Saturday 29 September 2012

Good Girl, Lainey.

Lainey's lessee took her to a hunter/jumper show in Edmonton this weekend. I just got a message that Lainey and M took home 3 firsts, 2 fourths, and second place overall in the division.

I'm so proud of them both! Especially since this is their first show together and Lainey's first show over fences.

No riding for me or Ginger this weekend. I spent today packing, then tomorrow Ginger and I hit the road. Hopefully I'll be back in the saddle mid week - I'm having withdrawals!

This would be a nice picture of Lainey if she didn't have legs growing out of her neck ;)

Friday 28 September 2012

Leopard Pony

It's the time of year where Ginger grows in her winter coat, which starts as a super dark bay. The best part is that her dapples grow in first, so for a week or two every spring/summer I have a spotted pony :)

Sunday 23 September 2012

Last Lesson

For a while, anyway. This is my last weekend here in Alberta/Saskatchewan and the weather is absolutely fabulous. The fall colors have arrived and the horses are feeling good. The mosquitos are gone, and Ginger and I continue to progress. It's all making me rethink my plans to leave.

I was pretty sad yesterday realizing this would be our last lesson with Trainer Girl for quite a few months. She's incredible, and I don't say that lightly. We are lucky to have found her.
I'm also sad to be leaving Lainey behind, even though I know she will be in excellent hands. I'll be looking forward to spring.

So, the lesson recap:
The people ahead of me were running quite late. Trainer girl is very good about keeping on time, but yesterday my lesson was about a half hour late. Ginny was already tacked and warmed up and ready to go. She was quite content to walk around for a bit while we waited, but quickly got bored and started looking for reasons to be silly. On a normal day, I would have just put her to work. Yesterday, I was hoping to leave some gas in the tank for the lesson. I played it wrong though, because come lesson time she'd managed to get herself in a bit of state and suddenly had boundless amounts of energy. The extra half hour of waiting around was our downfall, I think. It was good for Ginger though, because obviously in the real world things don't always run on time!

So, to work we went. Slow, steady tempo, proper bend around my leg, etc. Me, needing to relax my body a bit more. Be ready for what she might do, but trust that she won't, if that makes sense. I need to ride for the ride I want rather than doing damage control on the one I'm getting and trying to make it "pretty".

All in all, it turned into an excellent lesson. I think, as always, I needed the reminder about being able to ask and expect more from her when she's anxious. Give her a challenging task rather than boring her with easy ones. I still tend to back off a bit and try to get her settled that way. As Trainer Girl says though, I'm waiting for her to decide to relax rather than telling her how to relax. Both methods work, but one is obviously more effective (and it's not mine). Point taken. She didn't ever truly settle in, but hey, we had a fabulous warm up!

So, we leave on that note. We are off to BC next Sunday and will be left to our ourselves for a few months. Part of me is panicking because trainer girl won't be around to fix my mistakes. The other part of me knows Ginger needs a ton more miles and we'll be ahead of the game no matter how much I (inadvertently!) stray from trainer girl's plan.

I read somewhere recently that cobs don't really grow up until 6 or 7 years old. So there is hope she will magically mature in the next year or two and stop the teenage drama. I'm not holding my breath though ;)

All faded from the sun:

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Back to Reality

After Saturday's excellent lesson, I was pretty keen to try for a repeat performance on Sunday.
I can now confirm that a good percentage of our apparent genius on Saturday was due to Trainer Girl's eagle eye and constant corrections.

Sunday ride recap:
The Good-
-Ginger was excellent while I groomed and tacked up. The barn was super busy and there was a crew in doing some upgrades to the indoor. Machinery and power tools were involved and Ginger was actually a bit ho hum about it all.
-We worked into the ride and had some very good moments at the end. A little more rusty feeling than on Saturday, but pretty close to great. I feel like there's hope that I can do this on my own.

The Bad-
-There was a "new" black barrel standing next to the gate. Ginny was sure it contained some kind of super nasty horsey plague.
-Things generally felt a little stiffer and more awkward and longer to warm up to. I know it was partly because she was a little less relaxed than the previous day, but mostly it was because I was not riding as well :( Which makes me frustrated with myself, especially because she is so sensitive and picks up on that little bit of extra tenseness from me and gets worried.

The Ugly-
-She spooked and tried to bolt off. Her mouth is super sensitive as well, so although I didn't yank, I was caught a bit off guard and was more firm than normal and she had a bit of a meltdown thinking she couldn't go forward :( The line is so fine, I swear. The same amount of pressure would be something Lainey would call a half halt.. So for a bit I had worried pony trying to do a very speedy trot, then overreacting to a very quiet half halt in a very big way. Leap forward at the slightest close of my leg, then essentially try to slide to a stop when I closed my outside rein that tiny bit.

We did get it sorted out at the end, and got some really nice relaxed work.  I have to remember these 'moments' were a pretty common thing a few months ago, and at one point affected us both for the rest of the lesson. Now it seems something we can work back out of fairly quickly - we have more trust in each other these days, I think. This is all new to me because I've always had horses that, if anything, need to be more responsive. Ginger can be most reactive horse that even some  experienced riders and trainers have seen, so I'm on quite a steep learning curve trying to find the right feel.
We ended the day with a quick visit to the hayfield for a treat, then I put her out with her friends where she galloped around like a maniac. Those big feet make it sound like a whole herd is coming! i tried to get photos, but it wasn't meant to be so you're stuck looking at an old (but cute!) one:


Saturday 15 September 2012

This is why I spend all that money...

Best ride ever tonight. For a good portion, it felt almost effortless. The lightbulb clicked on for me -almost every coach or clinician I've learned from puts great emphasis on controlling the feet/the four "corners" of the horse. And I've always thought, "ok, makes sense. I think I've got it, so let's check that off the list and move on." For the record, I've never REALLY had it until Ginger. I think I probably made it work, made it look ok, but it was HARD and always involved a lot of work on my end. What I learned today: it can and should be easy. And once you truly have that softness and control combined, it feels like anything is possible. What a rush. Serpentines -sorry, but today we owned you. You too, Leg Yield. And Shoulder In? Got ya! Slower/Faster? No problem!

Since it is getting close to the end of my lessons with Trainer Girl for a while, I'm starting to get some homework assigned. I'll start keeping track of my homework here so I can be held accountable if I don't follow through with it!
-Work on sitting absolutely straight. Suggested exercises:
1. Sitting trot, no stirrups, serpentines. Collect and bend through the corners, extend through the straight sections. 2. Alternate sitting and posting trot, focusing on keeping my body as even while posting as I have to to sit properly. Focus on this as I progress through canter.
Secret weapon : Ginger is so sensitive, she is excellent at reminding me when I am crooked.
-Keep my hands even! I have a bad habit of dropping my left hand down and forward- which twists my shoulders.
Secret weapon: Again, Ginger lets me know. She also likes to tell me when I pick the wrong diagonal. Thanks Ginger!
-Ginger, continued work on that left flexion, which is the stiffer side.
Suggestions: Circles, leg yields,spirals, shoulder in.
Secret weapon: After Lainey, this feels pretty easy on Ginger.
-Canter! It's too wild and scrambly still. This will be tough to get 100% because it's not the best canter naturally.
Suggestions: The above work at the trot to get my body more balanced and effective so I can help her out a bit more. I need to be able to sit whatever she throws at me completely level and even while asking for more forward from behind while still keeping her shoulders up and square. If I get off center, even slightly, she panics a bit. Secret weapon: Again, Ginger. If I ride correctly, she will usually go correctly.

Looks like most of the homework is for me. Right now, I'm the loser partner that Ginger has to pick up the slack for. Good thing I pay the bills ;)


Friday 14 September 2012

2 weeks

Until the big move back to the coast. I'm happy, excited, sad, and anxious all at the same time. My focus and therefore productivity are at an all time low. I do have a lot of half read books sitting around, a lot of half done projects at work, and even some half eaten dinners stashed in the freezer ;)Even Ginger just got the one ride this past week.
I am super excited to be heading back to see all my good friends, and most importantly, G. It will be good feeling to walk through the front door of our house after so long away. I am also happy to be getting a break from my work. Although I like my job and coworkers, work has been too large a part of my life for a while now and I'm feeling the burnout.
I'm looking forward  to seeing how far Ginger and I can progress this winter. Finally, I will have time, and lots of it, to spend at the barn!
I'll be sad to leave my new friends here, and especially sad to leave the barn I'm at even if it's just for a few months. It's a good place, with good people, and we all know how hard those can be to find! I'm going to miss my lessons.

Goals for the winter:
-Get Ginger out on the trails, and out to a few clinics.
-Get Ginger more time over jumps. Need to have her ready for shows and events next spring.
-Less time at the gym- more time hiking, biking, riding, etc
-Back to having my own kitchen = more cooking, eating better and spending less. I want to be a thinner, fitter version of me!
-Lots of time with Mr G :)
-Would like to travel a bit too. We'll see what the time and budget allows there.
-Find a horse trailer!

We'll see how it goes. I'm really enjoying being able to move around - it makes me appreciate the good things about each place that much more, although the long distance relationship thing the last year or so has been hard. We're coming up on 7 happy years together, though :) I'm extremely lucky and I know it.
Google earth says this is about 22 hrs of driving/sitting on a ferry:


Wednesday 12 September 2012

Lunch, Part 2

 This summer has been hot and miserably humid during the days, followed by intense storms in the evening...not ideal riding conditions and I am always grateful for the indoor arena. This past weekend the weather was absolutely perfect to be out and about. I tired my best to stay home and get important things (like our upcoming move) organized, but I kept looking out the window and finally just couldn't resist. I went out the door and got in the truck before I could change my mind, and off I went to the barn.
I arrived at the barn and realized I had left the majority of my riding gear at home.Which is about 60 miles back. Remember, I was supposed to be at home being responsible, which was to include doing all my horse related laundry and cleaning a mountain of tack. So, my tall boots, all of my breeches, along with Ginger's saddle pad, girth, and bridle were still sitting by the front door where I left them.
Luckily, Lainey's bridle can be adjusted in a pinch, and I did have my helmet. I wasn't about to ride in my new saddle in jeans, though -so bareback it had to be. I can report that riding a cob bareback is like sitting on a nice cushy couch and something I'd like to do much more of when Ginger is a little more predictable. There's really not much to report since I am not confident enough to try new things or push any boundaries bareback. We did a nice walk/trot warm up and left it at that.
So, after our short little ride, we went out to the big hayfield for an excursion in hand. Ginger was a super good girl, even at one point when a calf in a neighbouring field jumped the fence and chased us! I'm not from around here, so I wasn't sure what to make of that, especially once his momma on the other side of the fence starting getting upset. So, we got out of there as quietly as possible and  continued on until we found a nice spot for Ginger to have a quick lunch. I'd like to think these little outings where I walk her and let her eat if she's settled set up a good experience and give her a little confidence for our future trail rides. I've done it with all of my previous horses, but they were still babies :) It must look funny, me taking a full grown horse out for walks. She is a giant baby at heart, so it's OK :)
At any rate, the few walks we've done and the times we've been ponied out and about make me think we're almost ready to head out in the real world alone and survive our first trail ride.
Oh, and I got stung by a bee. And had a nasty reaction, so no Monday night lesson. Instead, a visit to the doctor. Looking like the starts will align on Saturday, though, so get ready for a Saturday lesson report!

Sunday 9 September 2012

Leasing Lainey

Today I went back out to the barn for one final meeting with the people interested in Lainey. Lainey will be used by their 12 year old daughter who is ready to move up to bigger jumps and a bit more of a challenging horse. I've been holding back on the idea of leasing her, but I'm glad I went out and watched them today. Lainey seems so happy!

Working full time, and with over an hours drive to the barn, I've not been giving Lainey as much attention as she's used to. She's been coming second to Ginger as well, since Ginger is the more needy of the two. Not good :(

Ive been holding out because I know I will have an abundance of time for her when I get to BC and I wanted to do some eventing clinics on her out there and use her as a trail guide for Ginger.

Then M came along - her horse had stepped in a hole and was lame - could she ride Lainey in her jumping lesson? They hit it off right away, Lainey loves jumping and is proving to be talented at it, and it's apparent they are well suited. I've said for a while that Lainey deserves her own little girl :) I'm embarrassed to say I got a little choked up at how proud and capable Lainey looked taking M over the jumps. This is what she's meant to be doing.

So, this winter she'll be taking her new girl to lots of schooling shows and generally getting pampered. They are interested in purchasing her, but we're going to go with a lease until spring to make sure this is right for everyone. I'm really going to miss her but I have no doubt this is the right thing for her. She's always been good to me, so it's very important to me that I do what's best for her. She's a very special horse, after all.

With Lainey otherwise occupied, it's looking more and more like I will be making my eventing debut on Ginger. The more challenging path will make the rewards that much more special...right? You only live once and all that? If nothing else it will certainly be the more interesting journey ;)

Lainey: "Oh, it's just you. Is that my new girl coming?"

Saturday 8 September 2012

Dream Big

I'm dreaming of eventing next season, while Ginger has more practical goals, like how to acquire a large amount of hay all to herself. Last winter she got to share a round bale with Lainey. Only the once, because she wasted a good half of it dragging it around to make nests as well playing in it. Cute, but the barn owner somehow wasn't charmed :)


Tuesday 4 September 2012

Riding the Range

I'm beginning to think Ginger and I smell funny - once again we were the only ones at our Monday group lesson. We worked a lot on getting her to bend around my inside leg. Lately she's been getting smart and testing whether she can brace against me and pop her outside shoulder instead. Nothing too serious though, she's a very honest girl so some minor corrections are all that are needed. In this case, lots of 15m circles insisting on her getting that hind leg under, followed by some shoulder in on the quarter line. We actually managed to keep them quite straight and correct geometry wise, but the speed could have been more consistent. I'm happy because that's all hard work for her and it's only to be expected that she might have to rush now and then to keep her balance. I then proceeded to 'waste' the remaining 15 min of my lesson discussing plans for this winter and next summer. There are a couple of eventing clinics I'd like to be ready for early next spring, and a couple of dressage schooling test days we'd like to attend next April as well. So we discussed a plan of what I should be working on this winter. Obviously if I want to event, getting her out and about, especially on the trails is our main priority. Our dressage at this point should be more than adequate, our jumping is OK - she's very careful and honest but very green, so a little jump school once a week or so won't hurt to give us both some added confidence. The big gaping hole in our training is that Ginger has to learn that going out to new places, especially alone, isn't a big deal. I'm not sure how the girl who used to only trail ride has ended up with an arena baby!

As I was approaching the pasture gate to turn Ginger back out, I got a text asking if I wanted to go out for a trail ride with the girl in the next lesson. No time like the present, right? I tacked Ginger back up and back out we went. She was a little upset, because that is obviously NOT the normal routine, so she was calling a lot and being pretty spooky. I think we would have been fine once she settled in, but it wasn't safe behaviour when we were riding with a beginner rider in a very large open field. We quickly decided to pony Ginger off the quietest horse so I had an emergency back up rope attached! Ginger was a bit anxious about the horse ponying her but actually behaved quite well. No spooking on a 45 minute ride is probably some sort of record! She was quite forward and wanted to lead, but listening when I asked her to slow down, Beginner rider was going quite slow, with the odd unplanned stop to eat grass - excellent for Ginger's patience. Trainer girl was good about letting Ginger have a fairly long length of rope, so it was just me riding beside with an emergency stop available just in case :)

As an added bonus, it turns out Trainer Girl and her family also own the quarter section across the road. Since the hay has been cut, there's about 120 acres of hilly fields with small treed sections to ride in, with the remainder in cattle pasture to ride in if you're into that sort of thing. Ginger is fine with cows, so I imagine I'll leave them be and get out in the hay fields as much as possible before the end of summer. Can I mention once again how lucky I am to have found trainer girl? She's pretty excited about my plans to event Ginger and has offered to share expenses with me for clinics and schooling outings, since she always has a horse or two in training that would benefit from it. She's also got a mini cross country course ready for next spring!

"What about Lainey?", you ask. She's been leased by some very nice people at the barn who plan to show her in hunter/jumper shows this winter. They'd like to buy, but at this point I think a lease is best for all involved - not sure I'm ready to part with her quite yet! In the spring, we'll discuss whether they are going to buy or go back to a half lease so I can use Lainey for the odd show or clinic. It's a good solution for all, and I'm happy that Lainey will continue regular lessons with Trainer Girl this winter.

Giant field to ride in:


Saturday 1 September 2012

In Which Ginger and I Do Lunch

This summer, I'm enjoying the fact that the Olympics and now Burghley are in a completely different time zone and available to view live online. I can get up early, watch everything live, get a good dose of inspiration, then head out the door to see my horses. My idea of a pretty good day! Fingers crossed for Sinead Halpin tomorrow...

The horses today both seemed pretty chilled out since last week. Lainey was positively cheerful, which as of late is a story in itself. The weather was once again a reasonable temperature and the mosquitos seemed to be out looking for a meal elsewhere. Perfect day to be outdoors with my horses.

Since it is T minus 28 days till we go back to coastal life, I figured it's high time Ginger got ready for life outside the ring. I've had excellent intentions, teaching her to pony off Lainey, riding her to the outdoor arena, and even packing my western saddle out to the barn. Sadly, either I have a lesson to get to, or it's dark out, or the weather is awful, or Lainey is being used for a lesson by one of the kids. Today, I had no reason not to go, and briefly contemplated just riding Ginger up the road to the neighbors place. I just as quickly decided that was a dumb idea when it was her first time out on the "trails" and I was at the barn alone. Leading her seemed the smarter option, as well as saving me a gym visit. Should I mention that this is rural Alberta and a walk to the neighbors and back is about 5 km? Yes, it's true. I figured if Ginger was good I could walk and jog and get my workout. I think I'm on to something for this winter because theoretically, when I hit the wall, she can carry me home. Potential there for her to be the best workout buddy ever!

Anyway, today she was a total star, happily walking and jogging with me and seeming to enjoy the outing. Not worried in the least about leaving her friends behind, the stray cow in the middle of the road, and most impressively, the tractor towing a baler that passed us. And, happy for me, the gravel roads didn't seem to make her bare feet ouchy at all. Her only concern was how to be polite, yet still gain access to the tasty buffet lining the sides of the road. I've got to admit, I was expecting a truckload or two of drama that didn't appear. As a reward, we stopped halfway and Ginger enjoyed some fresh alfalfa, while I ate a not so fresh granola bar I found in my pocket. A wonderful lunch with excellent company ;)

It's the long weekend, so I hope to get some proper rides in tomorrow, then of course I have a lesson Monday night.