Monday, July 25, 2011

The Appy Diaries: Rion rides and other exciting chronicles...

Three horses and three exciting stories!

The view from "up there"
Brandy's best thoroughbred impression
I don't have a current "new" pic of Ari, so here's an old one.
 Rion is going nicely under saddle. It AMAZES me what people DON'T teach horses. Remember, Rion was started before I had him, I started him over to make sure all the right education was in place. The first day I rode him, I kind of slithered into the saddle from the tallest mounting block. I had gathered that he wasn't going to be too keen on me stepping onto him for the first time, but he had no problem with me just being up there. So I slid on him the first two times and then tackled the mounting issue today. It took... 10 minutes? To teach him to stand to be mounted the traditional way. Really? We skipped that step the first time around? Of course we did. 
Big smiles for our first ride!
 Anyway, in the space of four (three??) rides, we're walking and trotting, moving away from leg, steering at the walk and kind of at the trot (the round pen is too small to really do much steering at the trot), very responsive to "woah". His gaits so far are very balanced. He is on the lazy side with me on his back, but is much more forward moving while longing than he was, so I'm hoping he will not be a kickkickkickkick ride in the end. He was already more "in front of my leg" today. I will probably ride him in the round pen one more day then move to the arena for more space. YAY!!

Good boy! Lots of pets!!
Brandy and I did our third training together and finished with just one rail. We should have had a 38 in dressage, but mom forgot her test and went down the long diagonal instead of the short... OOPS. Oh well! Honestly, we probably got the better end of the deal because our first free walk was AWFUL. She was high as a kite in dressage warmup, she wouldn't hold still or steer, for the most part, and was just wound tight. I didn't have a chance to let her stretch because... well... she wouldn't... so our stretchy work in the test was just okay. Our trot lengthening was lacking but we got good marks early in the test. Overall I was pleased. In the meantime, I've ordered Brandy a Micklem bridle to see if it suits her delicate sensibilities better. I'd thought about trying Ari in one as well, so I can test it on both and then order one in each color if they're happy in it. Spoiled.

Also, I don't have a picture of Brandy and I doing dressage in our new duds yet. I've been wearing my new navy coat and white breeches and I think it looks snazzy, but can't really tell. Will have to try to remedy that.

Our stadium was not stellar, we had kind of a rushed warmup and she was still fussy. SHE was good, I didn't ride nearly as well as I did at Midsouth. We had a rail in the triple... lots of long approaches and time for me to mess up.

Good over the first...
Not the best pic, but I LOVE her shape and SCOPE in this shot!!
And I love this one, too!
XC was BRILLIANT! I think I said something like "XC runs like this one make everything about this sport worth it!" after we were done. It was not perfect. Far from it. But it was educational. We were lovely to 1, 2 and 3. Four was a combination, down hill, and she actually sucked back a tiny bit to it, so I landed and OFF WE WENT to fence 5, a double brush we've jumped every time we've been out since we moved up to novice. I wanted her to go on and gallop it, so I didn't quite re-balance enough to it, which caused me to start riding a little backwards... to 6, a big table, and through 7A and B, a chevron combo... where we got four in a three and still took off a little long to the second. OOPS. I fixed it to 8 and 9, two skinny brushes, then blaaaazed up the hill in the infield in another long gallop to 10, a little log. No problem there, and then my nemisis... the ditch and brush... it scared the hell out of me. I ended up simply NOT riding the last three steps, but Brandy jumped anyway, bless her heart, even though when she finally caught sight of the ditch (when she was in the air) she would have liked to put on the brakes, but scrambled over for me anyway.

LALALA... there is no ditch... LALALA
Up and over!!
She was great the rest of the course, including skipping right through the full coffin and down the bank into the water. The weather was perfect, overcast, coolish, but humid. She recovered quickly and we were about 20 seconds under optimum time. ATTA GIRL!
Into the coffin... she's no dummy... she knows what is coming...
Panthers reside below!
Brandy makes a splash!
Last, but not least, Ari is back! Fitness wise, he's more than fine. We did 15 minutes of trotting over terrain today and he was barely blowing. We did a 2 or 3 minute canter at the end and he was hot but not out of breath. Thoroughbreds. Gotta love em. Strength-wise, he's definitely lost some ground. Unsurprisingly. I'm still getting the occasional "twist" in the left hind in the sand, but I'm hoping with more strength this will remedy itself. We can only wait and see. He did jump this week, just hopped around some 2' jumps, and he was fussy but willing (Micklem?!). The good news is that the "break" seems to have done us both some good, since my own balance, position and strength have gotten better, so his rampant head tossing is really easy to ignore and just put my leg on and send him forward. We'll see if maybe this breaks the cycle. It may just be him forever more...

Overall, a great July! Now, if only this heat would break for day or two so I can regroup and have a day without dripping sweat!

Monday, July 11, 2011

When dressage and music collide...

This is a crescendo:
It is defined as "a gradual steady increase" or "a climactic point or moment" and it's origin is Italian, meaning "growing."

How, you may ask, does this relate to dressage?

Well, I had a dressage lesson with Amy the other day. To the naked eye it probably looked like all we were doing was trotting around having an argument (Brandy and I. Amy and I don't tend to argue while trotting), with the occasional comment from Amy and the random exclamation of "GOOD!" or "THERE!" and a chortle of laughter from either one of us at any given time.

What was ACTUALLY happening is that we were trying to bring Brandy's dressage to the next level... you may remember me comparing Ari to a gobstopper... Brandy is not so much chipping away at layers as simply accomplishing one task and then adding the next and fighting things out until she decides that the "new" task is okay, also. Generally, it goes like this.

So, that is all well and good! Our dressage scores improve! We are competitive! Things are happy, pleasant and we're coexisting in a perfect little world!

And thennnnnn....
We go for a dressage lesson. And we hear that it's time to "ask for MORE!"

And this happens again:
And over and over and over again...
Until we have something like this... and it goes on, forever and ever and ever and ever...

And without a sense of humor and remembering where we came from... it would seem like a daunting, impossible and certainly not much fun task. But... overall, its fun to look in the rearview and see what we came from... but its more fun to look out the windshield and see where we're going.

Brandy is just a smart, opinionated, somewhat tricky little horse... but as we say, over and over again... "She jumps well, so it's okay!!"

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Appy Diaries: Day 2

First off, the new kid finally has a name, Orion. I'm calling him Ry, but Anita and Jerry may be calling him Ori. To each their own, at least he has a proper name now! 

Ry actually had the day off today, but I was talking with Jerry this morning and he was telling me how friendly Ry was when he had visited him in the field. Jess had posted a picture of me driving him yesterday and called him "My new love." Someone else, maybe Shannon? had said something about how attached I am to him already.

I, of course, get hopelessly attached to all the critters that come through the barn, but I guess the reason I'm liking him so much already is because of his personality. He's very curious, he always has a visible thought process going through his head- its fun to watch and see what he's up to. When I put the driving lines on him yesterday and asked him to walk off, he was VERY excited to show me what he knew. He drove right out the gate of the roundpen into the pasture and way polite and responsive the whole time (not to mention fancy! He points his toes when he's round!!).

He was standing about five feet away from the waterer yesterday staring at it hard. I'd propped the ball down for him, but it had popped back up, so I went out and pushed it back down to make sure he could drink. He took a long drink from the open side, then went to the other side and pushed on the ball. Drank from the open side, pushed on the ball... back and forth. He finally walked away with almost a shrug.

He's been a bit of a loaner in the pasture but buddied up with Pumpkin yesterday for awhile. They were both grazing alone at the end of the pasture and then decided they ought to go up to each other. They sniffed, groomed on each other a bit then walked off together and grazed. Shortly thereafter, Ry was laying down and having a good roll. He was obviously looking for a buddy to let him feel safe enough to lay down.

It made me think of the others, when they got here.

Paisley was so malnourished and completely apathetic to human interaction. We would feed her and go in to scratch on her and she would step away from her food like she couldn't even stand to be around us. She never did anything WRONG, but she had no desire to make friends, either. She was rideable, picked up her feet, stood in cross ties etc- she would barely take treats. She obviously had been treated badly and didn't expect anything good or plesant to come from people ever again. The real turn around I saw from her is when I was able to start trail riding her- it was the only thing that would get her to go forward, too, otherwise she would stand stock still or go backwards. The day I finally got her to CANTER, I cried. She decided to do it on her own, I was so excited!

Paisley's Craigslist picture, May 2008 
Pai, Jan 2009, no longer apathetic to people....

Brandy was practically feral. She knew what treats were, understood what leading WAS, even though she didn't see the point of it, stood tied, and picked up her feet, which was great, but obviously didn't NEED or WANT interaction with people. I couldn't catch her the first couple weeks I had her. She had been started the year before- I think they said 30 days training but she'd bucked the kid off a couple times. When we went to see her it was quite obvious she didn't remember any of her training, she was wary of us, the saddle pad, the saddle... she had "wild eyes" and a glaring look. We arranged a 30 day trial on her so I could start her and see what we had. She came along pretty well but still didn't really seem to care for me or my plans at all. I rode her once or twice before our 30 days were up and when Anita called to say "It's day 30, keep her or bring her back?" I gave some really serious consideration to sending her back. There was nothing much about her that gave me warm fuzzies and she hadn't shown me anything to be excited about... but I still said "Lets keep her." There was a long time I didn't really like her that much, I'd say it was a couple months before I really started to understand her. She liked having a job (JUMPING!) and now she has the sweetest, kindest eye...
Brandy, October 2009, when we got her home.  
Brandy, March 2009
August 2009, first 2' jump school!

Brandy first BN, Aug 2009

Shasta was a little different. She was actually pretty well trained, just hateful. She'd been living in a field for a couple years with two geldings and had no interest in human interaction since she had her herd. She would try to kick if you got near her, IF you COULD get near her. Something made Anita and I decide to take her and we loaded her up and brought her home. I put her in the roundpen for about five minutes when we got her home and out walked a brand new horse. She was sweet and met us at the gate- we couldn't get her turnout buddies out because she was SO in your face. She took to re-training quite nicely and moved along really quickly! She ended up being a lot of fun to have around... who would have known from the beginning!?

November 2009

March 2010
It should be fun to see what things amount to with Ry. I'm anxious to get on him but certainly don't plan to rush things!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Appy Diaries: Day 1

My new project got home yesterday! He walked calmly, if slightly cautiously, onto the trailer. I liked his though process- he was obviously unsure and he just dropped his head, inched forward until he had one foot on the ramp and then walked right up. He backed off the same way, and didn't fuss at all off the trailer, just looked around, took it all in.

This was the "look" of the evening. Just checking it all out.
 I put him in the roundpen to show Anita how he moved and found him to be a total puppy. The biggest problem I had was keeping him away from me! I turned him out with his new buddies and he was totally non-confrontational. Everyone tried to get a response out of him and he didn't flinch!

I got him up today to work with him a little, and was pleased that he had good manners in the cross ties, picked up all four feet, was skeptical of flyspray but decided it wasn't so bad. Of course the FIRST thing I did after I groomed him was take care of that mane and bang his tail. It seemed almost criminal to cut the mane on an appy, but it didn't stop me! I think his tail will grow out thicker as time goes on, also. I cut his mane shorter and then pulled/scissored it to look more natural. I'm pleased with the result!
After! It still needs some work, but didn't want to over-do his tolerance levels on day 1!

More about him:
He's a six year old appy, though I'm thinking app/TB, and it wouldn't surprise me if he were 4 or 5, either. His old owner had him about 2 years and he was started under saddle, lightly, when he was originally bought- walking in the roundpen. He bucked a few times with the owner and scared him. Owner hired a trainer who worked with him 5 or 6 times and never came back. I'm told he bucked the first time the trainer got on him and never again. He hasn't been ridden since then, but his owner did A LOT of ground work with him and his roundpen work is fabulous. He's very smart on the ground, he knows verbal commands for walk, trot, canter, woah and "easy."

I put a saddle on him today and he was obviously very comfortable with wearing it. No bucking or silliness when I did the girth. I bridled him as well, and he, again, knew exactly what that was all about. After a little more longing, I put the reins on the bridle and "drove" him, me standing by his saddle with my right arm over his back. He understood that very nicely, as well, we turned left and right and halted, made some circles, switched direction. GREAT!

I will spend some time in the roundpen with him, ground drive him and see if I can find what made him buck, but I'm suspecting that he just sensed his owner's timidness. He also has his wolf teeth and they were riding him in a tom thumb, so it wouldn't surprise me if that was the problem as well. I put him in a happy mouth snaffle and he seemed pleased when I put it on!

In other news, I brought my gang to the beautiful Colonial Hill Farm for an XC school today. Amy had some of her students there as well and we all sat down for a nice picnic afterwards, thanks to my AWESOME barn moms! Everyone had a great, confidence boosting school and I wished I had something to ride!

Ari is still off and Brandy doesn't need to school this close to another event! I'm hoping Ari will be better for Poplar at the end of July, but if he's not, hopefully the new horse will get to make the trip!