Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Body Clipping Blues

Well folks, it's that time again. With T-minus eight days until we ship back to Painesville it's time to bid farewell to Johnny's fluffy winter coat and say hello to body clipping!

The always wonderous wolly mammoth already got a chaser clip when his coat first exploded into roughly three feet of hair way back in October, but I was reluctant to clip him further when I knew he was just going to be coming home and sitting in a field for a month over winter break. Why cause more work for myself changing blankets and worrying if he's warm enough when I'm not even riding him right? With his full winter coat, I can sleep better knowing that he's not shivering to death in his stall or out in the field. It was a good decision on my part, because the last few days here have been miserably cold. I believe the temperature was dwindling somewhere around 4 degrees the night before last.

The good news is that yesterday and today the temps went back up into the low-mid thirties (yay heat wave!) and therefore both Emmy (who wasnt blanketed at all this year until it got down into the teens) and Johnny went naked today to enjoy the warmer temperatures. Johnny's hair has all grown back in where he was orignally clipped and let me just say that his hair sure does grow in the wierdest patterns. Only his winter coat for that matter. For example, "normal" horses hair grows downward on the neck, so that when you brush from the head down to the shoulder, you are brushing the hair flat, correct? And so does Johnnys, in the summer time. In the winter though, his hair grows backwards up his neck so that in order to brush it flat, you have to brush from the shoulder up the neck to the head. His hair also does this along the top of his back, where is suddenly changes directions and also grows up, from haunches to withers, instead of down.

This horse is so weird.

Needless to say, it makes body clipping him very interesting, especially since he has roughly the attention span of a three year old child, which means that total body clipping is a lengthy process that takes 3 or 4 days to accomplish, all the while with Johnny looking like he got in a fight with a blender.

Emmy on the other hand, will continue to stay fuzzy and naked even though she is going to stay up a college for a couple months. I made that mistake last year, leaving a blanket on her while I was away and it never really got taken off...poor horse had indents in her hair from the edges of the blanket.

What is everyone's views on blanketing and/or clipping? How do you deal with your horses winter hair?

Peace.Love.Ponies.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dopping a line...

Sorry for the lack of updates. I've been having a bit of a personal catastrophe lately but I just wanted to stop by to say that Emmy AND Johnny are both shipping back to college after winter break. Dad, who has been cleaning her stall and taking care of her, majorly threw his back out last night and therefore can't clean the stall for a while so we decided to send her with me for a few months until he's back on his feet. The vet is coming tomorrow to pull a new coggins for her and the stall is already arranged and set up at the barn!

Johnny, in other news, has been thoroughly enjoying his time off! I think he is going to come back to school with a much fresher attitude after a month in the field!

More later.

Peace.Love.Ponies.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Embracing the Inner Cowgirl: Cross Training to Curb Bordem

Yep, it's offical, I have definetly lost it.

Since being home from college on winter break I have probably only ridden Johnny 4 times in the last two weeks. There are a few very valid reasons behind this: 1) I promised him a break from his 6 day-a-week training schedule that he's been on at school 2) I have no where to ride him (i.e. no arena) 3) The ground is frozen and not quite covered with much snow, therefore it is slippery and icy instead and Johnny, with his new front shoes, is a klutz to begin with so the last thing I need is a broken leg. And lastly...4) I miss Emmy.

So, since Emmy is now naked and shoeless, I have been riding her around on the trails and such, mainly just walking with a little jog here and there. She offically has not been ridden in almost 4 months so shes REALLY out of shape and her feet still get sore from the lack of shoes, but she doesn't slip much on the snow/ice so she's pretty sure footed. I started riding her western a couple summers ago when she was mysteriously lame for 3 months and no one could figure out what was wrong with her. She's not much of a western mount...although she does have a pretty nice jog and a reasonable lope (sometimes). Despite the fact that she went back to being a Hunter later that year, I think that in her old age she's come to quite enjoy the western saddle...plus, there is NO WAY I'm wearing breeches in this weather.

Anyway, the point of this entry is to tell about how a reconnecting with a childhood friend named H inspired some new cross-training for Emmy. H and I grew up riding and eventing together, but when the barn we were riding at kind of fell apart business-wise, our entire group of friends packed up our things and our horses and we parted ways. Thanks to Facebook, we managed to reconnect almost 4 years later (3 years since the last time I saw her at a horse show...she had a yearling QH showing in halter) and exchanged phone numbers. Before I knew it she was pulling into our barn drive Tuesday and we were saddling up for a snowy trail ride and a trip down memory lane.

H has gone a long way from our early eventing days and made a 360 into the Quarter Horse world. Her family had since moved out to the township, purchased a few acres with a barn and gone horse shopping in Pennsylvannia where they came back with three QHs. She now has a coming 5 year old, 3 year old and a 2 year old, all foundation bred for roping, cutting and reining. I told her how I kind of missed the days of us riding western through the woods when we were kids and she admitted that she missed having a well schooled horse to jump with. In the end, we made an ultimatum with each other "If you teach me how to jump again," H told me "then I will teach you how to rein and cut cattle." Fine by me! I've always wanted to get back to my cowgirl roots...

It wasn't until I was oogling over an episode of Heartland (best TV show EVER) where they were team roping when it really hit me.

I have ALWAYS wanted to learn how to rope.

See? I told you...offically off my rocker. I blame her entirely.

Next thing I know, I've got an old practice rope and Emmy all saddle up in the front yard. Surprisingly, the spooky little mare was totally fine with me swinging the rope around...she didn't even mind so much when I accidently hit her in the head with it, nor did she blink when it went flying past her face onto a fence post. It wasn't until I went to coil the loop back in that she decided she'd had enough of the roping game...besides, that thing crawling towards her in the snow was DEFINETLY going to EAT HER.

It actually wasn't too bad of a spook...just a classic Emmy spin sideways, but as strange as it sounds it gave me joy to see her react to something. She's 22 (going on 23) years old and a dead broke hunter mare. The past year or so has been...oh I hate to say it...but it's been kind of boring with her. Not that I don't appreciate a good, well trained horse, but she is literally "broke to death" in her old age...and who can blame me, right? I can't help it if I like a little spunk every now and again. Even though neither one of us is ever going to be competetive, or even good at this whole roping thing, it's something new for us to work on, and trust me, Emmy's bored with her retirement and ready for a challenge. Despite the fact that she goes outside all day and always has plenty of hay and toys in her stall to occupy her, she is still slowly eating her stall door in protest.

I'll let you know how the whole thing works out ;)

Peace.Love.Ponies.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Photos Op!

Some photos from the farm, horse show and trail ride!


Emmy, my retired hunter mare, being beautiful


Emmy. I'm pretty sure that this is going to be my next painting


Best friend horse show love.


Pumpkin the mini looking studly.


C getting ready for our trail ride!


C and Abbie


Me and Emmy


Me and Emmy again


This was such a cute picture but C got her finger in the corner...I tried to crop it out...this was totally candid.

Peace.Love.Ponies.

(p.s. Emmy does have a mane...for some reason since she's been retired its just gone crraaazzzyyyy and flips which ever direction that it wants...so that missing middle section? Yeah, its on the other side of her neck. Don't ask. I tried to fix it. It won't comply.)

Really Mother Nature?

Sorry I haven't updated in so long! Johnny and I have been home for a week now and we are both getting back into the swing of things around here. of coarse, poor John has to be re-initiated into the herd of horses, which meant that Mikey and Doug found it totally necessary to gang up on him and chase him into a fence while the other kicked at him. We have cattle fencing (not my choice...) because we also have cows, so when Doug ran Johnny towards it, he slid in the mud trying to stop and slammed full force into it. I just so happened to be riding Emmy down the drive and witnessed the whole thing. Johnny got his hind foot stuck, slipped again and flipped over, flailing on the ground trying to get up while Doug bit at him! I kicked Emmy into a gallop (poor girl is barefoot now and we were on gravel!) and did the worlds best flying dismount off her when we got to the fence. Sometimes I'm pretty sure that I should have been a rodeo queen instead of a hunter rider. Johnny managed to free himself just as I got over to him and he jumped up and took off across the field at a trot. I checked over all of his legs and he seemed fine execpt for a wire cut across his back leg. I cleaned it up, iced it, and bandaged it for about 3 days. There is still some swelling, but he seems fine.

Yesterday, my best friend C and I decided to take the horses to Chagrin Valley Farms for a local hunter/jumper schooling show. Of coarse, with his recent injury, there was no way I was going to show Johnny, or even jump him for that matter, but I figured that it would be a good time to flat him around the rings and make sure he wasn't lame (no indoor at home). The forcast was calling for snow, but the morning dawned just fine so we loaded up the horses and went anyway.

BAD idea. The show itself was great...C's horse Abbie FINALLY got around her jumper coarse (for some reason she just HATES Chagrin...she stops at least once every time in the ring) and Johnny hacked around just fine. It wasnt until we went to pull the trailer up to go home that we realized it was snowing outside.

Normally, this wouldn't be a big deal, but it was starting to get dark and it the the kind of fine blowing snow that covers the roads and makes it almost impossible to see. The truck and trailer were sliding all over the road and when we almost got stuck going up a big hill, I told C that there was no way her horse was going home tonight...she could stay at the farm with Johnny.

THAT required a bit of re-arranging because we are definetly at full capacity stall wise, but there was no way that it was safe for C to trailer another 40 minutes home by herself. We ended up relocating the pig up to the top of the barn, (yes, our barn is very old and its 2 levels) putting the donkey in the pigs stall because, quite frankly, he's the smallest equine we have and the only one who would fit in there, and then putting Abbie in the donkeys stall. Pumpkin, the mini who wanders around the aisleway (dont worry, its gated at the end) was FREAKING out over the new-comer. He tries to be super studly and impress the mares...lol its very very funny.

Anyway, we scrounged up some dinner for Abbie (luckily I have quite a collection of grain types and Abbie just so happened to eat the same thing as Johnny) and then left for the night. I went back out at midnight to make sure everyone was still alright and alive and they all seemed to be doing fine.

This morning C met me at the barn and we went out for a trail ride.It was cold but super fun to be able to ride together like we used to when we were kids. Our horses were always really good friends too (Emmy and Abbie) so they enjoyed each others company :)

I've got some pictures that I will put in a seperate post!

Peace.Love.Ponies.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Heading Home

I've got everything for Johnny packed up and ready to ship home with him tomorrow. E rode him again today while I packed up his trunk and managed to get his right lead canter twice! I coached her a bit on how to set him up for it, but she managed to get it after a few tries. I was so excited because it means that Johnny's actually learning the cue and not just anticipating the way I ask him things :)

More tomorrow when we get settled in!!

Peace.Love.Ponies.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Back on his feet...so far, so good

Johnny's had almost a week off now since his first colic episode at the beginning of last week and has shown considerable improvement since Saturday's illness. We made a few diet changes and he's been getting mineral oil out the wazoo to hopefully get his digestive system working properly again. I'm going to start him on some Probiotics but I don't have any up at school (usually Emmy is the one with digestive upsets!) so that will have to wait until we ship home this weekend for winter break.

Yesterday I put him on the lunge for about 15 minutes and let him play a bit. He was getting SO bored not being ridden and it was starting to reflect a little in his sour attitude. He gets exceedingly pushy when he's cranky -.-
Anyway, so I stuck him on the lunge for a bit and boy was he fresh! Usually he is one of those horses that you have to fling a whip at to get him to go anywhere and so I brought one into the arena just in case, but as soon as I picked it up he was adios; squealing and leaping and attempting to buck and kick out. Unfortunatly he's so uncoordinated that it wasn't really working. It was actually really funny to watch because he would canter and then buck and kind of trip himself and have to trot a step or two and then canter again...poor horse lol. The good news is that we cantered on both leads right away and he seemed to have a much fresher attitude afterwards.

Today E and I hacked him a little and he was excellent! E rode first and he looked to happy and relaxed going around that his back was actually swinging and he wanted to drop his head down a bit. His left lead canter has gotten soooo much better! After she trotted and cantered a bit I got on and worked on his right lead, which he gave me easily on the second try. After that he got it right away when I asked him, cantered down the long side and around the corner before breaking. I don't usually push him much...I'll take what I can get at this stage!

He was really, really soft and supple today though. His sitting trot was really good and he was bending right away off my aides and moving away from my inside leg when I asked him (he looovvveeessss to drop his inside shoulder.) His right canter (funny thing...) is actually better than his left lead as far as the quality of the gait goes. Strange that the lead that was so hard to learn is actually the better balanced one... We also got a really nice simple change left to right across the diaganol. I played with him once a while ago to see if he would do it and he did right away, so now I work it into our daily "right lead canter" work. He learns A LOT from repetition and then tries to anticipate what you want, which I'm spinning to my advantage with this whole lead change thing. If I can routinely canter him across the diaganol and ask him for a simple change, we might be well on our way to a left to right flying :)

As for me, I'm getting ready to start packing up the apartment and heading home for winter break. Johnny is shipping home Saturday and I will be right behind him with a car full of stuff. It's back to the farm for us in just a few days! I will miss my indoor arena...lol

Now it is time to start packing!

Peace.Love.Ponies.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

What a week...

So it's been a little bit of the week from hell here lately. Johnny managed to colic twice this week for no apparent reason and on top of that I've been studying like crazy for finals and getting all sorts of loose ends tied up with classes. Not to mention that the temperatures this week plummeted down into the low 30s during the day and the 20s and high teens at night. We got our first snows this week and the ground has started to freeze over. Not ideal conditions for the late night camp outs at the barn with a sick horse. The good news is that Johnny looked better again today (although I'm still holding my breath because last time he was fine for 2 days and then got sick again.) I've got a few new pictures to add to this blog, mainly because I don't really have anything else to update.


Johnny in his stall (and very muddy) a few weeks ago


John's nameplate above his stall. All of the horses have matching ones :)


John's post-colic mush. All he gets is a couple handfuls and a whole bunch of water and mineral oil.


Johnny and Fino in the pasture today. There's like no grass left, but Johnny's trying anyway.

More updates as they come.

Peace.Love.Ponies.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Goal Setting

Sunday night I finally sat down to renew my USEF/USHJA membership (seeing as how the new competition year begins...oh...TODAY) and while doing so, decided that now would be a pretty good time to set some showing and training goals for this year. This has always been a little hard for me to do because of the job I work in the summer. I'm an "A" Circuit groom for a hunter barn and therefore spend a lot of the summer traveling and not very much of it riding...last year while working the Cleveland show I had a days that went from 4am to midnight...4am-6 or 7pm at the horse show, then home ride 2-3 horses before dark (usually I was on them until long after dark...we have a single light on the back of the barn that makes a good 25 meter circle work able after dark) then clean them up, turn them out (nght turn out) and then clean 4 stalls. I usually got home around 11 or 11:30, ate, showered and went to bed only to do it all again the next day. Not that I'm complaining...I LOVE my job because I get to meet so many great people and work with so many great horses, plus I've learned a ton just by watching the horses go in the ring, but all of that plus traveling to away shows makes it hard to keep up with my own riding, training and showing goals. Since I pay for my horses myself and my parents decided to have 4 children who were pretty bright and therefore went to expensive private colleges, just paying for tuition is hard, which is another reason why I have to work as much as I can. In years past it's been a hard balance for me to find, but this year, I'm pretty determined to make it work.

After getting Johnny, I joined the Standardbred Pleasure Horse Organization of Ohio (SPHO Ohio) and started looking into some of their shows. Since I joined at the end of the year, most of the shows had already passed. I looked back into them this year when the new show list came out, and unfortunatly the closest one for me is over 2 hours away, so I picked one show (The Grand Circuit Classic) within the association that I might like to try and go to, one rated show locally that is my favorite (The Chagrin Valley Classic, better known formerly as the Cleveland horse show or the Merrill Lynch show) and one BIG HONKING goal that is really going to be a challenge, The Standardbred National Horse Show. I spent all night paging through the online prize list from last year, jotting down notes and numbers. There are a zillion divisions that I would want to enter but because the show is about 7 hours from here, I can probably only afford to show in one or two (I also figured that if I'm going to haul Johnny 7 hours I should also make it worth our time to go there...) because of the costs. I have no idea how I'm going to do it, but I'm going to start by setting aside tip money from every show that I work this summer and see where we end up come time for the National. If I can afford it, then were off!!

Goals for Johnny this year include:
 - Firmly establishing a right lead canter (which he suddenly seems to have remembered how to do...we've been getting it right away all week!)
- Improving both canters on the flat (stretching down and coming rounder) and to and away from jumps (holding a consistant rhythm)
- Further improvements to the trot (again, stretching down and lifting his back as well as establishing a more forward and reaching "hunter trot")
- Once all of the above is accomplished, competing over fences and staying in the canter for the whole coarse with simple changes if needed.

Goals for myself for this year are pretty much centered around IHSA shows for right now...there are a few position things that I would like to tweak as well:
- Making it to Regionals (already almost qualified!) and qualifying again for Zones
- Making it through Zones and qualifying for Nationals
- Winning at Nationals. I was 4th last year and this year I REALLY want to be champion or reserve...preferably champion! lol
I also want to work on some position things for myself to improve my rides:
- Landing better in the heel over fences...I've been working on it and its getting better
- Keeping the eyes up and looking to the next fence...this will in turn help my shoulder from getting ahead
- Riding FORWARD to decisions.

We will see how this all goes...riding class today (hopefully riding my little buddy Cruz again!) and then a lesson with Kris on Thursday where I will go over these goals with her :)

Til next time,

Peace.Love.Ponies.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving

My family and I are celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow instead of today because Mom had to work, but I thought that I would take the time now to mention all of the things that I am thankful for.

- First and foremost, I am thankful for the life and the talents that God has given me. Despite what I may think sometimes, there is a purpose for me in this world.
- I am thankful for my family and my friends who will stand by my side no matter what.
- I am thankful for my boyfriend...even if we don't always see eye-to-eye because at the end of the day we still love each other and that's all that matters.
- I am thankful for Emmy. I am thankful for my dad scraping up the money to buy her and board her for so many years. I am thankful for all that he and my mom have given up for me to be able to do this. We don't have an unlimited bank account and so I am thankful for the sacrifices that my family has made for me.  I am thankful for all of the lessons, the shows, the late nights and early mornings that we spent together. I am SO thankful for the little misfit mare who everyone thought was "crazy" and "hopeless." I am thankful that she stayed sound long enough for us to prove them all wrong. I am thankful that, to this day, when I call her in the pasture she still lifts her head up, looks around and whinnies. I am thankful that some things never change.
- Having said that, I am also thankful for Johnny...even if he wasn't the "awesome, competetive, sporty" second horse that I was dreaming of buying after Emmy. Sometimes you just get what you get and I got him. He may be a "strange" breed and need a lot of re-training, but his generous personaility is something that I don't think I've ever really seen to such an extent in a horse. No matter what, he always comes out of the stall and tries his hardest, he forgives you for anything and everything, and I don't even think he knows how to hold a grudge (unlike Emmy...lol). I am thankful for all he has taught me and all that we will continue to learn together.
- I am thankful that both of my horses are happy, healthy and sound.
- I am thankful for my own health...that I have never been seriously injured by doing what I love.
- I am thankful for my school, my new trainers and IHSA. They all have given me the oppertunities that I might have never gotten otherwise.
- I am thankful for my job. I love it, every minute of it. I am thankful for all that I have learned from it.

From Emmy, Johnny and myself, HAPPY THANKSGIVING to everyone!




Emmy and me at our last Classic together. She was 20 years old (and still full of herself), coming back off of a 6 month suspensory injury layoff and won third out of 27 entries!



Johnny and me this fall.

Peace.Love.Ponies.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

One good exercise, two good rides

Last week after our IHSA show we took a break from riding for a couple days to let the school horses have a rest. Instead of our normal riding Hunter class, we spent an hour in a "theory" class, watching videos of lots of different hunters and comparing why we thought some were better than others. For anyone who follows the hunter ring at all, you know that Rumba, ridden by John French just won the Hunter Derby Finals with three STELLAR rounds over some really cool jumps. To see the video, CLICK HERE

Anyway, along with that, we also watched some of the 1998 (?) Maclay Finals. We picked apart the course and analyzed how some riders set their horses up correctly or incorrectly for the questions being asked. Last Thursday, we decided to tackle some of those same questions in our class, and M set up a course of ground poles and flower boxes to see where we all were. Let's just say that lots of people had trouble...including myself, although M admitted after the class that she had been the most proud of the way I handled the very spooky horse that I was riding. We decided to ride the same horses again today and work out some more of the kinks. Todays course was a course of jumps that asked many of the same questions. Here is a diagram below (don't make fun of my awesome Paint drawing LOL)




We started in a two point or half seat at 1) over a single trot pole and then made a left hand turn to 2) three 9ft trot poles. This was to set up our horses tempo and pace and see if they were behind our leg or not. From the 9ft rails we made a LEFT hand turn around fence 5 and continued down center line to fence 3) a single white plank vertical with a 7ft take off and landing rail, which required a more collected trot then the 9ft trot poles. After landing fence 3, we turned inside fence 7 and trotted up to fence 4) a single yellow flower box flanked by two white plank standards. After 4 we were to canter halfway down the line and then bring our horses back to trot to jump fence 5) a brown riviera box with a rail on top. Landing in canter, we continued over pole 1 again and then turned to fence 6) a single white plank vertical. We jumped that and then rode a bending line back over fence 4 in the opposite direction before continuing for fence 7) which was a single red flower box set right against the rail. After that, we cantered down the long side to fence 8) a white oxer with a yellow flower box and then continued back around to jump fence 5 from the opposite direction and rode a bending line to fence 9) another single flower box. To finish we were to canter down the rest of the diaganol and halt on a straight line.

Again I rode Cruz, the spooky little Thoroughbred whom I have become really fond of. We seriously rocked this exercise...he didn't spook or stop at a single jump and our oxer fence was BEAUTIFUL! I was so happy with my ride and so proud of him! I want to set this same kind of thing up for Johnny and see how he does with it :)

Speaking of Johnny, after class I went out to ride him and worked him in draw reins for about 15-20 minutes, just walk/trot/canter so that he could feel them and figure them out a bit. I didn't want him to get sore, so I didn't ride a whole ton off them (not that I ever really do...) but I just wanted to kind of set a "perimeter" for a frame and then softly encourage him to stay with in that perimeter. I will tell you this though...for the first time ever he really kept his back up and underneith him, and his canter had moments of super round brilliance where he actually got BOUNCY. Not only that, but we also got our right lead canter on the first try :)

I'm home now for Thanksgiving break so I wont get to see Johnny again until Thursday (I'm driving up Thurs, Sat and then going Sunday to see him when I go back to school for the week...we are doing our Thanksgiving on Friday because Mom has to work) but I think I'm definetly going to set up some exercises to work through with him. I think that it's time now in his training to start asking him some harder questions. Clearly, since he did so well at the show, trotting over some small verticals is something that he's got under control and it's time to start teaching him some more things. What an adventure this all is!

More tomorrow...I stopped in to see Emmy, who is super fat and super filthy from living out in the field. I think she's getting bored with retirement though...Dad says she's cribbing all the time (she's always cribbed...just never obsessively) and on everything she can. Not a good sign :( Pookie pony wants to be ridden again? I will have to get down and dirty tomorrow to get all of the ten layers of mud off her and take her out for a hack :)

Peace.Love.Ponies.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

CVF Pictures

As promised...here are some photos from the show...links to the YouTube videos soon to follow!



Showing off our ribbons!

A blurry Johnny wearing his blue! (below)

Love.

Sleepy baby! He was soooo tired...and yes, that is my girth that he's laying on. I saddled him up and ran to the office to see what split I was in, came back and he was passed out! Turns out that I was riding in the second group, so I just went in, undid the girth, lifted the saddle off and just left the girth for when he got up. He didn't even flinch.

My boyfriend surpised me!


Peace.Love.Ponies.

Johnny plays in the hunters!

Yesterday my friend L and I packed up our stuff and our horses and headed out to Chagrin Valley Farms for their hunter show. We decided only to show on Sunday (Academy day) since neither of our horses was really ready for the Saturday show. Since Johnny's only gone over fences twice at a show (both times with stops...the very first time we schooled great and then couldn't even make it around the course) I decided to shoot low...low level class with low expectations of him. My biggest mistake in the beginning of his show career was thinking that he was going to come out of the field and be kind of competitive. Thinking back on the Chagrin Classic and the Kiwanis Show, each time Johnny had a stop to a jump was because he was looking at the people around the ring and not at the jump in front of him. I knew that the big plexiglass "wall of windows" at CVF was going to be a potential problem for him, but I also knew that he's gotten to the point where he's not greenly over-jumping fences any more, so when picking a division I knew I wanted something that was going to make him put out a tensie bit of effort, without being so big that if his mind went ADD we were going to get a stop too it. In the end, I went with (dun, dun, dun....) walk/trot/canter 18" hahaha. It sounds so silly but it was the perfect class for him. Trotting wasn't penalized, nor was cantering, so tracking to the left we could canter, and to the right we could trot if he didn't land the lead (which he hasn't been lately -.-) and it wouldn't be a problem. It turned out to be the perfect idea!

We hauled in Saturday night and didn't get a chance to school until almost 11:30pm when the jumpers finally wrapped up. L and I rode in the warm up ring and Johnny jumped a meduim sized cross-rail, low vertical, and then maybe a 2'3" vertical (all with flower boxes under them) without ever even looking at them...a BIG step up from when I am used to with Emmy! We cantered in to all of these jumps off the left and he was absolutly perfect! He wasn't even trying over the 2'3" fence, and just sailed over it, right out of stride...also a big step up from where we started! He still tends to jump more "up" than "across" the jumps, but maybe some work over low oxers will help tune that up a bit and teach him to reach a little more.

Sunday morning, L and I got up early to school in the show ring. Johnny was pretty tense going in and inspected the "wall o' windows" with great curiosity. It was actually really funny because he just stood there watching people walk back and forth and following them with his head. He's a smart boy though. After a few good sniffs and a long, comtemplative stare, he decided that the windows were just fine with him and so we went along on our merry way. We stratigically schooled at the 2ft height because I wanted him to go into his class and be like "oh! this is easier than we practiced!" He was pretty good...he stopped once at the out of a line and got in BIG trouble for it for two reasons. First of all, it was a dirty stop. Down right dirty. He trotted right up to it with his ears perked, happy as a clam and then SLAMMED on the breaks and did the dirty "duck and cover" spin that Emmy was so famous for.  Second of all, the jump was seriously small enough for him to walk over. There weren't any flowers, nothing scary that he might spook at...just plain white poles in a semi-empty arena. I was like "oh HELL no..." caught him with a left bearing rein, right opening rein, and a jab to the side with my left leg. I seriously think that my quick reaction to it really surprised him, because he stopped mid-spin and bounced a little with his front legs. And then just to make myself perfectly clear, he got a good slap behind my leg with my hand and he KNEW he was in trouble then. He bounced again and when I turned him back towards it he lept into a canter and sailed across it like "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I was just kidding...really!" On the back side I let him canter through the corner and then slowed him quietly to a stop so that he wouldn't learn to run away from it. When he was still, I stroked his neck and made a BIG fuss about what a good boy he was. I must have gotten my point across, because he didn't even think about stopping again for the rest of the day. He's old enough now and has enough mileage schooling that its really just unacceptable for him to stop at a stick on the ground and I believe that I made that perfectly clear today. Mind you, I am the first to stop and assess things when there is a legitimate reason for him to be stopping, like if he's a little unsound or the jumps are scary or he's maybe getting pushed a little too far to fast, but thats definetly not the case here at all. He was really just being rude.

After our schooling, he got to head back to his stall to munch hay while L showed her horse in the 2ft Adults. They did really well...2nd in the Warm Up, and 4th in their first and second trips. Then it was Johnny's turn. My goal for the day was for him to just get around the course quietly...I stuck with my low expectation plan and just wanted a clean, decisive ride, and thats exactly what he gave me. Both trips were really great and he only looked at the window once around the first turn, but I quickly got his attention back and we had two nice, quiet, clean rides. I was very pleased! When the placings came out, we got the icing on the cake! 2nd in the first trip and 1st in the second trip out of a 5 other horses (the division got split into A and B groups...so we placed out of the 5 in our split...eleven total in the division.) I was so proud of him! He wore his blue ribbon on his bridle all the way back to his stall and got showered in kisses and cookies!  I'm so proud of him! We're going to try to get to most of the winter schooling shows so that both horses can get some more mileage. It was a great show day!

Pictures coming soon!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

IHSA continued...and some photos!

As promised, here is the second installment for our IHSA adventure last weekend:

Sunday of the show dawned super early as usual. The horses had to be ready to school by 6:30, so all of our team was up before the sunrise (aka: 5 am) to make sure that they were fed, cleaned and prepped before heading to the ring. C and I were running the barn again and had to make many last minute changes to the schedule. Two of our horses had mysteriously come up lame the day before (for the record, we take REALLY good care of our horses...one blew and abcess a few days later and the other was seriously faking it because he was just fine come Tuesday -.-) so we had to sub in some horses that we would have rather not had to use. Before each show, we sit down in the barn and make a saddle fit list for all of the horses that are going to be showing that weekend. Once the list is made, we post it in the barn aisle so that anyone who is tacking up will just be able to glance at the list and know that tack goes on which horse. Many students (including myself) loan their jumping saddles to the club for the weekend so that we don't have to break into the school's stash of Wintecs for the horses that we can't fit in a nice saddle. Let's face it, no one wants to equitate in a Wintec and the school doesn't have enough nice jumping saddles to have one fit every single horse (over 60 horses!) so we all pitch in and bring our personal saddles. This year, we had lots of loaned saddles...almost ten I think! They were all very nice brands, Pinnacle, HDR, Pessoa...we try to get the best saddles we can for people to ride in. The problem Sunday morning was that, since we had so many horse changes, our original saddle fit list had basically gone to hell. C and I spent the entire day running around trying to find saddles that would fit the "new" horses without taking a saddle from a horse in an overlapping class...it was really tough, but our IHSA president, N, complimented our work after saying "I have no idea how you girls did it, but you pulled it off because not a single horse came to the ring late and each one had a well-fitting jump saddle." I was pretty proud about that :)

For my flat class on Sunday I drew Harper, a horse that a) I've never sat on and b) likes to pull people around the ring...my ULTIMATE weakness. I won't lie, I was super nervous going into that class and the way that M (our coach) was talking to me tipped me off that I was point rider. I'm pretty sure that as soon as M saw the draw list she was probably like "Omg...why did I pick her as point rider?" I was pretty determined to pull it off. The first way of the ring was great, I sat up and kept my shoulder tall, and Harper stayed balanced and quiet. Unfortunatly, we got a little boxed in down the long side (I have no idea how that happened...usually I have really good ring management...) and that lit him up a little. He didn't want to settle the second way of the ring and he was literally DRAGGING me around in the canter. I braced my back against his the best I could and used the corners for a chance to rebalance with a strong lifting inside rein and and a big ol' half halt. Once again, going into the placings I had NO IDEA how it was going to turn out...if we pulled off first it would be a miracle. Lucky for me, it must not have looked so bad because we ended up second and I was thrilled! M seemed happy too, she told me after that she had gotten a little nervous the second way of the ring, but was proud that I had held it together :) At the end of the day, LEC was team champion again!! What a come back after our terrible first show!

To change pace a bit, here are some photos that E and S took a few weekends ago while they were riding Johnny. I was home that weekend and so all I have are some photos, but they said he was really good for them :) E is in the blue and S is in the purple (bottom picture)











Johnny and I are packing up today and heading over to Chagrin Valley Farms for their horse show this weekend...wish us luck!!

Peace.Love.Ponies.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

IHSA Show - Saturday

"Cuz the party don't start 'til I walk in..."

The IHSA show this weekend went really great! Our team rode EXCELLENT and M picked all of the right point riders because Saturday we ended with almost a perfect team score...49 points, over 15 points ahead of any of the other teams. I just so happened to draw a gelding that is part of my Hunter class ride string, so I was really familiar with how to ride him and (as my friend N told me) I "look really good on Cruz." He can be a bit of a spook and because of that, we've never used him before in IHSA, so I wasn't sure how he was going to be. During his first class (with another rider) one of the team banners fell, which sent him leaping sideways and his unsuspecting rider ended up in the dirt. My best friend C and I were running the barn, so I didn't get to see it, but it made me worry a little because I was the next rider on him. As we walked through the ingate, I used my forefinger to scratch his neck. He eyed the wall once (where the banner had fallen from) and then proceeded to be absolutly perfect for the rest of the class! Some of our downward transitions were a little abrupt, so going into the line up, I wasn't really sure how the placings were going to fall. There were 7 girls in the class and 6 ribbons to be had. I held my breath all the way until there were three riders and just two ribbons left. Second place was called. My heart was seriously beating in my ears. Had we really ridden that badly? The announcer came on and called first place...my number! My good little chestnut Throughbred pulled through and we won our Intermediate flat class!

More about Sunday to come!

Peace.Love.Ponies.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Horsemen vs. Riders

Courage is not the absence of fear. Stupidity is the absence of fear. Courage is the ability to acknowledge fear and then let it dissipate from your mind.




With our second IHSA show quickly approaching (tomorrow is course set, schooling and prepping!) I've been thinking a lot about the differences between horse people. For our IHSA shows, we always braid our Open and Intermediate division horses because it makes them look professional and this year, only three other girls beside myself offered to braid horses for the show. I thought to myself "that's it?" out of a team of 40 girls, only 4 know how to braid? To me, any person who shows should know how to braid a mane. It's part of learning horsemanship. Anyway, it got me thinking. In my mind, there are two types of horse people: those who are "riders" and those who are "horsemen."

Horsemen (or horsewomen if you want to be politically correct) are the kind of people that always put the horse first. These are the ones who forge their way to the barn in all types of weather (be it monsoon, tornado or snow storm) because they can't bear the thought of their horse a) standing in a dirty stall b) not getting turned out or c) all of the above. These are the ones who know exactly how much hay and grain their horse eats, they now how to give shots and manage a deworming schedule...these folks are the down and dirty, the ones who manage every aspect of their horses well-being. These are the ones who, in the saddle, take responsibility when things go wrong, like a missed distance to a jump. Instead of "my horse is being a jerk" they answer with "I dropped my shoulder at the fence." After all, 90% of mistakes are the riders fault right?

Then there are the riders. The type who put themselves first, who want to ride the horse and go home and who don't at all mind skipping a day at the barn when the weather isnt just right, never mind if Tubby is going to be standing in a filthy stall all day weaving from boredom. The rider prefers to pay someone to know how to take care of their horse rather than to know it themselves and in the ring, most mistakes are blamed on the horse. This is not to say that the riders are bad people, but they arn't horse people.

Over the summer, I made a really great friend while traveling as an A circuit groom for a local hunter barn. She is the epitome of horsewoman at the highest of levels where the horsemenship of clients has been replaced by grooms. All summer she traveled with her Junior Hunter mare and a second leased Junior Hunter gelding and even at the most prestigeous of shows, her first and foremost concern was the well being of her horses. Although she payed for a groom at shows, she almost always took care of her horses herself. She was there every morning, sometimes as early as 5:00am, to braid both of her horses manes and tails. She tacked them up herself and wrapped them when she was done. During the day, she made sure that they got out for walks and for plenty of grazing time. She was a little bit of beacon of light for me...living proof that horsemanship is not dead among the junior ranks.

So which are you? I have become a horsemen for two reasons 1) out of my love for the animal and 2) out of necessity. Growing up in a household of 6, money was never truely abundant and although my parents tried their hardest to support and provide for each of their children, we had to learn to be resourceful. My first horse (Emmy) was purchased for $700 from a local riding stable because she was a crazy Thoroughbred that no one could ride. Looking back on it, she was definetly too much horse for a 13 year old kid, but I loved her anyway and in return she threw her heart over every jump for me. When I wanted to start showing, I taught myself how to braid and used to get up early to braid other peoples horses in order to make the money to pay my entry fees. If I close my eyes I can still feel myself standing on a bucket in Emmy's stall for hours at a time, trying over and over again to get the mane and tails braids right. No one ever taught me how, I just watched over a few shoulders and practiced. When Johnny came along, I realized that I couldn't afford to pay and have the vet come out and give two horses their yearly and bi-yearly vaccinations and so I asked a vet to show me how and have been doing it ever since. Sometimes, we learn to be horsemen because we have to be, but it's the ones like my dear friend, who learn because they WANT to learn, that give me the most hope :)

Which are you?

Peace.Love.Ponies.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pictures of Johnny

My friend Meghan came out yesterday to take some photos of Johnny...they came out really nice! Of course, he still has his shaggy hair because I haven't body clipped him yet. This was one of those amazingly warm November days so we went outside to take pictures...the footing was pretty bad still, but Johnny was a trooper!














Peace.Love.Ponies.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Video Update!

Sorry I've been blogging so sporatically lately...

Here are a few videos of Johnny from the end of October. E is riding him while I tape...

The first if of Johnny and E cantering a few circles around me in the arena...he has since started to stretch down a little in the canter...we're working on it!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LB5LQsVthsA

Second is E riding Johnny through an exercise of bounce ground poles...I think I have a better video of it somewhere. I will upload that one when I get a chance, but in the mean time, here's this one!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19hPDR8pMdc

More to come!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Being a "Thinking Rider"

Our first IHSA show of the season is rapidly approaching (just two more days!) and out team held our final practice for the week tonight. I rode first in my hunters class where we worked on being "thinking horsemen" and assessing the root problem that each individual horse was showing as we warmed up. After a quick talk, M sent us all off by ourselves to work on each horses weakness. At the end of the class, we reconviened to show each horses improvement. It was a really good lesson in being a "thinking rider" and coming up with different solutions for each problem and each horse as an individual. Although we didn't jump, it was a good class and a good lesson for us all!

After that, I got my IHSA horse ready. He was a pretty lazy one...not my favorite to ride because he would perfer to just stick his nose out and drag himself around rather than come round and rock back on his haunches, but we did pretty well and got some nice compliments from M. I felt like my sitting trot was definetly better than the last practice. Sitting trot used to be my stong point! What happened? I have no idea....but I've been working on it with Johnny, which I feel like has helped.

I jumped him again the other night. He was pretty good aside from stopping the first time (for which he got his butt kicked...I mean seriously...it was a freaking 18" cross rail...) and after that he jumped very well. He flatted even better which made me happy :)

I took the night off from the barn today because I haven't been feeling so well. Two of my friends have already come down with the H1N1 strain of flu and I'm trying to avoid getting sick at all costs. Tomorrow I will go ride Johnny and then the farrier is coming to do his tootsies :)

More later. Wish us all good luck at our first show! We are leaving Saturday and showing Sunday down at OSU!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Let the Process Begin....

My trainer came the other day for a lesson and we worked through our Intro B dressage test to pin-point the problem areas. Overall, the test itself was pretty decent...the spots where I thought we would run into trouble (turn onto/off of center line and the halt) weren't actually bad at all (Johnny wanted to step right a bit in the hault but he corrects himself quickly when you catch him with your leg) but the places that I knew we would have trouble (aka the free walk) definetly needed some improvement. Not only that, but Johnny still has a hard time keeping his consistant 4-beat walk and 2-beat trot because of his weak left hock. From just a normal perspective, he looks just fine, but when an experienced eye (like a  dressage judge) really breaks it down, you can see that he pushes harder with some legs than others. For example; his walk is more like a onetwo-THREE-four instead of a one-two-three-four because he swings his left leg in a bit when he brings it forward (to avoid having to fully use his hock.) There is no real "soundness" issue with him, just a weakness that hasn't been addressed prior to him becoming a riding horse...probably a little arthritis as well which I've been trying to manage with joint supplements and some yucca and devils claw. I'm also thinking about trying heat therapy on the area prior to work and seeing if that helps any...my own physical therapist reccomended it for me, and my problems arn't so different than Johnnys.

Anyway, in our lesson we worked on establishing the true gaits through some lengthening and shortening exercises to get his back up and his hind legs working underneith him. We also worked on his sitting trot, which is hard for him because he tenses his back muscles and makes it almost impossible to sit to. K had me work ona circle and move around on him, experimenting with a different way to move my hips to get him to break up his back tension. We found out that if you swing your hips more "side-to-side" for a while, he realeases then tension in his muscles and lets his back swing propery...and his sitting trot is actually quite comfortable!

At the end of our lesson, I rode the test again with a COMPLETELY different horse underneith me and we did really well...we even got a real free walk!

Unfortunatly, since then I've managed to come down with a cold and haven't ridden Johnny in two days. I ran him around (free lunged) in the indoor today and wouldn't you know that he cantered just fine on that sticky right lead. Not only was he balanced, but he also held it all the way around the arena, making circles and such also! I am thoroughly convinced now that he really just doesn't understand the leg cue for it (long story behind that one, but long story short...I am not the cause of that problem...really, I'm not.) because he seems perfectly confortable to canter on it and K's theory about his hock weakness being the problem clearly isnt the problem without a rider on his back. I think it may be more of a balance and understanding issue than anything. I'm sure we'll find out soon at least.

First IHSA show is this weekend...I hope this cold clears up by then because I almost DIED in practice today. Two rounds of no-stirrups with a cold doesn't work so well when the crap in your nose and throat is preventing you from breathing properly. I know you all wanted that visual ;)

Til next time!

Peace.Love.Ponies.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Standardbred Show Horses

I know this may sound strange coming from the new owner of a Standardbred gelding, but I just wanted to take the time to say how severly under-estimated the Standardbred breed is. Ever since getting Johnny, I've been doing lots of research about the breed and the success that many of these horse have had after coming off the racetrack. Onterio has a really great Standardbred club called "Standardbred Showcase" which hosts an annual Standardbred show. The website has a really great video commercial for the show and the horses shown in it are BEAUTIFUL. For anyone who doesn't think that the Standardbred breed has anything to offer, check out this website and the videos at the bottom of the page.

http://www.standardbredshowcase.com/horseshow.html


Here is the link for the commercial on YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3DMFq3Hx78

Check it out!

Peace.Love.Ponies.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Johnny plays...dressage??

"Hunter pace this weekend?" The text flashed across my cell phone screen.

"No :( " I replied "I have barn tours"

Silence.

"Hunter show next weekend?"

Reply: "IHSA show :)"

Silence.

"You're killing me. dressage show nov 1st?"

I started to type "No way...we cant--" when I looked up to to horse trotting circles around me. I was in the middle of the indoor arena and E was working Johnny through some cavaletti exercises. When I first got Johnny, my orginally goal (as had once been with Emmy) was to make him a low level event horse. Eventing was something I had grown up doing. Even when Emmy and I made the transition to hunters after a scary stadium crash, I still rode with an event trainer. It had seemed to fit Johnny well. He was by no means a fancy mover...but he was level headed, smart and almost never tapped the rails on the jumps. He would never be tight enough with his front end to be competitive in the hunters, but he was definetly a safe and servicable enough jumper to play around in the Beginner Novice divisions for a summer. Not to mention that he wasn't afraid of anything (a trait that I ESPECIALLY adored after showing everything's-going-to-eat-me Emmy for 7 years.)

Those had been the goals at least. I worked all summer developing his jump form, teaching him to be quicker, smarter and more aware of his legs. We schooled on the neighbors property over fallen trees and log piles, I put together "gates" from old scraps of wood. I spent so much time riding him that I never really knew exactly what we looked like together until a friend of mine came one day with a camera to help work Johnny through a grid combination.

It wasn't until I saw that pictures that I thought maybe I had been wrong about eventing. Not only was Johnny getting his knees up now, but they were tight and square and he was "wearing the bridle" like it was his job. He had a beautiful soft facial expression over the jumps with his ears perked forward as if he would like nothing better that to spend all day flying through the air. When I brought him to college, he jumped right into his new training program with vigor and enthusiasm. His topline began to come together, this paces evened out and grew steadier. The horse that I had put into the "eventing because he's not pretty enough to be a hunter" category was starting to prove me wrong, so when I my best friend asked me if we wanted to show dressage, my first thought was "No way! The judge will laugh at us." Besides, Johnny had never even done a dressage test.

And as I stood there watching E ride, I realized that there were a lot of things in life that Johnny had also never done. When I got him, he had never been ridden. He had never cantered, he had never jumped, he had never been clipped or shown or had his mane pulled and braided...

Who was I to say that this horse could and couldn't do?

I hit the clear button on my phone and backspaced.

"Pick us up?"

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fall Break

Back from fall break where I went up to New York to visit my boyfriend for a few days. E stayed at school and took care of Johnny, who also enjoyed a break from training. He got hacked just a couple times and the rest of the week he got to enjoy spending time outside and just being a horse. I just got back tonight and so I haven't seen him yet, but I'm sure his brain is in a much happier place right now :)

I talked to K and she is coming out again on Thursday to do another lesson. I'm a college student who pays for my horses myself and therefore don't have a ton of extra money to throw around, but I figure that a few lessons here and there really help Johnny and I, so I can justify splurging a few times a semester when necessary. I'm hoping that by spring semester Johnny will be solid enough that I can maybe haul him to school and ride him in my riding classes every now and then. That would be GREAT for him!

I was looking through old show pictures of Emmy and I and it made me kind of sad to remember how things used to be back before college and the economic recession. I took lessons at least once a week and was off showing almost every weekend. With John being half-leased, I don't get to ride him very much at all :(

Just for old times sake, here are a few pictures of Emmy and me. Most of them are pretty old...taken when I was about 15 or 16.
(I always showed her as Emmy's Last Dance but she is USHJA registered as In Vogue)





Sunday, October 4, 2009

Rainy Days

So clearly I have been neglecting my blogging because I haven't updated in quite a while. After our lesson with K a few weeks ago, Johnny has been doing better and better, learning to engage his hind end and back muscles. He's also been doing really well over fences (although he did dump E for the first time the other day...but then again she shouldn't have jumped ahead...lol) but other than that Johnny has been improving greatly.

We were supposed to go to a hunter pace today, but the weather hasn't exactly cooperated this week. It's been raining for almost a week straight and so we decided to pull out of the event for fear of injuring John's legs.
He hasn't gotten out too much this week either, which also hasn't been so good for him :(

Here are a few photos from today though :)
This is from the only sunny day this week!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Catching Up

I know it's been a while since my last post...everything has been a bit crazy around here! The IHSA list came out and I am on the traveling (basically like varsity) competition team, which is super sweet! We've had two practices so far and both went really well! I'm very excited for our show season to start :) We kick off next month with an OSU show in October, followed by a home show here in November.

Other than that, riding at school has been going really well. The "post summer butterflies" seem to have abadoned me (thank god!) thanks to a very gracious man and his fabulous jumper mare. (I didn't read though my previous posts before writing this, so I don't know if I wrote about riding April or not...but in case I didn't here is the story: C and I went riding at a local trainers barn because he had hurt his back and I schooled his jumper mare over a 3'3" coarse and it just totally was what I needed to get out of my little jumping funk that I was in.) Today in my hunters class I rode Hawk, who used to show in the working hunters on the A-circut before he got donated to LEC. He's a great boy, but slightly tempermental and definetly can get a little pushy when he wants to. I've only ridden him once before (last year) and he basically dragged me around a jump coarse...needless to say I was interested to see how this ride was going to go. Wouldn't you believe that I actually rode him really well? My riding style has changed so much since last year...even M said something to me after class (our final exercise was a set of working trot poles on the short side (in two point) to a once stride (cross rail to vertical) on the quarter line to a three stride (oxer), lead change, then collected canter up the other quarter line to a set of three short bounce poles, then around to a vertical on the diagnol with a lead change after) Hawk and I had a little trouble getting the bounce poles (his avasion to collection is to be laterally incorrect) but after the third try we nailed it and afterwards M said "A million times better Kate!" she said "the old Kate would have just pulled him to the base of the vertical after it fell apart over the bounces, but you didn't do that at all...you sat up and you fixed it and got a beautiful jump with a clean lead change after...and Hawk HATES his right to left lead change."

Just hearing that made me feel so great! I was really proud of myself. I've always LOVED jumping for after my accident with Emmy I found myself to actually be a little fearful sometimes, something I had never experienced before. I wasn't thinking when I was doing a jump coarse, I was just praying that I didn't screw up. I'm happy to be out of that little funk!

Johnny has also been FABULOUS since coming to school. E has been really enjoying him and today we did some over fences work with him too. Not only did he jump his first one-stride, but he landed the canter in between the jumps on his BAD LEAD and then continued to canter on the bad lead after the second jump! I was so pleased! Multiple times he landed it perfectly! After that I had Erin canter him to a vertical on the diagnol with some flowers underneith it. They looked GREAT jumping together and E really rode him well. Johnny looked beautiful over the jump...he just has the best facial expression and his knees are getting quite tight and tidy. K got it just right the first time she watching him go...he is just so classically beautiful.

Oh, AND a complete stranger saw him the other day while E was riding and came up to ask me what he was. When I told her "Standardbred" was was like "Really?! He doesn't look it at all...he's got the most beautiful head...he's gorgeous!" I thanked her and told her how excited I was to hear that. He's really starting to fill out and look like a "real" horse! yay!

Thursday K is coming to do a lesson and work on his right lead. He actually canters on it just fine...he's just having a hard time associating the cue with the actual canter departure now that he's in a flat ring with real footing instead of a field. Hopefully K will have some better insight into a good way to re-teach him...I'm kind of running out of ideas.

Thats all for now!

Peace.Love.Ponies.



E and Johnny today after their ride :)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Stifles?

Johnny hasnt been ridden a whole lot lately. His stifle was a little out of whack the other day so we've been giving him some time off to let him rest and see what happens. I'm not sure about what kind of problem, if any he might be having but I think that maybe he just has weak stifles. E and I are going to see how he is today and modify his work load accorindly. More later!

Peace.Love.Ponies.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Up and Over

Johnny jumped his first oxer yesterday! He handled it really well, but it definetly caught him off guard! E was riding him again so that I could set the jumps and he trotted up to it (it was just a small cross-rail oxer) and as his front feet left the ground you could see his head uck as he looked at the jump and was like "wooooaaahhhh WHAT is that?" but he jumped it really nicely :) E hpped him over it a few times in both directions and we called it a day. He was super good! I have a lesson on him with my trainer on Thursday at 5pm. Hopefully we can work on his right lead canter some more...it's gone away a bit since he began working in a real arena.

In other news, C and I went over the A's barn today to school some horses for him since he threw his back out the other day. C rode a grey mare named Siren and I rode A's jumper April. It was so much fun!! Siren is pretty green, but C schooled her really well. We warmed up on the flat and then started over a big cross-rail and just kept adding jumps until we had a little coarse. We started up a single on the quarter line, down over a single on the diaganol to an outside single and then around to a 2 stride in and out (vertical to oxer) to finish up. April is a really nice jumper...she did the medals and the big jumpers (like 4'9" or something) and is SUPER fun to jump! We started around 2'6" and A put the jumps up until we were going 3'3". It was SOOO FUNNNN!! I can't remember the last time that I was jumping fences that size and actually enjoying myself...something I haven't really felt in years. Now don't get me wrong, I LOVE jumping, but on a horse that I don't know, I sometimes get a little wiggy (I crashed my hunter mare at 3'3" almost 4 years ago and we both got injured pretty bad...it ended her 3' career) so to be on a horse like April was such a blessing. I kept asking A to raise the jumps, and raise the jumps, and raise the jumps...it was a brilliant feeling!

Tomorrow morning I'm going out to see and ride Johnny :) Yay!

Peace.Love.Ponies.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Hunter??? Maybe??

So Johnny was absolutly AMAZING today...the BEST I've EVER seen him move. E rode him and I gave them a lesson and we worked on a lot of leg yeild and shoulder in with him. He was moving sooooo well after loosening up his shoulders...it was unbelieveable. Like a totally different horse than the one I got out of a field just four months ago. He was relaxed and happy with his ears flopping forwad and sideways with each stride. For the first time he didn't look worried at all...he looked like he was enjoying himself. He was blowing softly and mouthing at the bit. It was seriously beautiful. Even today he wanted to stretch down and he had such a beautiful pace, stride length and self carraige that I found myself thinking "You know what....I would actually LOOK at this horse in the hunter ring! He's a little fancy!"

Yesterday I jumped him too and he was (once again) magnificent! We jumped out of the trot and canter and found perfect distances to every fence, plus John held his pace before and after the fence :) He's just so much FUN to jump...and because he doesn't jump SUPER round he doesn't jump you out of the tack and your eq stays nice!

Maybe he might make a hunter after all :)

Just a quick update for now!

Peace.Love.Ponies.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Getting Back to Basics

"There are a few basics that all hunters must be able to do." M told us, standing in the middle of a semi-circle of horses on the hunt field during our hunter class. "They must have woah, go, left and right. They must be able to hack out in a group, or leave the group and go off on their own. Everything else is show business in the middle. These are the basics."

It seems so simple when you think about it and if asked, most people would probably say "sure, my horse has all of those things..." but does he really? If your chips in to a jump because he was pulling down the line, then "woah" hasn't been properly established. If he gets lazy and leaves long, then there isn't enough "go." If he gets excited while cantering in a group, then he doesn't hack in company and if he pins his ears back and kicks out when asked to leave the group, then he isn't independent of the herd and listening to his rider. What if he bulges through your outside rein in a dressage test? Then you don't have lateral control of left and right.

Almost any "problem" with horses can be traced back to these 4 simple basics and we explored those basics on Thursday in my hunter class by taking the horses out to the hunt field and asking them to perform certain actions. We established reliability in the group by having a good forward canter out in a big circle around the field. Our objective was to keep our horses in a forward hack canter while still keeping them quiet. The goal was to maintain self carraige on a looped rein over varied terrain without our mounts getting excited. I rode a chestnut TB named Cruz again and he proved to be quite good in the company of other horses. After that, M took us over to the cross country hills and banks and had us start by walking our horses up the hill, then trotting up and trotting down, and finally cantering up one side and walking down the other before turning around to trot back up and down again. This tested our horses ability to leave the group and their responsiveness to our leg, seat and reins. Cruz was really great, except that he wanted to canter back down the hill instead of trot, which reflects his ring manner...his tendancy to get above the bit instead of breaking at the poll. After that we got to jump our horses down a little bank, which was SUPER fun and reminded me of my eventing days :) I've got some great pictures from the lesson...which I will post below. It was such a fun learning experience!!

I applied a lot of these basics to Johnny today. E rode him in the indoor for the first time and he was EXCELLENT. I hacked him yesterday in the outdoor ring and also had a fabulous ride on him. We worked on tempo (woah vs. go) over trot poles, followed by a small x rail with two placing poles (take off and landing rails rolled out 9ft from the fence) which worked on his straightness (left and right...he has a tendancy to duck out on the poles when he is unsure) However he finished off the jumping BEAUTIFULLY and got perfect striding between the poles and the jump. To finish off the lesson I had E work on his canter by just keeping him going to get a consitant tempo (we still drift between 3 and 4 beats sometimes) They had some really nice moments!

Here are the photos from my riding class on Cruz:



cantering around the field



cantering up the hill...


...and down the bank!

Hopefully getting some pictures of Johnny soon!

Peace.Love.Ponies.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Johnny Goes to School

Johnny made the trip up to school yesterday evening. My best friend C came and picked him up from his home barn. The farrier had come in the afternoon to pull Emmy's shoes and put fronts on Johnny...I think both of the horses were really confused. Emmy hasn't gone barefoot in about 7 years (I expect her to be pretty lame at first) and Johnny hasn't had shoes in probably just as long. S did a FANTASTIC job with John's feet though. He walks funny, so the medial to lateral balance in his foot is all wrong. S used his special expoxy (I forget exactly what it's called...but he used to scuplt Emmy's feet with it all the time haha) to build up the inside of John's front hooves so that the shoe would sit level on his foot. It's a little bit like a cross between art and carpentry I think...the entire inside branch of his foot is fake now, but it looks amazing...his feet have never looked so good!!!

After we loaded up John's stuff, I said goodbye to Emmy (who seemed a little angry with me) we put John in the trailer. He rode well all the way up and was quite curious when we let him off at the new farm. His stall has a window that overlooks the driveway and the pastures, which I think he really likes. He likes to watch the people come and go :) E and I turned him out in the indoor while we moved the 4 jumps that I had brought into the arena. I figured it was probably good for him to just walk around in there and check the place out...he's never really been indoors before. The arena is large and beautiful with good footing. John was a little afraid of the doors at first, he kind of walked sideways around then, but when he realized that he could stick his head over the gates he was happy as a clam. I wanted so badly to put him out in the big grass field, but there was another horse out there and I didn't know the owner. Today he will get to go out :)

In other news, I have my IHSA tryout tonight and I'm very nervous. I don't even know why except to say that I had a tougher time yesterday in my Hunter class and now am feeling some self doubt. I know that I'm a good eq rider...but right now I feel totally out of practice.

More later to update on IHSA and John

Peace.Love.Ponies.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Johnny!!

Johnny comes tomorrow!!!!!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Home for the Weekend

First week of class didn't go bad at all...like I said in previous posts, I'm DYING for IHSA to start up again (tryouts next week!) and I LOVE my hunter class. I am soooo determined to do well this year and grow even more as a rider. I was 5th last year at Nationals and this year, I want that championship SO badly. If I could qualify in flat and fences that would be AMAZING (highly unlikely, but awesome none the less) and I want LEC to win our region so badly as well. This is just about all I can think about lately.

The good news is that it's been reflecting positively in my riding. I have determination to get things right on the first try...I want M to see that I am clearly making the changes to my riding. The only bad news is that I haven't had a single lesson all summer (ok, one but that was to work on Johnny not me and therefore doesn't count) and I think my equitation has suffered a bit. Last year, going into tryouts I was riding all the time with my trainer on a 3ft school master basically. All winter I worked on myself, and now I'm going into the first part of my season feeling totally unprepared. Although working with John has been amazing and a super awesome learning experience, I've barely jumped over 2ft this summer, but oh well I guess. I'm just going to ride my best and whatever happens will happen.

ANYWAY, as I said, I came home this weekend to pack up Johnny's stuff (he is offically shipping out Tuesday night) and because there was really nothing for me to do at school. I went to the tack shop this afternoon and got some more hoof oil, another tail wrap (because I seemed to have lost my spare...) and a really cute white baby pad with blue trim. I really wanted one of those while square jumper pads with the blue trim, but they were pretty expensive (over $50!) so I settled for the baby pad instead. It's the thicker kind, so I can still use it for a jumper schooling show or combined test. There's no rule against them...hehehe. After shopping, I went to the barn and got greeted by an especially happy Emmy and a decently happy Johnny (we don't have that relationship yet lol). Emmy got to go out first, so I groomed her and saddled her up. She was quite happy to see me and even happier to go out for a hack. After a short walk to warm up, we trotted and cantered down the street to the park (about a mile and a half) and took the loop around the dog park. The trail is nicely mowed grass and so I let her have a short little gallop up one of the small slopes. After that it was into the woods, down the ravine and across a wooden bridge, up another hill and back along the road to go home. Emmy was so happy! She cantered along with her ears flopping back and forth all the way home.

After I walked her out and took her tack off, I sent her out for grass while I got Johnny ready. The weather was perfect for riding...sunny yet cool and breezy so that the horses barely even sweated. Johnny and I did a shorter version of Emmy's dog park loop and when we got back to the barn we did some canter work in the front yard. He threw both leads easily and the canters each direction were smooth! He's getting shoes put on Tuesday afternoon...I'm super excited to see how much better he will move with more support!

Thats about it for today...more tomorrow!

Peace.Love.Ponies.