Thursday, October 30, 2008

I'm in Philadelphia, Musings on my HomeTown

"Half way Home". It's going to be a stressful trip, I can already feel it. Please pray for peace... for me, and immediate family. Dad just said to me, "I really admire your strength for choosing to come home knowing what you're walking into. You're a good kid." Here's hoping that's still the case in a few days.

Plans are to stay in town and depart Tuesday. The kids are all boarded and/or cared for at home. I'm going to miss my boys terribly.

Here's that loping video of me & Romeo. Yee Haw Buck-A-Roo!

He's in the "wrong lead", but we had a blast!!! There's a bit near the end with a little trot work, and a little rollback or two. I did the trot because this was the second video clip, and I wanted to make sure he doesn't get in a habit of "walk, trot, canter" in that order and always quit after canter. I need to focus on going back to trot-work and play with some collection work after the canter. Cantering those circles loosens up his brain, and his body. He gets really focused after the canter, and always trots & backs up sweeeeet.

As I titled this, I'm in PHL airport, and I strongly dislike this airport. It's not well mapped, not well labelled, and, unless you know exactly where you're going, it's quite hard to navigate. The people are friendly, enough. That's what's great about Texas... everyone is friendly. I can smile & say "hi" to anybody in TX, and they smile & say "hi" back. No questions, no curious glares, no untrusting responses. It's a great place to live.

In this family mess, I have realized how great I do have it in Texas. Good job, great hobby (ability to afford a hobby that ain't cheap like knitting or sudoku puzzles), great friends like Cowboy Les, and generally, I feel safe everywhere I go. I can't remember a time in TX I got the "scared heebeejeebie" feeling that somebody was following me. Oh, well, there was that one time .... ah, well... the police were at least polite when they came to answer my call. I generally feel that I have more than one or two people I can "call on" if I need something. It's far from PA, and a bit warmer than I wanted to live, but I really do like it there, and plan to stay as long as there's work.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mourning A Loss

Please remember my family in the coming days as we mourn the loss of my grandfather. He just turned 93, and had been ill for many months. He is survived by my mom, aunt, uncle, and a number of grandchildren.

Our hope rests in knowing he is no longer suffering, and is at peace with The Father.

I'm working on a plan to get home to visit family for a few days for this, and other family issues that need some attention. Thoughts and prayers for safe travel will be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Weather 10/28 in South Texas

Farmer's Almanac & Fuzzy Horses might tell the truth this year. It's 36F at the airport, according to the weather gadget on the right column of the blog. It was 37F according to my truck-o-meter when I pulled out of the driveway.

First night last night for light turnout sheets. I always laugh at Chewie's reaction when I pull it off in the mornings before leaving for work (appx. 5:30am). He always turns his head back to look at me, with a face that says, "Are you Nuts?! It's still c-c-c-c-cold out here, Momma! Please put it back on!"

Poor boys.. Get that winter fuzzing complete. It's gonna be cool again tonight. Winter's on the way, kids, so get your fuzzy jackets out!

10/27/08 Chewie & RIP Squirrel

Squirrel story comin' up. =)

Tacked up Chewie, had a beautiful warmup. It was cooling down outside, so I expected minor blow-ups. I got a little one, but nothing severe. I jumped on & rode a while, lots of trot transitions. A little canter left to get his joints loose (and to make sure he realizes I'm going to consistently keep asking for the canter).

Mike my hunter co-worker showed up, suited up in his leafy camo, and set up a "ground blind" in the pasture. No deer killed last night - they see me and don't even hesitate or run off. My plain clothes give them comfort, I guess. That camo scares the beejeezers out of them, because Mike shows up in camo, and they split for the hills.

Getting the boys supper, Mike was still setting up shop. I went to refill Chewie's water bucket, when I found a yuckie discovery. "Mike, come here... Get that thing out of his water bucket, please!" There was a squirrel, dead, in his water bucket. Mike removed the squirrel, and the water, and I hosed it out & refilled.

RIP Little Furry Squirrel

Monday, October 27, 2008

Saddle for Sale

16" SemiQH Bars, Wintec Western, Brown,

A few years old
Moderate use, but in great condition
Available for $200 plus buyer pays shipping

Up for sale because #1 I bought a new barrel saddle,
and #2 it's too big for my little tooshie

I'm Not Alone, Afterall

I've been reading a lot of other blogs, and their bad luck and big falls.

The Eventing Percheron tops the list with her latest show videos. It's not for the weak, so don't look if you don't like to watch people fall. Glad to hear she is okay, and also glad to hear Brego fared well, and jumped again.

Of Horses & Men wrote vaguely about a big fall, with broken bones. Yuck! Whatta fall.. It's hard to tell from the blog entry what really happened, but I'm glad to hear her horse is okay, and she isn't hurt worse.

Training the VLC (FHoTD) wrote about all the things that adults think about that children riders take for granted, and commented that not only are kids unbreakable and flexible beyond reason, they have remarkable balance, and this innate sense of "how to stay on" when the horse has other plans.

FSSunnySD wrote a book review written all about a lady falling off her horse & working through the courage to get back on.

These have all given me confidence. Wow, that reads really rude & insensitive. That's not what I mean at all. What I mean is, reading about other adult riders going "splat" is giving me hope in two ways. One, it says "It's okay to go splat! Everybody's doing it." Secondly, it says, "I'm not the only rider on the planet to have my mind shook out of it's socket for falling. A lot of other people fall off their horses, in hunter saddles, on the flat, over fences, trying to be brave, trying new things. They get back up, dust off their hunt coat, dust off the horse, check for wounds, and get back on.

I'm glad to be sticking in the saddle. Admittedly, I wish it were my hunter or dressage saddle, and I wasn't "hiding" in that deep-seated barrel saddle, but for now that'll do. I'd love to be in the show ring in a flat class, or cantering over little fences. Right now though, I want to learn how to canter my horses with confidence. We'll work on the fences later.

10/26/08 More Steers

Caught Chewie early before church. Light lunge, hard work. Lots of work at trot. Sitting trot, posting trot, little jog, and extended trot. Multiple transitions, lots of hard-whoa, and a few turns on fore & haunches. A little sidepass, long & low trot to cool down. Total work about 40 minutes. He did good... having Saturday off because of poor planning on my part.

Rode Romeo at the house mid-afternoon. Walk, trot, canter, and a little extended canter. Worked on leads, canter left and canter right. My seat was a little better to the right, still work to do. Hosed him down after his hard work, and scrambled off to obedience graduation.

Class graduation was easy & quick. MacKenzie did great.. She finally stood on command, and while it was probably a fluke, and she doesn't like doing it at home, I can hope it'll be good enough for the vet or an emergency when I need her to do it on command. I'll try to post the picture if I can.

Ran home, unloaded doggie, fed Chewie, and loaded Romeo. Headed out to the roping arena again. This time, we had an audience. I worked the roping chute a while (earning my stripes with the cowboys), and grabbed Romeo to bring the steers back to the top. I didn't give him a lot of time to think about reining or trotting, I just kissed him up into a lope. One of the times I whizzed by Les, he said, "Are you coming or what?!" I heard Mr D in the background holler, "Cain't you see she's loping her horse around! Give the cowgirl a minute to warm her horse up! She's loping him! Check that out!" *giggle*

Les said to me after a bit, "I want you to track a steer out of the chute down the arena. If I didn't think you were ready, I wouldn't let you do this. Try to stay behind him, and keep up. No matter how fast he does, you keep after him. Ride aggressive." The steer came out of the chute, and Romeo and I didn't react quite fast enough. He was about 20 feet in front of me, and it felt like we were flying down the arena. I could hear Mr D in the background, "Chase him faster! Get after that steer! Go go Go!" *laugh* Got to the end of the arena, and I forgot to grab Romeo's neck for the halt... just pulled back on the reins and it wasn't real successful.

In Les's saddle (two sizes too big, saddle horn wrapped so large it's hard to hold onto), I jumped on Amigo, and loped him around for a warm up lap. Les says, "Next steer is a score-cow, and it's yours." The steer came out of the chute, and Amigo the roping horse, knows his job. In fear, I held him up a little bit, and he answered with an easy lope down the arena. It felt different. On Romeo, I feel like I'm doing all of the thinking. On Amigo, I'm holding on and letting him do the work. He was purpose-driven, much different than Romeo.

Loped Amigo around some more, only barely holding on to the saddle horn. The saddle is too big, the stirrups don't adjust short enough for me, so they were flapping in the breeze. The cowboys kept chasing steers during my loping warmup, so I was able to lope around gently enough to keep an eye on what they were doing, and Amigo thinking about me and not steer-chasing. Felt pretty good... It was neat to think that, a few months ago, any canter Amigo gave me felt big, fast, and scary. Last night, it felt slow, and effortless. I was kicking him with a lot of effort to keep him in it. I felt like a little kid on a big slow horse in a big saddle... and with the balance of a little kid. It was strange.

Tracked on Romeo a handful more times, and each time, it seemed to get better. One time, he was flying trying to catch that steer. I let my mind focus only on the steer, and a loose rein. I kicked Romeo into his gallop, and forced him to catch up. Got to the end of the arena, and I grabbed his neck to make him WHOA. He stopped much better with each chase. The last steer he refused to listen & stop, and I put him in a very hard back up to where I'd asked for the halt I didn't get. He did overall work hard and try hard. Most important, I had a blast.

Good thing I had fun, too.. Because I got to bed late, and I'm struggling this morning. Hosting a Global team meeting in 5 minutes... *yawn*, and I'm exhausted.. It'sa gonna bea long day. =)

Everyone have a duckie day. Itsa gonna get cold tonight. Bring out the pony-blankets, first of the season. Hot tea (& splenda) for everybody...

10/25/08 Tracking Steers

Well, sort of.

Took Romeo to the rodeo arena with Cowboy Les. It would just be us that day, as they weren't team roping or practicing. This was a good thing, I would later find out, as Romeo would teach me.

Les's wife MG came briefly to videotape some canter for me. I've watched both videos, and they're pretty good. I've got work to do, for sure, but I was satisfied to see my back upright & straight, and my heels underneath my hips, and not sprawled out in front of me. Video will be posted in the next few days if all goes according to plans.

MG left, video camera doo-diddies put away (including my hat that was trying to blow off my head), and Les & I penned up about 4 steers.

We went to tracking. The point in the game was to stay at the steer's hip, pushing, and head as fast as the steer, whether walk, trot, canter, or all-out gallop. The first steer was slow, and not playing the game. Romeo was biting his rear end, and we were right on top if him, but he wouldn't push out.

Second steer had the game in mind. Took off down the arena... and I said to Romeo, "Let's go get her!!" Well, he took off... but when the steer cut to the inside, Romeo didn't. He kept on running right down the arena. Steer ran to the out-gate, Les chased it back up the long side, and we took off after it again, still not fast enough. Back at the out-gate, I said to Les, "Okay, it's your turn.. I'm exhausted, and he's not getting it." Les & his friend's horse in-training Blue, took off, full speed ahead. Blue tracked a LOT better than Romeo, obviously showing his training experience.

Romeo was exhausted, and so was I. We had a blast, but if we're going to get into cow-sport, he's going to have to learn to do some of the thinking for the both of us... because I can't balance, and steer, and chase the steers running amuck...

10/24/08 Both Boys

After Thursday with Chewie, and not wanting every day I'm on him to be a fear-overcoming issue, I put on his surcingle, side reins, and took him to the round pen, helmet affixed.

Side rein lunge for 35 minutes. Lots of transitions, and lots and lots of trot work. He fought the rein pressure quite a bit. When it was clear I had his attention and his focus... I took off the surcingle.

Clipped the helmet under my chin, and jumped on bareback. Lots of walk to halt transitions on breath alone. A few back-ups when I felt like he was daydreaming and not listening to my little aids. Ended the "work" moseying around the round pen, and I focused on feeling his back & shoulder muscles push me around.

Knowing Romeo had a few days off, I grabbed him, and prepared for a little rodeo gallop. Walk, trot, figure 8 reining warmups, and a few rollbacks at walk & trot. We picked up canter, and he was on the right-lead, headed left. He does that when he's not warmed up, I'm learning. We cantered and cantered and cantered and cantered. His head started to drop, and he started to slow down. I let him stop & walk a while, catch his breath, then right back at canter. Three good solid canter sets, and he was paying attention. I did a few more rollbacks, laughed at Chewie watching us intently across the fenceline, and cooldown was a walk down the dirt road. Total work about 45 minutes.

10/23/08 Chewie

I decided this was the day ... There would be no more avoiding it. If I was letting Romeo gallop me around his pasture, I could surely hang onto the saddle, and let Chewie canter me free in the round pen. He's been stopping on a breath and "whoa", and if I say "Shh", he breaks to trot. Shoot, I can exhale and say "easy boy" and he'll break to trot. He hasn't been bad since Mr Don started healing his right front hoof, and I need to learn to trust the big moose.

Lunge warmup free, lunge warmup in side reins, and I jumped on. I asked for walk, trot, canter, all to the left, then went to the right. Walk, trot, (exhale), (deep breath), (saddle horn grip), (switched reins & horn-hand for balance sake), kiss-kiss, squeeze. He broke into the canter, right-lead. He had his head down, and I didn't really appreciate how low he had it, so I tugged on the reins a little bit, and nudged him with my inside leg. He picked his head up, and it seemed like he fought me a little bit, all still in canter. We worked around the pen once, and he broke to trot. I wasn't "done" in my mind with canter-right, so I growled at him a little bit (grr.. quit that), and went right back into canter with a kiss & squeeze. About half the round pen, and I said, "shhhhh", and he broke to trot. I wanted the gait break to be my idea and not his, so he wouldn't get into a habit.

Finished up the right with trots long & low, and even a little WP jog. He was sweaty and tired when we were done, a little over an hour. An accomplishment to say the least...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Fill Ins

1. Right now, I'm feeling HAH! A little hungry, I ought to take a potty-break soon, but a bit chilly and invigorated.

2. Riding Chewie in the round pen canter-right, and working on my canter seat with Romeo is where I want to be.

3. How does one Butt-Tie a horse? I saw this phrase somewhere, and it puzzles me.

4. That stupid little "Ding" reminder-thing in Microsoft Outlook keeps me on track.

5. Please don't send me to a heaven where there aren't any horses.

6. Warm cats sleeping on the bed at night fills me with joy.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to riding horses, tomorrow my plans include riding horses, haircut, oil change in the truck, and Sunday, I want to graduate MacKenzie in Intermediate Obedience!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

10/21/08 Romeo

Walk, Trot, Canter, Rollbacks, and a few really sturdy WHOAs. Worked on lead departures, cantered left & right. On one long side of his pasture, I asked for a faster canter... just before the end of the fenceline, I looked left, turned him left, and asked with a little rein for him to slow down. It was pretty neat... he listened beautifully, all with the wind pushing in our faces. He stumbled once in canter (gopher hole), pulled himself back up & kept right on going. Canter sessions this ride were more in number, and longer. He was a pretty sweaty mess at the end, so I took him on a long walk-out down the road, and finished up in the front yard with a few more rollbacks.

Couple of days off scheduled for the little man... He's done good, and he's settled back in at home. When I walk into his pasture, he willingly walks up to me, and drops his head for the halter. When I turn him loose, he doesn't run off crazy, just kind of wanders away gently. I like that. I don't want a horse unhappy to see me, or anxious to get me out of his space.

I've decided to try again & find a place for lessons. I'm not focusing on anything except flat work, and trying really hard to get my canter balance under control. I'm able to ask for the transition up, and sticking in the saddle is getting better. It's going to take somebody on the ground talking to me, "heels down, sit back" to keep it all under control.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Romeo's Day - 10/20/08

Chewie, having worked hard four days straight, got Monday off. I grabbed Romeo quickly after work, saddled him up, and noticed the muscle development across his shoulders & hips. Looking good, little man! Looking good!

Worked for about 45 minutes on all the regular stuff. I won't say I made any fantastic progress. My seat was a bit better, and I let him head straight for longer spurts. We rode in his pasture, so, while the footing isn't as good as my arena, the lines are straighter, and the space more open. I did notice the starts of his turns aren't real balanced - might explain the arena problems I had over the weekend. Worked on a few solid backups and rollbacks. There was a deer trying to get from Chewie's pasture to me & Romeo, and when we spotted each other, it sort of wandered off to the side, grazing & waiting patiently for that human & her horse to get outta the way. It was cute... Cooled him down with a walk down the road.

Looking forward to tonight... I don't know who I'll ride.. I suspect Romeo. Should have company, and I might have him help set up standards and a crossrail - attempt a canter to a fence & over, then back to relax. Not 100% sure... the arena is tight for him, and I don't want him thinking he's got to balance a really tight turn after the fence.

Monday, October 20, 2008

10-17-08 weekend update

Thursday evening
Chewie, round pen. I asked for canter left, he went one circle, and tried to break gait to trot. I pushed him back into it... Got a little bucking fit, head tossing. I sat deep, and laughed at him, and figured he was just annoyed. Not a big deal. Sat deep enough to feel the back of the saddle holding me in.

Friday Friday
Romeo had three days off, and I got to feel what a WHEEE ride was like. He was a bullet at the canter. Galloping about, on the wrong lead. I tried fixing it, head to the outside, outside rein outside leg. He popped up in the air about two feet, landed on the correct left lead. Cantered around a while, and when I checked it again a bit later, it was wrong again. We worked for about 35 minutes, walk, trot, canter, both directions.
When I caught Chewie, I intended on a warm up in the round pen and a quick walk around the property, a few trot circles tossed in. He walked really great for quite a while. He spooked at a deer, which doesn't bother me. Used to, but it doesn't anymore. Spooking at the deer wasn't the issue - it was the bucking carp when I tried to pull his head around to one-rein stop. He hopped a couple times. I grabbed the saddle horn in one hand, reins & mane in the other. Pushed myself back down into the saddle, until he stopped. When he did, I thumped him on the neck with some force. "That didn't work, you little twit. Now, since you've got that much energy, you're going to work, and you're going to work hard. Time to use your brain instead of spooking." Right where he spooked, we worked on trot circles. He kept tripping, unhappy with the uneven footing of the pasture. I kept pushing him forward. If I had relaxed my heart rate to normal, I might've cantered him, but decided against it. I wasn't upset that he spooked,, I was completely ticked at the little "get offa me fit" he threw after the spook. Uncalled for, and won't be tolerated. Total work nearly 45 minutes. It was supposed to be a quite ride.

Saturday Saturday
I cleared the arena in the morning. Completely, totally. Fence line even cleared out. I got all of the weeds pulled, the arena flat mowed near to the ground. Complete satisfaction.
I decided Chewie had enough energy to fight with me, he was going to learn what real work used to be like. I took him to the round pen, let him free run a little bit, then tied on side reins, and put him to work. Walk, trot, canter, and I didn't let him stop until his head showed some relaxation, and he quit fighting the side reins. Watched him relax & loosen up, and I crawled on. I intended just to do long & low trot stretches. He didn't want to mind me, so I put him back at work. Hard work. Extended trot, coming & going at trot and at walk. A little canter left near the start of the ride, when I initially needed his mind off of being mad and on concentrating. He seemed to focus more after the little canter. Ended with long & low trot, turns on forehand & haunches. Worked him for an hour, and he needed it.
Les called, and invited Romeo and I on a ride near his place. Hooked up the trailer, and hauled him to Les' house. Saddled him there, warmed him up at Les' house. He had a nice big pasture to work at. Good footing in the grass. Neighbor's dogs were barking, and he wasn't impressed. One time, he seemed to almost shy at them. I told him as we cantered from them, "Buddy, next time you're not going to do that." I talked to him the entire next circle, and he did better. Les & I strolled out across the pastures, along the roadside a bit. A noisy diesel truck roared past us, and Romeo handled it great. Les' mare, Sugar, spooked at a few things, got bored & played with her bit, and Romeo wasn't bothered at all.

Sunday Sunday Sunday
Caught Chewie, and back to the round pen. I took Romeo's martingale with us, and it ended up being useful. More warm up in the side reins. He was really stiff to the left. When I got on to ride, I noticed the same. Did a little canter with me to try & loosen him, no success. He would trot "long & low", but when I'd gather any rein, he'd hollow out & pop his head up. To the right was beautiful - he was even bent in the circle, putting weight on the front right foot.
Romeo was, um, fun. Fast & fun. Put him in the arena, and discovered that I will have to keep him under control on the short sides. It's a bit narrow (which makes me wonder how am I going to get Chewie to stay under control. I did a canter circle in there once or twice on Chewie, with good results... Maybe Romeo's just not balanced enough for it yet.), and Romeo insisted on shortening the short side, cutting the initial corner. I left him go one time, and felt one of his feet slip a bit on the sand. Whoops! The next time in the same spot, he didn't try to cut the corner. Worked on canter left, canter right (same balance issues. He just felt fast...), and introduced roll backs at the walk. He started to anticipate, backing up a few steps straight, then starting to move his tush to the side. So I did a handful of straight backups, and stopped, then walked on forward rather than rollback. Total work about an hour. Need to do more canter work tonight... Maybe in the arena, maybe in his pasture.. But we need more canter work. Get the fast canters out, and get him into a slower lope I can work with...

Busy weekend, productive weekend. Much of it to myself, with the horses, uninterrupted & unbothered. Need those every so often ...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Something to be Thankful for?

Saw this on the discussion board I frequent...

In light of Thanksgiving next month see if you can find one thing to post gratitude for each day.
I'm on board. I'll put up a quick note with each blog entry of something to be Thankful for.

Today, I'm thankful for rain. My gauge isn't back up yet after Ike, but by measuring the puddles & depth, it's looking to be around 2" so far.

Something. Ate. My. Rose. Blooms.

And I'm not happy about it. I spent all summer nursing this beautiful hybrid rose. It's called "Strike It Rich", or something like that. "Strike it Gold" maybe? Can't remember. The tag's still on it. It was hot & dry all summer, and I watered, fertilized, nursed, talked to it, the works.

It finally had four moderate blossom buds on it. They were going to be nice stemmed blooms, too. Ones I could trim as they were opening, stick them in a vase, and put on my desk, to start "Jennifer has flowers on her desk" chatter.

And something ate them.
Ate them!
Some little vermit took the initiative to crawl under my house, wander up to my rose blooms, and knaw off the blossoms.

Will. Have. to.

Little Vermin! Anybuddy know how to prevent reoccurence, short of closing all the ins & outs under the house? I've still got that stray Momma cat coming in the back yard every few days, and it's a safe place to let her eat, so I don't really want to close in all the spaces. Might have to, and hope she learns how to jump over the fence to get in for food.

Northern Front Blowing in

This is the best time of the year here in South Texas. It'll be a little muggy, a bit warm (70ishF), and the winds will be still. Then, all of a sudden, the winds change from South East to comin' out of the north, with a howl.

There's a northern front blowing down this morning here at work. It's a blustery wind, and my weather-fave, Intellicast, says it's 66F outside. 11mph winds, from the north, gusting at 17mph. It isn't cold or blustery, by all Yankee & up-north measurements, but here, it's awesome. Overcast, cloudy, with a forecast of 50% chance of precip at home. The rain will still do us good. Round pen was damp but not puddly last night. That means we can handle a bit more.

Pulled doveweed off the arena fenceline last night. Didn't wear gloves. Now I have blisters on the insides of four fingers. Dangit.. Sometimes I'm just not as bright as the average Jane.. Oh well.

Saw FSSunnySD put up a few Worst Rides Ever. Good reads - Check it out!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


What is it about horses that first got you hooked? Is it the same thing that has you hooked still today, or is there something different now?

I had a hard time fitting in when I lived in South Carolina. We had a "safety day" at work. A few of the ladies asked me at the event "What are your plans for the weekend?"I said, "I don't have any. I'm tired of being at home, but I'm not really the "bar-meeting" kind of girl."
They asked me what sort of activities I liked. I explained I like to be outside & active.
One of them responded, "Do you like horses? D in R&D has them, and I bet he'd let you ride."
So, I went to D, explained I was sick of sitting at home alone, and someone else told me he had horses.
He said, "Oh yeah! Absolutely! My wife & daughter ride all the time. Give me your phone number." He wrote up this big map with directions to their boarding barn. I figured it was a big joke, and he wouldn't ever call.
The next morning, this lady calls me. Says her name is T, she's D's wife, and she heard I'd like to ride a horse. I said, "Yeah, I would love to!" She said, "Well, then use your map, and we'll see you at the barn in about an hour!"
I pulled in, they were standing by a picnic table. T says, "Is that you, Jennifer? Hi! This is our daughter, L. C'mon, we'll go get the boys."
T & L introduced me to catching a horse in the pasture, grooming, and saddling. We walked into the arena. T & L both rode their horses, Sparky & Moon. Sparky is a Tennesee Walking Horse, Moonie was a Paint. T & L showed me their trots, explained how they are different.
Then T walks Sparky up to me, hops off, and says, "Okay, it's your turn! C'mon & ride."I rode Sparky for about 20 minutes.
When I hopped off, we unsaddled, groomed again, gave them cookies, and sent them out to pasture. T says to me, "Hey, S, the lady that owns the barn, gives lessons. Why don't you ask her if you can take some, and you'll get to ride every week, and get better. You can ride Sparky anytime you'd like, as long as we're here."

What hooked me, was how friendly "the barn" was. Those people were always kind, always generous, and always willing to offer me a ride. I didn't have to go buy a horse of my own, or tack, for that matter. I had a bag of cookies in my car, and I was always welcome.
Now, it's not so much the friendly as it is the calming nature of a ride. Even a bad ride (when I fall on my rear end bad), I still feel like I can physically "get away" from all the stress of work & life.

Pasture's Mowed & Watered

In that order, which is even better. A neighbor that I work with had commented a few months ago he would try to drive his tractor over to my place & shred for me. I didn't hold my breath, as I wasn't sure it would really happen. Then, last week, I saw him at a work event, and he said the same thing. Said it might happen this week due to vacation & nothing else scheduled to do. The weather men have been predicting rain this week, and it looked on radar to have sprinkled on the place, so I figured it wasn't going to happen again.

On the way home, I looked in his yard, and saw the tractor missing. Could it be? Was he really there? I drove down my road, approaching the house, the front pasture looked a bit different. Pulled in the drive, shut off the truck, and got out. I could hear it! It was really true! He was out there, tractor running, carefully shredding each square foot of the pasture. He was in Romeo's pasture. I looked around Chewie's lot, and he was standing, bell boots off (but nearby). I put the bell boots back on him, and realized his whole pasture was already mowed. :) Nifty neat!

Talked to the neighbor, who explained that Chewie, or "Twinkle Toes", as he called him, played with the tractor, galloped around the pasture like a nitwit, and was very curious what the tractor was all about. One time, it was overheating from some weeds, and Chewie was still trying to sniff the muffler. Romeo, however, ran from it, kicking & bucking. It took him the better part of the whole day, but he mowed the entire pasture, even in the arena. All that's left for me to do is pull the weeds on the arena fence line. (Note to self - need to spray weed killer on the arena fenceline early next year, so this doesn't happen again.)

As he finished up, I gave him a bottle of water, and asked, "What's the charges for this fine service?" His response tickles me... "Home Baked cookies." I asked, "Any particular kind?" He answered, "Surprise me. I don't care. Anything will do." That's cheap & easy! Much better than the near-$100 bill I've paid the contractor that came one time, and the neighbor that came the other time & charged even more.

Around 3:00am this morning, I woke to heavy rain pounding the roof. I got up, and could hear it absolutely pouring. This morning, walking out to feed the boys, I sploshed through a few small puddles, and saw even more water laying. A blessing, indeed.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Worst Ride Ever? Incident #3

Thank goodness this is the last "bad big one".

With my confidence back up, and having met Sam, Chewie had been under her training & care for a month. I climbed on the day he was to come home, walk, trot, canter. I felt free as a little birdy atop a train locomotive. He was a controllable force, and though a little hesitant, I felt like the "air brakes" were just what my confidence needed.

Sam and I chose a show I'd been to before, but this time, I was going in all the hunter eq flat classes. There were three total. Flat equitation, equitation on the rail, and equitation pattern showmanship. I figured we'd do ok in eq, pattern would blow on a flying lead change we didn't know, and rail would require turns on fore & haunches I didn't know how to ask for. It was worth it anyways.

The warmup arena was a mud hole. Plain as that.. Again, hindsight, 20/20, I shouldn't have been doing what we were doing. But Sam and I decided, if I stayed on the rail, I could do it. Walk, trot, canter, and a few extra transitions for good measure. All movements to the left were stellar. We reversed, to the right, and I can still hear her shouting towards me, "Heels down, Jennifer! You're leaning forward again! Heels down!!!"

One of the crew members had opened the gate at the end of the longside of the arena. Chewie didn't see it, and neither did I. Until it was too late. I was leaning forward, toes pointed down, no sense of inner balance. I leaned into the turn away from the gate more than Chewie did, as I slid right off his right shoulder. Splat!

We hobbled off to the trailer, Sam and I fuming hot mad that the idjit couldn't have told us he needed in the warmup pen. See, he wanted to take the tractor in there to drag it, again, to try & even out the muddy center. I do wish he would have just said something first. If Chewie had the rail, if the gate were closed, maybe I could've corrected my balance in enough time to avoid the fall. But anyways, my right shoulder was on fire. We scratched all the canter classes, and signed me up for walk/trot. It was a decent showing. I don't even remember how I placed, but I was satisfied to be back on my horse, competing.

Found out nearly three weeks later, I broke my shoulder in that fall. Funny, the next week, Sam and I took Chewie to a higher-class hunter show. We entered in one class, walk/trot/canter eq on the flat. Me & my broke shoulder took third of eleven. I remember that day. I couldn't lift my right arm above about 50degrees. But I was more confident that show day. Even in the warmup the day before I felt better about my rides. We weren't a team yet, but Chewie was letting me screw-up a little more, and it felt like he was compensating for my bad balance.

So those are my "Big Three" Splats of my short riding life. Those little loping sessions, whether in the round pen, or out in the pasture, they're huge. Cantering Romeo with all the cowboys watching, that's gigantic. Even bigger will be cantering Chewie for that audience.

My dream? To take Chewie into a Training Level test, warm up clean, and score high 50s. That's a 2009 goal. I don't know how we'll get there, but I'm sure as horse-snot going to try my butt off...

What's your obstacle? Got a "Worst Ride Ever" story?

Worst Ride Ever? Incident #2

It was fall of 2007. I had finally gotten enough courage to canter Chewie in a few lessons, and I was absolutely 100% convinced I could do it in a show.

I warmed him up on a Friday, at the show grounds, without incident or injury. His leads were right, and although he was faster at the show than at home, I chalked it up to nerves, and realized it'd be just as quick on show-Saturday. The old instructor was even nearby, commenting that "if I'd just relax, Chewie would slow down." I was satisfied I could at least canter, no matter if it was perfect posture.

Saturday came, and he warmed up good, again. Well, that was until the warm-up arena was taken over by a working cow show. The pleasure show staff apologized, but that made no matter. All I could see were the 50+ horses, with varying rider & horse ability scrambling around the show pen during the warmup time. Every which direction, near-collisions all around. Again, I was satisfied that, if I could relax enough, we could warmup a little trot, and a tiny canter, and call it "good".

I went in the show pen. Chewie's mind wasn't on me, so I tried getting it there, plenty of walk, transitions to trot, changes of direction, anything I could think of. All while I was trying to navigate the arena. I saw a few faces I knew, and staying near them was impossible - they were riding western pleasure jogs... and Chewie sure as snot wasn't jogging.

I decided his attention was as good as it was going to get. I asked him for walk, and then asked for canter. He took off, lightening flash around the arena. I almost slammed into two horses. Just as I was thinking, "That's enough of this crap.. I'm getting out of here", I asked him to slow to trot. Another horse nearly ran right into us. Chewie decided he'd had enough.

He reared, and I came off. Splat, again, right in the show pen middle. Chewie took off into a corner, eyes wide & terrified. I had to wait on three other riders to clear the path between he and I just to get to him. I hand-walked him out of the arena, terrified.

One WP friend held a lunge line while I cantered him a little while later. I was absolutely convinced I could do it. So, with a little convincing, and a lot of begging, I got permission to scratch all but one canter class, and exhibition a walk-trot class. The walk/trot was me, and one other rider. The crew must've explained my situation to the judge, because he let us trot both ways quite a while. We were asked to walk our horses, he walked right up to me, and said, "Do you feel better?" I responded, "Yes sir, thank you." I went out of the arena, thanked the crew, and put my show jacket back on to ride my walk/trot/canter novice rider class.

I have video of the class. He did great, considering how terrified I was. I remember bouncing about on his back during canter-right, and that old trainer saying, "Just relax". o O ( Bite me, I was thinking.. I'm up here, and he hasn't killed me, so shut your pie hole) O o

We took dead-last in the class, and I was okay with that. I cantered him, left lead, right lead, one bad lead picked up, but corrected. His head was in the clouds, I was scared to death, but dangit, I did it. I was sore as death for nearly two weeks after that incident. Les the Cowboy did all kinds of massage-magic on my sore hips after that fall... To this day, he checks my one right hip muscle, and it tickles like the bandits when he does. Tickles are better than the firey pain I felt those few weeks.

Worst Ride Ever?

A little confession is good for the soul. What was your worst ever ride? Did you ever have a day when you wanted to get off the horse, toss them out of the pasture to free-range roam (to a neighbor's, you hoped), and sell all the junk the pony came with?

Before all you readers flip your lids, no, that hasn't happened, not recently at least. I thought a little confession would be good. I realize I've left out some of my horror stories of rides. Reading how I've gone splat & had the beejeebies scared outta me might explain why a little canter in a fenced field still makes my heart race.

It was late summer, oh, hmm.. 2005, I think. I had been riding for about three years. It'd been lesson horses for the first two years, steady lesson horses at that. Chewie and I were just getting used to cantering together. I was boarding him at a co-worker's house. I was riding him, and realized later the ground was a bit too slippery, but I was riding anyways.

No matter how much canter we did, he refused to stop throwing his head, and refused to pick up his left lead. Knowing I was probably at fault, and needed a solid lesson to fix my cues, I tried turning him in the right direction that the right lead would be the right answer, and we could call it a night.

Then, all of a sudden, Chewie's rear went in the air, followed by his front end, and finally, the rear again. I wasn't able to stay on, because when his rear end kept going in the air, I kept pulling up on the bit. Splat. I don't even remember how it happened, but I was on the ground, and he was at the other end of the pasture.

Next day, I got sick off the pain pills while my then-instructor lunged Chewie. Lunging in the bit, he was bucking, rearing, and being impossible to lunge. Lunging in the halter, he was a saint. Still a bit strung out, but not nearly as bad as in the bit. Cause? Chewie had never had real dental work done. A good float, and he was as good as new.

Such cannot be said for my confidence. I wasn't physically injured, but mentally, this was the first of three big falls that have messed with my head.

10/13/08 Quick Rides for Both

I had company coming over for supper, and wanted to show the progress I've made with both horses. So right after work, I hurried to water the dogs, change shoes, and scrambled to the back yard.

Caught Romeo, saddled him up with the old western saddle. Tied him in his stall.

Caught Chewie, saddled him in the new Dakota Barrel, and scrambled to the round pen. He warmed up beautifully, with a little more effort on his own to carry his head on the inside canter-right. I crawled on, walk, trot, canter-left, about 20 more minutes. Friend pulled in the driveway, walking towards the round pen, I thought, "This'll stir him up...", and I asked Chewie to canter left. Stirrups flapping in the breeze, he picked up the wrong lead. I slowed him back to trot, and asked again, head leaning inside. He picked up the left lead, and was going going going! I didn't feel like I was bouncing too much in the saddle, so after about three circles, I "shhh"ed him to a trot, sat the trot for a few circles, and walked him out. Friend said, "Who is that lady in the saddle on that big fast horse?! That's not the lady I saw riding a few months ago!" I laughed... "I have a focus now, and it's on something other than being scared. We're all doing a little better."

Cooled Chewie down, unsaddled, hosed the mountain of frothy sweat off of him (it wasn't terribly warm, but he's terribly out of shape, I suppose), and asked Friend to hand-graze him just outside of Romeo's pasture until he dried.

Grabbed Romeo, put his martingale & bit on, and off we went into his pasture. Walk, trot, figure eights, circles, whoa's. Did a little backing up, he threw his head a bunch, so I trotted some more circles, figure eights, and the sort. Asked for a back up again, and he complied. I figured, "He's warmed up enough. Let's show Friend how hard I've been working, and how smart Romeo's gotten."
Asked for canter, purposely on the straightaway, head tilted a tad outside. I wasn't going to chance the wrong lead (again). Romeo has to have head tilted out for the correct lead, Chewie tilted inside. He picked up the left lead, and we loped and loped and loped. Romeo had about the same gas pedal rate as Chewie. I laughed, and got his attention with a light bit-check. He eased up a bit, and we did some huge circles in his pasture. Biggest ones I've done in that pasture yet. I saw Friend watching dead-stare. When I could tell he was actually paying attention, and Romeo had calmed to a nice lope, I reached for his neck, and said, "whoa". Romeo stopped on his rear end. I rubbed him "good boy", and walked him back to the trailer.
"Well, what did you think?"
Friend, again, says, "I don't know who that lady is up in that saddle, but the horse looks amazing. What a great ride. You've got both of the horses where you want them. It looks fantastic!"
Romeo's total work was about 15 minutes. He's gone over & above for me Saturday & Sunday, so I walked him to the trailer, got off & unsaddled. Hosed him off, as well. Put him in the stall still wet, and he didn't disappoint - rolled about six times, all the way over. Good Boy!

Both horses will get today & tomorrow off. Weathermen say 40% chance of rain today, 60% chance tomorrow. 40% again Thursday. We'll see... I won't hold my breath.

Monday, October 13, 2008

10/12/08 More Crammed in a Day

I was supposed to go to church at 8am, sing in choir, but looking at the to-dos Saturday night, trying to figure how to fit time for Chewie, trail ride, laundry, mow grass, obedience, there just wasn't any way.

Tacked Chewie in my new saddle, and let him free lunge in the round pen a while. Looked like the saddle was pretty secure on him, so I crawled on. He kept up a nice free trot with me aboard, no bucking head-tossing, or genuine fighting. I cantered him to the left, stirrups flying every which way. I focused on heels down, toes up, hand clenched around the saddle horn. I wanted to make sure that the saddle would agree with him at all three gaits before drilling new stirrup holes. He was great with it, didn't seem to bother him at all. He went & stopped on my cues, no fuss or bother. Worked total about 45 minutes, mostly with me aboard. w/t/c

Took a quick break, then put my old saddle on Romeo. I decided I wasn't about to trail ride in the new saddle until the stirrups are adjusted. Drove to the local park and met up with D & Maggie.

We rode for three hours around the park & trails. Walked through the "pretty part" of the park, and down to the Guadalupe river. Maggie pawed & pawed at the river, stood in it nearly to her belly, splashing all over. Romeo was hesitant, but I walked him in until all four hooves were wet. He put his lips in it a little, and I'm not sure if he was drinking, or just goofing, but he at least wasn't terrified of the water.

From the river, we rode on the "Nature Trail" clear across the park, and up to a botanical garden. Deer were squirting out all over the place, golf carts just outside the tree line. Crossed a few small roads with minimal traffic. Squished through a little mud. No problems. No spooks, no issues. In the botanical garden he took a 4ft sideways leap away from a marker stone with a shiny plaque on it. Shiny plaques aren't normally on trail rides, but he quickly got over it. Got him to step on some paving stones up to a water garden, again, he put his lips in it, but didn't drink.

When I got home, my legs were stiff & sore. Mowed the grass anyways, and suffered exhausted through obedience class. Ate supper, fed the crew, and took some Tylenol pm for the pain. I'm 98% sure I was asleep on the couch a little after 9pm, and in bed by 930pm. Slept like a rock.

All in all, a stellar weekend. Rode the horses a ton, working on solid canters, and Romeo is back home. He can now add "parade horse" and "trail buddy" to his list of qualifications. He can ride in front in pair, and behind, no kicking, no ear pinning, no issues. When he gets a little concerned, he'll rely on another horse to calm him. He's also good at calming other horses, which he did during the parade route.

And I got a new saddle! A few stirrup holes, and I'll be in it all the time, working on canter balance & position.

10/11/08 Can You Fit Any More in the Day?

Woke up wild & dark around 5:30am. Fed everybody, got cleaned up, started housework, and got nearly everything done early. Left the house, empty trailer in-tow, around 7:15. Arrived at Les's house, found him just getting ready to ride Romeo and "ride the fuzzies off". (My new favorite warm-up phrase.) He got Romeo in w/t/c , no problems, no issues. Quite satisfying to watch Romeo move around.

Switched saddles, and off I went. Rode in his front pasture, w/t/c. He kept picking up the right lead going left, so I figured might as well ride him in a figure-8, get the right lead with the right circle, and just see how good my balance really is. After some solid canter right and left (head tipped out to get that left lead), I glanced at my watch. I'd been on him about 15 minutes. I asked for a solid "whoa", he stopped on his rear, licking & chewing. I walked him back to the house, loosened my cinch, & crawled off. Pretty darn satisfied with myself. Changed into my cute little white show-shirt. I had pulled out my show pad & show shirt, and even my nifty Justin cowgirl roper boots. Figured I haven't shown Western in over a year, no sense in the tack sitting in the house collecting dust, might as well use it.

When we arrived at the school stadium field, Mr R was there, two very novice riders alongside. I was glad I loped at Les' house, because there wouldn't be much space, and I've been that "inexperienced rider trying to ride amongst all the good ones, scared outta my breeches", so I chose not to lope there. We walked & trotted, weaved in & out of the trees. I gave Romeo plenty of time to "look at the parade events", the marching band, the loud cars, wild floats, even the other horses. One fellow showed up with his mule, Maxwell. It was the funniest thing I've seen - those HUGE ears. Max was a charmer - didn't hee-haw even once, though I wanted him to. His rider had complete control. Romeo sniffed Max, realized he wasn't a threat, and didn't think much of it after. As the parade line assembled, we were set up last, seven horses total. Les ponied another horse with his grandson aboard, happy as a pig in mud. Little C had a blast! You'll see in the picture how happy that little kid was...

This picture sums up the ride, completely. There was a fire truck in front of us, and, as you see, a cop behind us. Sirens wailed, a few horns honked, kids screaming, babies crying, old people hollering "Look at that cute little boy on that horse!" I even heard a Hispanic family hollering "Caballo, Caballo! Look Momma! Caballos!!" Romeo didn't even flinch. You see his head level & relaxed - he went the whole route like that. Les's mare, Sugar, got a little flinchy, and Les used Romeo's calmness to feed Sugar & keep her calm. One horse spooked at the double yellow line on the road, another at a manhole cover... Romeo didn't even look at a single thing. At one part of the route, there were storefronts on both sides of the street. Raucus & echos, Romeo still didn't have a care in the world. Happy as the toy in a Happy Meal, Romeo & I walked the route, about an hour's ride, and as I dismounted at the ride's end, I was glowing. I could feel it.

Les and I grabbed lunch, and hauled Romeo home. We unloaded him at my house, and jumped back in his truck for a field trip. "FIELD TRIP FIELD TRIP!" We went to D&D Farm & Ranch, Seguin TX. Intent was to find a western saddle, 14.5 or 15", Semi QH bars, solid seat, suede bottom. Here's what I got. A Dakota Flex Lite Barrel saddle. I sat in probably 6 or 7 saddles, a bunch of ropers, even a Billy Cook Barrel saddle (comfy, but high dollar).

It looks about like this, the tooling on the edges is a bit less. When I sat in it, there was absolutely no question where my balance was to be. Seat went right to the spot, legs & heels the same. I immediately felt secure, and no amount of wiggling, jiggling, leaning, or twisting moved my "center". That's what I want & need - a Western saddle I can pack on trails with, that has absolutely no wiggle room except for in the center. I also picked up a girth, turned out to be too big (34"), but I think Les has a use for it. Came home, put it on Romeo, and took him for a short ride in the pasture. Even loping, with the stirrups too long (need some holes drilled to bring them up, lots of space to do it), I still felt secure.
It was the right choice saddle, for where I'm at in my riding. It's also really pretty, which might matter in a showpen or two. I won't be running barrels, but it should chase a good steer and ride a good canter circle in the pasture.

Friday Night, 10/10/08

I'm going to take this weekend a day a post. A TON happened, and for once, I had a fabulous weekend. Had to come to the office to sit down & rest, but it was fabulous. Just absolutely incredible.

Stopped for groceries on the way home Friday, well aware my weekend was going to be jam-packed. Did my quick shopping, and headed to the house. Ran into a co-worker at one of the feed stores (saddle & pad window shopping), told him I was saddle shopping. He knew of a fellow who used to hand make saddles that was going out of business, said he'd give him a call. That turned into a "Meet me at the cross of road ___ & ___, and I'll introduce you to him." I went, I looked, but I didn't see much I could enjoy. He had a 14.5" pleasure saddle, but it wasn't much to look at or ride in. Low cantle, low swells, just yuck. Told him I was more interested in a roping saddle. He walked me over to a hand-made roping saddle, 15", beautifully crafted, but slippery seat. Whee! That wouldn't help stick me in my saddle, pooh on that. Politely told him "thank you", and headed home.

Caught Chewie, and lunged him. Disappointed I wasn't going to get to ride, but he lunged out great in the side reins & surcingle. I think he was also a big sad when I took off the side reins & bridle, but didn't get on. He mosied back to the trailer, confused look in his eyes. "Sorry buddy, but there's not enough daylight, and I'm not putting the lights on just to fight mosquitoes. We'd both be miserable." He seemed to understand. Total work, about 35 minutes. w/t/c, both directions

Friday, October 10, 2008

Survey Savvy Stinks / Friday Fill Ins

Survey Savvy stinks! Three times now I've received emails asking me to participate in a survey. Three times I've not gotten past questions 3 or 4. They ask gender, age, some strange "do you have family that works in industry ___" question, then a response that "I don't meet the criteria, thanks anyways." What that says to me, is they're looking for a low-income, trashy, middle-aged or older, male. One other survey made me think they were looking for a left-leaning Liberal, and I sure don't fit that bill. So they want to randomnly survey a select pre-sorted group. Hm.... No wonder I don't believe the polls on TV about the upcoming Election.

Moving Along to things that make me smile...
1. One of the best concerts/plays/movies I ever saw that I really didn't think I'd like was a small town theatre play in college - don't remember the name.
2. The Mini-Plate at Alejandra's in Port Lavaca is a recipe I recently made (or meal I recently ordered) that was delicious! Cheese enchilada, soft beef taco, rice & beans, Iced Tea. Cheap, quick, not a greasy oily yukie pile of sick-later food.
3. It's time for trail riding in the Cooler Autumn Texas weather.
4. Schwan's Sugar Free Chocolate Sundae Ice Cream is quite refreshing.
5. If I never hear the word Clinton again, it'll be too soon.
6. To one side of the curving road was a dead hog, and on the other was the rest of it (gross surprise on the roadway to work this morning.. YUCK).
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to Chewie in the round pen & watering the flower beds, tomorrow my plans include Fair Parade & saddle shopping and Sunday, I want to enjoy my trail ride & obedience class!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Time for Those Shots!

I got my flu shot today at work.

If you haven't, and you have access to one, do it! No sense in being so sick you can't enjoy the horses.

Go get a flu shot! Good for your health.. Think of it as an insurance policy against being laid up in bed sick for a week, miserable ...

How Do You "Atta Boy" Your Horse?

I see a variety of ways to praise & reward horses in training videos and in real life. Some folks vigorously pat the horse, so much that you can hear it across the arena. Some pull the horse's head around to their leg, and offer up a sugar cube or a small mint cookie treat (I've seen video on a dressage tv show of a high-level Grand Prix rider doing that, and thought it odd). Some folks just release the rein pressure, or the leg cue, or give the horse a walk-break. I'm somewhere in the middle.

I watched a Parelli infomercial one evening (well, they called it a "tv training show", but it's really a few blips of them training overwhelmed with 20 minutes of commercials for the products, videos, and expos they'll be at). Linda Parelli said something that made sense to me, and I've been trying to do it. When she praises a horse, it's with a gentle rub, and a verbal reward. Her reason was something like, "If you want to tell him 'good job', don't hit or pat him. Horses are incredibly sensitive creatures, and when we pat, it feels more like we're hitting them. Why hit him if he just did well? Reward good behavior with a gentle scratch or rub."

I've tried this with Chewie, and Romeo, and had good results. Sometimes, I still pat on the withers or the neck, but it always comes with a verbal, "Good Boy! That was awesome!" Chewie gets the "giddy two year old voice", high-pitched, and "gootchie goo happy". With Romeo, I try to be a bit more serious, as the "gootchie goo" just winds him up & makes him nervous.

Is it particular to each horse? Or is Linda Parelli right, and we should gently rub & reward rather than pat/hit our horses? Is a walk-break on a loose rein really a "reward"? How much do our horses really find walking around with us on their backs? Wouldn't they rather be hand-grazing as a reward?

How do you reward a job well done in the middle of a ride? Do you do anything at all? Does this blog entry make you re-think your reward habits? Will you change anything?

The Weekend Plans

Didn't ride last night again. I toyed with the notion of skipping choir rehearsal for a number of reasons - I was tired, I was lazy, everyone else skips regulary, we had a fill-in director, there would be visitors from another church, I was lazy, I was tired, lather, rinse, repeat. Anyway, I recognized it's time to be a big-girl, get my pants on, and meet my commitments. So I gave Chewie and early supper, apologized for not working him, and went to choir.

Cowboy Les called, said Romeo was wormed, got a bath to get all the mud out, and he's ready to come home after the parade Saturday. I'm happy. I can confidently canter him now, he neck reins pretty easy, and he does halt at my say so. I'm looking forward to his little rump back in the pasture. Les says "Feed him more than you were. He needs it." When he gets home, I'll take pictures, and ya'll can comment. A weight expert I am not - I know what Chew looks like when he's healthy, but I haven't a clue what healthy QH looks like without being super-fit, and I don't intend on putting that many hours on him.

Tonight, Chewie and I will work feverishly, side reins, western saddle, and we will canter, at least left lead. I'd like to try walk into canter more - It seems to keep Romeo under control and rating. My instructor from South Carolina, Miss Susan, had told me last summer that walk into canter keeps the canter better controlled than trot to canter. We'll see. I don't notice much difference from the ground between trot-canter and walk-canter.

Friday, Chewie, repeat.

Saturday, Les and I, along with the local Rodeo Association fellows, are going to be walking in the County Fair 4H parade. I will probably run into the girl that used to board Chewie, but given our nasty history, I'll probably only be polite and not much more. I'm supposed to take my trailer to town with me, so Romeo can come home after the parade. Les and I have tentative plans to go to a saddle shop about 2 hours from my house, and shop for my new saddle. I'm optimistic. My "hurricane pay" is in the bank now, and I've decided to spend some of it so I can get a more-better saddle than I would otherwise. (Yup, Bad grammar.. I don' care. shoot me... I gotta be smart all day long, so I take shortcuts when I can.)

Sunday, after early church, I'm headed home to change, load up the trailer, grab Romeo, and head to the town park. Me and Romeo are going trail riding with D & Maggie, our new "Starbucks riding buddy". Looking forward to the time. If an open space presents itself where I can actually ride him out a bit, I am hoping to canter him a little on my own before, during, or after the trail ride. I will get walk circles out any time I can, taking him on and off the marked trail just enough to keep his attention. Really Really looking forward to "trying out" my new horse without Les's direct guidance.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Chewie Worked in Around Life

Life is, well, Life. Family situation is, really, for all purposes, no better. If anyone had asked me late last week, I would've said, "It's improving". As the weekend drew to a close, it was a disaster, again. I'm caught in the middle, and I can't do a thing about it. I've thought through all of the conversations I've been in the middle of, and none have been pretty. I'd like to say I'm the mature one that's handled things well, but I've only responded to what's been dealt to me. I hate the whole situation, I hate that it's impacting my every moment, and I hate more that everyone has involved me more than I should be. I hate that I'm being held responsible for things I had no part in, no piece in the original decision. I hate it. Enough said. Well, for now, at least.

After a chaotic day at the office, I decided to ride Chewie early rather than late. I also decided last-minute to pull my hunter saddle off the rack & ride him english. His warm up was a little stiff, but it seemed he was working with the side reins a bit more at the canter, especially right. His trot left was disappointing, as he was head-up, and leaning with all his might into the bit. He worked in side reins for about 10 minutes, then carried me for 30. We worked on walk, trot, on the bit, long stretches down, and a little WP jog. I peeked down at his track in the jog a few times, and it appeared the hoofprints weren't far from tracking-under. Nifty for as slow as it felt.

The turnout blanket has been claimed, and departed for its new home Saturday morning. I think I sent it to the right place, as the lady seemed honest and the story true. If I'm being taken advantage of, that's a risk I took. I hope the turnout gets many more years of use on a horse it'll fit better.

My saddle search continues. Can't settle on a size for horse bars. I have concluded I'm a 15" seat. The more I cantered in the 16", the more I slid around, and the less secure I felt. Still can't find a horse-fit I understand.

We are blessed - it did rain at my house today, and I hope to find puddles when I get home. I don't think I will, but maybe I'll at least find the ground damp.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Chewie Back to Work

Sweat is what Mr Don said he needed. And Sweat is what he got. I caught Chewie on Saturday (09/06), tacked him up western saddle, english bridle, and we set in the round pen. I warmed him up with walk, a little trot, and a lot of canter. Trot builds muscle, but I wanted him thinking, "I am going to canter with Mom today", so I got all of the chance of canter-buck of out him before getting on. He threw a little mini fit here and there, and had his head out to the right. I figured that was still a little pain and decided that canter-right lead might not be in the cards under saddle just yet.

When I climbed on, we worked on trot right, with great results. Without a side-rein warmup, he was a bit stiff, but quickly loosened up and relaxed his head & poll. I had his mouth, and his attention, but the reins were still on gentle contact. A nice forward trot, good up & down transitions. I focused on "3s".

Reversed to left. Trot 3, walk 2, trot 3, walk 2. I figured if I was going to canter, this was my chance. Trot 1, canter 1.5. I felt like I had lost a little balance in the canter, so I told him, "Sh", just a little bit, hoping he'd just ease up a bit. Nah. He transitioned down immediately into trot, and softened his face. I laughed, realized he gave me what I wanted from "SH", and if I want an easier canter, I'm going to have to find another way to get it. I can't verbally ask for it anymore.. *giggle* Smart little man.

A little more trot left, and back to the right. Focused the last right and left set on "stretching down" trots. He lifted his back and stretched down a few times, so I walked him out. Total work, nearly an hour. He was very cooperative for a horse that hadn't been cantered under saddle in over three months. I was satisfied he was ready to get back in the game.

Sunday, I warmed him up a bit, saw I had his attention, and his brakes. I walked one circle in the round pen, opened the gate from his back, and walked around the pasture. The wind was fierce, and his ears were everywhere. His head was up a bit, so I had just a bit of contact, just enuf that if I had needed it, I could stop him. Walked around for about 15 minutes, and I hopped off. I wanted to "test drive" my new confidence on him, and I think the best way to measure the level of trust in our relationship is trail riding. Anytime we've had success in an enclosed space, it seems to blow apart in the pasture. Since I'm working on his fitness, I figured it's a good time to work on my confidence.

I'm learning that all my horses are waiting on is for me to trust them, and relax. Both are bright enough (now) that they know what's expected, and they know how to stop if I need it. The only thing holding us back, is me, and my fear. I've come a long way, and there's still more to accomplish.

Riding With the Cowboys

I received this email this morning from Cowboy Les' wife, MG.
Hey girl,
I understand that you need to change your name to Annie Oakley instead of Calamity Jane.
Les just couldn’t stop bragging on you when he got home yesterday.
I’m really proud of you.
Have a great day.

And I am proud of me. I had a blast last night at the roping arena. Les and I had plans to trail ride around my place Sunday afternoon. Obedience training with Kenzie got cancelled, so I told him, "No need to haul up here. I'll be at the arena later this evening." I figured if I could lope my horse out in an open field, I can lope him in front of the cowboys.

When I arrived, we tacked up, and Les and I (Les on Sugar) went into the arena to warm up before penning the steers. I walked, I jogged, and I loped, nice big fast circles. Romeo was ready for action, with a nasty uncomfortable almost gallop around the lower half of the arena. Speedie little twit. I loped and loped until I was satisfied I had his attention with turns and stops. We penned up the steers, albeit a bit difficult because they weren't in the mood to be penned, and I was pushing too hard to start.

As we finished up penning, another one of the ropers arrived. Les said to me, "Go show R how to warm up that horse there." As R was bringing his three horses into the arena, I got to loping again. I caught his eye, and saw him staring from the far end of the arena. I felt myself relax a little, and, instead of bouncing like a nut, I was moving in my hips, with my horse, instead of against him. I didn't even glance to see if I had the lead, I just kept going. I got him pointed towards the out-gate, and gently said, "Whoa", and he stopped on his rear. He got a nice pat & scratch, and we walked to the roping boxes. R said to me, "Good to see you've got your finger out of your butt & you're actually going to ride that horse now. You can move the steers by yourself maybe instead of us all having to help you every time." All I could so was smile. Les was glowing, and I could tell it was a smile of "Look at that horse I trained", and "Look at that rider I'm getting confidence into."

Later in the evening, Mr W was teasing me to "ride my horse for him like I do for Les." After pushing a pen of steers back to the chute, Les said to me, "Go show Mr W how you ride that horse now." And I did.. I calmly trotted a little bit out of the little alleyway, asked him to walk, and went right into a correct-lead lope down the arena. I loped about five big, slow, circles, my toosh in the saddle, loose rein, and felt completely calm about the whole thing. I caught Mr W staring, dead square in the center of the arena, almost with a disbelief look on his face. I asked Romeo to "Whoa" (which I got without issue or complaint), and trotted over to Mr W. He said to me, "Well look at that! Let me tell you now, if you ever want to impress somebody with your riding, you just lope circles, girl. Those cowboys will be after you, if you'll just keep loping circles. You were completely stuck in that saddle, and you weren't flopping around one bit. That looked great!" Mr W is one of those older hands, that, will give you his opinion at every opportunity, will tease if he thinks it'll build up confidence, but will always be your biggest cheerleader if you just try.

So in a few hours, I went from being the wallflower rider that the cowboys protected and helped out, to the cowgirl that pushed steers independantly, and was genuinely respected. They trust me now... R even said, "You need to start tracking cows on him. He's ready, and so are you." That's the phrase that leads to "I need help moving some cows today, and I'd like your help." Around these parts, that's cowboy-speak for, "I trust your riding ability, and I think you're a helpful hand." For a cowgirl, that's not easy to earn. I'll take it however I can get it.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Chewie Is Back to Work

I haven't got the pictures yet. I unfortunately didn't start snapping up shots before Mr Don started work. Here's the quick word summary.

  • Took as much off the front right as he could, but it's still a tad longer than the front left
  • Rear toes were chipped up - wall seperation, rounded off toes to try to prevent reoccurence
  • Thrush still lurking front left, rear right. Other two cases are clear. Took out some of the frog around those thrushy cracks so I can get the Durasole in better this time
  • Hoof shape & angles are improving, but not there yet.
  • The pad on front right is working! All the signals indicate it helped
  • Front right has blood hemmorage on the sole near the toe, old bruise growing out, probably from Chewie's barefoot five weeks standing around & being grumpy
  • Front hooves blood still flowing - pulse is still evident on both - although not good, indications that P3 is creeping back up where it belongs by soundness

So I asked Mr Don "Okay, the question of the day.. What can he do now?" I love his answer, "Sweat! Get him back in work, get the muscles back where they were before this mess started and you met me. If he gets sore, get off, hose him down, give him a treat, and apologize to him for over-doing it. Take the following day off, and then get back after it. Don't linger every day at trot - hard on the hooves, hard on the legs." He also told me to give him some patience if he gets fussy or grouchy. He said, "If that head isn't bobbing, he's sound, but if he is a real grump one day, it's probably because something hurts, and he doesn't know how else to tell you. If he's like that many days in a row, call me. We'll talk about what you need to do next. If it sounds like he's just avoiding working, we'll talk him through that, too."

And Sweat it is! We're ready to get back at it. I hope to get a couple canter circles today. Mr Don also confirmed something I've been thinking for a while now - Chewie swinging his head to the outside for canter right, wasn't defiance, wasn't bad balance, wasn't him being a snot. He's trying to get that 50lb head off the right front hoof. Poor kid. And to think Robin was forcing weight on it, shorter inside rein, putting more strain on an already painful situation. I only feel kind of like a snot for pushing him despite the bad foot.

I've decided to put the chiropractor for him on hold a bit longer - I want him sound & muscled before I waste the effort. It's a long drive, and I don't feel like hauling him now, and then hauling him again in a few months for the same thing. He hasn't been fussing about being brushed, and doesn't seem to be particularly bucky one direction or the other.

Cheers all... have a great day. I've got too much to do, so I better get the engine oiled (with coffee), and get my rump moving.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

It's Finally Fall

And I couldn't be happier. I'll find a way to get a link up to my local weather somewhere's on here... But anyways, let me summarize it for you. It's supposed to go down near 45F tonight, and near 40F on the weekend. Hallelujah! God remembered this little Yankee and gave me the fall I want!!!

How excellent! I will be able to ride without sweaty miserable horses, I can put on a long sleeved shirt again, feeding in the evening will not be overrun with nasty rank mosquitoes. I feel so blessed to live where it never snows and almost never freezes.. until around September, when it's still bloody 90F hot during the days, sometimes humid in the mornings. It's unbearably hot here too many months of the year.

And I'm finally blessed with at least one sweet weekend! Can't wait to pick up turnouts at the cleaners tonight, and be able to cover Chewie in a clean turnout sheet. :) keep the winter fuzzies away.

Tomorrow, we go for new feet. I will take pictures before, and after, and put them up on the picture site with links. I am going to drive Mr Don the Farrier absolutely nuts, I'm sure. I want pictures of each trip before & after, and I won't stop taking pictures until I see marked progress. I want my old horse back - I want my cantering hunter trotting over ground poles, easy going Chewie back. And when he gets happy feet again, I will have that horse.

Tonight, I'm planning on at least free in the round pen. I am also considering a really quick warmup, followed by about 30 minutes of ground driving. Dig out the surcingle, and get him in the long lines.

I will post tomorrow, at some point, with at least a recap of what Don tells me during the visit. What is getting better, and what if anything is getting worse.

If ya'll are of the praying nature, please remember me and my parents. I don't know who reads this and doesn't tell me they do, but I'll summarize - things suck. It's not good, there's been a lot of immature hollering, and I'm my parents' child, for certain. Just pray for peace, and resolution. Can't ask for much more yet. GMail me if you want to pray for specifics.

Pessimist blood type? B-negative

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

An Official Solution

That's an ominous title, ain't it? :) Don't fit me one tiny bit... And no, it's not a solution for Climate Change, the Economic Crisis, or the Presidential Election.

It's my house title... After nearly a year of arguments with the house title company, and their appointed attorney, (and a pestering email today), I got this note this morning...

Jennifer, a followup on my last email, we just checked the Texas Department of Housing & Community Affairs website and they have placed it in your name on September 15th. Therefore, we should be getting the Statement of Ownership and Location for us to record here in __X___ County very soon.

Hallelujah! It's finally mine.... been living it in it for about three years, and didn't find out until a year and a half into it that the papers were never finished. I was told at closing it would be, then they didn't do their part. Lots of excusues, then an attorney, then more excuses, and finally me threatening to get my own lawyer for not fulfilling the contract, and me personally volunteering to hunt down offending people and make them sign whatever needed signing. It's finally mine.

Sunlight in a dim day!

Chewie 09/30 and A Saddle Question

I tacked Chewie for dressage, and we headed to the round pen. Nice easy loose warm up, followed by 15 minutes w/t/c on side reins. I've got them back to using the inside rein one shorter than the outside - he's been leaning out, especially to the right. It's probably his way of avoiding putting weight on that right front, but he needs to learn to trust it. I rode walk and a tiny bit of trot, all sound & satisfying. Total work session about 45 minutes.

Mosquitoes are here, too, and wow are they hungry! Skeeter-monsters.

So, onto my saddle question. I've had a Wintec western saddle for about 3 years. It's still in great shape, but I'm not entirely convinced it fits either of my horses well. I think it's too small in the front for either horse. It might be the pad I'm using, but I somehow doubt it. I think it's more an issue of a small saddle. Paperwork says "Semi QH bars"... I thought it was a 15" seat, but there's a little stamp on one of the girth-keepers that sure looks like "16" to me.

I'm much better at English-style saddles.... I have a Wintec Pro dressage saddle (17"), that's got the "one smaller than the avg gullet" in it - Chewie only. I've also got an HDR eventing saddle (17") that fits Chewie much better than Romeo - it seemed to just sort of lay across Romeo's almost non-existent withers.

What should I be looking for, and better yet, where can I go to find something durable, yet cheap? I think synthetic is okay, but I'd prefer regular leather, for sturdy-ness, if nothing else.