Tag Archives: retraining

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.

Rosey Takes Over Showgrounds

Rosey Meandering around the show

Rosey Meandering around the show

Today Rosalicious went to her second show, to do the same two classes we did the last time. Just a nice, easy Adult Eq division with a walk-trot class to get her used to things.

Today went much better than the last time, in terms of her getting used to showgrounds, me conquering the hop ‘n’ spin, and the giraffe-neck of last time not making an appearance. At first, she actually was a little more unsettled than last time, snorting and not standing well for getting tacked up. When I mounted up she speedwalked in a direction of her choosing (towards where I had handwalked her earlier), and we had our only little tiff of the day.

“that way!” she said

“no. This way!” I replied, with a big opening left rein and a kick

“noooo! THAT way!” she responded, with a half hop and attempted pop of the shoulder to the right.

“no… This time I actually mean it, darling.” with a couple swats of the crop and a growl.

“fine.”

That was the last I saw of the attempted Hop ‘n’ Spin move all day. Though she bulged and tried to get opinionated a few times, I think we may finally have that kicked.

Anyway, onwards we went to a warmup area behind the jumper ring, as we had gotten there a little too late to warm up in the actual ring. She started out a little quick, but settled VERY quickly at the trot. Even taking nice big steps and rounding her neck in a way I’ve never seen her do before. Her first canter was lovely, but her second got a little strong- going downhill and away from the trailers she just wanted to go. It was hardly terrifyingly fast, but she wasn’t listening, which is a worrying feeling for any rider. Fortunately (well, sort of), her fitness level is not that high yet, and the solution to this problem was turning her uphill, where she promptly ran out of steam.

I kept her busy for a while just doing lots of little patterns, taking her over some interesting terrain where she had to pay attention to her feet, etc. When we came back to the walk, she was trail-quiet Rosey again. On a floppy rein, and “grunting” with every step. Her ears were even flopping.

Later, as we moseyed towards the ring, she started getting a little antsy and worked up again, so I followed the same drill, just asked her to work around and got her attention back, and it worked very nicely.

When we entered the ring, she was very relaxed- interested in everything but not jumpy. Remembering the trouble I had last time when taking her off the rail, I immediately cut across the ring with her, and made a little circle. She was fine with that. She started off her W/T class with a bit of a high head but not nearly as quick on her feet as last time. Our major problem was her trying to watch what was going on outside the ring, on the side opposite the judge she was very interested in a couple of spectators and the woods (not in a scared way, but a way that suggested she was trying to identify what types of trees she was looking at). At the lineup, she stood like a real lady, on a totally loose rein, not worried in the least about the other horses stepping ahead of her.

The second class went very well- she picked up her first canter like a champ, and though she was a little quicker than I’d like at points, she was very relaxed, and we had a grand time. The second direction, we missed our lead, I think three times in a row, which was her telling me, “hey dork, quit your leaning!” it just took me a little while to get the message. Oh well. Again she stood in the lineup perfectly. Such a lady!

Our ribbons were fourth and fifth, respectively. It might have gone better if I did not look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. (I apparently need a strict lady with a ruler to follow me around and smack me every time I slouch).

Video!