Sunday, July 31, 2016

Go, Pony. Go!

I'm way behind on my blogging. Miss Em continues to do well. I was gone most of the week last week and returned on Thursday, with a lesson that evening. The temperatures were in the mid 90's and when I received a call from KB, about an hour before my lesson, I expected she may be canceling. Instead she told me that one of her other lessons had cancelled so if I could move up 30 minutes that would be great.  I snagged Emi out of the field and got her ready quickly. 10 minutes of lunging and then KB arrived so I climbed aboard.

Emi was great, although on the lazy side. She's getting more forward but is still not going enough. We practiced some transitions, working to get her moving forward promptly. I'm pretty sure I was working harder than she was...I got her to canter on my own but after she broke a few times KB put us back on the lunge line for our canter work. Of course there is more work to do, but I was pleased that I was able to pull her out after 4 days off work and not have any problems. I'm missing our lesson this week due to another commitment but we'll be back at it next Tuesday.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Good and the Bad

The Good:

Emi and I had a lesson last night. I hadn't actually ridden her since the prior Monday, but I had worked her on the lunge line and long lines. We had planned for KB to do some work in hand, but when she forgot her equipment I quickly opted for a ride.

I mounted up and off we went. Already Emi is much more forward at the walk than she was before our trail riding adventures. Once we picked up a trot we immediately worked to establish a good forward trot, eventually hoping she'd decide to canter. I did get her trotting more forward but the canter was nowhere to be found. We switched directions to ask to the right and I got a couple of strides but not a real commitment. KB put us on the lunge line to assist with steering and forward. We cantered twice both directions. Her right lead canter is much better than the left lead, which is interesting because all of my other horses have had a harder time to the right.

She's getting easier to ride and is so much fun! We had one big spook, but nothing I couldn't handle and she came right back. We also had one other time where she went to scoot off and I told her no. In hind sight I think I should have let her go since it would have gotten her more forward and that's what I was after. I really need to keep that in mind....I doubt she's going to try to run away with me. Haha.

I do have a couple of short clips from our lesson if you are interested in seeing where we are at.

The Bad (that turned out good):

Roz was acting strange this morning. In fact, I was pretty sure he was colicing. He didn't eat all of his grain, was pawing, curling his lip, and stretching down like a dog. He repeated this several times in the 10 or so minutes I was watching him. The great thing about working at a vet hospital is that I can pretty much just load him up and take him to work. I ran inside to take a quick shower and hurried back out. Of course when I got back outside, 20-25 minutes later, he was out in the pasture grazing. I proceeded to watch him for over 30 minutes. He came back up to the barn, I took his heart rate (normal) and groomed him while he ate his hay and finished his grain. Since he wasn't doing anything I decided to leave him at home. I came back to check him on my lunch and he was still fine. As of tonight he's still fine so I'm hoping it was just some sort of freak thing.

As all good horse owners do, I was pretty sure this beautiful July day may be his last day on earth...possibly a little dramatic, but you never know what day will be the last. Give your ponies an extra hug tonight!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Let's Talk Bonnets

Along with my one bridle...I have one bonnet. I have used Emi's, when we are trail riding, to protect her from the bugs. So, how many bonnets do you have? Where do you like to purchase them from? When do you use them?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Bridle Shopping - Help Needed

I'm in the market for a black bridle for Emi. I currently have two horses and only one bridle....tell me how that's possible! But...I'm having trouble finding something I like that also fits her and is within my $200 budget. That's where all of you come in. Suggestions?

Things I like: Buckle cheek pieces, a slightly wider noseband, and preferably a crank (not so I can crank her mouth shut but because I like the padding they offer). The problem with the wider noseband is they are often quite raised. I tried one like that on her the other day and the bit sat right on the noseband which caused the bit to poke out around the noseband. It was not attractive. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Third Time's the Charm

Miss Emi has been having some rather interesting lessons lately...KB works regularly with Alfredo Hernandez. If you are familiar with him he's a big piaffe/passage person and he does a lot of this work in hand. KB is quite skilled at this from her time working with Alfredo and we had discussed introducing the in hand stuff to Emi. I have had the opportunity to watch two of his clinics so I knew what to expect.

Lesson #1: The big theme of this lesson was that Emi's default response to pressure is to charge forward. This has always been true, even as a foal. This resulted in a lesson of "running over me is never the answer." Oops! KB did comment that Emi will learn to piaffe very easily as she was already offering the idea as KB was working on other stuff with her.

Unsure? Just jump!
Lesson #2: This is where things went an unexpected direction. I thought we had gotten the hard part out of the way in lesson #1, but more trouble was waiting. Although Emi was significantly better about not attempting to push in to KB she was very dull to the whip and was not quick to move over, like she was being asked. What started as tapping turned in to whacking and then Emi decided she just wasn't going to do she stopped. Great, now we learned that too much pressure and she'll shut down. KB changed the subject and her technique a bit and the lesson recovered a little bit but it still ended up with Emi covered in sweat and not much good progress. Ugh. KB and I were both disappointed that the lesson didn't go better than that. When we left KB told me to let her know how Emi seemed the next couple of days, if she was grumpy, jumpy, or seemed fine. Of course as soon as I took her lead rope Emi seemed fine and in perfectly good spirits, and that trend continued throughout the week.

Fast forward to today, lesson #3: night and day difference! Not only did we keep the "you don't run me over" part of lesson number #1 but we also had the "you must respond when you are asked something" from lesson number #2. Emi was a bit nervous but a good kind of nervous, reactive but not stupid. The progressed from her yielding her hind quarters, to doing it in side reins so her neck was more straight, to doing nice "leg yields." It was awesome! From there, as she was getting Emi more engaged and crossing over Emi sat down! Her butt dropped and she traveled along like a Grand Prix horse for a 4-5 steps. This happened a couple of times and was so impressive! We also saw hints of piaffe again. I think the stinker pony is more talented than I expected! This time Emi wasn't sweaty at all! I'm so glad we gave it one more shot. Our plan is to incorporate 10-15 minutes per lesson and then ride the rest of the lesson. I will try to get some video next time so you can see what I'm talking about but it was seriously cool. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Adventures Continue...

Hauling out to local trails was an adventure on Monday, hauling an hour a way for a poker ride was an even larger adventure. Yet again, I was blown away by how good Emi was. She loaded and hauled great, came off the trailer calmly and stood nicely tied while I got her ready. 

We were riding with a fellow boarder, Melissa, and her friend Susan. On our way up I asked Melissa if Susan knew Emi was really green...nope. In the interest of full disclosure we did let her know when we arrived. We had opted to ride out at the earliest possibly start time hoping to avoid unnecessary traffic.

Emi was completely calm but to be "safe" I led her out to the first check point. Once I had my cards drawn I mounted up and off we went. She walked right along and kept up with the other two horses in our group. We were nicely spaced out with the other horses on the trail with the group in front and behind us a ways off. 

Do you ever have those moments were people you are with (family, friends etc) tell other people stuff about you that you didn't plan to disclose? We got to the second check point and Susan was raving about how good Emi is and telling people that this was only her 16th ride. This happened several times during the ride and many people were impressed and asked what breed she was. 

After the second check point the group of horses that were behind us seemed to be catching up a little bit. I could tell that Emi was a little nervous that they were trailing us with her ears back, neck a little tense, taking a few quick steps forward here and there. We continued along for a bit before Melissa got a little close behind us and Emi kicked at Scotty. Naughty naughty! I gave her a kick and we moved her to the back of the pack. 

Naughty pony had to travel at the back of the pack
We had been riding around the edge of the field but at this point we moved to a wooded trail with several very muddy patches. Emi was again getting a little nervous so we put her back in the middle with Susan being careful to not ride too close. The first big muddy spot we came to found Scotty scrambling along the edge of the trail to avoid going through the mud. He was slipping and sliding. Emi made a move to follow him but I directed her more towards the middle of the trail and she slogged through the mud. Each spot we encountered she willing crossed. 

Muddy feet at the third stop
The third stop was also the first stop so there were several people on horseback waiting to draw cards. Emi stood so quietly while we waited our turn. When we were done we went down to the water that was nearby to see if they'd go in. Melissa got Scotty in and Emi went in pretty easily. I was afraid  she may have forgotten her water lessons from last summer...but she definitely hasn't. As soon as she got in she started pawing like crazy! Susan warned me to watch for her to lay down. After a lot of splashing I finally kicked her out for fear that she was actually going to try going down.

Same water, a year earlier. 
At this point in the ride we were nearing home. Susan's horse was starting to have a meltdown and there were some horses coming up pretty quickly behind us. We couldn't see them through the trees and brush but we could hear them as one of the horses was wearing a bell.  We opted to turn around and wait for them. As we stopped Susan commented that her horse was going to blow. I decided that was my cue to hop off. Once they were passed and everyone was settled I got back on. It wasn't too much further down the road that we encountered several groups of horses heading out on the ride (the trail was shared through a couple of spots). The first pair we encountered was already a bit out of control with the rider leaning off to one side. Her horse was turning it's butt and kicking at us before we even passed. I again took this as my cue to get off and passed around her as widely as possible. I opted to finish the rest of the ride on foot since we were almost back anyway.

I was clearly not thrilled with Emi kicking at her trail buddy and that is something I'll need to keep an eye on for the future. But...that was the only "bad" part of a 2 hour (6 mile) ride. Not only did she handle encountering several groups of horses on the trail but she also worked well through all of the muddy and slippery spots and she stood nicely at every check point. We continue to build our partnership and I'm counting the day as a success!

My best girl

Thrilled to hang out at the trail snacking with her buddy

Monday, July 4, 2016

More Miles

One of my big goals with Emi for this summer is to do lots of trail riding. I feel like it's a good way to get her broke and also to keep things interesting for her. With that in mind we headed out for another trail ride on Saturday. Unlike last time, I mounted her at the barn rather than leading her out to the forest before getting on. Due to a crazy busy week for me she hadn't been ridden since our ride the previous Sunday. I wasn't sure if it was going to be a good idea to hop on her like that but I figured that worst case I could get off and walk.

There turned out to be no need to walk. She meandered away from the barn and out to the forest with out a problem. She was a little more forward than last time but was not interested (or very willing) to take the lead. Near the end or our trip out we did get out in front and she was doing pretty well with it. Then we turned for home and she led all the way home! When we got ready to cross over the road from the forest to the driveway there was a truck coming. She sat patiently by the side of the road and they slowed nicely down to go by us. Once they were passed I saw another truck coming so we waited for them. This was a FedEx truck who waved and went blasting by us...and Emi was unfazed. Not too shabby for a 3 year olds 3rd trail ride (and 14th ride total)!

Then today we hauled out to Chip Ross Park, about 20 minutes from NDF. When I went out to the pasture I immediately noticed that Emi's right hind leg was swollen. I suspect she banged it on something as I couldn't find anything wrong with it. I trotted her to be sure and she was sound. She loaded like a champ and was great once we arrived and I was tacking her up. 

Chip Ross is closer to town than the forest near the barn, so there is more traffic. I hadn't really even thought of that until Emi was nervous about the first jogger who went past us. We were out for close to two hours and ran in to several people jogging, walking, with kids, with dogs, and also some mountain bikes. I led Emi for the first 15-20 minutes before feeling like she was settled enough for me to comfortably get on. She was really quite good. Leary of the traffic but all she did was raise her head and crowd her trail buddy a little bit. We did also go off road into a shallow ditch once but it wasn't any big issue. We ran in to three groups of mountain bikes and she was actually the best with those. She trekked right along on the trail and seemed to enjoy herself. We even trotted up one big hill and she dug right in. 

By the time we finished our ride her leg was normal and tight. She again stood quietly at the trailer and loaded well for the trip home. This was our first time trailering out and riding somewhere new and I was super pleased with how good she was. 

Sweaty and tired