Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Well, nice to meet YOU, Captain Goofballpants

I needed a few days to let some muscles stitch themselves back together before getting in the saddle again, but with Mother Nature (or, at least meteorologists) reminding me that winter in SoCal means *gasp* rain, I needed to hustle my tired, sore butt in the saddle today before STORMWATCH 2013!!! (!!!!!) struck.

I was short on time and on daylight, but I got out there.  I knew Tril probably needed a good head-clearing galloping around the ring in turnout, but time did not allow and I only lunged him in a circle.  He's not allowed to canter circles yet due to chiro's orders ("I don't want him on one leg"), so all we did was trot.  Bor-RING to a 10yro hot blood, but deal, boy.

After about 4-5min of lunging each direction, I got on him...and, uh, wow.  I got to meet the real Trilogy today.

"The real Trilogy?"

Yes.  It's rather like what my son's preschool teacher was telling us today at his conference (which is why I got to the barn later in the day):  when they start testing boundaries and acting out, it's a very positive sign because it means the child feels emotionally safe.  

I don't mean Tril hasn't felt "emotionally safe" or some other 70s-child love mush, but that since we are now really doing some work (or, I suppose, starting some work), he is showing me his "I don't wanna work!" side.  It's a positive because it shows I am actually asking him to work now, instead of willy-nilly wandering about the rings.

He didn't do anything bad, and, true to who he is, he wasn't being nasty or aggressive or spooky.  He was just being himself--his big, goofy self--but bigger.  I could feel his energy when I got on him; he rounded up and tucked his chin and played with the bit, which at first had me thinking, "Great!  He's giving my hands a break!" However--our first trotting pass, he decided the leaves in the back corner were a reason to buck or crow hop or something else that involved rounding up and ducking his chin further.  Never afraid--just annoyed--I said, "No, no, NO.  Go forward, go forward, go forward, and get over yourself."  Harrumph, he said, you're no fun, and off we trotted (with some circle and figure-eight work tossed in when he was feeling just too good).

He kept up the "Let's PLAY!" persona, but was a good enough listener inbetween the "Aw, c'mon, let me spook at the trash can!  Let me get all snorty and blowy and race down the line!  Let me be stupid at the leaves again!" for me to actually get some riding in.  My legs are still lame (literally with my right ankle, dammit, but it's not sore in the stirrup) and I had to remind myself to use my lower leg, but that proved challenging with Captain Goofballpants.  

We worked for a good 25min or so (all the time I had with the vanishing daylight) before getting everything battened down for WATER!  FALLING OUT OF THE SKY!!   !!!

I'd really like to get some lessons on him soon so I can better learn his language (and that includes how to properly call him on his bullshit).  A local Arab trainer is busy with shows--Scottsdale is next month--but I might manage one sooner than later.  We shall see.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Time to take a little punk pony for a (ground) drive

An epiphany is not simply reached, celebrated, and then marked off the list with an "And that's that."  One goes back again and again, seeking to recapture the"Ah ha!" feeling to ensure it was, in fact, a genuine revelation.  It is not a period in a sentence, but an ellipses, a colon, promising there is more to come.

With this guiding me, I went back for more this afternoon and rode Tril.  My muscles, which I hadn't noticed being all that sore, roared and groaned their complaint from the moment I picked up the reins--but despite the "Oww, ow ow owwwWWW!" I got It again.  Not great, but there--and this time, Tril rewarded me with fleeting moments of relaxing his neck and reach forward, playing with the bit and giving my aching arms a break without breaking frame.  Looking at photos, we're still not there, but we definitely can see it from here.

Dude, he even looks good at the halt (Laura, drop your weight through your heels and sit up)

My forearms hurt looking at this.  (Laura, turn your ankles in--though I'm probably tapping him with my right leg--and relax your hands)

This isn't even his big trot.  What the heck will THAT be like?  (Laura, elbows in and raise your left shoulder.  What, me my own worst critic?)

But after Trilogy, it was Firefly's turn. He was only part of why I was eager to get there.  After that amazing Friday ride, with Daylight "Savings" sending the sun diving under the horizon before I could catch it, I (okay, a friend who actually knows what she's doing) tacked up Firefly in the harness I'd found on Craigslist over the break.  Firefly stood there dutifully in her "Like I could give a crap" way as she was tacked up.

Daylight "Savings" my ass

The cute, it is to Awwwwwwww

My friend with the driving Clydesdale helped show me what everything is and how it all goes, and did a little preliminary ground driving with her. The harness itself was no issue--she very much as a "don't give a crap" attitude. The bit was annoying to her, but all she did was mouth it (as you see here). 

She had a few pissy moments as my friend ground drove her, but as Firefly's motto is "avoid giving a crap if at all possible," they were mild. She did some pivoting and backing up, but my friend got her straightened out and within 5-10min, Fly was going forward and turning with little protest. She also has an excellent whoa--big bonus.

My friend helped me practice a little itsy bitty bit driving her to get the feel, and I was pleasantly surprised how responsive Fly was. Of course, I had just ridden my hard-mouthed, arm-dragging boy, so it was quite the contrast feeling her respond to a squeezed finger to turn. After the initial pissiness, all the ground driving training she'd had before I bought her (8 years ago!!) started to show itself. It's like a light bulb went off and she said, "Oooh, oh, this thing."

And now, I'm all tired and stuff.  It's Monday night after a glorious three-day weekend, and I have sleep to attempt.  But--we ground drove her again on Sunday, and she was amazingly good--I'm seeing all the training she'd had before I bought her eight years ago.

My friend did most of the driving, but I did some, and Fly was such a good girl. Opinionated and obstinate, but a good girl. She isn't a tantrummy brat that will pitch a big fit, but she WILL make her displeasure known with a curled lip and grumpy ears. Still, she seemed happy and eager (if bewildered half the time) to be doing something--while I was riding Tril, she kept whinnying after us, and she is anything but buddy sour--that is quite beneath her.

This second time in the harness, she was noticeably improved. No backing up, no butt swinging, no pivoting. She did have selective hearing and was offended by the (hay string) overcheck preventing her from snacking, but she begrudgingly listened--and she did what was asked. 

I wanted to finish this blog and publish it so you could see all her from here on, I'll let the photos do the talking.

I'm going to be checking bit fit--she never seemed comfortable with it

A bit bewildered, but adorable and obedient

"Fuck off.  You see nothing."


The indignity...I will have to kick and squeal at many a horse to regain it

Navigating through trees to practice and control steering--and limit distractions and options

A few times, she let out a little helium whinny.  Bewildered, confused, feeling alone? Poor girl. She was okay soon enough.

I had to give it a try.  She was very good, but I definitely need to drive horses that are trained just out of fairness out her

Yup, even some trotting was done!

Horse butt

More trotting!

Coming home!  Tril, who had been out grazing, was very curious in a "What the HELL are you DOING with her??" kind of way.  He had to greet us as we returned.

It's a good look for her
We were sure to end on a good note, and after untacking her I was sure to do something I never do with her--I hand fed her a treat. I'm trying to keep this as positive as possible. She was such a good girl.

I'm learning (and seeing for myself) just how much training she'd had before I bought her. I learned, for one, she had been ground driven in this exact bit--not sure why she's mouthing it like it's been dipped in rancid milk. She's picking this up far too quickly to be as green as I thought, but she's gone 8+ years without it. She just needs a little refresher course for things to click again and shake the cobwebs off.  

Her whoa is awesome. My friend chuckled, "It's her favorite gait." Indeed.

There's a driving show next month I want to attend (relax, as a spectator) so I can both see good driving and network with professionals. There's also a three-day driving clinic I will likely attend at least in part in May.

Ooh, the first pseudo-halter class of the day is "Hairiest Horse."  Hmm.  We just might need to take her along.

So, cool.

And now, good night, and great week.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Sweet, excruciatingly painful epiphany!

First of all, yeaahhh, it's been a while.  Vacation + camping with small children + rude reality check of returning to work = no bloggity blog.  Only sleep.  Just kidding.  Boy 1 had anxiety followed by a bout of nightmares followed by an midnight asthma attack and Boy 2 had a double ear infection followed by a bout of nightmares, so no sleep either.

But today was exciting horsey-wise, so dammit!  I'm blogging!

Second of all, after owning Tril for 9mos, I think I have finally figured out how to ride him so he's using himself correctly and I'm using myself correctly.

Keep in mind, this is what he can do:
Hey heyyyyyyyy handsome!  (No, the four-legged male)

 And this is what I usually end up doing with him:
The equitation, it burns

The epiphany came when a knowledgeable friend happened to be watching me ride and gave me an impromptu mini-lesson from the rail.

"Leg!  Leg leg leg leg!  Hold your hands steady and back!  Left shoulder up!  Leg!  Legggggg!  Don't post with your hands!  Elbows in and still!  LEG!"

Me:  *pant pant pant*  "This..." *pant pant pant* ""  *pant*

"Leg!  Raise your left shoulder.  Left shoulder!  Leggggg!"

But then--it happened.  I felt his hind end get under himself, and I felt him round out as he went forward into the bit, rather than just race off.




The ride time was nearly over and I needed to get home to the house of kid chaos, but with sun and warmer temps in the weather forecast, I put riding him (and getting that feel again) in the crosshairs for after work Friday.  I made that feeling my goal.

Friday, by the time the final bell rang, my grades were done, my lesson plans were printed, my next week's assignments were copied, and my classroom was ready to go for throttle up first thing Tuesday.  I left shortly after the students then made a bee-line to the barn.  The mini herd was turned out, Tril was tacked up, and I got on, warmed up, and got to work.

We got it. We got it. Again.  He has known what to do all this time--I just hadn't understood.  I thought giving him leg would make my big-striding boy take off, and it would, if I didn't hold him steady with my hands.

"Think of being a training surcingle.  Hands don't move or bounce with them; they're steady, and the horse figures out 'Okay, forward into frame I go.'"

So I held him--hands back, elbows in, legs squeezing forward into the bridle.  And, my solidly trained boy showed me how far he surpasses me in education:  BOOM he was rocking it, while I panted and shook.

But we got it.

I have to confess, though, there was a lot of panting, cussing, starting, and stopping inbetween those moments of glory, because holding him steady sucked (he has a hard mouth, particularly compared to Ana's suuuuper soft one) and constantly having to squeeze him sucked.  We'd get the frame for half a trip around the big ring's circumference, we'd stop, and I'd "Oh my GOD I am going to DIIIIIIIIIE."

(Or, as I said one time, "Holy Frankenfuck, he is going to kill me!")

My legs weren't as bad off as my fingers, forearms, and triceps.  Holding him steady when he wants to lean on me buh-lew, and I have to find ways to soften him up to spare me from dismemberment.  Although if I can ever keep that up, I'll have arms like Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2.  Something to consider.

Now I get why they told me "His favorite gait is STOP."  Now I understand why they had to ride him in (dull) spurs.  He doesn't like to be framed up and would much rather trot about willy-nilly on the forehand, nose up in the air, gawking and taking it all in.  After all, using that big butt of his takes, well, a butt-load of work.  They told me he needed a lot of leg--now I understand.

I get it.  I get it!

Now please pass the ibuprofen. All of it. Ever.

Such an adorable device of torture

There is more--after I rode Tril, Firefly was introduced to the full harness and was ground driven on the property for a bit--but that's for a future blog. .