Tag Archives: canter

Me = Spaz

Allie used to say to me that it was sort of weird when people began treating her as an authority on things.  “I’m just a monkey with a keyboard!” she’d say.

I’m starting to “get” that a little more.  I try, and I do my best, but really? I’m a huge spaz.  With a keyboard.  The last several weeks has gone by in a blur.  I’ve been checking paypal, trying to keep my emails organized, and trying to remember all the followups from the great auction of 2010.  My spreadsheet is color coded but too big to see everything on one screen – even the big one I have here.  Some contact info for sellers and buyers is garbled so there’s lots of mad scrambling to get all our information updated. 

Somehow, in all of this, I was called “organized,” and my immediate response (in my head) was, “what? I’m just a monkey with a keyboard!”  I guess things have come full circle?  Ha!

In between all my chaos, life goes on and things are rockin’ and rollin’ at CANTER.  Horses in NC are finding buyers pretty well, and so more from MD are going to be making the journey south later this week. 

In Damascus, Mikey has been coming along really well with his training.  Our volunteer Laura is also coming along really well, which may seem like a funny thing to say, but sometimes it’s as interesting to watch the evolution of the rider as it is to watch the improvement in a horse.  She’s been getting regular lessons with our dressage trainer Stef, and has been working exclusively with Mikey for the last several months.

Mikey, Laura, and Stef

Mikey has learned so much – and he tries his big old heart out all the time.  Unfortunately, we are facing the same sort of thing we faced with Kat.  He’s a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful horse, but he’s that sort of in-between horse.  He’s not quite sound enough to to be considered a show horse or do heavy training.  He’s not quite quiet enough to be a beginner or bump-along sort of horse.  He’s a comfortable, fun, sports-car of a ride, but the type of rider to appreciate and feel confident riding him is also likely to be looking for a younger, sounder beast. 

Handsome Devil

At the same time, we have a bunch of horses over on Camp Happy Hill who are ready to start work, and will ultimately be much easier to place.  So it looks like, for the time being, Moo will be headed back for a break on the hill, while we get one of those guys into boot camp.  In my heart I know this makes sense.  I know if Mikey could understand it, he’d probably agree – but there’s just something about seeing his face every morning when I go down the driveway to go to work – he’s the horse that everyone should have in their backyard.  I walked out there this morning even though I was running late, just to give him a big hug and scratch his face.  And I’m stopping there because I find myself feeling surprisingly sad.

On the flip side, the horse coming in will be Mr. Bolt, which has me a bit excited – I do really like this horse!  He seems like a nice, honest, good natured sort of guy, and he just LOVES everybody!  I can see this guy doing really well with a horse crazy girl to fuss over him! 

Happy Muddy Bolt

In other news, had a track visit this weekend.  It was pretty standard, except for the first time ever since I have been doing track visits, we got thrown out of a barn.  The contrast was pretty crazy – we went into one barn, and both the trainers there were perfectly pleasant.  One had just come down from Suffolk and knows the folks who do CANTER New England pretty well.  He was nothing but sunshine and roses and was very happy to see us active and doing our thing at Charles Town.  So it was with a nice warm fuzzy feeling we went into the next barn, where a worker directed us to the trainer who was in one of the stalls.

After introducing myself, the gentleman informed us he didn’t think much of our organization, and to get out of his barn.  Didn’t even say please!  It was one of those moments I was laughing about for hours after the fact – I’ve just never encountered it before.  We’ve had trainers who don’t want to participate, sure, but most everyone at Charles Town will stop and say hi, and even those who don’t list horses are always polite about it.   In the years I’ve been going there, I’ve been treated to Chili and cornbread, teased mercilessly, given coffee and cocoa on cold days, and gotten several marriage proposals.  People will stop and chat about all sorts of things, and it’s gotten so that I feel like people actually like us – we’re not just a service but our volunteers are becoming an expected and welcomed part of the scenery.   We have trainers on our facebook pages, and who treat our volunteers like friends outside the track.  I generally feel so welcomed there that this experience was like something out of the Twilight Zone.  Oh well, can’t win them all! 

We saw some very nice horses at the track this weekend – one nice 17 hh grey (we took one picture with me in it – man I need a diet – just to prove he really is above my head! heh). He has the most amazing eyes I’ve ever seen on a horse.  I was sort of fascinated, unfortunately it didn’t come through well in pictures.

Stay tuned – he will be popping onto our Charles Town listings sometime in the next 24 hours 🙂  Along with an absolutely heart-stoppingly gorgeous chestnut filly, another sweet grey, and a macho chestnut gelding who thinks he’s Man O War 🙂

Lastly… after hearing so much about it, I stopped at Borders and picked up “Lord of Misrule” Saturday.  I’m done already.  It’s not a book for everyone, but there’s something intensely real about the feel of the book – it’s not just that the author has the language right, and the characters right – the pacing of the book just FEELS like the racetrack.  It’s not a really traditional novel, or linear storytelling.  There’s no explanations for readers who might not know what people are talking about in the book – but reading it I swear I could smell the backside in my nostrils and see the characters.  It’s worth picking up, though like I said not for everyone 🙂

Herd Bound Mares

Last night was a funny farm night 🙂  It’s about time too – work has been kicking my butt lately – thanks to a lawsuit we have very limited time to get a LOT of work done, basically major overhauls of our whole system.  Then management decided to be proactive by having us get our stuff in extra early – effectively cutting out three weeks of development and testing time.  I managed yesterday to get pretty much 90% of my stuff completed, and so left work feeling pretty good (of course today is not much better, though thankfully it’s production problems, which at least are more interesting to work on!).  Either way, I was tense and stressed when I left yesterday, so an afternoon out in Adamstown was pretty much exactly what I needed.

First up was Miss Sister.  Some people came out to look at her, and I’m pretty sure it’s not quite the right fit for what they need, but it’s always fun to see her anyway.  I pestered her a little bit about mane pulling, and sat there tugging on hair and not letting up until she stood still.  I figure if she starts to learn that standing still gets discomfort over with sooner, it will be a good lesson for her.  I hopped on her but she was quite fresh (it’s been what, months? Since the last ride) and my gut was saying it was not a good day to ride her too long.  She gets forward, and wants to tear around when she’s fresh, and if you hold her back she gets a little cranky.  It would be fine if I wanted to spend a half hour at a hand gallop, but with all the rain the ring really wasn’t up for it.  All that said, she really is kind of fun and interesting.  But herdbound, and quite unhappy to be pulled in by herself.  I think some more visits and work with her are in order (at least the weather is finally nice!)

Since they were looking for a hunter type horse, I thought I would pull Minnie in out of the field too.  Minnie, for those who don’t know, is Katerina’s daughter, a lovely dark bay mare with no white, just like mamma.  I’ve been salivating over her for a long time, because I’ve thought she was beautiful and my type of horse (but aren’t they all?).  When she first came to CANTER she was ridden a few times (and very good) but then managed to get a pasture injury that landed her in the horsey ICU and cost a fair amount of money to fix up.  Then she sat in fields, which has been all she’s done for a while.  I don’t think this horse has been ridden in a year.

Of course by the time I got halfway across the field, the whole group had migrated not only to the far end of the field, but to the other side of the gigantic hill, too.  I kind of wanted to turn back, but at that point, it’s almost like you can’t.  The whole “I’ve come THIS far!” thing was coming into play.  I tried to run, but Ariats are NOT made for running (truth be told, my old Tredsteps were much better, but when life gifts you ariats, you wear them). My toes were throbbing by the time I got up to Minnie. 

Then came the walk down the hill and across the field, which just seems impossibly long and tedious.  As soon as we got away from the main group of horses, Minnie started acting… well… obnoxious.  She wanted to go back, and wanted no part of being separated.  I’ve noticed this a lot with the mares, and it made me miss the geldings (really, I’ve never had one of the geldings do this to me!).  At this point I really wanted to throw in the towel, but as always, if you give in, it just makes it worse next time, so we kept going in fits and starts, a few times she tried to pivot away from me and run back, and a few times she tried to pivot INTO me and run back.  I was getting pretty testy by the time we got to the gate, but once we were out of the field she began acting like a lady again.

I turned her out to let her trot around a bit, and as always had to smile.  She’s a pretty mover even being very out of shape.  Of course, she was also working herself into a good sweat, going back and forth all anxious about where her buddies were. 

So of course, that means it’s a PERFECT time to ride, right?  Why not.

I listen to my gut a lot, and it hardly ever makes sense.  I’ve been on pretty easygoing horses and just had that feeling that maybe getting off now would be a good idea.  I can also look at a mare running frantically around a pen neighing her fool head off and think, “this is a GREAT idea!!!” 

My visitors had to go, but I’m pretty sure they might think I’m a little crazy.  It’s OK.  It’s totally true. 

So I grabbed the tack and wandered back to the ring.  Minnie immediately came to me at a trot, hoping I would save her (from what? from me?) and I had her tacked up in about ten seconds.

Over to the mounting block, where for sure there would be some shenanigans… except… not so much.

Ho Hum

She shifted her weight but then stood there till I asked her to move off.  I swear that as soon as my butt hit the saddle she stopped worrying about everything else and being upset, and just focused on what I wanted (well, except for wanting to stare out at the field a lot). 

Up into the trot, and she was WONDERFUL.  Magical, even.  She has a nice forward going feel, but her stride is long enough that it’s very comfortable for me.  Horses like, say, Rosey, are always a little hard for me to adjust to.  They don’t go fast, but their strides feel quick to me and it’s a huge adjustment.  Minnie made me feel right at home.  We did some figure eights and circles, and I found her remarkably easy to steer.  A lot like my own horse, actually.  You just kind of think about where you want to go, tighten your hand on the outside rein, and voila! you are turning.

Judge, Here's Your Winner!

Disclaimer:  My independently minded left arm is at it again, I see.  *sigh*

I found Minnie to be really remarkable in her acceptance of contact.  She went pretty much the same whether I had a feel or not, and when I dropped the reins a bit she just stretched out a little.  She started out the ride jawing the bit a lot, kind of like a green horse who hasn’t had a bridle on in a while (huh, imagine that!) but as soon as we started working she stopped and was very nice and quiet with her mouth.  Really, within minutes I felt totally confident riding her on a very loose rein and even adding leg.

Hey! It's a Monkey on Horseback!

The canter was actually much better than it looks there.  She has (again) a nice slow feeling stride, and is very directable.  She picks up both leads and I suspect will do lead changes very easily.  I felt comfortable both in a little half seat and sitting – she didn’t seem to mind either way.  It was just so comfortable that I couldn’t stop grinning. 

When I got off I was exploding with enthusiasm.  Here’s a mare who hasn’t been ridden in… I don’t even know. Seriously.  A lot of them I can say with confidence “four months!” or “six months!” or “yesterday!”  Not so much here.  It’s been at least a year as far as I know, and probably longer.

If she’s that good straight out of the field, while all worked up and anxious, with little fitness and not a lot of flexibility, all I can think is that she will be show-ready in no time.  Put some butt and back muscle on her and she’ll be a star.  I texted Allie immediately: “hey my saddle fits Minnie.  That means she’s mine right?”  Yep. I was THAT happy.  I seriously want this horse for myself, in a really big way.

Of course, I wonder if maybe I’m really fickle, because each time I get on a new one I’m really excited about it… but with Minnie I felt like I could take her to a show next WEEK and it would go well.  She’s beautiful, will clean up very nicely, and was just so freaking easy to ride!  She got every good thing possible from Kat, but with a better hind end and balance (seriously, cantering Kat was possible, but it wasn’t nearly such a delightful feeling!)

It was one of those rides where I totally forgot how crappy my day had been up until then.  The sun was setting, the clouds all pink and purple, she was magic, and there is actual green grass coming up everywhere.  Exactly what I needed this week, and exactly what I needed to motivate me to get my butt over there more often.

This isn't a good picture, but the dorky grin on my face makes me laugh.

Let the De-Fuzzing Begin!

I discovered something sort of cute about Archie the other day.  I pulled into the driveway and saw his pasturemate was not in the field with him.  He was buried in the haypile as usual, but as I drove by I stopped, and rolled down the window.  “Archiiiieeeee!!!  Hi ArchiiieeeeEEEE!!!”  Up came his enormous buffalo face, and he talked back to me.  He’s got this great, deep, low pitched breathy greeting neigh, and it about melted my heart with the cute.  The only other horse that ever “talked” back to me like that is Allie’s amazing horse Phinny (who is pictured on this page – he is magic, pure and simple!).

In any case, this was the weekend of the attempted de-fuzzing of Archie.  I intended to give him a bigger clip than I usually do (normally I do a rough “bib clip” sort of thing) but my clippers couldn’t handle the yak hair.  The blades are dull and his coat is amazingly thick and long – plus he is recovering from a case of skin funk, so there’s some difficult going in there.  My clippers were heating up too much and he was getting irritated, so the only thing he got clipped was his chest and the lower part of his neck up to his jaw. 

Horse? Or Yak?

Looking Slightly More Civilized

I managed to trim down a lot of the excess hair off his jaws. I didn’t want to shave his face, or accidentally take chunks of hair off, so this was a pretty delicate operation.  Overall I managed to do an OK job – I wouldn’t take him to a show tomorrow, but his face looks a lot less like a buffalo now.

After that I hopped on for his first official ride in our indoor.  He was fine to get on, stood at the mounting block like a champ, and then we wandered around for a bit.  He takes a fair amount of leg to keep going, and is much more typically “green TB” than Kat was, in terms of how he goes.  He tends to want to go in a big oval instead of going straight, then turning and bending, and going straight again.  The canter is obtainable – it’s a bit of a big push at this point, especially the left lead (to the left he wants to lean in and cut the turns much more than he does to the right.  Which could be him but is also probably a lot to do with me, too!)

The other hilarious thing he does is try to attack his reflection.  My own horse, sometimes, will snake his head and bare his teeth at other horses while we are in the ring (bad boy!) – Archie does the same thing… to himself.   Every time we went by the big mirror at a speed faster than walk, he pinned his ears at himself and went “GRRRRRR!!!!” (well, if a horse was capable of such a noise, that’s what he did).  His head would come up and he would act all ferocious.  The first few times he did it, I didn’t even realize what was happening – I thought he was just having a tantrum about bit contact, or something.  It took a while for me to catch on but by the end of the ride I couldn’t stop laughing.

I also think part of him cutting off half the ring to the left was seeing his reflection in one of the end mirrors – he could see this “other” dark bay horse coming at him, and wanted no part of a head on collision.  That took some working through, and I’m still not sure he gets it.

It’s funny, psychologist types who study brains and animals and behavior often will remark on the ability to see the reflection and understand it as a sign of intelligence.  Like, rats generally don’t understand their reflection, but chimps do.  It’s a sort of self awareness thing.  Horses are interesting because some of them seem to get it (Kat – when she saw something else in the mirror, besides her, she knew enough to turn around to see it in ‘real life’) and others don’t (Archie).  But I’m not sure it’s a sign of intelligence, because Archie seems to learn very quickly and retains things well (I can tell that in the short time he was with Jess he still has some “buttons” from her, and it’s been quite a while!). 

After the ride I tried to continue the defuzzing by doing some mane pulling, but Archie is NOT a fan.  I will probably work on this over a few weeks and see if I can get him to stand the way I got my horse to (he HATES it – but essentially I rewarded him with a treat every time he kept his feet still, until he stopped trying to move around.  He’s allowed to do whatever he wants with his head and neck, as long as the feet stay put.  It was a long process).  I will probably clean it up with scissors (gasp!!!) and a thinning comb, but will work on this as it’s something that helps his adoptability 🙂

I also took some other ‘before’ photos, for the record.  I really think as he gains muscle and sheds, he’s going to be a really pretty horse.  For now, the masses of 6″ long yak hair are sort of hiding that fact, but you watch!  He’ll look great in a month or two! 

Horse or Moose? You decide!


Cute Face! Minus most of the Beard!

It Never Ends…

Always more horses, more emails, more stuff!

This actually turned out to be a fun weekend.  I had a busy Saturday set up – I needed to get my new badge for Charles Town, and also have a friend who is shopping so decided to play tour guide for her as she looked at a few horses from our listings.  Of course doing double-duty on a trip to the track, took a few listings too 🙂 

After getting badging and day pass stuff sorted out, we immediately walked over to the first barn on my friend’s list.  I’d seen this horse in the listings for months but was quite unprepared for what came out of the stall – easily a few inches taller than advertised, and much more of a big rangy hunter type than his original photo had led me to believe.  I took new photos, but as usual, a lot of these guys are just WAY prettier in person than they are in their track photos, even when you work really hard to get new ones.

Surprise number two came a short time later.  My friend had selected another horse to look at based on one of the worst track photos we’ve ever had on our site.  You couldn’t see her head, conformation, feet, or pretty much anything besides her rear end.  Fortunately, my friend is picky about rear ends and liked this one.  When she came out, I was immediately slack-jawed over how fancy the filly was.  They jogged her and she had the most beautiful forward reaching stride I’ve ever seen on a horse still at the track.  She was a little goofy, but apparently hadn’t been out for a workout in over a week which explains that sort of thing.  But even I, knowing everything I know about track horses and their photos and all the things that conspire to make photography difficult, may not have gone to check it out based on this:

I mean…. there’s just not much to see there.  Pretty dapples, but….  Right?  Who’s with me?  So I was a bit surprised when this is what actually came out of the stall:

There... that's a bit better!

And I was even more surprised when she started moving, and more than a little annoyed at myself for not bringing my small camera with the video capabilities (not that it would matter, I am having extreme technical difficulties getting video online these days).  The amount of reach she had for her size was pretty impressive, and though she was cavorting a bit, she reminded me of Woody, as she threw her legs out nearly horizontally a few times without breaking step.  Neat filly!  And it goes to show – sometimes it pays off to take a bit of a gamble.  I know exactly how easy it is to make a nice horse look bad in a picture, and almost always give them benefit of the doubt, but even I was pretty surprised this time.  Anyway, got new pics up on our website, including some of her jogging (though none of those really show what she’s capable either).  If you’re thinking of checking out some horses but are a little “meh” on the photos, it pays to check those out anyway, especially if you’re going to look at others.  Always see as many as you can, because there are a LOT of nice ones out there *grin*

After that filly, we went to look at some others, while I took some listings.  It was like a cavalcade of greys – I had to update some listings on a few horses from our old site (greys) and took some pre-emptive photos of a horse who isn’t listed yet (a grey), and at this point I can barely tell them apart while looking at the photos.  Good thing I keep good notes 🙂

I also thought it would be tricky being out there in my capacity as a volunteer while also leading someone who was shopping.  We have to be very impartial when we are out there – all the horses in our listings need new homes and new jobs, so we have to leave decision making up to buyers and vets.  It turns out I didn’t really need to worry about it too much – I always like everything I look at, haha!

After we left and stopped for lunch, it was back home to meet a lady who is interested in Katerina.  I actually talked to her early last week and was elated, but didn’t want to celebrate prematurely.  But given how everything worked out on Saturday, I think I am pretty safe in saying that we have finally found a home for Miss Dollface, and she will be living in the lap of luxury very soon 🙂

This is a HUGE load off – I’ve been very worried about this horse for some time.  She’s just a little bit creaky, and just a little bit hard to ride.  Not very hard, mind you, but it seemed the problem we ran into is the people with the skills to ride her were looking for something younger that could go do competitions.  The folks looking for a 16 yr old ex broodmare were not necessarily looking for something that required thoughtful riding.  So when a friend mentioned she knew the “perfect” person for Kat, I wasn’t ready to get too excited.

As it turns out though, some excitement was merited.  As soon as we have the papers in order Kat will be a companion to one other horse, several sheep, and a few cattle.  Her new job will mostly revolve around looking pretty and being pampered, with the occasional trail ride on very wide trails with good footing. 

We are very, very happy for her and I’m looking forward to seeing her new home.  It’s been a real group effort with this mare – so thanks to everyone 🙂  And soon it will be time to start over with the next one!

Canter Poles

What a fun weekend!

On Saturday I played hooky from the barn again (I was sick all week- so, excepting one day when I held a horse for x-rays, this meant a full seven days of no riding. Amazing!) and drove up to Harrisburg PA to the open house at Penn Ridge Farm.  In addition to meeting some wonderful and fun racing people, I got to see the wonderful Real Quiet, who still looks every inch the Kentucky Derby Winner.  One of the things I love so much about Thoroughbreds is how many of them have that “LOOK AT MEEEE!!!” personality.  Real Quiet spent his entire time out striking photogenic poses (drat, left the camera in the car! boo!) and watching the crowd like he expected applause at any moment.

In a bit of a small-world  coincidence, I also ran into a trainer who donated a lovely horse to CANTER a while back- Sunshine Admiral.  Who, by further coincidence, has apparently found his way back to us.  Look for more updates on him soon!

Sunday, obviously, meant time to catch up.  Odds and ends from the auction (hopefully, the last of it!  And thank you letters! Whee!), and getting some horses ridden.

Stephen is doing very well.  He is recovered from his illness and being ridden by two volunteers who split duty with him.  His Sunday rider describes him as, “so lazy!!!”  No worries Lea, we’ll find the go button soon!  Stephen is also sort of a case study in the slightly harder-to-keep TB.  He lost some weight with his illness, and in addition had some difficulty adjusting to field board and getting off his racing medications.  So in addition to his daily feeding (mix of pellets/sweet feed, 10/10), he also gets a bucket of soaked alfalfa pellets, with rice bran pellets (for added fat), a probiotic (to aid digestion), and Platinum Performance.   PP is an excellent supplement, consider this a shout-out to that company 😉   I’m going to try and get some condition photos so we can track his progress. 

Afton is, as always, wonderful.  I think that he had all week off (again, I wasn’t there, so who knows!), which would make the ride we had Sunday even more wonderful.   Standing at the mounting block was MUCH better than the last few times I rode.  Also much more relaxed at the trot, or at least, willing to come back to the walk and relax, and even stop and stand.  He’s going into his corners much better and not motorcycling as much, too. 

One of the bigger issues we’re having is control of his shoulder.  Especially to the right, he likes to really bulge that shoulder out on the second half of the circle.  I’m starting to figure out that fixing it involves not only my left leg and keeping outside rein contact correct (resisting the urge to cross my left hand over the neck, heh), but it also involves me learning to shift my weight a little better.  Like when asking to canter, things seem to get a little better when I weight my outside hip more and sit deeper on that side.  So I have to work on that a bunch.

He still has some issues once we canter.  He doesn’t understand regulating the canter, and still likes to increase his speed as we go around.  He’s very sensitive to my weight shifting forward, so this is a great horse for me to ride to really learn to sit deep and upright.  After cantering, coming back to relaxed-walk is much more difficult for him than it is at the trot.  He still seems to get in a mindset that canter = work = “we’re going to work till we’re tired, so why are we walking again? Let’s go!”  I feel a little bad because I got a little forceful a few times, “um, no, I really mean walk now!” but I suppose he knows enough at this point that I can tell him when I mean it, right?

On the other hand, we cantered our first canter pole, which didn’t phase him in the slightest, and increased the trot poles to four, which also was no problem.  Cantering poles is really fun on him, and I think will translate to a good jumping experience, once we get that canter a little better.  He goes absolutely straight on the approach and landing of the pole, and will stop in a straight line easily.  Hopefully the Sunday gymnastic lessons will start soon- despite the not-so-fantastic flatwork, I think he’ll be really good at it and enjoy it.  We just have to perfect turning, so we can actually get straight approaches to said gymnastics (to the right, the tight turn is easy, to the left, not so much, heh).

In other news, a lovely and gracious friend of mine who designs belt buckles and jewelry is doing something very sweet for us this month.  Check it out:



It’s a Little Chilly

But since when has the weather stopped any of us from enjoying some good times with ponies?

Saturday began with a nice morning breakfast with Allie, at the lovely Tom and Ray’s restaurant in Damascus.  Highly recommended for pancake aficionados as well as those who love a grilled cheese & tomato sandwich.  [/random plug]

Later that afternoon we travelled up to Westminster, MD, to do some listings for a large Thoroughbred farm that is looking to downsize.  After my many visits to the racetrack and the small surrounding farms, it felt like I was visiting a palace.  Acres upon acres of rolling green pasture, beautiful bank barns, and a pond with black swans in it, it was like something out of a movie.  We listed six horses there- two yearlings, two two year olds, and a couple of broodmares.  It’s often hard to sell the broodies, they’re generally offered when they’re older, and haven’t had any riding time since they raced eons ago.  But on the other hand, if I had the money for a second horse (despite me wanting ALL the horses all the time) I’d be thinking about bringing this fine lady home:

I'm sooooo pretty!


 I dunno.  She just seems sweet and sturdy, and looks like she wants to snuggle just a little.

After terrorizing the lovely black swans in the attempt to get some pictures, we called it a day and went home.

Sunday was another Funny Farm visit, where thanks to the presence of multiple volunteers, we got to check on almost everybody at the farm.

Klondike is still fat.  Rosey is dying for love and attention but otherwise happy and gaining weight.  Whisper is still a Barbie horse, but he looks like he’s been getting into some tiffs with someone out in the field.  Call Sister (who is not available yet or on the webpage) is settling down finally- she likes to act jumpy and spooky, but is finally coming to realize that spray bottles will NOT kill her after all.  Truckee is a bit of a pest, and needs a job (his big moment of the day: driving Klondike away with a flurry of heels and teeth, so HE could get more attention). 

Mikey thinks he’s a dog, and even AFTER we put him back out in the field post-grooming session, he insisted on following us all the way across said field and then back to the gate.  Kasper is, like Sister, calming down a little bit and learning about standing for grooming and attention, rather than pretending to spook at everything. Gutenburg (also not on the website yet) is doing well, but as he came off the track relatively recently he looks a little thin. We think he’s recovering from the various substances in his system- nothing nefarious, but supplements, bute, maybe some steroids.  But on the plus side, his skin and coat look good, and he seems to be in gain mode.  We also spent some time with a new guy we’ll call Parker, who is super sweet but had to learn about standing still tied.  I think he normally would stand still, actually, but there were three other horses in the immediate vicinity and he kept trying to snuggle with them.  Got some pictures of him, too, so hopefully he will be up on the website shortly.  In the meantime, feel free to browse. 🙂 

After our visit there, it was back to Damascus to take Afton for a nice mosey.  He got new shoes on Friday, and already seems to be moving much better.  He came off the track with his heels “crushed forward” (probably the best description, though maybe not the technical term for it).  With this trim and new shoes, he looks to be walking MUCH better and is not “stabbing” the ground so much.  His trot feels much smoother and at the canter he seems quite happy to stretch forward and really throw his legs out in front of him. 

This was only Afton’s third trail ride, and I think, total, his sixth or seventh ride EVER.  And it figures that in a group of three, the horse with the least amount of training would be the quietest and most reliable.  The teenaged trail-master?  Feeling a bit full of himself.  The other 4 year old had much more training and trail time than Afton, but was also feeling a little twitchy and goofy.  Afton took turns leading the two goofuses when it was time to stretch out and go.  He also showed he has a great sense of direction- you can tell he knows when he is close to home, or pointed towards home- he starts moving out just a little bit when he thinks he’s headed back.  He’s better than a compass.

We did some trotting and cantering (even approached an almost gallop at one point) and he is just a joy to ride out.  After a few little runs, he starts to anticipate a tiny bit, so if you lean forward to pat him, he’ll start to trot.  But all in all, he’s quite easy and super fun.  Also on this trail ride, we did a little jumping.  We are fortunate to have a small trail set on a slight slope uphill, that has several logs and small jumps set at related distances.  It’s a great confidence builder, and there’s nothing big enough to really intimidate anybody.  Afton jumped or trotted all of them, with absolutely zero hesitation. 

The impressive part (to me) is that the trail used to be set so that the woods on either side sort of “funnelled” you through the jumps- it made it so riders didn’t have to do much but sit there, and the horse had few options except going over.  Sometime recently this trail was cleared out a whole lot- all the brush is gone, so there’s no “wall” and you actually have to steer over the jumps.  I can see this presenting a problem when you’re as monkeyish a rider as me, but Afton was perfectly honest through the whole thing.  Not only that, but he LED the way through, with the most experienced horse taking up the REAR of the group.  Good pony!

Later on, I realized that Afton had not, in fact, ever seen a water crossing before.  He’d been so great about everything that it just didn’t even cross my mind that he might be worried about anything.  So I was a bit taken by surprise (oops) when we got to one crossing and he balked.  To be fair to him, it was sort of a scary looking one, with a lot of leaves floating in the water, a bit of gravel in the middle, then more water and a steep bank up.  We had one of the other horses go in front of him, and he put his head down and very tentatively started stepping forward.  Because a lot of horses take a big flying leap their first few times across streams, I had a full handful of mane and was preparing for the worst.  But Mr. Afton just stepped across VERY carefully, and came up the bank perfectly.  He did essentially the same at the next crossing- head way down, checking things out, but only very gingerly tiptoeing across.  He’s definitely a thinker, and I’m still sort of amazed he didn’t do any huge deer jumps over it or anything.

On the way home, we hopped over some stuff in the driveway again, quitting on a great note over the end log (we had to do it twice- the first time he sort of stumbled over it, so we had to go back and actually JUMP).  Next up for Afton? Boring, boring ringwork.  He’s a super horse but needs to learn a little nuance. 🙂  And, um, at some point we’ll get some photos/video of all this.  It’s a little harder in the winter 😦

She’s baaaa-aack!

If anyone’s wondering why I haven’t written in what seems like years, it’s because Rosey was out on trial.  But… the lovely little bay wonder is BACK, which has me quite excited.  She’s going to go live on the Funny Farm for a while, so I won’t be able to ride her as often as I had been doing, but that’s alright, we’re headed into fall and winter, and there are other horses who need some basic boot camp.

When I got to the barn yesterday she was quite unhappy at being alone.  After a few minutes of coddling from me, she decided that wasn’t quite good enough, and let out a scream that any Hollywood Damsel in Distress would envy.  While horses on the farm are used to hearing others scream, they all took notice of Rosey, and immediately four of the geldings from the neighboring field came galloping up the fence to vie for her attention. 

I spent a bit longer than I meant to watching her and laughing, as I was supposed to be meeting people out at the Funny Farm to visit the horses out there. 

So I got on my way, and once out at the other farm, had an excellent morning of cleaning and primping and pampering some ponies.  Once done with Big Daug, Whisper, and Klondike the Fat, I climbed on little Afton again, so we could get some pictures. 

He really couldn’t be better.  He didn’t stand at the mounting block quite as well as last time, but he only moved off when I was mounting- as long as I was just standing on the ground or the block itself, he was perfectly content to stand like a gentleman.  I know I make a big deal about this, but this is something most of these guys just don’t get at first.  At the track, jockeys are thrown up into the saddle while the horse is walking.  And for many of them, they don’t really like the mounting block because it makes you so much taller than them- the only time they’ve experienced that is when people are actually ON their backs, and they’re moving forward.  So to have a little three year old with track training stand so well (even if not perfect) is pretty impressive to me, and I gush just a little.

such a good booooie!

such a good booooie!

Then we practiced the basics- stop, turn, and go.  Today we even managed a canter, which he seemed unsure about at first, but as soon as he realized that I did indeed want a canter, he picked it up pretty quickly.  He seems automatic about his leads- I don’t ever really ask for them the first few times, especially on such a baby, but tracking right, he actually started to pick up the wrong lead, caught himself and reorganized, then went off on the right one.  Someday, someone more talented than I will have a very easy time teaching this guy lead changes.  The canter is super easy to ride, too- Rosey’s always feels a little quick to me the first few strides- this guy has a big enough step and is comfortable enough that it feels very balanced, even downhill and the first few strides. 
Yay Afton!
Yay Afton!

He does jaw at the bit a little- I was trying to stay as soft as possible and mostly rode on a loose rein.  Honest, I did 🙂

In addition to being really good in general, he also learned to trot ground poles under saddle.  All while the farm owner was moving loud and scary equipment around 🙂  It never ceases to amaze me how good most of these guys are, as long as you expect them to be. 
Now, hopefully I’ll be able to take Roseyness for a few spins this week, and actually update her blog with stuff actually about her.

Quiet Ride

Last night we had a lovely ride in the indoor.  I didn’t want to do too much, seeing as she’s gotten worked the last few days for the Washington Post people, and both this afternoon and Friday afternoon there are people coming to look at her.  So Rosey has been working hard this week. 

I got to the barn in a little bit of a funk, which happens occasionally for no good reason I can think of.  This time I’m blaming it on the lack of rain in Maryland- everything’s all dry and dusty and the ground is like cement, and I tend to get a little tired/crabby feeling when things are like this.  Whatever the cause, the cure usually involves something with four legs and big, pretty eyes.  Rosey delivered yesterday!

Within minutes of hitting the saddle everything just felt better.  Miss mare gets more comfortable to ride every day- she’s happily figuring out the difference between trotting quicker and trotting more forward. I know to the non-riders that doesn’t make much sense, but it’s the difference between taking lots of fast little steps, and taking long, powerful strides.  Now that she’s learning that, she’s much more comfortable for me to ride, as I have trouble finding my balance on horses that “feel” little and/or quick.  She’s going more and more like a big horse, so it’s easier and easier for me to maintain some semblance of decent equitation.

Her canter is maturing as well as her trot- to the left, it’s almost as comfortable as Klondike’s, which is a pretty big deal.  To the right, it’s not quite as well balanced, but has still improved a ton.  I concentrated a little more on this direction than usual as a result of watching Liza lunge her the other day- under saddle, the weakness isn’t quite as apparent as it is from the ground. 

All in all, a wonderful, relaxing ride.  She’s getting really good at stretching down and out, sometimes looking like she actually had a long neck when I checked her out in the mirrors.  A couple times, she even got a little beyond that to actually giving to the bit more than usual. 

Afterwards we went for a walk down the driveway and back, and I am very pleased to report that even without company and after being “done” with work, she did not offer a single complaint or hop’n’spin. 

This week has been a whirlwind of activity for her, and it’s barely half over!  She will have earned a nice rest come Saturday…

And, as a side note, her blog has received over 3,000 hits as of yesterday 🙂  Thanks for reading!

Small Figure Eights

Last night I had an interesting ride on Rosey- she was quite energetic, and while I generally like the “forward” thing, I kept getting the feeling that she was running while simultaneously not being “in front of my leg.”  To add insult to injury, when I tried to bring my leg back into the correct place, I totally lost my center, and she got even quicker.  After fumbling around for a bit, I decided to stop working so hard and began to ask her for some serpentines and figure eights.

That seemed to work nicely, it got her attention, and with her slowing down a bit I was able to get myself better aligned, and even get my leg “on” more without her reacting so much to it, which gives a much nicer feeling (and makes it much easier for me to sit straighter and feel more balanced).

When we stepped up into the canter, it turned out really lovely.  I worked on keeping her mostly on circles, and just focused on me as much as possible- sitting quietly, following with my hands, and that sort of thing.  She really goes much better the more I focus on what I am doing, so I’m trying to make that the primary goal of every ride.  She’s becoming much more even (I’m thinking that Trainer Extraordinaire may have something to do with that) and I had a much easier time last night keeping her on the circle to the right. 

I do also try to make our circles more like “square” circles- occasionally she wants to motorcycle a little, since she doesn’t have bending down, so if you stay on too much of an arc, she can start diving around the turn a little bit. 

I didn’t want to do too much, since I’m still a little unsure of the riding schedule (I finally made a little calendar to put on her door, so we can all keep things straight), so we also spent a fair amount of time at the walk, learning about bending a little, and stopping/starting while keeping the head down and relaxed.  We also began some elementary turns on the forehand, but this is a little hard for her.  When she had trouble grasping the concept I got off and asked her from the ground.  She has a little trouble with the concept of crossing her inside hind in front of the other and stepping to the side- I don’t doubt she will mentally pick it up quickly, I just think she’s physically still a little weak and not really flexible.  So I will be adding some hind leg stretches to the carrot-stretch post ride routine.  

And, because pictures always make blog posts more fun, but I don’t have any new Roselicious photos, here’s some grey horse nose:

Whatcha got there?

Whatcha got there?

Soft Arms

Rosey and I had a lovely, lovely ride tonight.  The weather was cool (post t-storm!), the sunset was gorgeous, and life is pretty awesome.  In any case, after our last ride, I wanted to focus on a little more forward, and on my own monkey self. 

One of the things I have to keep reminding myself when riding is to stop worrying so much about her. I kept catching myself looking at her ears, as if by looking down and reaching out with MY head, I could get her to reach out with hers.  Not so much.  Sitting deep and tall, and keeping my mind on “forward” we get much better results (amazing!)

And at one point I found myself getting frustrated- going to the left, I felt she was heavier/stiffer on the left rein, and my arm was getting tired.  Then I remembered that the same thing used to happen with my horse, and some long-ago yelled instruction echoed in my brain, to relax and stop STIFFENING my left arm.  If I get soft, she’ll get soft (and again, this is like magic!) 

Tonight we also had some very good canter work (at least, from my perspective).  We are not quite ready for perfect transitions to the canter from the walk (I was feeling ambitious and tried it), but her transitions from the trot are getting easier and easier, more balanced every time with less quickness and running.  Her circles are getting stronger as her hind end improves, and to the left I can keep her aligned very easily on those circles.  To the right, it’s a fair bit harder, but I’m not sure how much is her and how much is just that I have a horrible time closing my left leg the same way I do with my right (I need some lunge lessons).  Several times at the canter, I could feel her becoming very rhythmic and even, and felt like she was stretching out into longer, slower strides. 

After our ride, we had some nice, quality currying… She’s not spoiled AT ALL! 🙂