Sunday, January 8, 2012

Another Alex Visit!

I have been sick, sick, sick... it's been over a week since it started and I'm still not back to feeling normal. It was so bad last week that I took some time off work to rest and try to get rid of this ick, and I never take sick days at work! I'm feeling well enough to do things normal, not sick people do, but I sure hope it doesn't last too much longer.

I went to the barn Friday and had a really nice ride on Lilly. Alex was coming out on Saturday so I didn't want to work her too hard... we just had a nice ride together. She was fantastic, and I've noticed a difference in her since I started using that gel half pad. I think it gives just enough padding on her back to make the saddle a bit more comfortable for her.

Saturday was gorgeous... 70 degrees and sunny! We're having some unseasonably warm weather, and I am not complaining. I had given up on the idea of clipping Lilly for the winter, but if it keeps this up, I might end up having her clipped.

So as I mentioned, Alex came out to visit on Saturday. I love having her come out because I get so much out of each visit... if she didn't live so far away I'd beg her to come out more often. She has at least 150 different bits to choose from (right, Alex?), a variety of headstalls and reins to use, and a western saddle that fits Lilly like a dream!

I've been wanting to outfit Lilly in a "big girl bit" so she can start learning how to be a western horse in something other than a d-ring snaffle. We have to show in something with shanks, so Alex brought some bits she thought would work and we selected what we thought would be the best bit for Lilly. I couldn't find the exact bit online, but it looks something like this:

Billy Allen mouth bit...
I like that each side of the bit works independently, so I can still communicate with her in a way that is similar to how her snaffle works. She seemed to really respond well and figured out fairly quickly how everything was going to work. Alex is letting me keep the headstall and bit for a while, so we'll be able to practice with it some more and make sure it's what I want to use before I purchase my own.

Alex rode Lilly first so I could watch how she worked Lilly and handled the new bit. I was also anxious to "show off" how much progress we have made since the last time she was out. I think she was pretty impressed with how much more relaxed Lilly is and how she really stays with her rider now. The progress is just huge and I owe it all to Alex and her now infamous "trot-stop-back-trot" exercises. For the kind of mind that Lilly has, those exercises are gold!

Then it was my turn!

Let's do this!
I really didn't have to do a whole lot to get the perfect western walk. Every now and then she would bring her head up and a little pull upwards on the inside rein would get her head back down. Alex kept saying, "more rein, more rein" and I'd let out some more slack. I couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that Lilly was walking slowly, consistently, and with her head down on such a loose rein!

Whose horse is this, anyway?
It was the same at the jog (heh, I said jog!). I kept her on a loose rein and she just plodded around as happy as can be. The jog was nice, too. It wasn't a pitter patter, she's barely moving jog... it was slow, consistent, and simply amazing.

La-de-da... this is fun!
After I was able to get the hang of things, we changed it up and went from a jog to a trot, back to a jog, and so on. I was amazed at how well she would speed up and extend the trot and then come back to a jog simply because I would sit deep and exhale.

Speeding it up...
Slowing it down...
I had to take a minute during my ride... the progress we have made together over the past year just suddenly came at me all at once and I got very emotional. I couldn't stop the tears. I had to hug Lilly and I had to hug Alex. Between the training help she's given us and the new pony I found when I chose to try Lilly barefoot, I finally have a happy horse and it means the absolute world to me.

After gathering my composure, we decided to move on and work Lilly at the canter. Alex hopped on and I told her about the progress we've made with our transitions, but that we really don't canter a whole lot. I've been cantering her enough to work on transitions and leads, but for a variety of reasons, I just don't work her much at the canter. It definitely needs a lot of work...

She does well enough at the canter to appease me and I don't worry about cantering at horse shows, but Lilly does not have a nice canter. Her canter is essentially what her trot used to be. Alex describes it as "running away"... Lilly isn't cantering with me, she's cantering to get away from me. We aren't together. Lilly is cantering and I'm sitting there on her back.

Alex decided that from now on, we canter circles at the end of the arena. All I'm supposed to do is keep her on the circle. She can carry her head however she pleases and she can go as fast as the circle will allow, but we need to canter, canter, canter.

I hopped on and gave it a try...


Still cantering... remember to breathe!
What I found particularly interesting was how on the circle, her bad way became her good way and her good way became her bad way. When I canter her around the arena, she is much better when we're going counter-clockwise. On the circle, she was much better going clockwise. Strange!

A happy me and a sleepy Lilly!
Alex gave us some great homework and some great pointers! I'm anxious to get started with Lilly so our canter can improve as much as our trot/jog has. We're also going to plan a trip to a western saddle shop not far from us. Because Alex's saddle fits Lilly so well, we want to take it with us to the saddle shop and see what they have that's similar. Alex thinks that because her saddle is old as dirt that it is made different than today's saddles... it's made for the old school, bulldog style QH, which is similar to what Lilly is. I would love to find a "normal" saddle that fits Lilly so I don't have to spend a fortune to have a happy western pony. :)


  1. Taking Alex's saddle to the store is a great idea!

    So sorry you've been sick.

  2. Awww, I got a little teary reading this! You and Lilly have made such amazing progress becoming a team. :)

    If she doesn't quite love that bit, but you like it, try a Myler like the one I'm using. I'm using something off of this page - it's similar to what you're describing, but it's got a low port and she might like tongue relief. (Or she might not - they're so individualistic!)

  3. I'm so proud of both of you. I was very impressed with how she was doing and can't wait to read your progress. I know you will do what you need to do for you and your mare. She is a really nice mare and I can't wait to see you guys kick butt at this year's shows!!!

  4. Oh and remember you are cantering until she relaxes and isn't rushing away from you. Once she begins her canter without leaving then you start your canter-stop-back-canter exercises to get her with you then you'll be set!

  5. Lookit that pretty little western pony!! I love that firs walk pic!
    I have a very similar bit like that for Daisy, cept its copper mouth, she seems to like it as well. Main reasons I like is is what you said, how it has individually moving sides.

    Can't wait to hear how her canter progresses! And I am hearing you about the weather isnt it AWESOME!? Although kind of strange, lol.
    Hope you can find a saddle for your girl soon too.