Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Driving Ms Daisy

My goal is that by the end of the year I would like to be driving my donkey in a cart.  Will I reach that goal?  I have absolutely no idea but it is what I am working towards.  My aim is for the donkey to be able to give cart rides for Christmas.  Lofty goal, I agree.

I broke out the harness and decided to work with the donkey, much to her annoyance if you read the flick of her tail.  It is so funny watching her pout, she sticks her head down with her ears out to the side and is all angst teenager-ish.  I brought her into the arena, harnessed her up and worked on ground driving first.  She is getting much, much better.  I no longer worry about her taking off (and when she does, it is really easy to control), she turns, halts and backs with relative ease and while she still gapes her mouth at times, she is getting better about holding her bit and is still very soft in the bridle.  She is being driven in a simple spoon snaffle.  I am trying to get her to halt by voice command instead of rein pressure, she halts with very light rein pressure but just doesn't always stop with a Whoa.  We just need more practice I guess.

After we warmed up I tied a pole onto her tugs and tied it onto the loops for the traces.  Last time we pulled poles I had used a surcingle and not her harness so this was the first time she would pull with her breastcollar.  While she did have some "donkey scoot" moments, she did really well and did better with turning then last time.  Since she was doing so well I went ahead and hooked up a second pole to her so she was now in "shafts".  Her first walk with them was a bit quick, she tried to scoot away and was fairly concerned about having something behind her on both sides.  Some reinforcing butt scratches when she was correct goes a long way while driving her.

It took a bit of encouragement to continuatlly go forward when she had two poles, she went from walking when asked to now needing a flick of a whip to get her to move forward.  She also started stopping a lot too.  Almost anytime we were by the arena gate she was stopping (despite having NEVER stopped by the arena gate while we have worked) and it was a 50/50 shot of her stopping while we walked down the long side of the arena.  If we were changing direction or going in a circle she wouldn't stop.  Strange donkey.  I worked her almost a full 30 minutes before I let her be done, longer then I normally work her and she seemed miffed about it.  In the end though, she went an entire lap around the arena (cutting the corner by the arena gate so we didn't start an argument) without stopping and while she didn't stop when I said Whoa, she only required a very light pull on the reins to halt.  I unharnessed her in the arena and then led her straight to dinner, I think she forgave me at that point.

Perhaps this weekend I will do this again, she obviously needs more time with the poles.  She is starting to figure out how to turn in them but she certainly needs more exposure.  After she pulls the poles a couple more times I will try dragging a tire behind her for additional weight and noise before I hook her to the cart.  Only 4 weekends left, can I meet my goal???

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

All about the balance

The holidays went fairly smoothly here, the SO's side of the family invaded our house and we had 13 people here on Thanksgiving.  As a result there was some chaos but it was fairly well contained and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.  We have also had our first snow of the season and as I look out my window I see a light coating of snow on the ground for the third day in a row.  Just enough to coat the grass while about a third of the grass still sticks through.  It snowed about a half inch on Sunday and has dwindled since, not going away like I would prefer.  Blech, I may not like winter but at least everyone has their heated water buckets, winterizing the chicken coop and pasture is complete and our firewood is cut, split, stacked and seasoned.  At least I am ready for it.

So.  What have I done the past two weeks?  Well, I have been really busy.  Between lessons, preparing for company, having company and cleaning I haven't had time to do much.  I have, however, been able to sneak in a couple of rides!  After my last jumping ride, where it hurt to even walk the next day, I realized I need to get back in shape and round is not the appropriate shape.  I also need to get my bad leg back to where it is supposed to be.  My right knee is obviously weaker than my left knee and I need to fix that.  The best way I have found to build muscle is either two point or bareback so I chose bareback this time.  I had ridden the App bareback a little while ago and did okay, I haven't ridden the TWH bareback since about 2009 so he was my choice.

I was pretty impressed when the TWH stood nice and still while I hopped on, with his randomly spooky nature I half expected him to move around while I was clamoring aboard.  We started at a nice walk and I tried riding in a bridge like H had suggested in our last lesson, it went pretty badly.  The TWH was above the bit, fighting with me and was certainly not in the outside rein.  Since I had no plan other than to work on myself, I switched gears and spent almost a half hour working on nothing but the walk, pushing the TWH into the outside rein.  It did take a while but with a lot of bending, pushing and reminding the TWH stopped hanging on the inside rein and stayed in the outside rein.  He isn't perfect at it but once he gets onto the outside rein I am successfully able to ride him in a bridge!  Success!

Once I had him pretty firmly in the outside rein I picked up some trot to the right and I was horrified.  Mortified!  I started bouncing around, was off balance and tried to fall off!  I was very happy no one was around to see the mess I was being and after several attempts of going right I switched direction and started going left.  How had I let my riding get so bad?  Had I not ridden bareback in that long?  I know the TWH is harder to ride because his movement is much more exaggerated then the App's but still, I was embarrassed at myself.  I started to the left and, after getting the TWH back into the outside rein, I asked for a trot and it was... good.  Huh?  There was no bouncing, no flopping, no balance issues.  After a second lap, puzzled, I turned around and went right again, how was I so different?  About a half lap into the the right circle I realized the difference, my right/inside leg was not doing it's job.  Instead of securing me to the horse, it was taking a siesta!  Bad leg!!!

I spent the rest of the ride forcing my right leg to activate and it was a lot harder then I expected.  As soon as I stopped thinking "Leg!", it would stop doing it's job.  Once activated by thinking "Leg!", however, my flopping, bouncing and unbalanced self disappeared and I was once again riding correctly.  Go figure.  Lots of transitions and circles to the right later I called it a night, the TWH had earned his dinner.  I rode bareback on the TWH again last night and the difference was amazing.  While I still had to force my bad leg to work, it worked much better than my previous ride and I wasn't embarrassed to have anyone see me ride lol.  It has been a pretty amazing light bulb moment, suddenly realizing just how little my right leg was doing.  I am now back on track and hopefully I will fix this problem quickly.  Nothing a little bareback riding won't fix right?!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Two days of two point = out of shape confirmation

Was it beautiful this past weekend where you were?  It was here, it reached the mid 60's, had a light breeze, was sunny and dry.  I was successful in getting a LOT accomplished, from climbing up the tallest ladder here to clean the arena gutters of the dead leaves, moving the chickens to their winter spot and giving them a light to hopefully kick start their egg laying again to powerwashing the trailer for winter, the beautiful weekend gave plenty of opportunity to get winter necessities done.  It also gave me an opportunity to ride, something I didn't totally expect and while I *could* have filled the time with more chores I instead chose to ride.

Sunday afternoon I pulled the TWH out of the pasture and made the decision to ride in the jumping saddle.  I have endurance issues when going into two point/jumping position but I am determined to get better so I could start doing fun things like jumping.  We rode the 3 mile loop and I worked a good bit on getting the TWH to trot, since I have been riding with others when I ride the loop I typically ride the App.  The people who tend to ride the TWH don't insist on a trot and let him go at whatever gait he is comfortable with.  As a result we had a few "discussions" of mostly pulling to a halt and backing a step whenever he decided he wanted to switch gaits at random.  It took several corrections but he decided it was easier to give me the gait I asked for instead of what he wanted.  It was such a gorgeous ride, too bad I didn't get to do that much this year.  About 25% of the ride was done in two point and come Monday I could certainly feel it.  My muscles were certainly telling me I had done a bit much however there was no time for recuperation, I had someone coming over to ride!

Last night I had someone trailer her horse over, she is someone that has taken lessons from H as well and we are fairly close to the same level of riding.  She has a big TB that she does Beginner Novice eventing with and I have seen her ride a couple of times.  We started out doing  basic W/T/C and I worked pretty hard on getting the TWH to give me the correct gait when asked, he is still having issues in the canter with it being more pacey than pantering.  Still have homework to do!  Her horse was very well behaved and we didn't have any issues riding together, yay!  After a good warmup I put up a one stride line of jumps, having two crossrails at 18" and 20".

The first time I pointed the TWH over the line I kept lots of leg on but he told me there was no need, he jumped the line like he hadn't just had 7 months off from jumping.  Success!  I certainly need to work on two point a little more however jumping went really well even after we bumped it up in height.  At the end of the ride we had a 2' crossrail and a 2'6" vertical.  The TWH did knock the poles down a couple of times, one time was because he tried gaiting into the line, missed the takeoff spot for the first jump and wasn't able to save the second jump since he was so out of whack.  On the plus side, he still tried to go through and didn't even think of refusing.  That is a huge success for him in my book!  The 2'6" jump was about a 50/50 mix of good and bad jumping efforts, there were times when you wouldn't have really even known you went over a jump because he was so smooth and seamless, other times you felt him really rock back and push off of his hocks, other times he stumbled over the line and hit the pole.  Overall it was a VERY good ride and I am very pleased with how he behaved.

I need more work on my two point, it was much better over jumps than I expected but it is glaringly obvious that I need to work at it more.  Collapsing over the jump, not folding at the hips, being left behind when the TWH missed his mark, all things that fresh practice will fix.  It felt so good to jump after so long, it has been April since I jumped last.  This morning, on the other hand, it doesn't feel so good as my body is putting a pretty good protest over my actions the past two days.  I am not sure if I will ride tonight but already have plans to ride on Thursday with RB4.  Maybe the new girl will want to keep coming back out and will be a new RB, perhaps RB5, here's to hoping for a new RB5 and continued non-injured days for me!

Friday, November 2, 2012

A new gait, brought to us by our TWH

The hunter pace last weekend was very nice, just a bit windy.  The TWH had gotten a bath on Thursday and it was a hard gamble that he wouldn't roll and/or become a filth monster before our ride on Sunday but thankfully it paid off!  When I went out Sunday morning he had used a pile of poo as a pillow for his withers but the rest of him was clean(ish) so after a quick application of Miracle Groom, we were ready to go.  I had a clean looking cream colored horse!

I met up with RB3 and a friend of hers and we went out as a team of three and had a great time.  It was pretty windy and chilly, with it only being in the low 40's, but since we moved out at a trot/gait/canter for most of the ride we stayed pretty warm.  I was very thankful I had brought my insulated gloves and ear wrap and had also worn my insulated breeches though.  The ride was about 50% woods, 30% roads and 20% fields, it was also 50% shorter than the summer ride due to lack of volunteers. We cantered most of the road parts and I even push the TWH into a nice gallop at one point, he is so easy to ride!  While I wasn't getting the "rocking horse" canter, his canter is extremely smooth and not bouncy, just a big swinging couch.  I was a little disappointed in the length of the ride, it took just under an hour instead of over 2, but it was very beautiful and they give out cookies and cider so it was still well worth it lol.  The TWH did well in the front and in the middle of the pack and despite wanting to go-go-go when the front horse would take off cantering, he listened really well and made it a very nice ride.  He even went over the couple of jumps I pointed him at, not refusing although he did require a tremendous amount of leg.  Go TWH!

Last night I had my first lesson in months, it has been since I believe June since I last took a lesson.  I wanted to work mostly on my position though we worked the TWH pretty hard too because H said my position is pretty dang good.  She said I wasn't leaning nearly as far forward as I seem to think I am and my position has greatly improved since I started taking lessons last year.  Success!  Still need to work on keeping my hands even closer, stop looking down so much and she wants me to try to start riding with bridged reins, currently it is all but impossible with the TWH but I will start trying.

The TWH is very obviously out of shape for w/t/c work and he did try but he dropped and switched his gait a lot.  H kept saying how amusing he is to watch because he is SO different.  She said he has all the right parts and does things like have awesome hip swing and overstride but it is done in the wrong way so while he may look great he isn't using himself correctly.  We have a long way to go to get the trot back to being solid and then get him to push off of his big ol hind end.

At the end of the ride we finally started working on the canter, a gait the TWH likes to use in avoidance of hard trot work.  The TWH is obviously strung out, on the forehand, a bit unbalanced and requires a lot of push to stay in gait since he hasn't been worked hard all year (stupid broken me). While H was watching our canter she said she finally figured out why he is looking so strange.  Our beloved TWH appears to have created himself a new gait, we have christened it the Panter.  This is a solid 3 beat gait that looks like a canter but instead of the footfall being left hind, right hind/left fore then right fore it is left hind/left fore, right hind, right fore.  He is pacing with his outside legs and cantering with the inside legs.  Really horse?  We made several examples and change directions, discussed it for a while, called it a night and I went to work searching on old footage.  Certainly he couldn't have been doing this all along, this is obviously because he is out of shape right?  This morning it was confirmed, he has been Pantering this whole time.  *le sigh*.  Not sure how to proceed, I really don't want to sell him because he really is a nice horse but he keeps showing me he isn't suited for what I want to do with him.  Ugh. What to do?