is right now.

My next show is this weekend, but I have to go to work Monday (sheesh!) and I'll be working in downtown Raleigh, so I'm not sure how much I'll be able to prepare between now and then. I'm just glad I'll be able to keep showing!