Thursday, January 19, 2012

Taking a step back

So after our unexpected lesson last night, realized we have some holes in our foundation.  Sure we can canter laps around the arena, but can we make a nice turn at a specific point?  Can we come back to a trot now instead of 8 strides later?

Went out to the barn tonight with more of a plan than I often do.  We were going to work on the things we learned last night.  I was going to practice turning, stopping, walking in a straight line from point A to point B, and backing softly.

We still had our wiggly moments, but going 'point to point' went fairly well, need to do a LOT more of that.  Then we practiced turning--turn with my eyes, shoulders, belly-button, then leg if needed and lastly rein.  We had some good turns that barely needed any leg, and some others that needed a 'yoo-hoo, remember me?' lift of the reins.

Backing went really well.  He was shifting his weight backwards by the time I'd closed 2-3 fingers on the reins.  I was very aware of releasing while he was backing so the backing was the reward, not stopping.

Need to practice stopping.  A lot.  I was trying to do it like we did last night, but without as much success, so I must've been doing something wrong, will have to figure out what though.

Lol, decided to do something I hadn't done for a long while, ask him to trot on a totally loose rein and not do anything as long as he kept trotting.  And my goofy pony just does circle after small circle by the gate.  He didn't get to stop and if he walked, he was put right back into a trot.  Was interesting.

Then I asked him to trot and stay on the rail, on a totally loose rein.  He would try to veer off the rail after turning one of the corners, so I'd push him back to the rail.  The comical part was turning the corner by the gate.  We'd come into the corner fine, but coming out of it he would do a significant veer to the left, so I'd correct him back to the right, only then he'd try and turn around.  Took us a few laps but he finally made it through that corner with a light touch of the leg and touch of the rein.

All in all, I feel good about the ride :)

Hanging out after our ride

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Impromptu Lesson

Cody posing for the camera the other day.  I love the camera on my new iPhone!

Lately, it seems like our riding has been going backwards.  Downward transitions were taking 10 or more strides to accomplish, if they even happened at all without resorting to a one-rein stop.  Bending on a circle?  Yeah right.  We’ve been working so much on ‘forward’ that we’ve lost a bit in the process.

The last couple of rides, I’ve tried to mix forward trots up with slower, methodical turning, and stopping, and backing.  We’ve had a tiny amount of success, but I would still often end up frustrated.

Enter Sam.

When I got out to the barn tonight, a couple gals I know at the barn were already out in the arena, one riding around on her Appendix QH gelding, and the other working with her young horse who has had some issues to work through.  Sam is a gentleman from another barn who has been working with that gal and her horse and through slow, consistent work, they’ve made progress.  Tonight I saw her riding her horse around bareback!

It wasn’t long after I got out to the arena with Cody that the other two were wrapping up and left.  Cody and I were trotting around when I saw Sam come back out to the arena.  I stopped to say hi and he asked how things were with Cody.  I told him things were alright, but that Cody likes to ignore me.  He asked me if I was sure that Cody was ignoring me—which made me pause a bit and try to explain.  So I showed him how if we trotted off down the rail and I asked Cody to walk, he ‘ignored’ me for half the width of the arena before finally walking.  So we got to talking and an impromptu lesson ensued.

Some of the things he showed me and had me try I’m not quite sure how they would fit into ‘dressage’, but it is giving me a lot to think about.  Hopefully I haven’t managed to mangle things too much from arena to keyboard.

First, he lowered the bit.  I’ve wanted to have the bit lower in Cody’s mouth, so he learns to ‘pack’ it, but any lower than I’d had it and it would be hitting his canines.  Well, by lowering it a hole on either side, if it just hung loose it was below his canines.  Cody was mouthing it and mouthing it because it felt funny.  Doing his normal bringing it up with his tongue so he could crunch it with his molars.  I was having a hard time with this because of where his upper canines are, but Sam made me wait and give Cody a chance.  Low and behold, his mouth calmed down.  Now it is up to him to hold the bit and keep it in a comfortable place in his mouth.

Speaking of it being up to him.  Sam is also of the mind that a horse should be responsible for going in a straight line, at the gait you ask them for, until asked differently.  So no riding and pushing and bumping Every. Single. Stride. like some are apt to do.  This is something I can very much agree with.  That is one thing I have had a hard time accepting when taking more dressage-type lessons, being told to ‘bump bump bump’ or ‘push to keep him going’.


Big, audible sigh, relax into saddle, pick one rein up, bring to hip, turn and look at his hip and disengage into a one-rein stop—if it takes that many steps.  It took a few tries, but Cody was doing it most of the time with a sigh into the saddle and pick one rein up kind of against his neck if relaxing into the saddle wasn’t enough.  The step of picking one rein up was literally picking it straight up before bringing it back to your hip, if needed.  I found, that by just picking it up, it was enough of a reminder ‘oh hey, stop’ that he didn’t end up turning in the stop so much.


Sam explains this in 9 steps.  One, pick up the reins at the buckle in one hand. Two, make a loose loop around the reins with your index finger and thumb of your other hand and slide it down the reins towards his withers.  Three, take a rein in each hand, holding it between thumb and hand.  Four (through seven), start closing your fingers on the reins, one finger (on each hand) at a time.  Eight, tuck your tail bone under.  Nine, with your hands closed on the reins, bring your elbows in and back to your sides.  At first, he was having me reward even bringing Cody’s nose down as I closed my fingers on the reins.  Then, even if he did that, I didn’t release until he’d at least shifted his weight back.  Next, hold out until he’d taken a step back.  Sam said it was important to have your release timed well.  It is better to release in the middle of a step than wait until the step finishes—if he doesn’t take another step backwards, by releasing after he takes a step, you’ve now rewarded him stopping instead of backing…  Oh, and sit up tall and light before and while you are tucking your tailbone to give your horse somewhere to lift his back into and back properly.


Turn your head and look, turn your shoulders, turn your belly button (which is turning your seat), turn your toes—he literally had me turn my toes in the direction of the turn, and this is the part that I kept messing up, but when I did it like I was told, it actually worked—use your outside leg and take your inside leg off, like you are opening a door.  We worked on this at a walk, just doing 90 degree or quarter turns, and it felt like we were getting somewhere.  Sometimes I’d forget and use my inside leg in the ole “inside leg to outside rein” idea, but if I remembered to take my inside leg off and use my outside leg to sort of push him into the turn, it seemed to work.  This is going to take some thinking, and some experimenting to see how we do, and how it might work into a more ‘dressage’ type of riding.

Straight lines.

Without the rail and on a loose rein, my horse is very wiggly.  He veers off one direction, I try to lightly correct him only it ends up overcorrecting and we veer off the other way.  So Sam suggested we practice walking straight towards a target.  Once there, stop and rest.  Then we would turn 180 degrees with a combination of an indirect rein and moving his hindquarters for the first part, and then a direct-rein and move his shoulders over.  Stop and rest a moment before heading out in a STRAIGHT line on as loose a rein as you can.  He recommended we do a lot of aiming towards targets to work on straight lines.

I would have loved to have done more but I happened to glance at my watch finally and saw it was 9:30!  We were supposed to have the arena lights off by 9:00, oops.  Hopefully, by writing this down I will remember enough pieces tomorrow when I go ride that we will take some steps in a positive direction.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Where has the time gone?

The move to the new barn in January was a great decision. Cody has settled right in to life at the barn--he is in his stall with a fan during the hot part of the day, and is out in a field from afternoon until morning.

We've been riding! It was a slow start as I still really needed to build my confidence back up but we've made progress. I found a gal to take some lessons from and that helped a lot--just having someone there to not let me chicken out. We have gone from being nervous to trot all the way around the arena to cantering laps confidently.

Fun stuff lately is that we've gotten to go on a couple trail rides with a nice lady I met at the barn. She has this great QH gelding named "The Town Buzz", aka "Buzz". He's been a great trail buddy for Cody. Although, first time we went on a trail ride Cody decided Buzz was walking too slow and took off in the lead at a nice forward walk. The trail we've been on is just a nice, shaded (important in Florida!) loop around a lake. We've been there twice now and plan to go back again tomorrow. Fun thing about this lake is that there is an area where you can ride (or lead) your horse down into the water.

A view of the lake

Cody and Buzz

Hubby climbed on Cody and went for a pony ride

Cody and Buzz get their feet wet

The week around Memorial Day, my mom came to visit!  Hadn't seen her since Thanksgiving.  We had a great time :)  On the way home from picking her up at the airport, we stopped to see Cody.
Mom says hi to Cody

I found a dressage saddle, not sure I'm totally happy with the fit, but it's hard because it still seems like he has no topline.
Cody was mesmerized by his reflection in the glass

That gives you an idea of what we've been up to :)

Oh!  Hubby and I have also been working on losing weight, I've lost almost 40lbs so far!  Still have approximately another 40 to go, but hey, it's progress :)

Just for the heck of it, here is a couple pics from riding today.
Trying to get to a spot for a pic

Love that brand!

Friday, June 24, 2011

It's Summer already

Where has the year gone???  I have been terrible about updating this this year as you can obviously tell.  Tomorrow I plan to have a good horsey day so I will take pics (what is a blog post without pics?!?) and write a nice update.  Now, however, it is nearly 1am and I am sleepy!  So good night and see you tomorrow :)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The New Year

Okay, so it's a few weeks into the new year, but thought I was overdue for a bit of an update.

Design of blog needs work but the template designer was driving me nuts so I will tackle that another day.

Cody spent about three and a half months at the self care barn. I was able to get some weight on him and he was looking good--just one problem, nowhere to ride unless I just wanted to ride in a big field. Now, if he were further along in his training I suppose that could have worked if I didn't mind riding in the dark all the time. In the 3 and a half months he was there I think I climbed on him twice, maybe three times for all of five minutes.

So the hunt was on for a barn with an arena and lights! (Actual covered arenas seem very rare in south Florida). Looked into one place that had an arena but no lights and was sort of co-op type situation, but it was further away. Looked at another barn that was more than I'd really thought to pay in board but they had an arena and a round pen and best of all, they had lights! So I took a closer look at what I was actually spending on my partial board situation and when I added up the cost of board, feed, and gas (plus the time to go there twice a day) it actually came out to basically the same as the barn that had what I was looking for. So arrangements were made, a trailer ride was found, and on January 1st Cody moved to his new home.

He spends the afternoon and all night turned out (they are working on finding a good fit so he can go out with a buddy in a field with more grass), there is a fan in his stall, he gets fed well (no skinny horses here!) and I can go to the barn after work and ride!!!!

Now for the riding part. In the 4 weeks that he's been at the new barn I have ridden more than I had in the last 6 months. We can walk, trot and canter in the round pen, and I have walked and trotted in the arena (I know, I should just canter out there, but it's a big arena and I'm working up to it). We have been practicing one-rein stops, flexing left and right, backing, going over ground poles and all that fun stuff.

I am trying to find someone I can take some lessons from to help build my confidence and give me some direction with Cody but in the meantime we continue to plug along.

Now if only I could figure out my saddle dilemma! More on that in my next post :)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cross your fingers

I am looking into moving Cody about an hour north of where he currently lives. To make that work, we are also looking into moving to an apartment complex closer to that barn. If all goes well (we have at least three apartments to go look at this Saturday) I will live 10 minutes from my horse instead of 30, he will have a stall that is open to a nice sized grassy paddock, and we will have an apartment that has a washer and dryer! I plan to do partial board so I can know just how much he is being fed and adjust as needed. I wrapped a weight tape around him tonight and it came out at about 840 lbs. I think he could easily stand to make it to 900 if not 950. I'll have to keep track to see how he does.

Tonight was the fourth time I have lunged Cody in side reins. I'm working on rigging up some shims so my saddle doesn't sit low in the front so I have just been doing stuff on the ground lately. He is on the thin side but I figure we can work on building some muscle in his topline to help him fill out. He's doing fairly well, just needs to reach down and forward a bit more, but we're getting there.

A couple weeks ago I was trying to hose him off and he was being a dork, something spooked him and he took off into a field that had an open gate. The rope dragging behind him and sometimes wrapping around a leg was totally freaking him out and he was running mad laps around the field. Once I got him to pay enough attention to stop I tossed the rope at his legs (like I've done a zillion times before) and that was no issue, he just didn't like it wrapping around his legs and/or dragging while he was moving. So...tonight I also clipped an old cotton leadrope to the top ring on the surcingle so that it was dragging along the ground as he trotted around. The first lap he freaked a bit but half stepping in front of him and saying whoa got him to stop for a moment and let his brain settle back into place. After that he trotted around and around with the rope dragging alongside him. He was often at a bit of an angle so he could keep an eye on the evil rope but all in all it went well. I think I'm going to do that a few more times.

I have been terribly lax lately in updating this blog about my goofball of a wild pony, but with all the hopeful changes coming I'm going to try and keep it more up to date :)

Wish us luck in the apartment hunt!

Thursday, July 22, 2010


When I was little, my older cousin and I used to draw designs and make plans for a place we were going to have someday that we dubbed "Dream Ranch". We had drawings of barns, trails, a 3-story octagon shaped house, and sheets and sheets of horses we were going to have. I think at the time we had planned to breed Quarter Horses and Trakehners, lol. I'm sure a lot of horse crazy girls have dreams like this.

That dream has never left me. My mind often wanders to day dreams of what I would make Dream Ranch today. There are thoughts of mustangs, of having an after school "homework and horses" program, a dressage ring and an "extreme" trail course, well, you probably get the idea.

I haven't given up on my idea, but lately I am torn. Right now I am in Florida, down in Miami. Dream Ranch isn't gonna happen in Miami and we don't plan to stay here more than 3-4 years. The talk after that is to possibly go back to Washington or to go north in Florida up between Ocala and Orlando somewhere.

I miss the mountains and I miss friends and family in Washington. What I worry about, is there any where to build my Dream Ranch in Washington? I don't want to step on anyone's toes and I fear I would be laughed at for such an endeavor.

Ocala is definitely horse country. Rolling hills and horse farms all over. From Thoroughbred farms to Friesian breeders and everything in between. My mother-in-law keeps sending me links to property for sale up that way. They hope to retire up near Orlando in about 5 years and would like their children and families to be nearby.

Could I build my daydreams in Washington?