Give me a wide open access road or an inviting single track or even a meadow and you’ll find me cantering down it like a boss. A slight uphill grade on an inviting trail is almost always going to be taken at a canter, hand gallop, or if the stars align and Gem is in the mood, a full blown racing gallop. I love cantering. In fact, Gem prefers to canter at anything above 10 mph and we quite literally cantered about 80% of the first 34 miles at our last endurance ride.

I can canter.

Or so I thought.

Put me in an arena and it all goes to crap extremely quickly. Turns out that while I can canter and my seat is good (light but solid and flowing with the horse) I can’t actually steer for crap. So in an arena where there are actually rails and turns are a must, things start to flail quickly.


Someone fix me, please.

When I rode Ralphie, I thought I was just dealing with some Gemmie PTSD. You see, the mare couldn’t/wouldn’t canter the entire first year I had her. When we moved to WI and had an indoor, I spent the first winter (winter of 2010-2011) focused on her canter. Any time my leg hit her side she would either kick, buck or rear. Not good. I backed off and started on the lunge and taught her word commands. Then I used those same verbal commands under saddle keeping my leg steady. Then I began oh so slightly introducing my leg along with it and by the time spring came we were able to perform a canter transition with a leg aide only without dying.


Then she would flail around the arena at 100 miles an hour and even wiped out on her side once. I stopped asking to canter indoors.

My next thought was to use jumps. We would trot in and she would pick up a canter on the landing and would typically be pretty steady. I would then let her canter a few strides and bring her back to a trot. That seemed to work better and we settled on that for the rest of spring until I could go out on the trails and work her outside.

Cantering on trails came easily and naturally and we spent the summer eating up the trails. The following winter we were stuck indoors and the cycle repeated although she no longer reacted negatively to my leg aid.

All that to say that I have some serious baggage.

Flash back to the present. With Ralphie, I would ask to canter but then tense up and grab with my hands preparing for some major zoomy flailing that never came. He quickly got angry with me though and trying to get him to canter was a mess.

On Misty, I had zero fear. She was fun and safe, yet I could not get her into a canter for the life of me. I was using so much leg to get her to even trot that when Trainer said to canter, I tried to bring my leg back to ask and she would immediately slow down and all would be lost.

When I finally managed to get the canter, we would make it a few strides and I would lose it back to a trot and have to suffer the humiliation of trying to get my caner back all over again. It seriously took me the entire width of the very large outdoor arena (we worked in one end only) to get her to canter.

Trainer would tell me to sit two trot strides then ask for the canter but I never felt organized enough to do so. I am much better from a rising trot, but she insists on using a few sits to make it work.

Then…if I do manage to get into a canter and maintain it longer than a few strides, I am completely incompetent at guiding my horse anywhere. How do you all do it all day long around a course?

Its frustrating to be so horrible at such a very basic thing that I know I can do in a different setting yet seem to be a sack of half rotting potatoes inside the arena. And I can’t really progress much in terms of jumping anything meaningful until I can at least canter around the arena.








Shrinking it Down – Pony Jumping

Misty – a New Forest Pony and my jumping partner Wednesday night


Trainer J texted me Wednesday that I was to ride Misty. Her description: the fat grey pony with a horse sized head.

I didn’t think much of it until I arrived and wandered the barn aisle looking for a horse that matched this description. It really didn’t dawn on me that she meant an actual pony until I saw her.


I stood and stared a bit. I’ve never actually ridden a real pony, of pony height, before. She was so short! Where were her legs?

The ground is so close to me!

She was sweet although a bit cranky that I pulled her away from her hay pile and striped her naked in the 30 degree temps. Misty has shown First Level Dressage, shown up to 2’6″ and gone cross country. She knew more than I did and right now that is what I am looking for, so I was game to hop on up and get to know her.

The prior lesson was working over a course of this height  it was nearly as tall as my pony

The lesson was once again very basic – we worked on my seat and position a lot, worked on walk and trot without stirrups, sitting trot and then the canter which I am horrible at and need to write an entire post on because ugh. From there we strung together a small course of three cross rails all set to around 2′. It was a fun little course for me because it really made me focus on my weakest point: planning ahead and riding with purpose. It began with a cross rail on a right turn off the rail going across the width of the arena, then make a right turn at the rail and cut back on a diagonal to hit fence #2, after it was a sharp left hand turn back all the way around the arena at the rail and past fence #1 to get to fence #3.

It made me really have to plan my path and helped me keep things in focus. I’ll do my usual what I did well and what I need to improve at the end, but I want to talk first about my first ever ride on a pony. It was really, really different. To begin with, she is a kick ride. Her natural tendency is to stop whenever she can and holy crap did it take so much leg to get her moving at more than a snails pace. I even used a dressage whip. I am so used to my hyper reactive mare, that this was a totally new world for me. She would trot when asked but it was so slow and I had to keep applying more leg to keep her in the trot and the same was true in the canter. My legs were exhausted!


The other thing I noticed was how quickly her legs turned over and how short her stride was. I was posting at a million miles an hour which on Gem relates to about a 10 mph trot, but on Misty was more like a 4 mph trot. In the canter, it was the same. My seat had to move with her so much more quickly even though we were not going very fast. It was hard work for sure and required me to be much more relaxed so I could keep up with her.

Being so close to the ground gave me a whole new boost of confidence. I got up on her and looked down and thought “huh..the ground is so close that even if I do fall off it won’t hurt so much” and you know what? All my tension was gone. I didn’t fight myself at all with grabby hands. i asked her to go and let her do it. It was amazing! If Trainer J had built a 5′ fence and told me to jump it, I would have. I was not scared one single moment on her. It was a new feeling.

She also was incredibly well trained. All I would do was sit tall, tighten my abs and she would down transition. I learned what a real contact felt like and barely had to squeeze the reins to get her to respond. It was really nice to ride something so well trained. I loved her by the end of it all.

Cold enough to break out the insulated tall boots for the first time all winter

What I did well:

  1. My position was 1000x better and more stable right from the start.
  2. I actually got a canter transition without pulling on her face and asking her to stop right away
  3. Trainer continues to like my jumping position and I never lost a stirrup or caught Misty in the face over the jumps
  4. My shoulders twisted in the circle and the mare’s body bent around me instead of being a surf board going around the turn
  5. I didn’t mess up my jump course and planned my turns according to our pace.
  6. I had fun!

What needs work:

  1. My right leg goes all rogue on me. The left hangs nicely right where it should, but the right tends to want to toe out which put the zipper of my boot on her side and caused my hip angle to be way too open. Part of it is my own biomechanics. That ankle has had surgery and it doesn’t flex very well. so when I try to sink that heel down it toes out to get more flexion. Sorta cheating my way through it. It stretched out a lot by the end of the hour, so it is possible to fix it. It will just take time.
  2. Cantering is my nemesis. I’m terrible at the transition, great once in it, but then I can’t seem to keep the horse in it. Going to write a whole post on this.
  3. Stamina!
  4. Figuring out a way to keep my leg on for forward momentum yet still be able to use that leg to apply aids. If anyone has any great tips, I’d love t hear them. I was using all I had to just keep the horse moving forward, that I had no way to use my inside leg in the turns to balance her or my outside leg to push her away from the rail.
  5. Keeping contact. Every time Trainer would tell me to shorten my reins, I would then extend my elbows so I had shorter reins but I cheated and kept the contact thrown away because my arms were so long. Oops.

Future Plans

  1. I really want to take Gem up there for a lesson. We discussed possibly doing back to back lessons with one hour on a lesson horse and the second on Gem. She thinks it would be really beneficial to jump on Gem right after and apply the same principles to her. I will be missing a lesson due to travel here shortly, so I am thinking of piggybacking next weekend.
  2. Potentially a fun jumper show in June. They do $10 classes and she said I can use Misty or Ralphie in it to do the 18″ and 2′ classes if I am feeling up to it. She also offered Misty for lead line classes for Wyatt which I am all for. Imagine the pictures!


She lent me this book to help with my seat as well. I’m 1/2 way through it and already have a better grasp at what she has been saying.





What Can I Say? I’m Not the Monogamous Type Anymore!

Many moons ago I took a few lessons with a crazy lady. Knowing what I do now, I wouldn’t have mounted up with them at all, but hindsight is 20/20 and all that. Anyway…back then I always felt bad for lesson horses. I’d throw my leg over a horse I didn’t know and have to ask it to work and I just had this deep seated feeling of being sorry to do so. Like it wasn’t fair for me to be working a horse who didn’t know me. Plus with a lot of lesson programs, you just never know what the care is like and how many times that horse has already been worked. It is actually what led to me purchasing Gemmie. I didn’t want to ride horses I barely knew – I wanted a relationship.

Misty –  a new set of ears to look through Wednesday night

Flash forward seven years and my thought process has flipped 180 degrees.

Last night was a jump lesson (more details to come when I have more time to type it all up) and I was riding a new mount. As I groomed and tacked her up I was surprised to notice that I didn’t mind. Its not that I no longer care about the horse or that I want to use a horse as a means to an end, but I think owning Gem has taught me that it isn’t really so bad to ask a horse to do some work for an hour or so even if you don’t have that bond with them. As long as you are fair to the horse, act kindly and don’t ask more than they are capable of giving, it really can be a enjoyable experience for both.

My current situation is really different than any lesson barns I had known before. Maybe times have changed, maybe it is the regional difference of being in the south versus suburban north or maybe I just lucked into something great, but the lesson string of my past is nothing like my current trainer’s set up. The horses I ride are either her personal horses or a boarder’s who doesn’t mind allowing their horse to be used for a lesson from time to time. So these horses are being used judiciously, have a person who loves and cares for them and isn’t just being taken out to go around a ring all day long.

Whatever the reason, I am loving my new found infidelity. Not only am I being pared with horses that allow me to work on new skills and focus on me (you know instead of just trying to tame the beast beneath..umm…looking at you Gemmiecakes), but I am learning what it feels like to ride different horses and what suits me best. Gem will turn 19 this May and while she is in great shape and capable of being tortured by me for years to come, I know that in the nearer future I will be on the look out for a new main squeeze. Getting to ride different types of horses of various personalities and training levels is teaching me what I really want and need.

Being a one horse at a time type of gal and turning 35 soon means that if I get another horse in 3-5 years, it may very well be the last horse I purchase. That means that I want to get exactly what I am looking for.

In short, I am loving getting the chance to ride new things and learn what I want, need and enjoy. Of course, the better I become at my new found discipline of…well, I’m not really sure since I’m just working on beginner basics stuff but something english and arena/course based…what I want and need may change, but for now I am enjoying the variation quit a bit.



Farm life

Farm Life Update

Just over a month into this whole thing and I can say without a single hesitation or fleeting doubt that I absolutely adore having the horses home.

Finally got the horses a mineral block. They both went to town on it.

I’ll admit to a little trepidation when it all began. Everyone kept telling me how much work it was going to be…how little time I would have for anything else…how I would miss boarding.

The shelter barely moves on a day with 30 mph wind gusts. I was nervous and watched it anxiously, but all was good and stable.

You know what? Everyone was dead wrong.

We have established a nice little routine: Dusty gets up earlier than I do and always takes care of breakfast and I get home from work before he does and  handle dinner. We both have mentioned numerous times that we love just hanging out in the pasture with the Dynamic Duo while they eat and how relaxing it all is. Honestly, feeding them grain and hay, even including the fact we have been spoiling them with unnecessary mashes, takes all of 15 minutes and even in the pouring rain it was still an easy and enjoyable task.

I love these delicate white flowers with the green dots. Only one bunch has bloomed so far.

I’ve already talked about how much easier riding has been. Now that it is staying light out later, I can even sneak in a ride after work once again. In addition, the money we are saving in not paying board (we already paid for grain), even with the addition of hay costs, has opened up the ability for me to take lessons – something I’ve wanted to do for forever.

Its also been nice to learn a lot more of their routines. The water tank needs topped off every 2-3 days depending on the weather. They spend the morning soaking up the early sun rays between the shelter and the fence and then after breakfast they go to the far corner to hang out and gossip with Rhino. While Gem and Pete are really great buddies, they are often grazing in separate parts of the pasture and only come together to groom or if Gem is scared of something. Gem always hides behind Pete to try to get out of work or when she is scared. Pete, on his part, is a great security guard for her.

Pete always tips his bowl upside down when he has finished his dinner

I haven’t been home to catch them napping, which is sad. I’ve always wanted to catch them napping.


Life is really enjoyable and way less stressful now that they are home. I no longer feel guilty if I don’t ride because I see Gem constantly and pet her every day, take her out to groom and in general just hang out. Everything is just more relaxing and calmer.

Both Wyatt and Einstein have a new found freedom as well. I’ll be cooking dinner and here the quad running outside and there goes Wyatt – driving around to his hearts content. Einstein has room to run and often comes inside exhausted and flops on the couch for a nap.

Dusty returns from a 15 mile run Sunday morning to be tackled by Optimus Prime.

This has been the best thing to happen to our little family and I catch myself often thinking how great things are right now. There is nothing I am currently pining for and wishing I had. Nothing feels missing in life.


Family, Riding/Horses

The Most Expensive Free Hot Chocolate

Spring time makes me itchy for adventure. The last three weekends have been gorgeous and I’ve been fighting the urge for a day trip knowing that we had a lot to do around the farm.

This past Sunday was free of necessary chores and we piled into the car to head to a local destination I’ve been wanting to hit up since we moved here: Tryon, NC. It is just about an hour away and is a simple highway drive. I knew most of the shops would be closed, but that didn’t matter since I wasn’t looking to buy anything. Just being out in the sunshine exploring a new town was enough.


Sure enough, most stores were closed including the one restaurant I had hoped to hit up having been told to eat there by several friends. The Main Street was charming though and with nobody else around Wyatt could run around the sidewalk without threatening to bowl. anyone over.


We found an antique type store open near the end of the street and ducked inside. It was a really neat store and we had time to speak with the owners. They just moved here from years spent living in Germany collecting antique furniture from all over Europe. The pieces were large, solid and ornate.


Interspersed among the beautiful furnishings was pottery painted in a unique blue and yellow pattern. They explained that it came from Poland and was considered “art you can eat off of”. It was really beautiful but I was unable to snap a picture.

As I wandered around the store, which was larger than the outside let on with many rooms, I spotted a complimentary Keurig. Dusty and Wyatt were both complaining of being hungry, so I made Dusty a cup of coffee and Wyatt some hot chocolate. Knowing how hot the Keurig gets, I blew on the hot chocolate for a long time as we chatted to the owners before I gave it to Wyatt.

We were just heading out when Wyatt took a sip and the second worst nightmare a parent can have in a store with a child (the first being that they grab and break something you can’t afford to purchase in good form let alone broken), came true. Wyatt took a sip, burnt his tongue and flung the cup away from him. Hot chocolate went everywhere including soaking into an ornamental rug on the floor.

Thankfully the rug was old, worn and not for sale, but as I helped sop up the mess Dusty looked over at me and whispered “now we need to buy something” I nodded. Had it not been empty or had we not just spent 20 minutes chatting to the lovely owners, we might have been able to clean it up, apologize and slip out. As it was, I felt awful.

There was a beautiful horse painting I had spied in the back and so, once the lady owner and myself were off our knees once again, I asked to see it. It was reasonably priced and I purchased it.

Turned out that free cup of hot chocolate cost me $102. At least I got a nice painting out of it. It also happens to be the only horse themed artwork I own.



Jump Lesson…Wait…What?!


I’m tempted to just leave it at that, but there is so much to say. First though – it was soooo much fun and I still can’t wipe the smile off my face.

Let’s back up to how it all began…

Last Sunday I sent a text to my trainer (squee!) asking to set up another lesson with Gemmie at home. She was happy to come out, but had plans to take her lesson girls to Aiken for a xc school and wasn’t sure which day. I responded innocently that I wish I was brave enough to do xc, but I was pretty sure Gem would kill me to which she responded that I could use her school horse, Ralphie.

I froze. Really????

We decided that a jump lesson at her barn was a good idea before attempting anything over solid obstacles and the lesson became a reality Wednesday evening.

A real jump arena. With lights. And a gazebo. I feel like a big girl now

I had butterflies in my stomach all day at work and vacillated between extreme excitement and nervousness. It has been 7 years of riding Gem and only Gem plus I have never had a real jump lesson before. EEK!

And a dressage arena. With letters!

I practically ran out of work. It was 30 minutes away and I arrived about an half an hour early. The grounds were really pretty even in the diminishing light and odd time of year where things are just starting to wake up. Two girls on gorgeous horses were having a jump lesson and when trainer J saw me, she came over to give me the run down on where to find my horse and his grooming kit.

This one is for Emma. The view out the barn aisle

Turns out Ralphie is a 24 year old Arab/Welsh Cob with dinner plates for hooves and great bone structure. Most of J’s clients have their own horses and Ralphie is her own personal horse. He was taken out of the lesson program when he had  suspensory injury running in for his dinner (the man loves to eat) and was put out to pasture for a year to rest and heal. He came back stronger than ever and is mostly retired now. I brushed him out while he ate his dinner and then waited until her lesson was over to figure out his tack situation.

We walked back up to the jump arena and she asked my experience with other horses and jumping. Um…. I haven’t ridden anyone except for a few times on trail in 7 years and while I have popped Gem over jumps here and there, I have never had a jump lesson in my life. I’m sure she started to wonder what she got herself into.

The walk from the barn to the arena. The Bradford Pears are blooming and it was so pretty even on a cloudy evening. 

AHHH…there is just too much to say!!!! Deep breaths…

We started at the walk as usual and there were so many things I noticed about Ralphie right away. Like he actually has brakes, a thing Gem most certainly thinks is optional. The slightest touch of my heel on his side sent him laterally with barely any effort. This horse is trained. What was really funny though was when J would start to apologize for him when he started to get “naughty”. I just laughed. Ralphie’s naughty is nothing compared to my Gemmiecakes. What did he do? Well, he could get a little snippy and when I would push him over to the rail he would then basically run over the rail and I could just hear him thinking “oh..you want me on the rail do you? Well, how is this? Close enough for you?” No drop the shoulder and spin 180 degrees. No get hollow and run off. No pissy head shaking and crow hopping. I giggled each time. in fact, I think I giggled through the entire lesson. When a dream comes true, you just have to enjoy every single moment of it.

Wait…these aren’t my typical black tipped ears…

The lesson again really doesn’t warrant a blow by blow. We walked and trotted on the 20m circle, then did the spiral exercises and played with transitions seeing how little effort it could take to get a nice transition. The canter was a shit show as I worked through some major Gem induced PTSD. My legs would tell poor Ralphie to go, but my hands would then clamp and tell him no. I finally got it sorted out and things were good. The second half of the lesson we worked over some jumps from the trot. She created two cross rails (here is where my complete lack of jumping knowledge is really going to shine through: I know nothing of your terminology) one was on a diagonal and if ridden straight had me on a line back to the rail and then it was a turn to the left for a second cross rail straight ahead. I think they were likely too far apart to really be considered on a bending line, but the turn had to be ridden correctly or I wouldn’t make the second jump. It also forced me to bring Ralphie back to a trot after the first jump, half halt and prepare for the second.

A full course in the massive arena. 

And this is where the light bulb finally went on and EVERYTHING CHANGED FOR ME.

About half way through the lesson, I just stopped and looked at J. Something was wrong. My right ankle was on fire and everything was just really, really hard to do. She kept telling me that I was posting off the back of the saddle and to bring my hips forward, but I physically could not change anything. I tried. I really tried. I understood what she was saying, but it just wasn’t possible. I looked at her and told her something was fundamentally not right. I know riding is hard. I know it takes time to create muscle memory and everyone has issues with position and what not, but this just seemed more difficult than it should.

She had me come into the center of our 20m circle and she had me move my legs onto his shoulders and just sit. Then I brought them back under me and my entire posture shifted. My legs dangled, my heels breathed against his side, I was sitting on a  different part of my seat and it allowed my upper body to sit up straighter with shoulders back. All this without any effort from me. My ankle stopped burning, the tension went out of my elbows.

When I went back out onto the circle, Ralphie was noticeably happier about my balance. When I tightened my core, he listened. When I half halted, he listened. She had me cue the canter and it wasn’t scary anymore. He just went off with the slightest brush of my heel. The jumps came easily and I was able to balance him after each without any effort.

The jump I did. Tiny and perfect. This was the first one and I was to go over it and head towards the rail on then make a left turn to hit the second one which you can see to the left of the picture. The grey striped poles were there to help guide my turn. It was so much fun!

I was grinning like a fool by the time we were done. I can’t wait until the next one and hopefully by summer I will be confident enough to do a xc day with the pony clubbers.

Things I did right:

  1. She didn’t have to tell me one time to move my shoulders as I turned or was on the circle. See, I can learn!
  2. My jump position was actually spot on and stable. I think I’ll be participating in 2 point tober next year!
  3. I jumped in good timing with Ralphie, neither ahead or left behind
  4. I never once caught him in the face with my hands.

Things that need work:

  1. Soften those darn elbows
  2. Raise my hands. I tend to bury them in his withers which locks my elbows in extension
  3. Don’t get grabby in the canter transition.
  4. Slow my posting down. I’ve gotten so used to posting at 12 mph along with Gem on trail that it feels normal. No, that isn’t a good pace in an arena on a 20m circle. Slow it down.
  5. Ride to the actual base of the jump. I tended to stop riding too soon creating a long distance for Ralphie. Ride all the way in
  6. Practice sitting correctly with my seat which allows everything else to fall deliciously in place.




But Haven’t You Been Riding For Years?

When I first told the non horsey people in my life that I was taking a lesson last weekend, that was the first thing that popped out of their mouth. It was said with honest surprise – having been riding for 30 years now, why on earth would I pay someone to come tell me how to ride?

I wonder if the fish think this is some sort of God that randomly becomes visible. 

They just couldn’t fathom how, after so many years, there would be anything worth paying to learn.

That is the thing with riding though – there is always more to learn. There is always a new level, a new discipline,  a new goal. Or heck, a new horse that flips everything you thought you knew on its head.

I spent the first 23 years of my riding life on trails. I rode up, down, over, under, around absolutely everything at any speed without a single hesitation. I would jump logs on trail, swim in the deepest rivers, climb mountains and scale back down laying flat against my horse’s butt as we slid down. I raced other riders at a full blown gallop down a trail in Acadia, Maine and strolled across the battlefield of Gettysburg.

It was a fantastic time in my life.

Einstein loves the hay 

Maybe I had a magical unicorn of a horse to ride. Maybe I was just more fearless and less tense when I was younger. Maybe my ignorance allowed a lot of things to happen. I don’t know, but I can tell you that I lost that fearlessness a long time ago.

I lost it in the form of a horse named Gem.

You see, Gem wont stand for ignorance. If I am not riding right and giving it my 100% attention, she lets me know. Usually by dumping me. She won’t give me an inch that I haven’t earned and she sure as hell won’t bail me out.

And that is why, after 30 years of riding, I am taking basic, beginner type lessons. The trail taught me a lot. It taught me balance, too look where I am headed at all times, to anticipate the unexpected, to lead.

A crappy pic through my car windshield yesterday morning. Gem was using the shelter we built and it made me so happy. 

It did not teach me to turn my shoulders, open my hip angle, and loosen up those elbows. It did not teach me how to give a little rein here, take a little there. Add more leg, then half halt to check back in and keep that rhythm even and steady. To see my horse’s eyelashes as we go around the circle to ensure she has at least a minimum amount of bend. To push her out and bring her back in with just my seat and legs.

There are so many nuances to riding that I know nothing about. That is why I am taking lessons. To become better. To become lighter.






The Dry Spell Has Ended

The daffodils are blooming. Ground Hog be damned. Spring is imminent!

Sunday mid afternoon I had a thought. “I want to ride my horse”. Not a wholey atypical thought, but one that has not surfaced since November and even then it was weak.

Why? A host of factors really, but the major one was that following this thought the conversation in my head went thus:

I want to ride my horse. It is an 80 minute round trip. Plus time to tack and untack. And I only ride for like 45-60 minutes. And I have x,y, and z to still do today before the work week starts again. And it is a lot of time away front Wyatt and I don’t like that. Sigh. Really there isn’t enough time now anyway.

So when the thought struck me that I want to ride my horse I paused. Hmmm. All I have to do is walk inside, change and then get Gem. An hour ride will only take me an hour and and a half all said and done. It’s nice out, well minus the 40mph wind gusts, and sunny. Let’s do this!


In a whopping 5 minutes I found myself with lead rope in hand opening the pasture gate. Gem was on the far side of the pasture, but started walking towards me the moment she saw me. She met me half way and then walked happily out to the trailer.

I brushed her out, picked her hooves clean, ran my hands down each leg feeling for any new lumps or swelling, and then wrapped my arms around her neck in a massive hug as I breathed her scent in. Oh how I’ve missed my mare!

I decided on the dressage saddle since I’ve only ridden in it one time since buying it. I need a smaller girth and would love to add a half pad under the square one, but all in due time.

When it came time to bridle her, she shoved her head in with such force, such obvious glee that it surprised me. It appears as though Gem has missed our time riding as much as I have.

Then we walked to the hay field and I climbed aboard.


Right about that same time my brain shut off. I stared off at the huge space we had available and completely froze. I was rigid. Any guesses as to how Gem then acted?

After about 15 minutes of us getting nowhere but more and more nervous and frazzled, my brain decided to function again.

What was it I was working on last summer? Halt transitions! Get Gem focusing on me instead of anywhere and everywhere else.

After about 10 minutes of working on soft and semi immediate (we are a work in progress on this skill) halts using as little hand and as much seat and core as possible, Gem finally lowered her head and     began to blow and chew. A sure sign that her brain has decided to function again as well.

With a more relaxed Gem under me I decided to ask for a slow and steady trot. I got what I expected: a strung out, giraffe style high energy with low impulsion trot. I was okay with it though and used it to work on asking her to come back to me while trying to use less and less intense aids to get there.

When she finally softened and gave me a circle in both directions of a lovely trot with head lowered (not on the bit or anything, we are far from that stage yet but this is still massive progress) and ears on me, I called it a day.

Gem does not do well with a drill sergeant on board and releasing her from work once she answers correctly always pays bigger dividends than ramming it home with repetition.

It was a great first ride at home, a great first ride back after 3 months off, and a kick in my pants to do it more often.




Partner Or Pet?

Mel, the first ever endurance blogger I read, posted a great article on her blog about her relationship with her two mares: are they partners or pets?. Please go read it as well as Liz’s response to it on her own blog. You can find Mel’s here and Liz’s here.

As I read both of their posts, I got to thinking about my own two horses as well as if I am happy about my relationships with them. Do I prefer one over the other? What would I want my next horse to be like?

Gem is straight forward. She is my partner through and through. At first emotionally and mentally shut down, after several years she eventually let me inside her inner circle. That didn’t mean she became all warm and cuddly. It translated into more trust, more willingness to work with me and a better can do attitude. Deep down though, Gem prefers to be a horse. One that eats grass, naps in the sunshine, drinks deeply from fresh cold water and gets to stretch her legs out and about from time to time. In her perfect world, she would have a 12 x 12 stall in a temperature controlled barn with a window looking out and about 10 feet of fluffy sawdust on the ground. She is a princess at heart.

Not the look of an in your pocket type horse

When I go to get her in her field, she will flag her tail and gallop off then turn and watch me. It is her way to let me know that she doesn’t need me. When I walk to get her, she meets me half way and willingly drops her head to let me halter her. She seems to enjoy our time together, loves to go camping and gives 100% of her self at endurance races. Much like Mel’s Farley, we are both sick of each other by the end of an endurance weekend and do better with some time apart. Gem isn’t a horse who likes or needs to be worked more than 2 times a week.

She is 18 now and I highly doubt this relationship will ever change. She comes to me for performance and care and happily leaves me behind once the job is completed.

Working hard together 

Pete is harder to define. I believe he would be a pet had his past life not been such total crap. He loves people and adores to work. You could ride him every single day and he would come out on the 8th day just as excited as the first. He gives his all all the time. But… he is scared to death of people as well. He keeps his distance from you and you can see him worried about getting hurt. Someone did a number on him and even after 7 years of love, care and kindness he still can’t let it go. It is a shame because he would be such an in your pocket type horse had his life been different.

So…I have one partner and one mostly pet, but which do I prefer? I’ve never had a pet type of horse as my primary partner, so I don’t know what it would be like. While I wish Gem was a little more reliant on me for companionship, our relationship works perfectly for me in this stage of my life. I can go work with her, enjoy the time spent and know that she does to, but then drive away and not have to worry that she is missing me, requires my attention for her well being or needs more frequency for her physical and mental health.

We both have our own lives which intersect regularly, but we are not really dependent on each other for our total well being and happiness. I like it like this and can be absent for periods of time without feeling guilty.

I can see where having a pet or a pet/partner mix would be nice if I could dedicate more of my time to my horse hobby. Perhaps once I am retired and Wyatt is all grown, I will be in a position to accept a pet type horse into my life. Time will tell.