Riding/Horses

Redemption Ride

What is that saying? Tell a gelding, but ask a mare? After nearly eight years together I think I am finally figuring out what that means. You all were right – even a bad ride teaches you something.

Our selfie game needs a bit of work, but she was all cuddles after the ride. 

When I swung my leg over Gem Monday evening, the plan was to reduce the pressure and make it enjoyable for both of us. I also wanted to pay attention to what I was doing on my own that has been so successful but isn’t crossing over to our lesson. Gem let me know she had not forgotten our last ride by playing hard to catch, but I could tell her heart wasn’t in it as she circled around me but didn’t take off to the nether regions of her pasture. It took about 15 minutes of gentle pressure towards her, stopping when she did, then repeating for her to stand still and drop her head into the halter but the process served another purpose outside of catching her. It let me show her that I was listening and would back off the pressure when she responded in the appropriate manner and set the tone right from the start.

A little better

Once aboard, I focused on my position and asked for a walk. Gem trotted. I had a few options: I could get after her and make her walk right that minute (what I do in lessons), I could let her get away with trotting instead of walking (what I used to do all the time on my own) or I could try something new which Trainer had me attempt during our last lesson but Gem was too far gone for it to work at that time. I chose option #3. I sat the trot, leaned back ever so slightly and made it difficult for her to trot while making it very clear with my posture that I had no intentions of getting pulled into a trotting frenzy. And it worked!!! After about 5 or 6 trot steps Gem settled back into a flat and even walk without any fighting or fuss. I ignored her attempt at the trot and we continued to walk around warming up and inspecting the pasture ground for any litter or holes to avoid.

Through the ears view

After we were both warmed up at the walk, I gently asked for a trot and she responded in kind with a gentle trot. This is where things got a little interesting for me and I plan on talking to Trainer about it at our next lesson. Gem wasn’t foot perfect. She tends to start off in a gentle trot and slowly work her way faster and faster until before you know it you are zooming around at her endurance pace. The key is to not let her get that far. In lessons, Trainer has me do this by using half halts before she starts to speed up. Basically she has me starting to anticipate the change in pace and checking in with Gem frequently to let her know she is to maintain what we are doing instead of reacting once she has already sped up.

As I rode her at home, I realized that I was already doing this, but the way I went about it was very different. Jumping back to lessons again for a second, we work a lot on the 20 meter circle. We circle around and around with the goal to keep the geometry and pace even and consistent with each revolution, learning where she tends to slow down or speed up and countering that by using my aides effectively where they are needed. A half halt at 6 o’clock, a little leg needed at 11, more inside leg to push her out where she tends to fall in at 2 and outside leg to prevent her going too big at 4.

I’m not sure Echo has enough covers. She does this all on her own and loves to be covered up

It is a cool little exercise, but it is also one that Gem can fry out on pretty quickly. Circling over and over again can drive the mare to distraction at this stage as she gets bored and then begins to question the sanity behind going around and never getting anywhere. That is when the tension comes in and if I am not careful I’ll lose her all together.

At home though, I rarely circle more than once or twice in a succession. Monday night was no exception to my typical way of working on my own whether in the pasture or in an arena, but since I was particularly aware of what I was doing it registered for once. My method is to ask for the trot. If I feel her begin to speed up, I circle or make a large loop, or change direction, or add in a serpentine or go straight if I was on a circle already. Then we hold that new path until I feel her begin to change when I add in a half halt and then once again use the space to help settle her by changing our path of movement. I change direction frequently as well. In this manner, I keep her brain engaged while being insistent that we neither speed up nor slow down as we work around the space. I use half halts to balance her before turns or changes in direction. I add leg when she begins to slow down and get behind me. When we circle, which I have her do frequently, just not repetitively, I try to use my inside leg for bend and my outside aides but I’m not so good at those yet.

Do we reach the same end result? I’m not sure. Using my method, Gem rarely gets tense or braced. However, using my method, we also don’t work consistently on bend and the correct aides for that as we are always swooping and curving and moving about. I really want to talk to Trainer about it and see if maybe there isn’t a way to slowly work the two methods together until we reach a point where we can circle more and more without Gem losing her mind over it.

Gem and Pete enjoyed Irma under the shelter. 

Back to Monday. I rode Gem around the far end of the pasture at the trot. I required that she kept a consistent pace, but changed up our direction and geometry frequently rarely doing the same thing twice. She responded by dropping her head and releasing her tension. When she moves like that it feels like she is floating on air. All it takes is me looking where I want to go and she responds. It is all so light and free that I can’t help but smile and laugh. I could ride like that forever.

Things were going so well that I decided to canter. Cantering isn’t our strong suit, so I made a plan. I’d have her trot coming back towards home, and incidentally Pete who decided to graze in the middle of our work area, turn to corner to go back away and ask her to canter in the corner but not keep her on the circle as that tends to just make the canter fall apart. I started to the right for no reason other than we were already gong that way and she picked up the canter no issues. She seemed really happy to be cantering and I let her make multiple large loops around the pasture. She is no different in the canter than the trot in so much as she likes to slowly continue to speed up. If I am not careful she will begin to gallop around having the time of her life. The one down side to my method of keeping her feet moving in different ways is that it is really hard to do that in the canter when you have no idea how to do a flying change and don’t want to just end up counter cantering half the time, but I made sure to circle, go straight and make large and small loops.

When I asked her to come back down to the trot, she continued to canter. Hmmm…back to trying to think through what to do. The options seemed to be the same as at the trot: force her to trot immediately, allow her to continue to canter, or gently make the pressure escalate until she gives me the correct answer. I once again chose option three this time continuing to use stronger and stronger half halts along with a voice command until she began trotting followed by massive amounts of praise. I’m a little worried this approach is teaching her that she can continue to do what she wants until she decides to stop, but for now I ma going to go with it and hope the nagging pressure and praise for doing what I want will eventually work.

The only issue now was that she wanted to canter. The trot became a bit of a mess with tension and a lot of asking to canter whenever my leg touched her and all I wanted was a trot. Eventually she settled and I let her canter the other direction for as long as she was polite about it and then began the process of getting her to trot again. her trot work is always a bit of a mess after a nice canter. She gets fast and braced and decides that all the slow trotting is not worth her time, but I did my best to not get pulled into the fight. Once she trotted nicely without breaking to a canter for a single large lap around the end of the pasture, I called it a night.

It was a great ride. We didn’t fight. I refused to get pulled into her traps and she in turn stayed relaxed and light. I have a lot of questions as to if this way of working her is producing a horse who won’t actually listen unless she decides to or if it is the correct way to handle miss tension. There are times when she absolutely needs to do what I say when I say it: the dressage court is one, but there are also times out on cross country or when in the arena on a jump course where she just has to rebalance or slow down and I need to know that she will. I’m a bit concerned that by allowing her to continue to canter while I continue to ask nicely to get her to trot is teaching her that she can ignore my request until she feels like responding to it. It is the reason Trainer gets on me for making her trot right now, or walk right now or halt right now.

But the trade off for forcing my hand is a tense and braced mare and a ride like Thursday. I’m hoping that by being consistent in my asking and using a ton of praise for when she gets the answer right, that I’m teaching her that my requests won’t go away so she better just do it. I don’t know. Lots of food for thought and a lot to discuss with Trainer next time I see her.

For now I am going to bask in the feeling of Monday’s ride and the relief that came with knowing I hadn’t broken my trust with Gem.

2017 Reading Challenge

Popsugar Reading Challenge Book #34

This was an interesting prompt since it was pretty specific while still allowing room for genre choices. Unfortunately the book I really wanted wasn’t in the library system at all. It ended up being lucky for mey though.

A book set in a hotel – The Grand Hotel by Scott Kenemore

A group of tourists stumble into what appears to be a dilapidated and closed hotel at night. The interior is dark and gloomy with only a hint of past grandeur remaining. This group is an odd mixture of men, women and a single red haired child of undisclosed age.

As they walk through the lobby they notice a man sitting at the front desk. All in the group become awkward – is this man homeless? Surely he can’t be working in this place?

The group draws near to the desk and the man rises, introducing himself as the night clerk and offering up a tour of the Grand Hotel and its occupants. They murmur agreement and what begins is a trip through reality, secrets and riddles.

Along the way the night clerk begins to be drawn to the red haired girl. Could she be the one to open up all the deep truths about the hotel? Will she be able to handle it?


The tour takes the group to visit a series of permanent hotel residents. The first one is a corpse. A very dead, very decayed corpse. While this first visit does set the tone of the rest of the book, after the entire story comes to light it really doesn’t fit in and I was left feeling uncertain why the author included it except for the shock value.

From there the tour group gets introduced to various people, all having a strange tale to tell of how they came to reside at the Grand Hotel. After each story, the night clerk who you learn is named Vick, turns to the girl in the red hair and asks her a pointed question about the story. If she answers correctly, the tour continues. If not, it ends for everyone.

I won’t ruin the book as it is important to keep guessing throughout. The novel is classified as a horror book and while there isn’t any gore or outright terror in it, the residents’ stories are fantastical and with a bit of dread thrown in.

The novel was easy to read and caught my attention from page 1. It is told from the point of view of Vick except for the residents’ stories which are all told in the first person from the  story teller. You do not get to know any of the tour group members except for the girl and no names are mentioned. As such, the experiences of each visit is a bit subdued as you get the impression that Vick has heard these stories numerous times. It left me feeling a certain longing to hear the stories as the guests experienced them.

The ending caught me off guard, which doesn’t happen that often, and was a great way to fold it all together. I highly recommend reading this novel.

5/5

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Tears

I’ve re written this post now four times. I was so distraught after the lesson that I texted Emma to talk it out. Thanks Emma for chatting with me!!!! I’m still uncertain what I want to say about it.

Thursday afternoon I had a lesson prior to bringing the horses home. It was so bad that I had tears in my eyes right before I called it a day. At 35. While riding my horse. It was that bad.

I’m not sure the details are that important here. Gem was angry. Who knows why. It wasn’t pain. We weren’t doing anything hard per se: more work on rhythm and balance at the walk and trot with plans to add in the canter although we never got there. We didn’t jump either. Instead we zoomed around while Gem got angrier and angrier and I got more and more frustrated at life.

It’s odd. I wasn’t ever angry with her which is a major change from in the past. I didn’t get scared or tense even when she had had enough and eventually reared for the first time in the seven years I’ve had her. I was just heart broken that I had let it get to that point without speaking up

more firmly on her behalf. That’s my job as her owner. And I failed big time.

I was frustrated with Trainer for the first time ever though even that isn’t deserved. The woman sees us two hours a month. She can only do so much.

It’s just. Well, Gem wasn’t having it with the slow pace on a 20m circle. I understand she should be able to do that, but on Thursday for whatever reason she couldn’t handle the pressure. She told me loud and clear. And I didn’t listen because I figured Trainer also saw it and knew what to do. And maybe her tactic was right and my way wouldn’t have changed the outcome at all. I don’t know. I know what we did just made everything worse.

With a pissed off mare under me going at her best 12 mph endurance trot, Trainer had me work on transitions to get her listening better. I understand the logic. But I know my horse and I know transition make things that much worse. She hates them. Doing them on the circle made her get angrier. Her neck got shorter and shorter and her energy got more vertical with every passing lap and every passing transition. By the end of that she no longer had a walk. She jigged.

Ok. Let’s try something else. We began working on turns in the forehand at the halt. At least that wouldn’t require forward movement. Gem proved a quick study going both right and left. Perhaps installing better lateral aids would help. Nope. Once we returned to our trot work she was still feeling more like a carousel horse.

We then tried trot poles. Maybe getting her mind on those would help? Except we did poles on a bend requiring more circles. And that was the icing on the cake. She tried to escape the constant pressure to circle and bend by cantering and when I shut that down she reared. It was tiny and pathetic but it was a rear and I quit then and there. She was screaming at me to back off the pressure and I had to listen. I should have listened earlier. I knew better.

What she needed was a long trot around the arena on a soft contact with maybe some canter thrown in to loosen her up and let her blow off some steam. She needed a larger work space and a slow gathering to the 20 m. She needed the release of pressure and she never got it. So she exploded and I apologized to her and got off.

I’m frustrated. It was a bad ride for sure but not bad because Gem was acting up. It was bad because I didn’t speak up for her. I didn’t tell Trainer we needed to work on something else. I didn’t ask to jump a little or canter. I was a sheep and Gem needed a wolf.

Gem needed me and I slunk away and hid behind Trainer. That was wrong. I understand and like the training process we are going through, but sometimes the horse just can’t and it needs to be tweaked. As Emma put it “the training pyramid means jack shit if the horse is soured to the work”. I’m not ready to say she is soured to it after one bad ride. She was tense from the get go but I do think that the way we worked her made it worse and not better. We should have given her more space and gotten off the forsaken circle for a while. Maybe came back to it at the end after we jumped or did something else entirely like go out and jump the stone wall she loves so much.

I plan to ride Saturday and see what she is like. Hopefully it was just a small blip and we can return to the fun progress we were making before. Time will tell.

Waggy Tail

Waggy Wednesday

I’m still out of town and the app for WordPress is simply awful to use. I can’t even figure out how to put a caption on my pics 😦 so instead of wrestling with it any longer you get an update on the new furry love of my life.

Wags continues to go to work with me 3 days a week. She hasn’t (knock on everything even semi wood related) had an accident in the last two weeks. She is pretty lazy and this is her typical look when I try to take her outside to pee.

She is pretty well behaved though and has settle into a nice schedule. She sleeps from 8-1130 then wakes up and demands attention which is a bit hard since I see patients until 1230. I take her for a walk over my lunch break which tires her out until 330 when she again decides it is play time. We leave around 5 to get Wyatt. One day I walked back to find her on our lunch table. Bad puppy!

She loves riding in the car with me. For now she likes to sit with her front feet on the armrest between my seat and the passenger. She won’t for there for long though!

At home she is Einstein’s shadow. Mostly he loves it, but he has had to put her in her place a few times when he no longer wants to play and she jumps on his head.

The breed in general isn’t overly athletic so it’s no surprise that she isn’t thrilled with the idea of going for a walk. It’s nice to get out finally though. Dusty is super strict about what age a dog should be out on the town and she has finally reached that point. She has taken to the leash fairly well and so far doesn’t pull at all although she does weave around us a lot.

Waggy remains amazing with Wyatt letting him do nearly anything to her. She follows me around the house and is always, always smiling.

She is incredibly intelligent too but has a massive stubborn streak that drives my husband crazy. She is not the type to do the thing just because we ask. Most of the time she sits and debates whether it is worth her effort or not. I love it. Hubby gets annoyed.

She recently figured out how to jump on the couch so now there is no refuge from her. The other day hubby had a major pile up. Both dogs and Wyatt all on his lap.

Waggy Tails has been a great addition to our household. Yeah it makes life a little more work and adds some stress with house training and her chewing and now leash training but it is 100% worth it all.

2017 Reading Challenge

Popsugar Reading Challenge Book #33

Back to the mothership for this choice! I had never heard of this book, which is odd since it was apparently a really big deal when it was published and there is a movie about it.

A book with the month or day of the week in the title- Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Morrie has been diagnosed with ALS. There is no cure and while many assume he would fade away in self pity and remorse instead the lively sociology professor embraces his last days with a vigor few live their best days with.

Mitch was one of his favorite students when he was a student at Brandies university in the 1970s. The feeling was mutual and upon graduation Mitch promised to keep in touch. Like many people though, life got busy and in the way and Mitch finds himself sitting with Morrie after a 16 year absence trying to squeeze in as much time as he can as Morrie’s days run out.


Mitch spends every Tuesday for 13 weeks at Morrie’s home, speaking to him about the meaning of life and trying to find answers to all his burning questions. This is his last class with his beloved professor and the lessons he learns are far more important than any form his university days.

The book is broken down into each topic the two men discuss. As it progresses, the ALS that is taking over Morrie’s body also progresses. Morrie maintains a love of life, passion for people and an against the grain attitude towards culture and the world. He helps Mitch face death directly and in the process helps him face his life as well.

The book end with Morrie’s life with all proceeds from the publication going to his medical bills.

This book is meant to be very thought provoking as Morrie’s theories on a life well lived are laid out. It was easy to read from a time stand point although the concepts were heavy. It is laid out in a way to allow you to think over each topic and digest it as you go. It is worth the read if you haven’t already.

4/5

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Wyatt’s First Lesson!!!!!

So much squeeing occurred from my end of the bleachers it was mildly embarrassing.

I take that back. I didn’t care one but how annoying I was. My heart was overflowing.

Wyatt has been begging for lessons on a smaller, slower horse for a while. Timing just never seemed to work out until yesterday.

We are heading out of town this weekend and half of next week and after the horrors of our last farm sitter (she fed 5 bales of hay in 7 days when we might go through 2, she let her dog inside when I told her no, said dog proceeded to terrorize my very sick cat and pee all over our house, and she let her dog loose when I told her not to and it got hit by a car and died) I was very hesitant to go that route again.

Trainer had just texted me that the farrier was coming again the week we were gone and I was scrambling a bit on what we would do when amazing Trainer said we could just board the horses there while gone. I told you she is AMAZING!

Thursday night we were going to drop them off and I asked if perhaps Wyatt could get his lesson. She was game and the poor kid was so excited he didn’t sleep at all Wednesday night.

Wyatt got to ride Misty, the resident pony club pony who has seen it all and decided walking was the fastest she ever cared to go again. I gave him three rules and then melted into the background to let Trainer do her thing. Those were:

  1. Listen to everything Trainer says
  2. No screaming. If you are scared tell Trainer nicely (we have an issue with his temper)
  3. Have fun!

She started off talking to him about his position and why he needed to sit that way. I’m telling you all I wish I had his riding posture. Holy crap!

She had Misty on the lunge and I was so curious to see how she went about teaching a nearly 5 year old how to ride. It is pretty much the same as she teaches me. But he listened better. Ugh 🙂

Wyatt has never expressed interest in any other sport or activity so I had no clue what to expect from him in regards to listening and responding to her. I needn’t have worried. She would say “heels down” and his little tiny heels would go down! “Look up” and his head would immediately swivel up!! I was so happy and very proud of him.

She had him work on halting Misty on his own. At first he pulled super hard, but that just garnered him a small lesson on where the bit was attached and how he needed to be gentle. From there on out he was firm but gentle and Misty responded by stopping every time.

Trainer also had him working on using the outside rein to keep her on a larger circle. It took him a bit to get this concept and I’m not sure he fully understood but he would pull on the rein when asked. I need to buy him some reins that are two colors so she can say “use the red rein” and make it easier on him.

After that he started tattling on me. When he last rode Gem I took him over a couple crossrails. It was only at a walk and Gem just stepped over them while Dusty stood at her side ready to grab Wyatt if she did decide to jump. But to Wyatt that was jumping and he proudly told Trainer “My mommy lets me jump Gem. Can I jump Misty?”

That got him learning his two point. Again, his posture is amazing.

As they walked around she would tell him to get into jump position and he would! It made me so proud to see him so focused and listening so well. She eventually let him go over ground poles in two point at the walk and he was so happy.

After that they did a little trot work which brought out the giggles. She likes to teach them to two point the trot before posting as it is easier for the kids. Wyatt enjoyed sitting and being bounced.

I thought it was over at that point, but nope! She headed out for his first ever trail ride. My heart almost burst!! I’ve been waiting for this for 5 years!!!!

She had him go to two point up the hilly entrance to the trail. He was so comfortable in his two point. I don’t know how his little legs weren’t burning. Mine would have been!

After ward he told her the trail was his favorite but he wants to learn to jump “higher than my mommy does”. Sorry to burst your bubble kiddo by that won’t be such a hard feat 😉

He helped groom her at the end and led her all the way back to her pasture before getting to go play with his toys at the truck while we unloaded Gem and Pete and got them settled for the week.

We have been casually, very causally, on the lookout for a pony for kiddo. That search is now not so casual although I am extremely picky and it has to be a free lease type situation to begin with. I have a bead on the perfect little guy and we are hoping it works out!

Riding/Horses

Recent Rides

The FENCE Cross Country outing was an eye opener for me. Prior to that outing I had been riding, kinda hate to admit this but I run an honest blog over here, once every other week maybe once a week if I was lucky.

Doesn’t she looked so pleased to be in her dressage tack after dinner?

My lessons were basically the only time I rode and it showed through minimal progress and a tense ride each time. The week of FENCE I had a regular lesson Wednesday then went cross country Friday. The difference in Gem was amazing and not just because she loves being out on course. She was relaxed and settled and a lot of fun to be on.

After that I decided that a change was needed. I don’t have unlimited time. I work 50 hours a week and have a kiddo I adore spending time with and who, at 4 years old, thinks the world revolves around me. A simple switch from going to the Y on Tuesday to riding at home was easy enough to do though. Riding on the weekend can typically happen fairly easily as the kiddo enjoys going to RB to explore the woods and Pokemon hunt.  Two rides a week is still a lot less than most people, but it is a lot more than once every other week so I’ll take it.

Riding at home in the pasture. No matter where we are I still love the view between these black tipped ears

The first ride I already wrote about and it wasn’t that great. It was tense and rushed and not that much fun, but I kept at it and didn’t let it get me down as in the past.

The second ride that week was on a Sunday and I trailered out to RB to ride in the arena. I was planning on jumping but the footing was very wet from recent rain. Instead I worked on…..the canter! Gem was so relaxed in her trot work that I decided it was time. There is a whole post about this coming up, but I’ll give it away…we cantered beautifully and relaxed on both leads!!! I was grinning like a fool.

Wyatt was so amazing this day. He asked to ride, then asked to jump. I told him we could walk over the small cross rails but no jumping until he could trot. A few minutes later he was asking to trot which he has been too afraid to do on Gem in the past. Once he trotted a bit I led Gem over a 12″ vertical and she hopped it with her front end then walked over it with the hind. Wyatt was hooked!!! 

The following Tuesday was back at home and Gem was so great. She was relaxed and happy the entire ride. In fact she seemed a little bored if anything. Her halt was spot on. Her transitions both into, out of and within trot sharp and relaxed and our figures looked like circles. I worked on some serpentines and figure 8s as well. I briefly thought about cantering but this was the first relaxed and productive ride at home in 8 months and I didn’t want to push it. I decided to end on a good note.

The new riding schedule seems to be working well to keep Gem in a working frame of mind. She is easier to catch in the pasture as well. She was getting really bad and making me chase her instead of her usual stand and wait for me technique. Since I started riding twice a week she has returned to her easy nature. I’m thinking she is liking the new work load better too.

Nothing beats a good roll after a ride

I’ve put my husband on the task of figuring out a way to get a few lights out there for when daylight savings time ends so I can still ride during the week. Trailering out after work is really stressful and makes for a super long day and just isn’t realistic frequently so I need a plan B asap.

Her winter coat is starting to come in already which is really early for SC. Typically she doesn’t start to darken until October. I was so thrilled to see it coming in with healthy dappling throughout.